A casual perusal of the evening television schedules in recent weeks leads me to one inescapable conclusion: I've definitely made the wrong career choice. If I had dropped out of high school and taken a job digging ditches I would have a camera crew following me right now.
And fame and fortune would be right around the corner.
Such is the sad state of what passes for entertainment in the early stages of the 21st century. While the Roman empire had gladiators fighting to the death to keep the masses amused and distracted, we settle for 20-plus episodes a year of guys downshifting their big rigs on icy roads or a similar slate of programming depicting hillbillies shooting at hawgs and gators.
Such fodder can't keep the ladies happy so for them we have, at last count, five different variations of botox-injected, surgically altered bimbos discussing the "drama" in their lives. It's like a DVD of a soap opera with the commentary option selected.
This isn't the first time I've asked this, but what the heck is wrong with our society?
Once upon a time you needed talent and charisma to make it big in show business. The proverbial overnight sensation seven years in the making was true - it took years of hard work honing your acting/singing/ comedic chops before a person was deemed worthy enough for a guest shot or a screen test.
Not anymore. Today, long lines of people gather for autograph sessions with deckhands from Alaskan crab fishing boats. Heck, one of the crab boats even has a sponsorship deal with a beer company.
Even more perverse, a clownish, overweight, tattooed pawn shop employee is so successful at screwing up in front of a camera that he can now afford to drive a Maserati, rent a mansion in an exclusive Las Vegas neighbourhood and hire his own personal assistant.
Hey I can do that. I have the first two qualifications nailed down already, now all I need is the tats.
Over the past decade, a growing avalanche of low cost, high reward reality fodder has slowly wrested control of North America's celebrity industrial complex.
Something called a Snooki is a star, as are hotel heiresses, arctic bush pilots (on two networks no less), coal miners, offshore gold prospectors, duck decoy carvers, pawn shop operators (again, two separate versions), forest rangers, dog trainers, auction house owners, exterminators, antique restorers, repo men, hot rodders, motorcycle mechanics, bounty hunters, curio shop owners, mountain men and garage sale habituÃ©s (sorry, pickers).
Do you still value talent as a necessary part of your entertainment? No problem, there's at least three shows aimed at discovering the next great singing star, three more for chefs plus one each for aspiring dancers, models and fashion designers. There's even a general talent competition for those who don't fit any of the other genres.
There are three or four shows dedicated to the exploits of people who capitalize on the misfortune of others by purchasing abandoned storage lockers. If all this isn't enough to satisfy our voyeuristic jones, we can delve down the creepy meter and watch programming depicting true human misery such as hoarders, drug interventions, dysfunctional roommates, extreme weight loss and child beauty pageants (I'm not sure which is more disturbing, the kids or the stage moms).
Naturally, romance is not neglected with shows pitting stables of young beauty queens or handsome studs competing for the affections of a preselected goddess/ Adonis.
These gold digger rodeos grab huge ratings and even the losers can become "winners" when they reappear as the following year's goddess/Adonis du jour.
Personally, I blame it all on Jerry Springer. He upped the sleaze factor in television and scored a ratings winner. No matter how badly your life was going, you could always tune in to Jerry's afternoon gong show and watch people with lives far more messed up than anything you've accomplished to date.
Now shows pandering to the lowest common denominator are everywhere from the mainstream television networks to the supposedly more highbrow specialty cable outlets including Discovery, History, and The Learning Channel.
Sadly, coming home from work and settling in for some escapist television now involves watching other people working jobs equally as mundane as our own.
So what's next? I can hardly wait for shows depicting the lives of accountants (how's this for a cliffhanger before fading to a commercial: oops, you added that wrong), morgue workers (damn, we've got a pulse) or sewage plant employees (I wonder what's clogging that pipe?).
Michael Booth can be reached at mbooth@ thenownewspaper.com
© Copyright 2013