The Dumbing Down of Television

Lupe Fiasco said it all in 2007’s “Dumb It Down” — “We didn’t graduate from school” and “Them big words ain’t cool.” We’re not saying today’s generation is dumber; we don’t have to. If the media’s any indication, TV’s already ratted you out. With the cashing in of lovable old men and brawny-haired geniuses for colorful puppets and ten-year-old kids, it’s no wonder our IQs appear to be on a downward slope. Don’t believe us? Read on to see how we’re not too far away from an Idiocracy-like scenario where the #1 hit show is “Ouch, My Balls!”.

Mr. Rogers vs. The Puppets

Mr. Rogers taught us the importance of imagination land and the handiness of a smart sweater vest. He politely asked us to be his neighbor while telling us the about the beautiful day ahead. The overall message was an inspiring you-can-do-anything mantra. But that was the 80’s folks, and things nowadays aren’t all sunshine and lollipops — just ask Yo Gaba Gaba. Their songs, like “Don’t Bite Your Friends,” have become a social barometer. Hair pulling and nipping on the playground? It’s a hard knock life, y’all.

Family Feud vs. Wipeout

Remember when family bonding meant huddling under Uncle Paul’s pit-stained arm as you screamed out answers, dodged strikes and caved in with the obligatory “good answer, good answer” in front of a dressed up Louie Anderson? Yeah, us neither. While it’s still on the air, the novelty of Family Feud has been replaced with a new American staple — Wipe Out. Take a page from the world of Japanese game shows, and watch as families bump, slip and slide their way through an obstacle course of humiliation. Then watch it all again on instant replay.

Ben Stein vs. A Ten Year Old

Aside from hawking Clear Eyes and earning a spot in the 80’s movie hall of fame as Ferris Bueller’s nasal-voiced professor, Ben Stein’s pretty much off the air. But there was a time in the late 90’s when his standard suit and tie were dressed up with a lot of green — flashy dollar bills that is. Challenging a lawyer, political commentator and presidential speechwriter for $5,000 isn’t exactly the easiest get-rich-quick scheme, but back then cash prizes didn’t come without hard work. In true dumb-it-down fashion, 2007 brought on a new game show “challenge”— where dignity weighed out dollar signs. The competition was a lot younger, a bit shorter and, oh yeah, 10. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?  brought American’s stupidity to light while offering prize money topping out at a million dollars. Now, true or false: polar bears eat penguins.

Clarissa vs. The Preggos

A pioneering show in its day, Clarissa Explains It All brought viewers into the world of a small town girl-dom. She spoke to us directly and taught us how to handle bullies and annoying ginger brothers while covering wholesome topics like grades and first crushes. Still, our little Darling remained edgy with her window-climbing best guy friend Sam and short-lived pet baby caiman. But nowadays, a pet baby caiman isn’t enough. To gain a prime time slot, teenage girls need a real baby— or at least a few months of one. Lead it to the MTV phenomenon 16 and Pregnant to shows just how low we’ve sunken. Trailer park feuds, GED classes and baby mama drama at the ripe old age of 16 — tres chic.

Soul Train vs. Dancing With The Stars

90s R&B hits, booty-shaking dancers and a baritone Don Cornelius can mean only one thing: it’s the Soooouulllll Train. Despite being the longest-running show in nationally syndicated television history, a scramble board and dance line could only take the choo choo so far. The art of dance was missing a little something, like a weight-fluctuating Kirstie Alley, a lukewarm Drew Lachey and an attention-starved Rob Kardashian. Thankfully, ABC filled this void with 2005’s Dancing With The Stars. Pairing twinkle-toed professionals with their less agile counterparts — Dumb at its finest.

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