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[whitespace] Smell the Money

Seven Deadly Sins a potential windfall

By Bill English

SAINT THOMAS Aquinas never actually ranked greed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. He preferred to call it avarice. But then old Tom was never a program director for Fox Television. When you work for Rupert Murdoch, you've got to keep it punchy. Greed has a ring to it that mere avarice can never hope to achieve. The word has an underbelly odor of insatiable appetites, a scent you can smell right through your fiber-optic cable.

Welcome to Greed: The Multi-Million Dollar Challenge.

Here's a new program that bills itself as the most dangerous and richest game show in TV history. In this time slot, contestants climb the Tower of Greed on their way to the ultimate prize of $2.2 million. There's nothing demure or refined about Greed. But this isn't a shameless attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator, either. No, this is a bona fide art form--a total revelation into the utter darkness of the human heart.

Greed is more than good--it's pluperfect.

The show is emceed by veteran game-show host Chuck Woolery. You will recall that Woolery became a household name by hosting The Love Connection. Today that classic would surely be renamed The Lust Show and have a much harder edge. The genius of The Love Connection was the payoff. Chuck gave contestants to each other. OK, the show threw in a cheap date, but the bottom line was that you won a member of the opposite sex. Back then, Woolery was more than aware of his status as a prime-time pimp--but now Chuck has become a full-blown Satan.

The ardent scent of The Love Connection was tame compared to the animal nose of Greed. Here's an hour on Thursday night that simply reeks of base and carnal desires. And Chuck is all over depravity like gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson at a Republican fundraiser. Greed has exposed the wolf in Woolery. He gleefully dangles cash beneath the noses of salivating players as he asks them: "Do you feel the need for greed?" When the Terminator lights begin to flash, the whole studio holds it breath. Will one of the players turn on a fellow contestant and eliminate him or her? One woman, when recently challenged for her share of the big bucks, almost burst out in tears. She knew she was doomed, a weak link cut from the herd

Greed is indeed an awesome show, but why stop there?

SURELY, all the Deadly Sins are worthy of prime time? Who could deny that America is ready for The Sloth Show? Think of it as a contraction of the "nothing" concept that made Seinfeld such a smash. In fact, The Sloth Show might well be a new vehicle for Jerry. You could bring back all the old characters--only they'd do much less. The whole show could be shot on Jerry's couch.

Or what about The Hour of Envy?

Talk about a surefire hit! In an era when the rich have so much and the poor so little, it would really stir things up. Hosted by President Trump, it would feature the first head of state ever to preside over a game show. Trump would drag the disenfranchised kicking and screaming through the lavish lifestyles of his trendy friends until the needy were openly weeping.

Cruel, you say? Well then, let's play The Gluttony Game.

Hosted by a digital reincarnation of John Candy, this show would feature contestants eating themselves to death. Too gross? Are you kidding me? Think of the product-placement possibilities. Food companies would be clamoring to get edibles on this feast of entertainment.

Of course, with Jerry Springer already airing the anger thing, that pretty much leaves us with pride. Not really much happening here. Because anyone with a shred of pride wouldn't humiliate him/herself on national television for any amount of money.

But never underestimate the ability of the American people to wallow in shame in the eye of the tube. At times it seems as if we're all scampering for one last moment in the spotlight before they close the set.

OK, kill the floods--that's a wrap.

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From the November 24-December 1, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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