Why do you hate us so? Oh sure, it’s not like you’ve done any physical harm to us or made slanderous remarks about our mothers. No, you prove your vengeance as you continue to hit us where it really hurts.

Janna Hutz

With this new tirade of mindless, dreary programming, you seem to try to dumb us down more and more every season.

Now, I’ve gotten used to this kind of treatment from the other networks. I mean, FOX was never really known for its quality broadcasts with series like the infamous “When Animals Attack” and “Cops.” Sure, “Ally McBeal” seemed original for its time, mixing legal melodrama, a scarily thin blonde and digitally enhanced dancing babies. It’s not hard to see why that one didn’t last. “The Simpsons” was perhaps FOX’s only legitimate claim to fame, and even that has arguably gone downhill in recent years.

ABC appeared wholesome for a while; who wouldn’t love the Wonderful World of Disney, right? Yet, even this Sunday-night schedule could not preserve its goody two-shoes image forever. Despite success with shows like “The Practice” and “NYPD Blue,” it eventually stooped to the level of its fellow networks and cultivated its sick fascination with reality everything: “The Bachelor,” “Celebrity Mole” and “The Bachelorette.” (Just between friends, “According to Jim” isn’t about to pull the station out of the dregs of programming either.)

I stood by you, NBC, when you decided to drag the dreaded “Good Morning, Miami” on for yet another endless season of limp laughs. And I defended you when you first joined the bandwagon of reality TV. Everyone else was doing it; why shouldn’t you get in on the action, right?

But, of course, that was merely the beginning of your downward spiral to the kingdom of crapulence. “Fear Factor” wasn’t quite despicable enough apparently so you had to create a few more shoddy “reality-based” programs in order to corner the market. However, this time you couldn’t just rely on cheap “Survivor”-esque thrills to win the viewers’ hearts. People wading in vats full of rodents or eating various bug particle cocktails was just not entertaining enough for modern viewers; although, the audience won’t exactly reject these delights when nothing better strikes their fancy.

Thus, “Meet My Folks” came into being. While the competition’s dating shows focused on one single twenty-something looking for his/her match made in heaven, NBC preferred to leave that all-important decision to irrational family members. As much as we all enjoy watching maddeningly shrill girls whimper during absurd lie detector tests, this had to be one of your most pathetic attempts to boost ratings.

But wait! You then followed up with the converse situation in “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?”

Over the summer, you wanted to break the monotony of “Must See TV” repeats, so you introduced the second installment of “For Love or Money.” That’s right. You made not one, but two attempts to make this concept interesting. Through a series of games and quasi-dates, a woman falls in love with her hunk and then waits for him to decide if love, the kind you find during a couple of weeks on a dating show, is worth more than one million dollars.

Tensions rise in those last 10 minutes, as the audience lingers in front of their televisions to hear Mr. Right’s long-awaited answer. He says two words, then cut to commercial break. He adds two more words, then cut to commercial break. Finally, he admits he chooses love, thank goodness, because what kind of man would he be if he actually picked the money? Crisis averted.

Although this goldmine came to its unfortunate end, NBC bounced right back with its end-of-the-season piece de resistance, “Race to the Altar.”

Kids, what were you thinking? Did this genuinely seem like quality programming to you, or have you ceased to care? After all, if America’s watching, does it really matter what you’re feeding it?

Sadly, the summer is over, and you’re in a bind. The substandard shows from the previous season had to be cancelled, and now you have to fill the void with their replacements. But you’re not worried. You’ve got some big stars on your side: Whoopi, Alicia Silverstone, that woman from the GLADD bag commercials. You are certainly golden now.

After all, you’re not working with the same ideas as last year. You’re covering all new turf in exploiting the American fear of other cultures and the obsession with getting a little something-something at the end of the day.

With “Whoopi,” you have an Iranian hotel handyman (of course, he has to be a former militia man with experience in making bombs), who thinks his Chinese guests are going to give him SARS.

In your vast line-up of dating sitcoms, you prove that everybody wants a little sex in their lives. This pitch is sure to prove your continued originality and sophistication. You’re not willing to compromise that in order to produce a fleeting HBO rip-off, right? “Coupling” and “Miss Match” are bound to be this season’s hits, don’t you think?

I just don’t understand. The Peacock used to bring us shows about absolutely nothing, and we loved them. “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Mad About You” – the list goes on. They were funny, they were simple and they had little to do with the state of the world around us.

We watched strangers wander aimlessly through their adult lives and laughed because they weren’t us. These people were kooky in all the ways we wished we could be. Too bad they’re just a tad out of date for you. You’re moving on to bigger and better things.

We’ve entered the era where people willing to eat horse rectums on camera reign supreme and watching someone else date seems more appealing than going out to do it ourselves. We’re moving on. Reality shows require more air-time and marketing creativity than silly little sitcoms.

Of course, we understand that you are only following the network trend, and no one can blame you for that.

– Niamh Slevin really does like TV, she just has good taste. If you agree with her or want to contest her views, e-mail her at nikaslev@umich.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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