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Food-Stamp Feuds

By Tom “Sally Jessy” Waters
December 16th, 2002

If I had a choice between watching daytime talk shows or see-sawing on jagged rocks, I believe I’d choose the latter. These programs, which some schedule their social calendar around, have become a parody of a caricature of themselves. The ratings dictate that the host be female (or, in Jerry Springer’s case, lacking a penis) marginally pudgy, spineless in regards to values, and willing to tar and feather a guest should the mob-mentality of the studio audience hint as much. Oh, I almost forgot. They also have to be a flaming liberal to the point of spontaneously combusting without warning.

You see, my impression was that the manifesto of a talk-show would involve talking, conversation, an interactive exchange between two or more people. Strike four. Guests and audience members are allowed to talk long enough to make a jackass out of themselves and then the host cuts them off to insert her two cents. And believe you me, it doesn’t take any of the guests (on stage or off) long to make fools out of not only themselves, but their extended family and the next couple of generations.

This is only partly their fault though, as executives recruit the toothless, degenerate, ignoramus trash of the earth (white, black, calico, it doesn’t matter) because they’re entertaining to the general public in the same sense that a dog licking himself is amusing. The dog doesn’t quite know that it’s his lack of social graces, and not his amusing candor, that’s so comical to those around him. And the more incestuous and primordial the guest, the bigger the response. Of the shows that I could stomach, here are the basic premises:

The Miracle Makeover
Trailer-park families drag on a father or mother they’re embarrassed of for their abhorrent biker/pocket-protector/parachute-pants taste in clothes. After a tear-felt testimony of the child’s long term trauma from being associated with this person, the parent is coerced into going backstage. After a suspenseful (guffaw at will) commercial break, the family member, having just been battered in pancake makeup, shaved for the first time this century, de-liced, and given a power-suit, waltzes triumphantly onto the stage looking like a cast member from “FRIENDS” and basking in the audience’s approval. The rest of the show is spent cooing over the new look and asking how said guest feels about this catastrophic superficial change. Side-note: Everyone’s hair looks like crap for about a week after a hair-cut, I’m wondering how bad these people look the day after if they were so ugly in the first place.

Lesbian-Circus Dwarf-Gila Monster Love Triangle And Other Sexual Freaks Of Nature
These almost always consist of a rail thin husband, and a wife who’s about four hundred pounds who by some paranormal act not only weeble-wobbled out of the house but cheated on her husband with three other people as well. The husband often pleas for faithfulness and restoration of marriage vows. This is always a good segue for the other man to say: “Well, if you knew how to satisfy her in the first place she wouldn’t have gone elsewhere,” to which the fifth-grade mentality audience catcalls and praises. Usually, these issues don’t get resolved, but it’s often good fodder for almost-fistfights and psychotic audience soapboxes, which we’ll get to later. Side-note: It disgusts me to think that these people have reproductive organs. The thought that numerous people touch them with anything other than a cattle-prod invites violent spasms.

My Child Is A Gang Member/Pimp/Satanic Priest
Father or mother exposes their child for the deviant mess that they are. Child throws tantrum, cries, storms off stage in a gesture of independence and maturity (eh, yeah). Crowd skewers parents for not loving the kid enough/spanking the kid until his cheeks were raw/attending to their every need for the first fifteen years of the brat’s life. Brat is coaxed back on stage to audience fanfare, host sweats on kid until moving reunion takes place. Side Note: I’m never having kids.

Special Interest Hate Mongering Group(s)
One of the many scourges of society is introduced, booed, and teased into a spitting, hopping frenzy. For the first fifteen minutes of the show the group explains why they are positive that people who use refillable laundry detergents should be strung up from telephone poles. These episodes are good opportunities for the host to shout out such lines as: “You make me sick. If I were you I’d shoot myself.” Fifteen minutes into the show, one of the group members tries to bludgeon host to death with a stage prop. Three or four beefy security guards appear from out of nowhere and put one hand on the shoulder of the instigator while keeping the other glued to their headsets. Impromptu commercial break. The rest of the episode is lovey-dovey and anticlimactic as host gives moving speech to unite the world in peace. Side Note: Didn’t anyone learn after Geraldo Rivera got a free (albeit sloppy) nose job?

Victims Of Shark Attacks/Godzilla/Rampaging Free-Range Chickens
Victims are promenaded onto the stage and bathed in a shower of pity. They share their horrifying tale, followed by a montage of insurance photos showcasing gouge marks, stretch marks, and bullet holes. 911 call is played over loudspeakers while camera lingers on the victim as he/she relives the event in all of its audible terror. Victim goes into convulsions/shock/epileptic fit. Cut to commercial break. 911 Operator comes on stage and hugs victim. Victim shares with the audience how the operator, by doing their job, is the most compassionate soul to grace the earth. Host fishes for hopeful catch-phrase from victim in spite of their unfortunate incident. Something along the lines of: “Even though that grizzly bear sky dived into my house, ate my child and flossed with the umbilical cord, I’ve found that life is nothing more than sunshine and rainbows.” Upbeat show-theme crescendo as credits roll. Side Note: There’s a little Roman spectator in all of us that loves to see death and carnage.

I haven’t seen too many variations on these episodes. The audience is always the same. One or two big mamas who scream and spit at two thousand words a minute while flailing their arms and telling the studio guests how they should act, four or five skinny housewives and young understanding under-graduates who really feel for the other person’s point of view, a few dozen people who strive to enforce their ethnic background of choice’s stereotype, someone who says something stupid (i.e. “YOU SUCK, KATHIE LEE!”) just to get a rise out of the crowd, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Maybe I’m just bitter after Morton Downey Jr. got taken off the air, but talk shows these days have degenerated into a cesspool of bleeding-heart backwash, holding the freaks and social deviants up on a pedestal. It just seems so wrong not only to make celebrities out of convicts, but to flood the networks with this brand of familial dysfunction until it’s accepted as normal?! It would be one thing if the guests brought on were counseled or helped for their fetishes and lack of syntax savvy, but they’re not. They’re exploited (all the guests get for going on the show are plane tickets and a place to stay before the show, not many know this), publicly humiliated, and shooed off the stage for the next rare bird. Instead of helping these morons, these shows are breeding morons. But ratings are law,  and maybe a polluted dose of reality (however monstrous) is better than the sacchariny smack of a soap opera. Just as long as I don’t have to watch either.  

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