Credit must go to Comedy Central’s Daily Show With Jon Stewart for perfectly summing up CBS’ inexplicable hit, Survivor: “excretainment.” Turn a video camera on a pile of crap sitting on the floor, put it on TV and millions of idiots will tune in to see what’s going to happen next! No weirdly named “tribes” to keep track of, just a steaming hunk of poo being itself!
Next thing you know, CBS actually follows through with that promise of excretainment—it’s called Big Brother, it’s on every night and it gives crap a bad name. South Park’s Mr. Hankey, himself a steaming hunk of poo as well an employee of Comedy Central, was too busy with a new project to be reached for comment.
Yes, as bad as Survivor is—and it is very, very bad—Big Brother is even worse. Not just because it’s a blatant rip-off of MTV’s The Real World, the previous title-holder of Worst Show Ever, but because it’s on CBS. Even though the numbingly boring Big Brother has slipped and gained and slipped again in the ratings, it and the still-thriving Survivor have finally given CBS (commonly referred to as the Codger Broadcasting System) the all-important 18-35 demographic viewing audience that advertisers love. Up until the Summer of Survivor, CBS’ median viewer age was 53-60; now it’s 41-45.
What’s so bad about the Oldster Network finally scoring a piece of young demographic tail (to put it in terms understandable to Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson)? Nothing, but know ye this: It’s only going to escalate from here.
CBS is now owned by media monster Viacom, which puts it under the same corporate roof as UPN, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, TNN (The Nashville Network), Country Music Television, Showtime and The Movie Channel, not to mention Blockbuster Video, Paramount Studios and Simon & Schuster Publishing. Talk about Big Brother. Think this youth-skewing gang is going to settle for 41-45? The peer pressure to drag in the young folks is going to be equal to or greater than that placed upon Michael Jackson’s personal assistants during summer vacation.
As for CBS allegedly swiping the concept of The Real World for Big Brother, well, it’s all in the Viacom family. “Sure, and it’s a medium where everybody rips everyone else off, so I’m not offended by it, per se,” said MTV president of programming Brian Graden recently, taking a break from sacrificing virginal studio interns to the dark lord Lucifer. “That’s kind of what TV is, unfortunately. You can’t get much closer than putting a bunch of people in a house to live together and, you know, taping them.”
Big Brother has a couple of features The Real World doesn’t, like the whole deprive-the-players-of-modern-conveniences-so-they-have-to-interact-with-each-other thing, and the thoroughly modern convenience of several uncensored live Internet feeds at www.BigBrother2000.com so you can watch the scintillating “action” 24 hours a day. You usually have to pay to watch a hidden bathroom-cam on the Net; Viacom is generously giving it away.
Checking in during the middle of the day for research purposes (the lengths I go to for you people are sooo unappreciated), I happened across two of the BB women in a bedroom. They were yakking away about clothes, Survivor (cross-promotion!), feminine hygiene and how not fully emptying one’s bladder while urinating in a public stall prevents embarrassing “farting.” Even worse, there was an in-depth discussion of polygamy going on outside by the pool. Eeewww.
Thanks to this exciting unfiltered content, the thrill-a-minute webcast—coincidentally, a joint-venture between CBS-Viacom and another media monolith, America Online—has actually picked up viewers as the TV broadcast has lost them. Stupid people with too much free time and Net access watching other stupid people on a 2-inch RealPlayer video square—now that’s excretainment!
Sure, CBS came under criticism initially for having “journalist” Joan Chen—from its heretofore unseen Early Show—act as Big Brother’s suck-up host, but aren’t we past that kind of judgmental, corporately unsynergistic thinking by now? This network needs all the dull-witted young viewers/consumers it can get, and it would be downright un-American of us to browbeat them into producing intelligent shows that require audience-repellant stuff like talent, scripts and budgets.
And, since Viacom’s TNN will soon be the new home of the World Wrestling Federation, CBS will be free to utilize all the cross-promotional possibilities available to it. If Big Brother’s sagging ratings require The Rock to drop by the house in order to boost viewership, then by god CBS can do it with impunity.
I can see the touching bathroom-cam scene now. Our seated hero bellows his familiar, “Do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?!” catch phrase, and is answered almost immediately by Viacom co-worker Mr. Hankey: “Howdy-ho!”
OK, now that’s really excretainment!