Volume 94, Issue 77

Thursday, February 8, 2001


Letters to the Editor

Reality TV: At least it's not live killing

Reality TV: At least it's not live killing

By Colin Butler
Opinions Editor

I've discovered the perfect show for primetime television.

It's about a young, hip and beautiful group of thirty-something lawyers who are also homicide detectives. While they practice law and solve murders by day, they save people's lives in the emergency room as doctors by night. All of this takes place on a desert island where they all cheat on each other and each week, a different member of the cast is voted off. Plus, they're all gay.

Don't worry, I'm not a television producer.

They're a clever bunch, those producers. They're constantly searching for new and diabolical ways to keep you permanently planted in front of that little glowing box. So you'll watch all those sly and shrewd little ads which interrupt your favorite programs at regular intervals.

Many people disapprove of the methods used by these men and women working behind the small screen to lure in viewers. Many label the newest trends in programs manufactured by producers as "exploitational" or "trash TV," saying the programs are "disgusting" or "unethical."

So what?

The Ancient Romans, who may I add were the greatest party people ever, did the same thing in reverse. Instead of simulated killing and real-life strained relationships, those wacky Romans watched real-life killing and simulated strained relationships.

They watched gladiators brutally kill each other, or if it was a weekend, it was helpless religious minorities who were fed to wild animals. The Romans loved this type of entertainment, despite the real violence and gore and most importantly, lack of gay characters. Whereas, when it came to human tears and the baseness of the human spirit, the Romans only ever watched it played out by actors in a local theatre. Yet, the biggest draw was always the gladiator battles.

Although bloody and gruesome, those exhibitions did a lot of good. These "games" were often paid for by the state in order for the citizens of Rome to enjoy the spectacle free of charge. The logic behind this being that it kept potential criminals off the streets, gave people something to talk about and generally kept everyone's mind off how shitty the quality of life was back then.

It provided distraction in troubled times.

Today's "trash TV" by comparison, which exploits the dark side of the human experience, is far more humane than watching live killings. Like its brutal Roman predecessor, television distracts the masses, which may otherwise do something disruptive to society at-large. Think of how many crimes you might commit during three hours of primetime if you had nothing to watch.

There are many that would disagree with the questionable morals these primetime shows encourage, and with good reason. Yet, many don't think of the ramifications of potential troublemakers with little or nothing to do.

Remember, criminals watch television too, they just don't pay for it. Like it or not, these shows indirectly contribute to the overall welfare of society. Those "disgusting" shows keep the peace better than any police officer.

Keeping in mind the contrast between the entertainment of today and the carnage of the Roman Empire, I'm proud to say that we human beings are coming along quite nicely. This type of entertainment, when compared to its predecessor, is evidence that our moral growth and change is slowly but surely heading in the right direction.

Exploitational entertainment isn't a new thing. It's as old as the dramatic arts. What's more, it's definitely here to stay and will most likely be around forever. So don't blame the producers. They ironically help build a safer world.

I was thinking of getting into that racket myself. I have my own idea for a television show; it's a spin-off of Dawson's Creek as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-type knockoff. Dawson converts to Judaism, whereupon he's visited by the ghost of Sammy Davis Jr. who commands him to hunt down escaped nazi war criminals.

All the while, he's aided by his sidekick Pacey, who has now been transformed by a gruesome automobile accident and has been surgically attached to the car he crashed. Now, the car powers his heart. But wait – there's a twist – Adolf Hitler, played by Alan Thicke, is Dawson's father. Which, of course, begs the question: How is the car powering Pacey's heart?

Oh yes, and they're all gay.

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