While I was wandering through the vast cyber-wasteland known as the Internet, I came upon an interview with Jerry Springer, the genius behind the TV show that makes you want to hide under the covers for fear the barbarians are storming the suburbs and causing the collapse of post-modern Western Civilization, along with your 401(k).
The show, which features fisticuffs, bleeping, hysterics, cursing, and a medley of aberrant behavior and bizarre relationships, guaranteed to make you cringe, has been on some 23 seasons.
You’ve heard “We are Charlie”? In America, “We are Jerry.”
During the interview, he was especially candid and acknowledged that his show has contributed to the decline of culture and is pretty “stupid.”
Nevertheless, I want to thank him. Because of Jerry Springer, I took decisive action one of the few times in my life. As the father of four daughters, I seldom exercised the kind of discipline that any good parent has to exercise in 21st Century America. You need to know what your kids are watching, who they’re hanging out with, who they’re texting, and most importantly, what creepy people are stalking them in cyberspace … it’s a long and troubling list.
More than once, I came home from work and found my daughters huddled around the television, gasping in disbelief, cheering and chortling. It was like the bleachers at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs after too much Budweiser.
What could cause so much commotion? It was, of course, Jerry Springer. Tabloid shows have become standard fare on television. They prove America believes in freedom of expression — highbrow, lowbrow and in-between brows, but mostly lowbrow.
In recent years, weirdoes (that’s a term from the ‘60s) have became celebrities. Reality TV blossomed and gave us The Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, Mob Wives, Teen Mob Wives, Housewives of (pick a city) Miami, Beverly Hills and Newark, and the inimitable Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The narrative may change, but the depravity is pretty consistent.
Being a God-fearing man, I warned my kids once. I warned them twice. But there was no third time. When I came home, instead of watching reruns of Leave It to Beaver, they were watching Jerry Springer.
So in the tradition of Andy Griffith, Triple H and that Baltimore mother who walloped her son during the riots, I resorted to righteous violence. I uttered curse words, which weren’t bleeped, and tore the cable box out of the wall. It felt so liberating I wanted to break down my neighbor’s door and tear his cable box out, too. The screen went dark. Hysteria erupted. Good-bye, Jerry. Arrivederci, Jerry. God bless you, Jerry.
Once again, there were gasps of disbelief, along with tears and histrionics. What had Evil Daddy done?
“You should have been born in some Amish family!” someone hissed.
“What will our friends think when we don’t know what happened on Dawson’s Creek and Beverly Hills, 90210???” More tears and gasps.
“We won’t have anything to talk about in school!!!!”
“Can’t we be reasonable about this???”
“You NEVER listen to OUR point of view!!!”
“Why are you such a violent man??? Are you possessed???”
Blah, blah, blah and more blah.
All I can say is “Guilty as charged.”
The good news is that over the years I’ve saved enough money — by not paying a cable TV bill — for a down-payment on a new Prius, if not a Tesla.
That night I slept peacefully for the first time in a long time. The crazy thing is television has gotten exponentially worse (I don’t know what that word means, but it sounds intelligent) since I committed that dastardly deed.
Here’s some radical advice. Every parent should do the same thing, despite the adolescent outcry, even if you feel like you belong in Lancaster, Pa., driving a horse and buggy down the dirt road.
In my defense, I’m not a tyrant who is heartless about his kids’ need to know what’s happening in the world. I’m actually a sympathetic man, so the next day — still smarting from all the name-calling — I went to Wal-Mart and bought a set of rabbit ears for my daughters, which gave them access to an estimated two network channels, some news and, of course, the weather.
You need to know the weather forecast, don’t you? It should be the preferred topic of conversation in high school, instead of “who’s hooking up with whom.” Because when all else fails, you can always talk about the low pressure system moving in from Canada.
Contact Joe Pisani at joefpisani [at] yahoo.com.