Posts Tagged ‘television’
I don’t mind that History Channel has given up on history. If you’re just flipping through channels Pawn Stars is probably the best thing on. But I do fault History Channel for stripping ancient people of their achievements like cheap sci-fi grave robbers and encouraging people to believe what’s fun rather than what has evidence. The whole premise of the show is “Humans are too stupid to build anything of value”, but the only good argument for this is made unintentionally, through the existence of the show itself.
In the one episode I watched, a plumbing company’s CEO uses a fake name to attempt entry-level work at his own company. After realizing how difficult life is for his underlings, he grants a few of them privileges (healthcare for one employee’s autistic son, a promise not to outsource his factory’s workers) that in a decent society would be entitlements. This program teaches that cross-class understanding, historically the least effective means of obtaining justice, is the only way.
(I’m also uncomfortable with A Christmas Carol.)
America’s Funniest Home Videos
If you were a dictator who wanted to deaden the empathy of your subjects, can you imagine a better show than AFHV? This man is hurt! Look! Laugh! You are not him!
Canned laughter is dispiriting. I don’t get angry when I hear it, I just sort of retreat into my head, exhausted by the world. And I’m not exactly sure why.
I could argue it’s insulting to the viewers’ intelligence to remind us when to laugh, or that it allows lazy writers to avoid crafting good jokes, or that it means we’re reminded the show isn’t real after every joke, or that mimicking human joy responses with a machine is creepy. All of those play some part in my thinking, but I feel like these are post-hoc justifications for a gut feeling.
I think maybe it reminds me of the unthreatening lowest-common-denominator sitcoms of the fifties and sixties. Whatever the reason, I’m happy the smartest TV comedies today (Arrested Development, Parks & Recreation, The Office, Peep Show) have abandoned it.
Edit: “In Defense of the Laugh Track” is worth reading, including the comment by Scotto. Single-camera shows (like all the ones I named) are basically short movies, but multi-camera shows are more like televised plays where audience laughter is appropriate. This view doesn’t invalidate my criticisms though: I would feel uncomfortable if theaters planted paid agents gin up laughs.