Time to get over tv

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2004

We were gathered around the TV on a recent weeknight at my home, trying to find something that we could all enjoy together. It’s getting more difficult all the time.

I like movies and news; my daughter, Catherine’s tastes, run to Nick at Night and ABC Family; son, Adam, likes bad movies and music video stations; and my wife, Cathy, prefers sitcoms and decorating.

As you might imagine, most of the time we are watching sitcoms and decorating.

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On this particular evening we found ourselves strangely drawn to a new reality show called &uot;The Biggest Loser.&uot;

About a dozen severely overweight people spend the hour doing things like jogging and then vomiting; lifting weights and then vomiting; and finally, eating and then vomiting. There’s also some rather gratuitous vomiting that occurs in between other vomit-inducing activities.

The show’s premise, I think, is to award a prize to whichever one of these fitness challenged individuals loses the most weight over the course of the program’s run.

That may be it’s premise, but the bottom line of &uot;The Biggest Loser,&uot; is publicly humiliating a bunch of fat people.

It’s exactly the kind of program you would imagine a 12-year-old bullying middle schooler would conceive in his room at night after finishing pulling the wings off a fly.

That network television would air such a thing is not surprising. I was long ago convinced that there was no low to which it would not stoop. Program quality has been on a long, steep descent and I don’t think the bottom is in sight.

No, the amazing thing is that NBC reports that more than 20 million people are tuning in each week. So much for the kinder, gentler nation President Bush’s father wanted to shape.

Adam and I decided then and there that our country’s got a mean streak, so we set about brainstorming about how we could tap into that with our own reality show. Here’s some of our concepts:

&uot;It’s the Reading, Stupid&uot;

Adorable, imbecilic special education students take turns reading chapters of &uot;Ivanhoe&uot; aloud and then explaining them. It will be a hoot. It could air for years before they complete it.

Cancer cures smoking

Six life-long smokers diagnosed with terminal lung cancer are forced to occupy a house ala Big Brother for 30 days while they struggle to kick their habits. Packs of Marlboros are left around the house with no matches and their breathing tubes are tampered with just to make it a little more interesting.

&uot;Oops, Excuse Me&uot;

It’s a laugh-a-minute as parpalegics try to get through their day without the use of their wheelchairs. Better get out of the way. Loads of spills and thrills.

&uot;Who Told You Life Was Going to be Fair?&uot;

Underprivileged, inner-city kids get to spend Christmas with wealthy suburban families and watch the wealthy kids open their gifts. There’s nothing like the look on a child’s face on Christmas morning, right? Priceless.

The sad thing about this is I’m only about half kidding. I have no doubt that there’s an audience out there for some of these shows, perhaps not on the networks, but cable certainly. We may not be to the point where &uot;Who Told You Life Was Going to be Fair?&uot; would be a hit show, but that point is within view.

Our entertainment tastes appear to run counter to the polls that show it’s moral values that are the most important. That 20 million of us would watch a program that basically ridicules people with disabilities would seem to contradict that. If we didn’t watch these programs, advertisers would not buy time and the networks would not produce them. They would air something else. But we do, so they do.

It’s time to put our remote where our mouth is.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via email at andy.Prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.