The title of this post is the punchline to an old, old story about the limits of advertising; a story which may or may not be based on fact. The story goes that a big food-manufacturing conglomerate came up with a brand new formulation for dog food, and advertised it with a huge, costly campaign: print ads, TV commercials, product placement in movies, TV shows, county fairs, giveaways and sponsorships; the whole ball of wax … and the product cratered. The CEO of the company is irate and demands answers from anyone who can give him a reason why. Didn’t they do everything possible to make their dog food brand the market leader? Image everyone at that meeting looking nervously at each other at this point – because they have done everything possible … except for one small thing. Finally, someone gets up sufficient nerve to answer. “But the dogs don’t like it.”This rings a bell.
This is the point that I believe has been reached with regard to the establishment news and entertainment media with regard to a major segment of the American public: the final consumer is pushing the plate away and saying, essentially, “I don’t like it.” This is not going down well with the major purveyors of the news dog-food. Witness CNN’s Jim Acosta, getting all bent out of shape at being heckled, harassed, and having uncomplimentary signs held up in back of him as he tries to do a live stand-up.
After a long day of conceptual, abstract thinking, and reading heavy tomes, I enjoy an hour or two of TV in the evening to slow down the brain and get it ready for sleep. My viewing diet is fairly restricted. Old police procedurals. History and science documentaries. Occasional action movies.
I sample other things occasionally simply to find better fare but with little luck. The chief issues are heavy ideological overlays, poor writing/dialog, marginal acting, simplistic story arcs, emotional incontinence, overweening self-importance. Oh, and so often, simply insulting to the intelligence. I am pushing the plate away and saying "I don't like it."
This past Thursday, I turned on the TV and it happened to be 8:01pm. OK, its been awhile since I checked the line up on broadcast and cable, top of the hour might be a good time to check if there is anything worth sampling. I start clicking through the long list of tripe.
The Gong Show? That brings back memories. It ran exactly in parallel with my junior and senior years in boarding school. It was a low budget, comedic, variety show with a handful of recurring motifs such as Jean, Jean, the dancing machine but was powered primarily by members of the public willing to perform silly skits. I recall some frat boys gatoring as something of a lowlight.
Based solely on the recollection of occasionally catching shows back in the dorm between classes, I think it was likely a daily show broadcast sometime during the day.
Seeing it now on the schedule, my first thought was, They resurrected that? OK. I'm game. I'll watch for five minutes just for the remembrance.
An hour later, I am so delighted. Surprised by some of the acts. Lots of laughter. Nothing serious. None of the victimhood origin stories you see on America Has Talent or the ilk. Acts which get gonged make light hearted fun of themselves and simply exit. No weeping, clasping of hands to the face. It is a show serious about providing light hearted humor.
They've upgraded the set. The acts feel less like they simply hauled in whomever they found on the street.
But it is a good old-fashioned light-hearted variety show. Still a lot of teen humor. Boy scout level jokes. "I used to date a marionette. She was a real doll!"
I am sitting there thinking. Why do I have such a positive response to the remake of a shallow silly show? It certainly isn't a nostalgia for youth or memories of the show. It was a raucous silly show worth dipping into when you only had 45 minutes between classes. But nothing more.
It then hit me. It is the first show I have seen in a long, long while where there were no overt political messages, nothing intending to insult or belittle the viewer. Nothing complicated. It is the first show in a long, long while where my low expectations were significantly exceeded. It is the first show in a long, long while worth watching again (if you like light hearted silliness).
It is the first show from contemporary Hollywood where I haven't felt like simply "pushing the plate away and saying, essentially, 'I don’t like it.'”