Television Lineup of the Damned

The three most despicable shows on television this season, namely Hell’s Kitchen, Moment of Truth and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader are the perfect shows for the decadence of the new Rome.

Hell’s Kitchen has managed to combine the Colosseum and the Vomitorium into one unseemly arena (Mr. Ramsay actually did throw up one recent contestant’s dish into a garbage can). Just what America needs: more arrogance, intemperance and yelling. And this time from a Britt. Thanks. We need more over here so keep ’em coming. We’ll send you all our sensible and mild mannered citizens.

Moment of Truth is the perfect show for the Bush years: it’s the propaganda lulling — or jarring — us all in the mindset to unproblematically accept the surveillance state. You may think that the executive overstep is a problem, but in fact it’s fun for the whole family. Who says that capitalism is inimical to the authoritarian state? Here one is sort of the advanced team for the other.

As if Who Wants to be a Millionare wasn’t insipient enough — I found the glacial pace of the show maddening, but apparently it was necessary for the viewership to keep up with the complexities of the game — now there’s the next big game show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, where the contestants giggle unashamedly at demonstrating the answer to be “no.” Oh! for the days of Win Ben Stein’s Money. Clive Crook worries that possibly for the first time ever, retiring workers are better educated than their new entrant replacements (“The Dumbing of America,” TheAtlantic.com, 28 March 2008). The study that he discusses uses master’s degrees as its reference point. Meanwhile in the rest of America, less than grade school is the benchmark of aspiration. With over a billion people, China will soon have more people with Ph.D.s than the U.S. will have people of any and every level of educational attainment and we keep on talking about a potential future peer competitor. The CCP must find that real rich.

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