Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Scourge of Daytime Television

I woke up a few months ago with symptoms suggesting that I was speeding recklessly towards a full-blown case of the flu. With a temperature that had respectably passed the triple-digit mark, I fluctuated between fits of violent shivering followed by drenching episodes of sweat-inducing hot spells that made for a truly miserable existence. Luckily, my wife was working and the kids were scheduled to be in daycare. That meant that I would have the house entirely to myself, which is an increasingly rare commodity in my case.

Normally when left to my own devices I would start the day off with a couple of beers, surf the web until I got hungry, eat a light meal (so as not to interfere with my buzz) and then plot various acts of petty vandalism against my somewhat less-than-affable neighbors that could be carried out before they returned from work. Unfortunately, I was far too sick to do any of these things so I ended up on the couch in front of the television all day long. It was during this time that I discovered a vicious circle at work.

Now, it is no secret that daytime TV is full of society’s lowest denominations, paraded out by unscrupulous producers for the amusement of the viewing audience, satisfying the morbid curiousity of the general public. Up until that day, I always assumed that television just exploited the weak-minded, morally suspect, tattoo enhanced and dentally impaired inhabitants of society’s fringe. I had no idea, until I was forced to watch daytime TV, how complicit the media is in creating this element. I found myself wondering whether it was the moron creating the programming, by making their entertainment desires known to the networks, or whether the networks created the moron by pumping minds already softened by the effects of unemployment with a steady stream of intellectually starved programming that deteriorates mental capacity quicker than a chainsaw lobotomy performed by an epileptic wracked by the effects of methamphamine withdrawl. I was pondering a classic “chicken versus egg” dilemma. Of course, this dilemma hit me seven minutes into an episode of The Jerry Springer Show.

The particular show I was watching dealt with the subject of unwed mothers trying to prove the paternity of their children and, I assume, get a hold on the palimony payments that were due them so they could continue feeding their drug habits and blessing the world with the continuing priveledge of providing shelter to their offspring at various federal penal institutions. The show was filled with young teen-aged girls with accents eerily similar to that afflicting President Bush, though I find it highly unlikely that they also picked it up at Yale. The male equation of the episode appeared considerably older and I assumed (or rather hoped) that somebody somewhere was preparing a spot for them on their applicable sexual offenders registry. Both sides were bellicose and confrontational, threatening to erupt into a staged trademark Springer brawl at any moment, replete with bleeped out profanities and interfereing bouncers but without the display of an inordinate amount of blood. All disagreements were voiced with the over-dramatic malevolent enthusiasm and complete lack of believeability of the WWF matches that the show’s guests appeared to have taken their acting cues from.

The show is an unbridled assault on the intellect. I could feel my vocabulary deteriorating to the point where I could no longer voice, or for that matter, even think of any word consisting of more than two syllables. I was also overcome with an unsatiable craving for Cheez Whiz, grits and pork gravy, consumed uncut and directly out of the can. Comemorative dishes suddenly had collectable appeal to me while shirts with sleeves or buttons suddenly did not. For a reason I am at a complete loss to explain, I had the insane urge to display my household appliances on the front lawn and thought my car would look much better without its wheels, hovering above the ground on a set of cement blocks. Once I felt a tooth starting to loosen up, I figured I had better change channels before I was hit with the urge to call my sister with some highly inappropriate suggestions about how to take our sibling relationship to the next level.

My next stop on the channel guide was Lifetime. It was a short layover. The show I was stuck watching contained a decidedly unamusing lack of awe inspiring explosions, gratuitous nudity, mud wrestling midgets or lesbian love tringles and therefore the channel had no capabilities of holding the male attention span for more than 22 seconds. Within that 22 seconds however, I was able to ascertain that the program was about the sexual abuse of a child. This was not quite the thing that I wanted to watch while home sick but thought this channel, which focuses on programming for women, could give me a good insight into the mind of the enemy which I could find of interest. Scanning through the guide for information on subsequent shows revealed more adultery, rape, domestic violence and child molestation than any rational human mind could possibly process. I was not sure whether I was reading the programming guide of a television station or the entertainment itinerary of the next NAMBLA convention at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. I decided if I was going on a foray into women’s television, I needed to test the waters of something a tad lighter. I went to Oprah.

I have had women tell me that they watch Oprah because she makes them feel empowered and encourages them to be independent. I did not get that out of the episode I watched. What I got out of the Oprah show was that she wanted to empower women to be independent of their men, but seemed to be subliminally leading them to be dependant upon her. I pictured my wife watching this show, entranced by this middle-aged talk guru who was telling her what to dress in, what books to read, what to eat and what to think. I took offense to this as I consider telling my wife what to dress in, what books to read, what to eat and what to think MY job and dammit, I had seniority in the position! This stirred up some strong feelings within me. I felt resentment at Oprah, stemming from the fact that though Oprah has never met my wife yet her words are taken as holy writ while I have been married to the woman for five years and my words are usually dismissed as the lunatic ravings of a talking monkey.

I also felt other, much less familiar emotions. For instance, though I have never grasped that “unfresh feeling” so often described in feminine hygene commercials, I could not honestly say I had ever been afflicted with it. By Oprah’s second commercial break, I was considering myself pretty ripe. I also felt bloated for a little while but that eventually passed, nearly blowing the back out of my shorts and leaving skid marks on the couch in the process. After a while, I decided that I had had enough and needed to get into something a little stimulating for the male of the species before I would be forced to start replying to those e-mails touting penile enlargement devices not because I needed a new source of amusement, but because they had become a medical necessity. I decided to spend the rest of the day flipping between World War II documentaries on The History Channel and pay-per-view pygmy prison porn on Spice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this, I can see that the monosyllabic period of your sickness is well recovered from.

I must now go visit dictionaryDOTcom, but just for one word whihc is an improvement.


4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to find some way of fitting in the word bellicose into my everyday conversation tomorrow if it kills me.


5:08 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

Well, now the lack of posting is due more to time than lack of ideas. Plus, I've been working on that book you were talking about.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Sacto Ritch said...

Ohh James. Please don't take this as a big brother thing but I've seen and met your sister. I personally wouldn't blame you at all. And where, by God, do you get pork gravy in a can? Sounds delish. Oh yeah, I'm with Hannah. Bellicose. Excuse me.


12:47 AM  
Blogger JEP said...

Yeah, that's The JEP Report.

Raising vocabulary levels and lowering standards since 2004.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I for one wouldn't have it any other way.


8:50 AM  

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