Am I the only one that finds this incredibly creepy?
May 31, 2000 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Am I the only one that finds this incredibly creepy? With the recent advents of such wonderful shows as "Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire," and other such beauties, what is primetime TV coming to??
posted by Zosia Blue (21 comments total)
Well, you know, you'd think it was all a joke, but, these shows take theiselfs seriously. When you go in deeper, you realise why there are more and more shows like this. The ratings are mostly through the roof, there's something about a "special", when it's on the cover of every tv guide in the country, we are a generation deprived of "specials" and "one-hour events" and "mini-series". Will people get tired of it? Not anytime soon.
posted by tiaka at 6:08 PM on May 31, 2000

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe this was taken from a European show that is very similar (if not exactly the same) the same way Millionaire was taken from England (I saw it there way before it hit the States).

I watches "Survivor" tonight and kept saying to myself that it should be retitled "The Real World: Nowhere"
posted by vitaflo at 7:26 PM on May 31, 2000

eh, nobody (the viewers, not the tv guys) really takes this stuff seriously, though. TV is just sort of filler background noise in most people's homes I know; d'you know anyone who actually cares which episode of Jerry Springer is on?
TV (not cinema) is getting to be an outdated medium anyway, any medium where people can not immediately, cheaply, and directly participate in is doomed eventually (I believe).
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:27 PM on May 31, 2000

actually doesn't your first point invalidate your second? People like "filler background noise" (tv and radio) precisely because you don't have to participate. Immediately, cheaply or otherwise.
posted by chaz at 7:30 PM on May 31, 2000

Man, I wish I owned a TV, just so I'd know what we're talking about. It sounds like playing Swiss Family Robinson for money, but that can't be right.
posted by Ezrael at 7:58 PM on May 31, 2000

But I don't know that many people who really like tv.
Seems to be force of habit that turns it on, just my subjective observation. Dunno if I'm making any sense. I didn't mean to tie those points together, two separate thoughts, what was in my head when I posted is that it seems that interest in TV is trending off, and refocusing on print (zines, papers, books) and the net.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2000

>any medium where people can not immediately,
>cheaply, and directly participate in is doomed
>eventually (I believe).

Depending on what you mean by “participate”, I disagree with you. Storytelling is something that ALL cultures have in common and always have had in common. I'm talking about traditional storytelling, in which there is a teller (or tellers) and an audience who watches and listens but does NOT help tell the story.

There is nothing new about participation--ask anyone who has attended a Southern Baptist church. True, the web has created new vehicles for participation, but there have always been participatory events. These are fundamentally different from traditional storytelling events.

In a story, the storyteller controls the plot. He generally knows the outcome before he starts telling the story, and he makes sure that the story doesn't stray into inappropriate directions. (As opposed to participatory events, which are more chaotic and can stray into irrelevancies, become dreadfully boring, and occasionally, with luck, produce something thrilling).

In spite of the web, I see no sign of the traditional story vanishing. There are traditional stories on television, in books, in the cinema, in songs, on the radio and--yes--all over the web.

I am not saying that television has particularly good stories, but it CAN have good stories. It is just a vehicle.

I am also not dismissing participation. It is important. Both participatory and non-participatory events are important, and I suspect they always will be. And, yes, sometimes there is a hybrid (choose-your-own-adventure stories, d&d, experimental theatre, etc.) These are interesting, but they are rarely as satisfying as a good participatory event (like metafilter) or a good story.
posted by grumblebee at 9:07 PM on May 31, 2000

Well! Some fine analysis here. Is there any support for the notion that television as a storytelling vehicle is getting more lame all the time?

After all, the inherent quality of the story--if any--is always second to the premeditated attempt to get high ratings and big sponsor dollars. Each show is some showbiz group of execs answer to the question: "what can we think up/rip off for big money now?" Audio visual prostitution on a nationwide scale.

One more question: when is it not "prostitution?"
posted by goodhelp at 9:52 PM on May 31, 2000

If you knew how picky I was, you'd be amazed to hear me say this, but I DO think there's good television out there--you just have to hunt for it.

Yes, most TV shows are aweful, but so are most books. But it's relatively hard to get a book. You have to go to a bookstore or library. So it's likely you'll do some research before you take the trouble. But if there was a literary version of channel surfing, I'm sure you'd be disgusted by most of what you read.

Come to thing of it, there IS a literary version of channel serfing--the Internet. Try going to one of those sites that links you to random websites. See how many of them are good and how many are garbage.

I am what most people call a "snob," which means that I watch a lot of PBS--and most PBS shows suck. But there are occasional good ones. And I like some of the original dramas on HBO, and occasionally there is a good story on network drama. I have NEVER seen a sitcom that I thought was very good. But even given my tastes, I can find a few hours of worthwhile television most days. But I work hard at SELECTING what I watch.

Why does televsion have to equal ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. There are other alternatives.
posted by grumblebee at 10:12 PM on May 31, 2000

Feh. People always act like they're better than TV, but most of us end up watching (and enjoying) the same dreck as everyone else. Never seen a sitcom that you liked? Criminy. That's like saying you never read a funny book.

I watched the first Survivor and it was great, 100 percent contrived fun with some beautiful long shots of the remote ocean setting and an African-American woman whose breasts should publish a weblog. It merged the look-ma-I'm-on-TV feel of Real World with the hokey mysticism of Iron Chef (the Mortal Kombat of cooking shows).

I'm definitely tuning in next week. I like other TV shows that aren't on PBS or A&E also -- like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond and Arliss. Shee-ooot, I must be dumb as a post!
posted by rcade at 10:31 PM on May 31, 2000

I didn't see it but I find the whole idea ridiculous so I guess I didn't miss much.
posted by FAB4GIRL at 11:05 PM on May 31, 2000

I'm pretty much in Neil Postman's camp on this one. It isn't when TV is being schockily entertaining that it's dangerous. It is a medium of entertainment, after all.

It's when TV tries to be serious that it wreaks the most damage.

Because TV only works as entertainment, all things on TV have to be presented as entertaining... And that includes such light fluffy subjects as news, pubicly minded discourse, war, disease, politics in general, serious culture, education, etc., etc.

Sixty Minutes and Frontline are far more dubious than Survivor.
posted by aurelian at 11:34 PM on May 31, 2000

You think that's bad, wait till you see what we're sending you next
I think this stuff is the revenge we Europeans have long sought for all the crap TV America has sent us over the years.
posted by Markb at 2:18 AM on June 1, 2000

I caught two minutes of the show, watching the islanders trying to start a fire. I was aghast at the techniques they were trying, especially when they had the tools and materials to make a bow drill (still not easy, but easier than anything they did). I turned it off in disgust: the show is a car accident and they're banking on rubbernecking. I instead turned to the Clerks cartoon and realized that it will be doomed because it is cerebral and anitethical to Survivor.
posted by plinth at 5:55 AM on June 1, 2000

>I was aghast at the techniques they were trying,
>especially when they had the tools and materials to >make a bow drill (still not easy, but easier than
>anything they did). I turned it off in disgust...

Interesting comment, plinth, but I enjoyed the show. If you are looking for a "survival tips" experience or a "lets watch expert campers beat the odds" experience, you are going to be disappointed. But as a show about "human behavior and interaction in extreme circumstances" it was, to me, pretty interesting.

And if they had all known how to make fire, there would have be less interpersonal conflict--the would have bulit a fire, and that would have been that.

In other words, the show is more a human drama than a sport. Sounds like you were interested in watching a sport, so it's not surprising that you were disappointed.
posted by grumblebee at 7:04 AM on June 1, 2000

What *I* want to know is: where do the camera people keep *their* stash... and how long til the campers attack them for it?

Car accident, indeed.
posted by baylink at 8:51 AM on June 1, 2000

I would never be chosen for a show like this, as I have too much common sense and experience behind me. The people these shows find are chosen for their ignorance, their photogenity, and their aptitude for screaming when a bug lands in their hair. I grew up in places where sharing your house with creepy-crawlies, critters, and other jungle animals was a way of life. In the South Pacific and other climates, the American/Western concept of keeping your habitat free of foreign life is laughed at as it's nearly impossible to do.

Every time one of these shows comes on, I keep having to remind myself that it's entertainment that's focused around the gimmick factor. The people chosen to participate are carefully selected. It almost makes me want to trick my way into one of these shows, and then proceed to wreak havoc by behaving differently than the producers have expected me to. Everything is carefully scripted, and the parts that are not are edited out.

It is American television, after all. Let's not forget that fact.
posted by camworld at 9:09 AM on June 1, 2000

Camworld, I agree that the people are "chosen" for dramatic effect--of course they are! But you make it sound like most people would deal very well with rats crawling all over them, and that the producers have gone out of their way to find the few strange folks who can't handle it well.

I think MOST americans are like the people on that show. Most of us hav very little wilderness experience; most of us couldn't start a fire in hell, and most of us are afraid of ants. I will admit to fitting this description.

Am I proud of it? No! But it's reality. So "Survivor" rang true to me.
posted by grumblebee at 11:25 AM on June 1, 2000

I wouldn't mind rats or bugs. I guess I'm not your typical american. Good! ;-)
posted by FAB4GIRL at 12:50 PM on June 1, 2000

I am at this moment sitting in a house where the only sounds I hear are from the clicking of my keyboard and the drone of the air conditioner. The TV sits to my left, and except for occasional uses of the VCR, has been off for most of the past six months.

Why? I got a DSL. I cancelled cable, because after the first two months I realized I'm paying for something I don't use. If I want CNN? I go to If I want PBS? There's countless entertaining and informative websites to give me whatever knowledge I crave at the moment. And I'm sure this may offend some but if I'm in the mood for Jerry Springer I just read a few online journals or weblogs and I'm satiated.

I don't often use my stereo anymore, except to play CDs I've bought online, or at local music venues where I hear Dallas bands play. I also often play mp3s I pick up on the Web. My computer has rightfully become my entertainment system. Many other objects that use to entertain me are now just gathering dust.

But what if I want to see a bunch of castaways at each other's throats being teased by producers into doing absurd antics in return for a bar of chocolate? Thankfully, I never have an urge to see that.

I prefer the interactivity of the 'Net to the couch potato zombieness of television. Yes, storytelling is an ancient art, and is still alive and well online, but the storytelling on television the last couple decades has left much to be desired.

And no. I don't watch that Millionaire show. Regis Philbin gives me gas.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2000

I might tune in if they mounted the cameras and really stranded them on an island. But like Real World I can never get past the knowledge that there is a camera crew present (and directors and lighting people and grips and caterers...) Therefore they can't possibly behave like they are really stranded cause they know they aren't. It's like pro wrestling for the squeamish. And who cares except that it means the TV execs make more and more of this tripe instead of the stuff I like.
posted by Mycroft at 9:08 AM on June 7, 2000

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