Television Itself has Jumped the Shark

Recently Abby and I were doing chores and piddling, and Abby had the TV on to her favorite network, HGTV. Occasionally I sat down to tell her something or bring her a drink, and listened for a few minutes to the program. Three things came to mind immediately:

  • The “G” in HGTV stood for garden at one time, but Abby and I searched the guide listings for the entire day and could find no shows about gardening.
  • Every show she watched was hosted by gay men and women who smile too much.
  • The ultra-upbeat music and flashy, always-moving videography got on my nerves in just a few seconds.

I noted some years ago that MTV didn’t have videos any more, and even started a second channel, MTV2, just for videos. Instead of videos, MTV’s regular lineup includes Jackass, Rob and Big, The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, The X Effect, and much more. I don’t know if anyone in our amnesiac American society remembers, but MTV once stood for Music Television (okay, obviously one would abbreviate “Music Television” with MT, not MTV, but that’s another post unto itself.)

If you’re wondering what all these non-music-video shows have in common, it’s this: “reality” television is cheap to produce because you don’t have to pay actors or writers.

And like CNN, MSNBC, TLC, QVC, ESPN, TNT, HSN, or even “TV” itself, MTV doesn’t even call itself by the words its letters abbreviate any more.

I don’t know when, exactly, television jumped the shark. Maybe Fonzie’s bold leap across the ravenous selachimorph marked more than the demise of one situation comedy (annoyingly abbreviated with the snappy moniker “SitCom”.) Maybe 1977 was the last great year of the tube.