The Good, The Bad, and the B@!%#¥

When we don’t understand how something works, assumptions born from ignorance often rule the day.

Because of this, it’s hard to go a day without hearing someone complain about how television is corrupting society. But I submit to you that television isn’t ruining America, America is ruining television.

I’ll explain why.

As a business, television gives us what we ask for. We tell television what we want by watching the programming. When we aren’t getting what we want, channels get changed or televisions get turned off.

With Tivo tracking what we are watching, recording, and pausing to stare at, network executives immediately know what we enjoy and what kind of programs should be put into development.

Shows move from development into “time slots” where they will attempt to “find an audience”;

Children watch in the morning,
Mothers in the afternoon,
The elderly in the early evening,
And 18-45 year old males rule the night.

Nights of the week also factor into the equation, with Thursday being the night with the largest audiences and Saturday being the smallest.

The more people watch a television broadcast, the more the networks can charge for commercials. Well watched television programs command incredible sums of money from advertisers, who in turn profit from the massive exposure.

One good program on Thursday night can carry a network for years.

When a television program loses its heavyweight status, it gets moved from a lucrative time slot to make way for another program to emerge.

Over the past 8 years ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” was a financial champ while drawing praise critics and viewers alike. This year the housewives sign off from Wisteria lane and ABC begins looking to replace it with something “edgy, relatable, and addictively watchable.”

Networks prefer to have their next heavyweight waiting in the wings. NBC developed “Seinfeld” over a period of years, then used it to naturally replace “Cheers”, eventually moving “Friends” in to replace the loss of Jerry and the gang.

But for every successful network replacement there are countless failures like “Coupling” and “@#$% my Dad Says”.

While replacing a sitcom can be difficult, replacing a “guilty pleasure” show like Desperate Housewives is nearly impossible.

While Fox managed to spin Melrose Place off of Beverly Hills 90210, there really isn’t a formula for creating a program that can get you invested in the lives of reprehensible people while stimulating the mind and titillating the libido.

For every “Sex and the City”, there are many “Undercovers”.

ABC thinks it’s found an answer to this conundrum with their next offering for the self-indulgent:

GCB moves into the Housewives time slot on March 4th.

GCB is a satire “dramedy” centered around the secretly scandalous lives of suburban, upper middle-class women… who all attend the same church.

It’s essentially Desperate Housewives for the southern, church-going, woman.

You might wonder how an idea like this comes to fruition? It isn’t hard when you have the story outlined for you in a best-selling book, specifically “Good Christian Bitches” by Kim Gatlin.

Gatlin wrote the book to detail her experiences about returning to the affluent Dallas suburb where she grew up… after the failure of her marriage.

She presents her time of re-entry into the “whirling midst of salacious gossip, botox and fraud” as “the down side of gossip”.

Is it really hard to imagine a suburban setting where people, especially the church goers, “don’t let God get in the way of a good story.”?

You can see that this show has the possibility of being a hit can’t you? Who hasn’t noticed that some of the most difficult people to get along with are Christians?

Who hasn’t been stabbed in the back by someone they go to church with?

Who hasn’t gone to a church that has been scandalized by an affair, or financial tomfoolery.

Who hasn’t found it difficult to find a place among peers after a move?

Who doesn’t relate to the downside of gossip?

If you’ve been alive for any period of time you know that, left unchecked, men and women who desire authority and control will do whatever it takes to get it.

One of the reasons that “guilty pleasure shows” work is because of the innate deception that the characters practice while defending their social gains and mitigating their personal losses.

Their public lives are masks that they wear to achieve their ends.

At church, gossip, manipulation, and scheming have to be hidden behind well-mannered masks because the people walking in the doors have agreed to a morality of “christian principle” that deems the “highly effective” as “highly immoral”.

If you’ve lived, worked, or done ministry in a city west of Atlanta and south of Nashville you’ve seen that this isn’t just limited to behavior inside the church. Being “Christian” or “charitable” is expected in many other social settings, and often stands in the way of “getting what we want”.

In the Northwest, where being ill-mannered and unchurched is an art form, malicious gossip and scheming can be much easier to police because it isn’t nearly as well disguised… or publicly managed.

In any highly-rated, guilty pleasure program, the viewer is treated to behind-the-scenes presentations of the motives and desires of the major players. These scenes are juiciest when the characters want to be bad, but can only do so privately.

Sounds like life doesn’t it?

If GCB falters it will be because of the acting, writing, or direction since the premise is solid and the audience is already out there.

While television is a distorted mirror that reflects back to us the image of what we’ve experienced, it also sends back who we are, and what we want.

We don’t like scheming, but we do it.
We don’t like gossip, when it’s done to us.
We don’t like malice, unless someone “deserves it.”

GCB isn’t corrupting Americans, we are the corruption being presented by GCB.

Remember that people who don’t actually want their lives transformed through submission to Jesus Christ, aren’t really Christians; they’re simply church-going people frustrated by the task of getting what they want within a culture of manners that holds them at bay.

Sounds transgressionally compelling doesn’t it?

What’s shocking about GCB isn’t the title or the premise,
it’s that we’ve been asking for it for so long,
and are just finally getting it.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? -James 4:1

2 Responses to “The Good, The Bad, and the B@!%#¥”

  1. Kimberly Kyllo February 10, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Love how you describe Christians…transformed through SUBMISSION to Jesus Christ! Love it! WELL SAID!! When is your book coming out??? JUST DO IT! Shared on my my wall the quote~

    • Jon February 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks Kimberly! I’ll admit that I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to get others to bend to me while refusing to bow to Jesus… Being a Christian is a lot of hard work!

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