What Might They Have Been Thinking - Broadcasting & Cable

What Might They Have Been Thinking

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Don't get me wrong, I still think that Fox's decision to run tabloidy trash masquerading as…well, never mind, it isn't masquerading at all, is execrable.

Still, at the risk of being accused of trafficking in oxymorons–Attention critics of this item: feel free to have fun with the word "oxymoron"–I can almost forgive them for thinking they are simply programming to the tastes of their audience. "Almost" in neon, capital letters blinking like the "cheap motel" sign in a noir murder mystery.

I mean, what are the grisly and sickening details of the real Simpson murders but a CSI or Criminal Minds or Kidnapped plot waiting to be milled into general entertainment for the masses, with the kind of special effects that make you wish for a little distance between you and the stage?

I'm reminded of Sweeney Todd, where the first two rows of theatergoes were warned they might be in the spatter range of the stage blood flung from that flailing razor. I don't sit too close to the TV sometimes for the same season.

You've read, or maybe you haven't, my detailing of some of the current "de rigeur" mortis plots for today's prodedurals. The decapitated woman's body dripping blood as it hangs from a ceiling fan; the guy with the railroad spikes driven through his eye sockets, his eyeballs stuffed in his pocket; the driver whose head is blown off, spattering blood onto a child; the kid who himself is vaporized in a bloddy cloud by a bomb strapped to him.

I'm not making this up, people. And given the ratings for procedural crime shows that leave little to the forensic imagination, this is what a lot of people want to see on TV. I watch them sometimes too, though I have less stomache than most, at least figuratively, but I don't watch many and I don't watch them long and I feel a little uncomfortable about it.

Can bear baiting or ratings based on the draw-and-quarter hour be far behind?

So, while I think the difference is huge between dragging the Goldman and Nicole Simpson families, including O.J.'s own children, through this voyeuristic sleaze, maybe Fox doesn't. So, if Fox had been thinking, here's what they might have been thinking: It's sweeps, let's give them the real thing.

Pardon them–no, I still can't–for mistaking us for a nation with a huge appetite for voyeuristic violence served up red and repeatedly.

By John Eggerton

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