Remember when, back in the day, back when there were only four channels, game shows were a whole lot better? Quiz shows asked questions that required a little bit of skill or knowledge to answer correctly. Family Feud (Family Fortunes) required the contestants to actually use judgement and some brain power to come up with the most popular answer. Mastermind's contestants had to actually study their chosen topic beforehand. Even programmes where no brain was needed, such as Double Dare and Bullseye, required some vestige of physical ability or sporting skill. Even Ask The Family relied heavily on observation and 'group-think' techniques.
Those were the days, weren't they, eh? Gone forever, sadly. Ever since the late '90s brought us Millionaire with its multiple-choice answers and lifelines and dramatic tension-building pauses, we have had ever dumber and annoying game shows. What, for example, is the point of Deal Or No Deal? Do these people actually think they have a cat's chance in hell of predicting which box has what amount in it? Are they f***ing STUPID? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding YES. Even shows with decent questions are mind-numbingly awful, which makes Anne Robinson the perfect host for The Weakest Link - if I had to deal with total morons for contestants every day, I'd be snide and sarcastic too. Eggheads is a show that could be great if it weren't for the dearth of intelligent contestants and the constant dramatic background music which totally fails to create any dramatic atmosphere, partly due to either Jeremy Vine or Dermot Murnaghan's total lack of charisma. Earlier tonight I caught a couple of minutes of the diabolical CatchPhrase, with its dumbed-down version of rebuses and Dingbats that these total nubs fail to figure out, interspersed with Roy Walker's aggravating "this is a verra verra eeza gemm" every few minutes. I then flipped the channel to find the ubiquitous Ant & Dec hosting Push The Button which takes guesswork to a whole new level of stupid. I could literally feel my brain cells not just dying, but committing suicide.
The problem, unfortunately, comes down to the fact that people are getting more and more stupid, and so we are left with this insidious 'cult of mediocrity' where the mundane and decidedly unspecial is celebrated and aspired to. What exactly qualifies Peaches Geldof to host a talk show where she 'interviews' a bunch of dumbasses who have done something, er, dumb, other than having famous parents? The show is called OMG! but should be more accurately titled WTF?!
So why are we getting dumber? Good question, and one that I think Jamie's Dream School illustrates perfectly. Jamie Oliver, in my not-so-humble opinion, is a top bloke with some cracking ideas. His idea, to take 20 of the most difficult pain-in-the-ass kids in the country and put them in a school where the teachers are 18 of the country's most brilliant minds, and see what happens, is a fabulous one, but unfortunately for Jamie, these 'troubled' kids, who are all what we would have described back when we were at school with them as the bad kids (i.e. class clowns, troublemakers, bullies), have this undeserved sense of entitlement. They think they need to be respected, that teachers are not disciplining them but dissing them. Trouble is, this is not a localised problem. Kids all over the country are like this, and it's the same in the States, too.
So why is this? I've said this before and I'll say it again. Back when all the child psychologists told us in the 60s and 70s about all the irreparable damage we were doing to our kids by spanking them and telling them off and making them do their homework and making them get up in the morning and go to school and use polite words and manners and to say please and thank you and chew with their mouths closed, we all went "Oh no, I can't believe all the irreparable damage I'm doing to little Billy", and became utter soft weenies who were now ready to become slaves to their children's whims, no matter how unreasonable, because the kids knew that all they had to do was cry foul and Social Services would come and slap Mum and Dad in jail for whatever perceived infraction they incurred, all because Mum and Dad were now afraid to swat them on the butt, tell them to shut up and eat their cereal. We are now in the situation where the kids are in control and a teacher who dares to discipline a child is now more likely to be sent to the principal's office than the child would be for the supposed infraction.
Now let's all go and celebrate dumbness, shall we? Remember - these kids are going to be in charge someday.