My favorite TV show of all time is the greatest single waste of time in history: "Category 7: The End of the World." In case you didn't see this Grade Z stinker, broadcast in the fall, here is a brief synopsis: A Category 7 storm threatens the Eastern Seaboard from the south, while a Category 5 storm simultaneously approaches from the north. (Hurricanes are rated in five categories. Category 5 causes "complete destruction." The very notion of a Category 7 storm is therefore risible.)
Meanwhile, one-in-500-year storms crop up around the globe every half-hour. Oy.
The Cat 7 storm, called Hurricane Eduardo, has already visited Paris and some other couldn't-care-less cities, and New York and some other serves-them-right cities, but now bears down on Washington, D.C., and our very way of life.
In this Russ Meyer fantasy-turned-special-of-the-week, FEMA is headed by a cleavage-heavy bimbo, yet nonetheless an improvement on former director Michael D. Brown. Other snake-hipped hotties, eye candy all, fill important top jobs. Jaded weathermen and seasoned Air Force veterans hurl themselves into the middle of murderous weather systems because their lives are somewhat unfulfilled. The president is an uninformed, inflexible jackass. No, wait, that part's real life.
Satanists pop up all over the place, and sundry Christian terrorists kidnap the offspring of some of the nation's top politicos. The only solution, experts advise, is to turn off the electricity in Washington, D.C. Off it goes. Eduardo dissipates five minutes later. Brilliant! And now, your local news.
The real catastrophe here was the script. "All right, all right," says a leading meteorologist (and Asian sexpot) to colleagues, "let's lose the male bonding and get back to saving the world." Later, an IT genius, in full rut as the world is ending, says to her: "Please tell me you're as brilliant as you are hot."
This not being a TV column, what is my point?
Initially, I was horrified that TV could take the tragedy that accompanies hurricanes and turn it into entertainment for couch potatoes. Then I remembered that trivializing other people's pain is TV's raison d'ętre. Vide Oprah, the evening news and all those disgusting hospital dramas.
My venom then turned on a TV audience so brain-dead that programmers might conclude that this sort of dreck would fly. I was watching, you understand, only for professional reasons, assessing the portrayal of and implications for the insurance industry. This being Category 7, no one had insurance.
On a deeper level, I suppose, we need to see others suffer to feel good about ourselves. It's Schadenfreude, a subsidiary of hating thy neighbour.
For all that I do understand, here is what I couldn't grasp: adults were involved in making this turkey, from concept to screening (and the DVD that must follow). Adults wrote the script and approved the budgets. Yet a five-year-old child could recognize the stink coming off it within 10 seconds flat. How come not one of the grown-ups involved in it said: "Wait! This is too stupid for words. This must stop, now"?
The answer is the famous dictum about no one ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the public. Lardos and giantmen, the distance from Jerry Springer to Category 7 is but one thin millimeter.
So now we wait until the technology is developed to make Category 8: Your TV Explodes. A spot of actual carnage in the living room should drive up those ratings.
ROGER CROMBIE is a columnist for
Risk & Insurance®.
January 1, 2006
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