The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Adventures in Daytime TV

In the process of writing and finishing Surviving Retail (it's getting copy edited right now), I've been watching an embarrassing amount of daytime TV. The qualifier "embarrassing" is a bit varied amongst people I know, most think that anymore than what peeks out when switching channels is officially too much; I watch A LOT more than that. Like all the "fourth meal" ads on at Stoner o' clock or the super late night phone sex ads, the commercials seem to be reading the collective mind of its audience. The ads are almost all career colleges, with the occasional fast food ad sprinkled in. I seriously considered a career in HVAC or Nursing, but instead it drove me to start watching from behind my computer writing, so when they guy on the commercial says, "You're sitting there on the couch..." he'd be wrong. They try to seal the deal by showing happy ex-graduates and have them say things like, "If I can do it, you can too!" which -in my experience -is the most untrue cliché since "The customer is always right". Let me break them down:

1. The Greg Behrendt Show- Sadly, this show has been canceled. It was a good show and far and away the least soul-stealing to watch. I guess being part of the solution does not make for compelling daytime TV. It shouldn't have worked as well as it did; an aging faux hipster dude who became famous writing He's Just Not That Into You . That makes him qualified to be Captain Obvious, commander of the S.S. No Shit, not a daytime talk show host.

But, neo-mullet and wallet chain notwithstanding, I've always thought he was a talented stand-up comedian and he had more than enough charisma to make it work. In many ways, Greg's was the anti-Springer show actually trying to solve people's problems instead of televising them after they've festered into hair-pulling fury. He still worked in the obvious, but I've learned-from body odor to the truth- what should be apparent to you is often much clearer to everyone else. When a woman comes on with an emotionally distant boyfriend, he'll say, "Break up with him, you're an awesome woman, don't you think you can do better? I do." He may not give away stuff like some of the other talk show hosts, but he will somehow get back the ring that a girl's scrub boyfriend stole from her that was a keepsake from her dead mother.

2. The Maury Povich show- I got used to Maury's disingenuous concern for people when he was host of tabloid show A Current Affair when he would come out of some muck-raking celebrity story saying, "Leave them alone!" like he wasn't responsible for any of it.

It's nice that he occasionally helps people (not without a certain amount of exploitation), but he has far more shows about cheating. Sometimes cheaters are exposed by massively flunking lie detector tests that nearly every one is convinced they've passed. I've watched quite a few of these shows and only a fraction have ever passed and almost all of them have been women-who only make up about 10 percent of the people tested.

They precede the test results with a look at the relationship in question; The boyfriend treats them like shit, disappears for days, gets caught in bed nude with another woman and says that they were "talking" and- on one recent show- prostituted himself. It makes you wonder why they're waiting for the test results to decide whether to end the relationship. Unfortunately, as the show updates illustrate, even the fact that their boyfriend has kids that they didn't tell them about or that he slept with her sister end up to not be the dealbreakers you'd expect then to be.

Then there's the DNA testing shows; lie detectors can be inaccurate, but DNA is not. Sometimes the paternity comes into a question because of cheating, a truth that the "father" finds out about the same time the studio audience does. Sometimes it's as many as 3 different men being tested for one child; one woman even had 12 men tested in a (thus far) futile attempt to find the father. More often, it's two people who might have been in love- or in lust- at one time but are now on national television saying the most horrendous things about each other. The men especially look bad, using excuses that don't even make the most basic biological sense: they only had sex once, the baby doesn't have his birthmark, he only has one testicle. They also claim that the woman slept with dozens of other possible fathers, even if they were in a relationship at the time of conception.

But all of the insults and innuendo mean nothing when the results finally come out. Regardless of what story either party is sticking to, nothing guarantees any result. A woman can say that she's "a thousand percent" sure the man is the father and be wrong; the man can claim he never even slept with the woman and be the father. After the results, the party that was right gloats in a way that suggests that they are every bit as classy as you may have thought, while the wrong one runs backstage; so many people have run back there it's almost as well appointed as the front. But once in a while the right person will stop gloating and will reach out to the other person in surprisingly tender ways, but you can't predict or expect that outcome either.

The thing that brings it all home for me is when they show the child whose paternity is in question grinning sweetly backstage. Unfortunately, like the lie detector tests, regardless of the results, it's already obvious that a lot of these kids are screwed.

The Jerry Springer show- In the past, I may have lingered on this show only to flip past after a couple minutes, but not in a very long time. Since it's been out of my attention, it has morphed into a show where the slightest sliver of civility it may have had got destroyed when two sweaty redneck brothers (who don't have a full set of teeth between them) crushed it as they fought over the meth addicted prostitute that one of them is married to.

Instead of trying to buck the perception of being the trashiest of the trashy, The Springer show seems to have taken that as a challenge; they have the technology, they can go lower, sleazier, and they can go MUCH trashier.

They've been showing some older episodes which lets me know that my memory serves me correctly. Fights used to break out occasionally, usually after someone does something to instigate it; now, when anyone comes out, they're swinging. Sometimes even people from the studio audience get in on the fisticuffs. The only rules are women and men can't hit each other and no cursing, although the former is probably because the resulting beeping would be mighty distracting to the viewer at home. Instead of the occasional boob flash from a shame deficient female guest, audience members are more than happy to lift up their shirts for "Jerry Beads"; I saw a mother and daughter team do it yesterday. There may have been some constructive comments from the audience in the past directed at the guests, but if someone dared do that now, they get shouted down by everyone else in the crowd with a chant of "Go To Oprah!"

Ah yes, the chants: there's "Jerry, Jerry" of course, but there's a guy whose job on the show seems to be starting chants. This is based on a pretty strong assumption; all chants begins with one guy with the same voice yelling, "We Love Whores!" ,"You Are Gay!" or "Get On The Pole!" whatever the situation requires. Did I forget to mention the stripper pole? The great thing about the pole is that it's an equal opportunity pole; men, women, cute, or nasty, all are free to shake their respective moneymakers.

Some of my favorite episodes feature the Reverend Schnor, a boozy "Man of the Cloth" who- God help me- performs the occasional wedding during the show, usually after the bride and/or groom had their clothes torn off by brawling with someone who decided not to "forever hold their peace". Getting married on the Springer is the ultimate prenuptial agreement, you're agreeing before you get hitched that there is no fuckin' way this is going to work out.

The pole and the good Rev. may have been there for a while, but there is a feature to the show that I know is brand new: Kenny. He seems to have no body at all from the waist down; he just randomly walks across the stage on his hands or crawls up a ladder to look over the show from a catwalk over the stage. Other than handing Jerry an envelope once, I have literally not seen him do anything else.

But hey, what do I expect? It's THE FREAKING JERRY SPRINGER SHOW! I once saw a little person with a baby fetish in a diaper and bonnet who wouldn't stop screaming, "Stop making fun of me!" Dude, if you want understanding, go to Oprah. It's kinda like Britney forgetting to wear undies after the first time the world saw her va-jay-jay; you'll only get sympathy if you don't know any better. And Jerry's been doing this for a long time.

Pete's final thoughts: As much as I don't believe in the concept of the "Guilty Pleasure", these shows could never be anything but. I guess we all need to be falsely superior to someone, and after an afternoon of these kind of shows, I feel like Donald Trump. But with better hair.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

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