Weekly Discourse Column

Nothing Beats Watching Bad TV

I love watching bad TV. Not all the time and not in some ironic hipster way. I simply watch to be entertained.

When the mood is right, like on a rainy Saturday, there’s nothing more relaxing; it is a glorious way to kill time. I understand why some people think it is a waste of time, but really, it keeps me interesting and sane.

Watching Bad TVPeople who take TV too seriously are tiring. I loathe the guy at a party who starts a conversation about a show he’s enjoying and then earnestly weaves in conversation about the story structure, camera work, or acting quality, as if he’s a first-year film student and not middle management at a white collar job somewhere with a lifelong commitment to being boring.

I always tell those guys the same thing – my favorite television segment is the one on America’s Funniest Home Videos (now called AFV) where they pause a clip mid-sequence and let you guess if someone is about to get hit in either the head, gut or groin. It’s surprisingly hard to predict!

And while I can go on about Better Call Saul or whatever quasi-pretentious AMC show people are talking about this year, I’d much rather talk about how uncomfortable Coolio was when forced to ice skate with his family on Celebrity Wife Swap. He flat out refused to go at first, but wouldn’t you know it, he actually had a good time! I’m proud of him for pushing his boundaries; we could all take a lesson from Coolio.

There is definitely a nostalgia factor when watching bad TV. I am far more likely to watch a rerun from my childhood than to tune into something new. I stopped watching the Game Show Network when they started creating their own productions instead of airing the classics I grew up with. Nobody will ever out-host Bob Eubanks and it is offensive that they’ve tried.

When watching bad TV, it’s important to flip through the channels to only get the best parts of the shows you’re watching. That’s how I discovered an In Living Color skit that had both Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton strip down to their bras and panties to let their freak flags fly. I was nine years old when that show debuted and watched every episode. It doesn’t seem as age appropriate anymore.

And unless you’re in the mood to hear a passionate monologue, don’t get me started about how terrific daytime television is on weekdays. It’s almost enough to make me quit my job.

In 2016, I took a week-long vacation in the Finger Lakes with my wife and her aunt and uncle. We had a ton of great times out on the lake, visiting wineries and exploring everything the local towns had to offer. But perhaps the most fun moment was when we all sat together on pins and needles waiting to see if Maury could help a twenty-five-year-old girl named Punkin finally find her long-lost father. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you!

I’m not sure when everyone got so darned pretentious about TV, but not every show needs to challenge us to think and feel. I’m ideologically aligned with Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, but sometimes, I miss the days of David Letterman and segments like Stupid Pet Tricks or Will It Float. That’s the kind of entertainment that will surely stand the test of time.

One of my favorite newer shows to watch is Bar Rescue. I rarely watch a full episode, but the segments where Jon Taffer comes in hot yelling, “SHUT IT ALL DOWN!” are irresistible. Jon Taffer is like a real-life Kool-Aid Man if the Kool-Aid man looked like a callused toe and had impeccable standards for kitchen cleanliness.

The trick with bad TV is watching it live in “real time” with commercials. You need to know you’re wasting time. Let’s be honest, as happy as we are that Denise Huxtable got into a good college, reruns of A Different World should never be appointment television. DVRs shouldn’t have an option for recording reruns because you can’t save time you’re dedicating to wasting.

When it comes to watching bad TV, just enjoy the process. Flip between channels, you never know what you’ll find. If you’re lucky, it will be something with Rick Moranis hamming it up with oddly-sized children. I just can’t get enough of that guy!

Next Week: Finding Change in Unsurprising Places

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