Terminal velocity television is here.
There's such a thing as satirical prophecy. This power is a mysterious gift, and I mustn't let it fall into the wrong hands.
Item: Doing stand-up comedy, I once had a line about a Fundamentalist Christian who had tattooed on his penis, "What would Jesus do?" Recently, that very concept made up in the recesses of my warped mind came true. A Sunday School teacher in St. Paul, MN, advised one of his students to write on his penis, "What would Jesus do?"
Item: In 1964, when the World's Fair opened, I published "The Poverty Pavilion," illustrated by Mort Gerberg. In June 2003, Habitat for Humanity opened an unorthodox "theme park" designed to give tourists a look at the world's worst slums. Reuters reported that "visitors can imagine children sleeping in shacks infested with scorpions or snakes."
Item: When we saw About Schmidt, I mentioned to my wife, Nancy, "I guess Childreach will make Jack Nicholson their new poster boy." Now comes a form letter from the president of Childreach: "Dear Mr. Krassner, Life isn't always like the movies. But it can be. In the movie, About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson plays a recent retiree who sponsors a child through Childreach. He then re-evaluates his life through his correspondence with his sponsored child. I don't want to give away the whole movie, but I can tell you that Schmidt's whole life changes...because he cares about someone?a child he's never even met.
"Mr. Krassner, someone you've never met has been asking for you a lot lately. In fact, she's been praying for you every night. Most of all, Mr. Krassner, she desperately wants to tell you a story. But since she cannot tell you herself, I'd like to ask you to imagine. To believe, for five brief minutes, that you are someone completely different. Someone you would never, ever want to be...."
Reality has been nipping at the heels of satire for many years, and now reality is increasingly overtaking satire. I thought of a tv show called Feng Shui Vigilantes, only to find out there are already similar series, such as While You Were Out. So here I am, trying to extrapolate on industry trends in order to forecast the programs of the future, simultaneously hoping that none of them will be on the air by the time you read this.
Pot Party?An ongoing reality show for those who find themselves smoking marijuana alone, but at least like to see fellow stoners on the screen passing joints around the room, talking, laughing, listening to music and munching the hours away.
Snitch?At last, viewers will be like flies on the wall, free to observe, in the comfort of their living rooms, paid informants divulge information to their control officers. A split screen will reveal the informee reacting to a monitor in the greenroom. Security will be very tight. The show will be hosted by Bill Maher who, at the NORML convention, outed Ted Turner and Harrison Ford as pot smokers; that pair will perform an hilarious parody of the good cop/bad cop syndrome in the pilot.
The Gay Mafia?This series, The Sopranos meets Will & Grace, has an all-gay cast. The doubly stereotypical gang extorts interior decorators and runs gay bathhouses. Softcore porn scenes with bumping buttocks occur each episode. Limp wrists are in, stiff dicks are out. Dialogue ("Who moved my soap opera?") and t-shirts ("It's OK to Be Hetero") serve as cute condiments.
Voices from Hell?This show will be the result of an FCC equal-time requirement in response to such mediums as James Van Praagh and John Edward, who hear only from departed souls that are in heaven.
Libel?Each week a panel of experts in public relations will take a completely unknown person and, like alchemists transforming underground buzz into mainstream awareness, they will turn the subject into an instant commodity with total name recognition. When that project is successfully completed, the panel will then carry out a vigorous campaign to libel those same individuals, who cannot sue because they are now public figures.
The Nielsen Family?Sponsors once depended on the number of eyeballs that a tv show could deliver. But since a study indicated that scenes of sex and violence tend to distract from the viewer's attention to commercials, this new series is actually intended to be dull, thus aiming for quality?that is, brand-name consciousness?rather than quantity. And, indeed, the ratings should soar to the top, perhaps because it will feature a different Nielsen family each week, and all the other Nielsen families will watch it regularly.
Celebrity Enemas?Executives at the Fox network will readily admit that it was a real challenge to develop this particular series. "It was important," according to one spokesperson, "that this program be presented in a tasteful manner." At first agents and publicists alike refused to return calls from segment producers. But when Marlon Brando agreed to participate in the pilot, then other celebs got on board. "I'm on a special diet," the portly actor stated?"low salt and high colonics." The program is sponsored by Starbucks to help promote their new coffee enema, the Anal Latte.
Laugh Track?Even diehard sitcom fans have grown tired of listening to the reconstituted sound of an audience that had originally been laughing at I Love Lucy and is now ostensibly laughing at Everybody Loves Raymond. Virtually all of them are dead, but it's the only form of an afterlife of which I can conceive. Laugh Track will present clips of all new laughter, with the only visual being that of the studio audience laughing. It will serve as must-see-tv for those who want their own laughter to be stimulated only by pure peer pressure without any interference from content.
The D Files?D, of course, is for disinformation. Ever since the Bush administration announced that there would be an Office of Disinformation?and then, as its first official act, the Office of Disinformation announced that there would not be an Office of Disinformation after all?folks have been wondering what they're clandestinely up to. This game show provides the answers, as contestants attempt to distinguish between facts and propaganda.
Godspin?Every Sunday morning, representatives from a variety of religions?including cult leaders and professional skeptics?will discuss spiritual matters in a lively fashion. Such topics as the following will be explored: "Does the Deity Have an Awareness of Itself?" "Can Blasphemy Be a Form of Prayer?" "Is Scientology Really a Religion?" "What Motivates Suicide Bombers?" "Should 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance Be Changed to 'Inside God'?" and "Did Jesus Masturbate or Did He Merely Have Nocturnal Emissions?"
Tips for Terrorists?This is a spin-off of those segments on the news, originally intended to inform American citizens about the plethora of vulnerabilities in our infrastructure. However, intelligence agents learned that international terrorists were busy taking notes, ever vigilant in finding weaknesses in this, their target country. When the first episode is aired?disclosing the lack of security at the 10 dams scattered around L.A.?it will be attacked as stretching the First Amendment too far, but defended as the risk of democracy.
Law and Frivolity?Courtroom dramas of plaintiffs suing tv networks for forcing them to waste time, forego reading and remain poorly informed.
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