Daytime television has always been a different animal. When I was a kid, there were primarily game shows and soap operas available, with kid’s shows after 3pm, and some locally produced newsy kinds of shows over the noon hour.
There were some talk shows, too. Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and even Arthur Godfrey had talk shows, though Godfrey was better known for his radio show.
I’m not usually home during weekdays, but when I am, I notice that there are times when most stations have “judge shows” on, and other times when there are several “shock” programs available.
The judge shows are really all about the same. Parties with a dispute between them agree to a judgment by a TV judge – normally someone who has been a judge in real life before succumbing to the stardom bug.
The plaintiffs and defendants are chosen for entertainment value, I suspect, and entertain they do. Most fall into one or more of the following categories: slimy, stupid, naïve, immoral, and clueless. I think the appeal of these shows is that anyone who watches one suddenly feels a little less slimy, stupid, naïve, etc. I picture much of daytime TV-watching America shaking their heads and saying, “Well, I’m no genius, but at least I’m smarter than THAT guy!”
The shock programs like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer appeal to people in the same way, I think. The lowest of the low in society – people who wouldn’t recognize any of the Ten Commandments if their lives depended on it – show up to display to everyone watching just how pathetic their lives are.
When a wronged party comes out on stage and, with the inducement of the studio audience, physically attacks the wronging party, my stomach turns a little, but ratings soar.
Recently, I saw two minutes of a Jerry Springing show. The angry girl attacked the “other woman” and her chest area had to be “pixilated” (blurred) because she popped out of her top as she was slapping the other gal, much to the glee of the animals in the audience.
Maury Povich, who used to be a journalist, amps up the drama and conducts paternity tests for women who have had sex with so many men that they really have no idea which of them is the father of their child or children.
Years ago, just after we moved to the Cambridge area, we got to know Father Wayne Turner at St. Pius X church. Ironically, he wasn’t a “holier than thou” type. But he did sometimes suggest that, while there is nothing wrong with watching whatever you want on TV or in movies, the more unhealthy content you absorb, the more unhealthy you become. Expose your mind to good things, and your mind will be more healthy.
I guess that’s why I don’t go out of my way to watch these programs. Honestly, I’d rather watch Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street than Jerry, Maury, or the judges. Cookie Monster never once had to be pixilated, and nobody cares about who Elmo’s real father is.