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I wrote today’s cartoon with the “dumbing down” of American audiences in mind but I used gross exaggerations to do it. I’m not one to have season tickets to the symphony, either (though I’ve been a few times and enjoyed it) and most Americans wouldn’t watch a man eat a piano for long, but there are plenty who would. As I think about it now, though, there has always been a wide audience for lowbrow entertainment and a smaller one for higher quality endeavors of any kind, so this is nothing new. Even in Shakespeare’s time, the theater across the street was offering amateur juggling competitions called “England’s Got Balls,” and these shows were much more popular than Hamlet and the like.
I’ve recently been intimately involved in a reality show here in the U.S. called “Utopia.” I am only the host and narrator so I have no control over the show whatsoever, but it has been my first close look at this kind of programming. I’ve never watched a reality show before, so it’s been an education for me. As a member of the show, I’ve got to watch all of the episodes, usually more than once, to learn the plot lines and personalities so I can apply the correct emphasis to my lines. This is not only my first time viewing a reality show but the first time I’ve been required to watch any TV program. I have to admit that over time, however, I’ve become interested and invested in the people on this show.
But my taste is more towards the eccentric, so I am not as interested in the “normal” people on the show (if any of them can truly be called normal) and more fascinated by people like ex-convict Dave, who couldn’t seem to go more than a few hours without blowing up, intimidating people, and applying the tenets of jail-yard politics to the most miniscule situations, and Hillbilly Red, who is so melodramatically independent that he could barely make it through a single episode without seceding from the rest of the group because he was not acknowledged as having the most important opinion on everything from money management to seating arrangements at the communal table. Now that they are gone, I’m counting on Bella to stop behaving herself (a recent development but one I hope doesn’t last) and Taylor and Hex breaking up and challenging each other to a cage fight. (BTW, my money would be on Hex) Of course, without Red there, I’m not sure if any of the remaining cast have the skills to build a decent cage. Time will tell.
There are two “newtopians” in the compound, vying for the spot of Red, who was voted out this past week. After a few days, the rest will vote on which one they will allow to stay. I know which one I’d choose––the weirdest one––but I’m not saying which one I think that is. Some people have suggested I be the next “pioneer,” but I don’t think living with a cigar-smoking, wise-ass, vegan cartoonist is anyone’s idea of utopia. Except my beloved Olive Oyl, of course.
BIZARRCHIVES: From 1999 is this “modern” take on “Gilligan’s Island,” a show that was popular in the 1960s. It occurred to me while writing this post that this was a show that attempted to do with scripted comedy what many reality shows do today; put an odd group of people who would never know each other in real life into a situation in which they have to cope and survive. In my updated version, the show never takes place because everyone has a way of connecting to the rest of the world and they get rescued the same day. Note that “beepers” were still in the mix back then.