Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The next sick thing

What do you get when you combine producers from the country that gave us legal euthanasia and the network that specializes in "Mouth-Breathe TV"?


Fox has fast-tracked a reality series in which real companies that are struggling to stay afloat in this lousy economy agree to let their staffs decide who among them will get pink-slipped to cut costs.

Fox is already in production on "Someone's Gotta Go," having lined up companies -- smaller, Dunder Mifflin-esque outfits with 15 to 20 employees -- Fox's reality-series madman/genius Mike Darnell told the TV Column. We sounded incredulous. Darnell notes that every time he comes up with one of these trashtastic reality series, we ask the same question: What on Earth would motivate anyone to be on this show? And his answer is always the same: "They want to be on TV. Who knows? There's never a shortage."

Each week, a different company will be showcased. Each week, that company's boss or owner will call the employees together and tell them someone has to be laid off. He or she will give the employees all the available information about one another -- salaries, job evaluations, etc. -- and let them decide who gets the pink slip.

Darnell thinks millions of Americans who fear for their jobs or have lost them will flock to a TV series in which someone loses a job every week, because the show is about . . . Wish Fulfillment.

The idea came from watching a segment on a cable news channel in which a small-business owner decided to let all her employees know what each of them was paid.

"We've taken it a step further and opened up the books to everybody's salary, opened up their HR files and let them talk about each other and to each other -- this one's lazy, this one's a hard worker, I hear this one's having an affair. And in the end they will decide who's to go.

"I'm sure you've been through a situation where someone at your company gets fired and you think, 'Why did that guy get fired and that idiot is still here?' " Darnell asked us, rhetorically. We had no comment.

The show will be brought to us by Endemol -- the Dutch-based production company that also gave the world "Big Brother," which used to seem mean-spirited and skanky, but which suddenly looks quaint and charming.
I THINK The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes summed it up right nicely with that last paragraph. Or, to paraphrase Boon's description to Katy after a night of frat debauchery at Animal House: "Unbelievable. A new low. They're so ashamed."


That's because if you're a miserable enough SOB to watch it, they're miserable enough SOBs to make it -- "it" being yet another show that degrades people for the entertainment of others, thereby turning human misery into a media cash cow.

And you're a miserable enough SOB to watch it. After all, how long have The Jerry Springer Show and Maury been on the air?

Way back there then, Caesar used to provide bread and circuses for the people as a means of keeping everybody amused . . . and in line. Then the barbarians came.

Now, we find our "elites" -- both governmental and cultural -- providing bread and circuses for the barbarians (that is, us) as a means of keeping everybody amused . . . and in line. I mean, we have everything -- gladiators, temple prostitutes, chariot races (NASCAR), freak shows . . . everything.

WELL, ACTUALLY, not quite everything. We don't feed Christians to the lions yet.

Give Fox another couple of TV seasons, though, and they'll see what they can do.

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