Tuesday, February 27, 2007

That Game Show Bar keeps getting lower and lower

Fox television has always been a bastion for being a thinking person's network when it comes to reality and game shows, and this week they are continuing the fine tradition of Temptation Island and Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire with Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

For the sake of humanity, I should hope that the vast majority of contestants on the show meet this humble criteria, but I fear that the answer is in reality a soul-crushing no.

Do you remember when you actually had to be, you know, smart to compete on a game show? At what point did that train come off the track. I mean, I remember when Wheel of Fortune was maligned by comedians for being too dumb(especially when it was paired with Jeopardy). What happened? Seriously, when did being fat, drunk and/or stupid become a virtue on televised game shows?

By the way, I am not attacking Deal or No Deal on this count, and there is a good reason for that. While it does seem like a very simplistic game, and Dennis Quaid once remarked, that it "requires no intellectual ability whatsoever and you really get to check out your psychic powers. You get to watch families destroyed.", in reality, the theoretical background of the show is rather cerebral so it is being spared my wrath today.

No, I am talking about shows that are based on knowledge alone, and for that, you should actually possess some of it. So when did it become acceptable to compete on a trivia show when you don't have the goods?

Maybe it was when those midnight game shows started. Or was it Street Smarts... or maybe this all goes back to the Battle of the Jay Walk All-Stars. Now Jaywalking/Man on the Street pieces are funny the first few times you see them, but it suddenly stops being funny when you realize that these are some of the same people who make decisions on your behalf, that these are some of the same people who are helping shape public policy. It is those moments that make me curl up in a ball and weep.

I know that a lot of editing takes place to make these pieces work, but it is still frightening. I am curious about how many people they have to interview to find the dumbass gold, but I am sure I would be shocked by whatever those numbers were.

And now, it has come to this... a game show that is in essence asking adults if they are as knowledgeable as 9 and 10 year olds, and because it is a game show, well, the contestants aren't meant to win it, just like players aren't supposed to win in a casino, so the producers must have a pretty good idea that their average contestant stands a decent chance of losing.

I know Jeff Foxworthy has made a career out of celebrating the glorious lack of sophistication of Rednecks, but at the time, I also know that he once worked at IBM. He made a career out of both lampooning and empathizing with the ignorance he encountered throughout his life.

But shouldn't we as viewers expect the bar to be set a little higher than the 5th grade?

It is a sad, sad day. Probably if I asked the Fox executives, they would tell me something like this:

Of course we could make things more challenging, Matt, but then the stupider contestants would be up here complaining, furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation.


Addendum: After seeing the show, it is WORSE than I even imagined. 5 questions were asked, and the adults could only correctly answer ONE without aid. I am even more dismayed than I was before.


SamuraiFrog said...

I watched this horror last night, too, and was apalled at how bad it really was. What was the point of all that?

MC said...

I think it is supposed to make US feel better that a lawyer with a history degree can't answer a question whose answer was often fodder for discussion since the Clinton era.