April 20, 2001

The Daze Rant: Temptation TV

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At one point in the not-so-distant past, Fox had the “big three” networks quaking in their boots. The Simpsons was a huge hit, respected by critics and fans alike, changing the face of television. Ally McBeal was stealing viewers, especially in the ever important category of affluent females. And when they won a contract with the NFL, it was the equivalent of a coming-out party. A Current Affair and Cops no longer defined the little kid on the block. Fox was the fourth major network.

But, as quickly as Rome was built, it burned to the ground even faster. Original programming is the lifeblood of the networks. Staple shows have kept NBC at the top of the game for a long time. Seinfeld, Friends, and ER were unstoppable, and the rest of the business were filling in the gaps by being copycats. Thus, ER became Chicago Hope, Law and Order became The Practice, and NYPD Blue became Homicide. So, now that Fox had the original part down, it was time to play the copycat game to fill in their programming holes.

That’s when the honeymoon ended and the walls came crashing down. Who Wants to be a Millionaire? became Greed and then Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? Survivor became Temptation Island and, even worse, Boot Camp. These shows are the epitome of the absolute worst trash on television right now — and very likely the worst trash on television ever. (Short of Three’s Company without Suzanne Sommers, of course.) Fox went and dipped down to the lowest common denominator model to grab a viewer’s attention.

Wanton sex and greed seem like Fox’s driving force behind programming decisions right now. Quality is not really even an issue anymore, as we saw all to clearly with the ridiculous and sickening twists on Temptation Island. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, paying models on television to chase after supposedly “committed” people is not “reality TV.” It’s mildly sickening prostitution.

I suppose Titus and Malcolm in the Middle are supposed to be Fox’s attempts at retaining some sort of quality programming. Well, Titus is ridiculous drivel based on stereotypes of dysfunctional family living and male hormonal antics. And Malcolm just isn’t all that funny. (And that damn opening title song makes me want to hang myself.) Let’s not even get into the absurdity of the Fox football commentator or the leggy little weather girl.

What little respect Fox was beginning to garner as a fourth competitive network is gone. Now they’re nothing more than the drunk uncle who tells inappropriate jokes at Thanksgiving and sends you a check for a hundred bucks on your birthday, but it always bounces. That’s Fox.

Guess who the real competition is now? HBO.

Yeah, the channel you have to pay excessive amounts of money just to watch is beating out the free stuff because The Sopranos, Oz, Sex and the City, Arliss, Tracey Takes On, and the occasional movie are way more fun to watch. So sad, just when it looked like Uncle Fox was finally going to kick the booze, quit telling dirty jokes, and get the respect he deserves. But, we all know how long that lasts.

Archived article by Jason Weinstein