January 25, 2005

Fishing for Detergent

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As the communications industry gets more homogenized and the same syndicated sitcoms run rampant across every basic cable channel, viewers are understandably besought by anxiety. Are we all just mechanical observers, faceless hordes without any discernible interests or attention spans? A spate of more specific channels has tried to redress this problem in recent years: The History Channel for nebbish pseudo-intellectuals; the vintage DisneyToons channel for 25-year-olds still going on about 1989’s Tail Spin Christmas spectacular; The Agriculture Channel for farmers and livestock.

But audiences barely know their own traits, let alone what channels would appeal to them. It’s too much to ask all viewers to go through each facet of their personality. No one wants to pontificate on how ironic or introverted they are before they can watch TV. All we ask for is flashing lights, celebrities, and something, anything, to get our attention away from that goddamn divorce that crippled my life two years ago.

Three channels have come to the rescue to simplify this procedure. On one side, the Oxygen Network. On the other, Spike TV and the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). It’s no longer a matter of considering one’s own interests. Have a seat. Grab your crotch and figure out your gender. Shut up and watch. This vastly superior method eliminates all the guesswork. All I need to know is that I’m male and not blind, and the TV will take care of the rest.

So I made it my duty to watch Spike TV and OLN for an entire week in an effort to determine what sort of things I enjoy. Apparently, I am quite fond of rivers, soft porn and detergent commercials. Familiar to all male college students, Spike offers essentially two types of shows on any given day: reruns of Blind Date and MXC, a dubbed Japanese game show in which contestants literally blast their brains down their throats by falling face-first on large rocks. In the case of the former, balding, unemployed geezers try vainly to solicit blow jobs through incomprehensible speech impediments. For the latter, let’s just note that it’s both the end of civilization and the funniest show ever. When taken as a whole then, the message to young males seems to be something like, “Hey, we’re all just going to turn into lonely, dull, impotent struggling actors anyway, so we might as well just start literally cracking our skulls on stepping stones.” Which is actually a very good point and one that young men often forget. In fact, one could argue convincingly that Spike TV is a worthy successor to C