When you watch as much television as I do, you start to realize a few things. For example, you may realize that you have a very sore ass. Or, you might begin spotting what we in the sitting-on-our-ass-all-day biz call "trends." Take, for instance, the late '70s, when practically every show was a bra-less sitcom. Or the mid-'90s, when the trend was snoozy hourlong dramas like ER, and the egregiously boring Law & Order (I know you may disagree, but C'MON!! They repeat their own story lines more than I do!!).
Well, it doesn't take a brainiac to figure out what trend we're knee-deep in now; and that's the "capitalize on human suffering" trend. Though network executives like to call them "reality shows," in what "reality" do people starve themselves in Africa for a chance to win a million bucks and an SUV? No sir, "human suffering" is the order of the day, and is clearly the point of such shows as Survivor, The Weakest Link, and a brand spankin' new show called The Chair. This creep-a-thon features contestants who are strapped down and grilled with tough questions while being physically harassed. In a nutshell, it's like having a gynecological or prostate exam, only to realize it's your boss doing the poking!
However! Here in the States, nobody does human suffering better than NBC's Fear Factor (Mondays, 8 pm), which has just started its second sicko season. Jar-head host Joe Rogan (formerly of NewsRadio) forces six contestants through a series of gut-churning tasks that would make Charles Bronson crap his britches. These include (but are not limited to) lying in a pit covered with live, wiggling rats, eating sheep eyeballs, gargling cocktails of cockroaches, driving a car off the top of a three-story parking garage, riding a very angry bull, and bobbing for plums in a tank filled with snakes. And naturally, the producers would like it to seem like these are normal acts of physical endurance--rather than acts of torture that would make Adolf fawking Hitler envious!
Regardless, while all of these shows raise serious questions about so-called entertainment and human dignity, all I can say is, "THANK GOD FOR THE JAPANESE," whose run-of-the-mill variety shows make ours look like a trip to the taffy factory. Don't believe me? Well, SCREW YOU, PAL, because you can see it all for yourself on the video Japanarama! Psycho TV from Japan (http://too-far-east.tripod.com/japanarama). This two-hour tape features scenes from a multitude of Japanese shows that showcase all sorts of deviant (and hilarious) behavior.
For example! Name one American TV show where you can witness any of the following: a human catapult, from which the contestant is flung off a cliff (but not before his clothes are torn off); pro wrestlers throwing skinny guys into a tub of glue, onto an electrified plate, or into a tank filled with sharks and chum; contestants being covered in butter, which is then licked off by a pack of dogs; a spirited game of tug-of-war, except with strings attached to bare nipples; and finally, a hungry Komodo dragon that's unleashed on a man who has raw meat taped to his head.
And trust me, I would be the first in line to report these travesties to any number of human rights organizations--if only it weren't so god damn FUNNY. My hands are tied!