Sunday, February 26, 2006

TV Review: America's Funniest F**king Videos

So in a week of sickness for one of us, the last thing desired was TV watching. Friday was the day we had to decide if we were going to do a review or not. Since we'd reviewed most of the programs on CBS, the (still for now) WB, and not wanting to bother with the Olympics, that didn't leave much. We hadn't reviewed America's Funniest Videos? How about that?

Confession, neither of us has ever watched America's Funniest Videos before. The show and the current host have been around forever. It started airing in 1989 and over sixteen years later, it's still on the air. Tom Bergeron, the current host, turns fifty-one in May so there are somethings older; however, it's the third longest running prime time show on ABC (behind 20/20 and the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't Prime Time Live).

If, like us, you've missed the show, you really haven't missed out on much. What passes for humor is shots of a sleepy little girl licking a lollypop while Bergeron cracks dumb with comments like, "Isn't eating sugary candy supposed to have the opposite effect?" Aren't sugary videos combined with lame "jokes" prone to induce their own kind of drowsy if not stupor?

Is it just a sign of tired, stale TV? That certainly describes America's Funniest Videos which has come under fire for accusations of staged videos. (And should come under fire for, if staged, some of the animal "funnies" they air which could border on animal cruelty.) The show gives away prizes -- trips to Walt Disney, cash. And Bergeron says at the end of the episode, "Remember, if you get it on tape, you could get it on cash" because, apparently, instant (and momentary) celebrity doesn't market as well as it once did.

How tired is the show? We kept waiting for the end card that read: "Mr. Beregon's suits provided by Botany 500." Although, possibly today it would read: "Mr. Beregon's suits provided by" Regardless, if it was there, we missed it.

But we didn't miss other things. For instance, we didn't miss the families in many of the videos. We didn't coo or say "How cute!" but we did get that the show really wanted us to do that with repeated shots of babies and toddlers.

Strangely, possibly sadly for ABC, we didn't miss one more thing. "Did you hear that?" we both exclaimed at the same moment.

It was in the midst of what the show bills as "Nincompoop Corner" which is where we'd assume everyone working on this show hails from. The bit we noticed was where a guy on a bicycle appears to be attempting to jump some trash cans but instead crashes into the first one. In that so polished, game show voice that grates on many people's nerves, Bergeron offers this teaser: "Some guys talk trash, some guys live it." If you laughed at the bit, we didn't, you may have missed something.

Charlie Rocket got fired from Saturday Night Live for it. Charlene Tilton was the host, it was the height of Dallas mania. One of the running gags of that episode was a spoof of Who Shot J.R.? (For younger readers, on Dallas, Larry Hagman's J.R. was shot in a season cliffhanger and figuring out who shot him became a craze for many in this country and England.) Charlie Rocket (later Charles Rocket) was the one shot on the live broadcast. Let's note again, this was a live broadcast with no delay except on the west coast. So as Tilton, like every host, is getting ready to shout the goodnights and thanks over the cheesy fade to black music they've used for years (that sounds like a really bad ripoff of Carole King's "Way Over Yonder"), Charlie Rocket shouts out something to the effect of, "I just want to know who the f*ck shot me?" (Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller, in Live From New York: As Told By Its Stars, Writers & Guests, present the line, page 201, as "I 'd like to know who the f*ck did it" -- which it may very well have been.)

Yes, he pulled a Cheney. And it apparently shocked the nation. And now?

We watched the bit over and over. We played it for Jim, Rebecca, Ty, Dona, Mike, Wally and Elaine asking them, "Tell us what you hear?" (to make sure it wasn't just us hearing it). The two men involved in the trash can bit are speaking. Pump up the volume and you hear:

F*ck that!
. . . bitch.
No man, totally, f*ck it.

Again, we're new to the show. We've never seen an episode other than the one broadcast Friday night. It's supposed to be a "family show." It airs in primetime. It's so insufferably on what it supposes is its own cuteness that we really can't imagine it has too large of an audience.
So does this happen often? No one's watching, so they can do whatever they want?

Or maybe the audience laughs at home everytime they pump up the laugh track? If so, they may have missed the show pulling a Cheney, dropping the f-bomb. Twice.

When we watched it the first time (early this morning) we clearly could make out the f-word. (Maybe we just have really sharp hearing?) When we pumped up the volume, we could make it out twice as well as "bitch."

We're finding it hard to believe that whomever approved that tape for inclusion on the program couldn't make it out. Did they think, "Oh no one will notice?" If so, they were wrong. Were they afraid to drop out the sound after the crash effect (into the trash cans) for some reason? We don't know. (We did reach one friend at ABC who swears that would never happen. We played the bit for him, over the phone loudly, and asked, "What did you just hear?" His reply? "It sounded like the f-word.")

We're not offended by the f-word. We use it all the time. We don't use it in our reviews without deleting at least one letter because we try to keep this as work-safe as possible (though not the degree that we would if this was something going up at The Common Ills). But we think this is an example.

Of what? Of how families are steered to "good for you" shows that have nothing to offer and are usually not, in fact, "good for you." We doubt that a Christian Coalition will make a stink about America's Funniest Videos. And we're sure that a number of people who slam the entertainment industry wish there were more "good souls" like the people churning out that sort of crap.

It coasts on its "for the whole family" appeal. That allows it to live on year after year even though it's not funny. It allows it to go "blue" with "jokes" like "he's got a trunk in his junk" when an elephant's eating out of a man's pant's pocket. Tee-hee-hee. "It's a good kind of naughty." We doubt the audience for the show spends too much time wondering why a dog couldn't rub a piece of popcorn off his nose or toss it off. (We suspect the popcorn was secured to the nose.) Or why the funny animal doing the funny things appears to have a hump in his back at all times? (We suspect the hump was where the back arched as it was being pulled from that spot for the "funny.") We doubt they wonder too much about how the animals end up in the predicaments they do. They just think, "Funny! And good for the whole family!"

Squeaky clean is usually boring which is one reason to avoid it. The main reason we avoid the genre is because the description is not usually accurate. Pat Robertson can suggest that Hugo Chavez be "taken care of" on TV and his fan base won't question the remark or how it fits in with the teachings of Jesus because Robertson's "squeaky clean." (Read Greg Palast's The Best Money Democracy Can Buy if you're suffering from that delusion.) They get away with a lot if they're "squeaky clean." A "religious" duo can lie (or maybe they are that stupid) and claim that Halloween and Easter are "Satan's holidays started by witches" in "the colonies" "in the 1800s" -- as two idiots did at Halloween. (The Easter egg hunt is "an old witch tradition of hiding the dead babies" the female host said/lied nodding in agreement with the male host. Not to go off into a lengthy sidebar but, if they actually believed the lies they were spewing, wouldn't the hunt be a good thing in their books -- or Book -- since it's doubtful that, having hidden the "dead babies," the "witches" would be the ones attempting to find them?) They're the so-called "good people" so everyone looks the other way when a "blue" moment or a lie or something objectionable occurs.

To us, that moment, that bit, pulling a Cheney on national TV summed up America's Funniest Videos. On the surface, they market "good clean fun" -- so no regular viewers spend too much time wondering how exactly the animal ended up doing the "funny." And when Bergeron goes "blue" they just cackle and thank the good Lord that no Ellen's trying to come out on this show! But the whole time they're praising the show and praising themselves for watching it, they're missing reality. Reality appears to be that the f-word got snuck in twice. Once clearly audible at a normal volume. America's Funniest F*cking Videos. F*cking fun for the whole f*cking family. Well someone told them that, told them it was good for them.
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