I participate in an online survey program–I like to give my opinion, and I like giving my opinion more so when I am compensated for it. I was sent a survey asking me to watch an episode of a new television program, and for watching it and answering some questions about it, I would be paid ten dollars. Ten dollars!? To watch TV? I’m in!
The show was called “Smothered”, about two sets of grandparents battling over who gets to spend the most time with their granddaughter. As the laugh track chimed in over a joke so stale a decade-old Saltine would be more palatable, I suddenly realized this ten dollars would be very hard-earned. “Very” may not have been an appropriate word. “Excruciatingly” strikes a bit closer to the mark. The show opens on Gillian and Zack, a married couple who have recently had a daughter. Gillian does not seem particularly interested in either her daughter or Zack, and Zack is portrayed as an effeminate, ineffective parent who calls his wife “dude”. (This pronouncement was met with riotous laughter from the no-doubt canned audience.) Gillian’s parents are introduced as down-home good-old Christian country folk, and Zack’s parents are portrayed as upper-crust Jewish socialites who think nothing of long vacations in France. Oh ho ho, everyone! Look, it’s an odd couple! This has never been done before in the history of television! Neither set of grandparents seems to particularly like their own children, but fight over time with the granddaughter, who is essentially ballast. Emotion and personality-free, she could be anything–a doll, a purebred puppy, or even a particularly nice rock. She is a prop intended to demonstrate just how zany and wacky the adults around her are, one set of which sneaks her off to a church to have her christened against her parents’ wishes, and the other set of which had a secret Jewish baby-naming ceremony. There is also a dull sister named Susie who solely exists as a point of universal loathing by all family members. It’s all about scoring points in an attempt to hurt the other set of grandparents, and all of this would be just fine if only it were funny. I can laugh at mean jokes with the best of them, but there was only one joke in the entire episode which made me laugh aloud, an offhand line about serving pork on a Jewish holiday and calling it “Hamukkah”. The rest of the jokes drew rolled eyes and groans, and even an amount of writhing in my seat like a small child, desperately wanting it all to be over so I could get to the survey portion and unleash the seething hatred building within me toward everyone involved in the production of this show. And lo, how my hatred flowed. I hated the music. I hated the characters. I hated the plot. I found them all unrealistic and unrelatable. (There was no option for “I hoped a plane would crash into the set.”) Had I found myself in their unenviable situation, I would have crammed the child back into myself and started phoning around for abortion deals.
And after all this, my time spent watching the show, and my time answering questions about which characters I might like to see more of (none) and which characters I might like to see less of (all), I was informed that the number of survey participants had been reached already and I would not be receiving my ten dollars.
I want my ten dollars. I paid, cast of Smothered. Oh, how I paid.
Your bill is in the mail.