I walked in the door one day and asked my girlfriend what she was watching.
"Some show about cakes."
"I was just..." She paused as if searching for an honest answer. "I don't know." Another long pause. "I honestly... don't know."
Despite the fact that neither of us smoke pot, two hours later we were still watching a show about cakes. A completely different one than what we started with. Because it turn out there are shows and shows and shows about making cakes. Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, Amazing Wedding Cakes, Ultimate Cake Off, Cupcake Wars -- that was what I found in one night of channel surfing. Hour after hour after hour of people mixing butter and flour and carefully squirting icing.
Fuck every last bit of that shit to the left. Find out what that white thing is.
And they're not even cooking shows -- you actually learn to cook by watching cooking shows. No, it's all about the everyday process and drama of running a cake business. I can easily imagine one show like this doing well -- there's a niche for everything. But there's like half a dozen of them. Was there one cake show that just took off in the ratings, and suddenly everyone else jumped on board? If so, I can't figure out what it was. It's more like there was a Big Bang-like explosion of cake-related cable TV programming. There existed an entire television universe that was completely devoid of cake shows. And then, suddenly... cake shows.
My research is telling me that this whole trend may have started with American Chopper, about the family that builds motorcycles, and then somebody upped the stakes with Deadliest Catch, the show about crab fisherman where every 20 minutes somebody almost dies. But instead of finding more and more exciting jobs, somebody decided to just go the other direction.
I got it! How about a show on people who proofread magazines?
So now there are two popular shows about pawn shops, and both of them have porn puns in their names: Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn. It's all just people bringing in their most valuable possessions and accepting half of what they could get from a collector or ebay because they need that cash right now. That's why they're there. Heroin doesn't buy itself.
Six bucks? Sold!
All I can picture is a network executive, listening to this pitch. "We'll be filming the inside of a pawn shop from the perspective of the guy who works behind the counter. Just filming day after day of him doing an ordinary job that is pretty unspectacular in almost every way."
"Do you mean like crackheads coming in all cracked out on crack? Selling a thousand dollar stolen gun for ten bucks so they can buy more crack? And one of them tries to stab somebody every episode? Because that does sound interesting."
"Well, no, it's not that type of pawn shop. It's just a regular ol' pawn shop. It's kind of a big place, but there aren't really any criminals. Even if there were, they wouldn't come in if they saw us there with cameras."
"Hmmm... I guess it can work if they're all fat enough."
If you would like to catch up with Pawn Stars, it won't take long. After all...
I just turned on my TV and flipped through the guide. Right now at this very moment, there is one channel playing six episodes of Scrubs back to back. Another has four episodes of Family Guy. You can't find an episode of How I Met Your Mother airing alone any more than you can buy one roll of toilet paper at Walmart. It's always two or four airing back-to-back.
Remember not too long ago when it was a special occasion when networks would run marathons of a particular show? In the 90s, my best friend and I would put on a pot of coffee at Thanksgiving and watch an entire 30 hours of Mystery Science Theater 3000. They called it "Turkey Day," and we looked forward to it all year.
And you couldn't record it without a shitload of VHS tapes
But now, all of cable TV seems to operate in blocks and I have no freaking idea why. If you're giving me eight straight hours of King of the Hill, aren't you forcing every single non-King of the Hill fan to abandon your channel for the rest of the day to go watch something else? Most likely a show about cakes?
My best theory is that it has to do with the DVR's everyone has now. If I want to catch up on House, I set to record and 15 hours later, my DVR has captured a little over thirty-six hours of reruns for me (including the same episode recorded 13 times). See, I don't think they do this to help the Tivo crowd. TV execs hate Tivos because they know you're fast-forwarding through the commercials. No, I think the idea is to completely spam your hard drive. "Oh, you want to record this show? Well here's 20 goddamned episodes, fucking CHOKE ON 'EM."
Oh, you like peanuts? THEN HAVE SOME GODDAMNED PEANUTS ASSHOLE
It's actually great for somebody like me, I was gone most of a decade but in a month or so I will have seen every episode of every relevant series that aired during that time period. I should shut off my TV again and come back in 2017, to compare and contrast, but I have 23 episodes of Tabatha's Salon Takeover to plow through.