What started as a TV special on November 26th, 1989, America's Funniest Home Videos would one day grow to be the most nightmarish and long running collection of animal cruelty, child abuse and elderly people falling down, on prime-time television.
One day, the masterminds behind the entertainment juggernaut that was ABC (pick yourselves off the floor people, it's sarcasm) had a brilliant conversation around what I imagine to be a very large table in a room filled people wanting to change the face of entertainment forever. The conversation no doubt went like this:
"All right people, we need to come up with a special to fill a little bit of airtime, but we don't have any budget whatsoever."
"Well, how the hell are we going to do that?"
"Well, Jim has a video camera doesn't he?"
"And we all saw when his kid got hit in the face during the company softball game right? He must have gotten that on tape."
"Yes, before I put the camera down to help the paramed-"
"And I think we can all agree that was some pretty funny shit, right?"
"He was deeply scarred both emotional and physical-"
"Well, there you go! Jim can't be the only parent negligent enough to record when his children are getting badly injured in a hilarious fashion. We'll just collect a bunch of home movies and throw them on the air!"
"I don't really think my son would want that on national telev-"
"We're all set then! Let's get out there and collect those tapes ladies and gentlemen!"
"Ummm, excuse me Sir, but Bob Saget is outside waving a banana at empty chairs and demanding work again."
"Oh good, he can host this and we can just pay him slave labour from Jim's children."
And thus, a legacy was born.
The American public fell in love with the special that subsequently aired and a weekly segment was created on January 14, 1990. It was one of America's most beloved television shows for years and was considered one of the top ten most watched shows in the US during its first year of airing. Suddenly, rather than laughing at the misfortunes of your own family, and those in the houses located close to yours, you could laugh at people from all across the nation. And all from the comfort of your own living room! It was a revolution. Only with less bloodshed, crazy people, conflicts and...It was a revolution.
This is not nearly as awesome as it sounds.
The show featured segments of people falling off of roofs, animals attacking children, children attacking animals, roofs attacking children, roofs falling off of animals and many other things of that nature. It was like all of your own home movies except minus the boring first steps, wedding and anniversary kind of crap. Oh, and minus the deep seeded humiliation you feel every time you are forced to revisit that time that you were about to win the junior softball game and got hit in the gnads by the pitching machine. It was funny, because it was other people's pain.
To make a long story short, the show has been running for twenty-one goddamn seasons, proving once and for all that everyone in America is secretly a sadist. Schadenfreude for the win!
Now, an important dynamic of the show was the implementation of contests that the viewers could enter into. They didn't just want the amusing stuff that happened to you and your family, or the funny stuff, they wanted the rip-roaringly-grandpa-tried-water-skiing-and-was-vaporised-when-he-hit-an-oncoming-boat funny stuff that happened to you and your own.
The concept was fairly solid, all in all. Get people to send in the best videos they had for a shot at winning money. This helped to A) ensure that the show had an almost endless stream of home videos to make money off of, while having to pay only one out of the thousands of people who submitted them, and B) allow the people who did have the most hilarious (and logically, most mentally scarring) video get some sort of compensation for their moment of suffering. There was only one problem, one rouge element that ruined every single end-of-episode contest: the baby video.
In every single one of the contests, it would come down to a set of three or four videos that were competing for the grand cash prize. In every single one of these sets there would be one video of an old person succumbing to their disabilities and falling off of a small-to-high ledge, one video of something spectacular like an entire section of a house collapsing while men worked on it, or a kid with a fishhook that got stuck in his cheek on the backswing but his dad didn't notice and tried to reel him in anyway, and then one video of a baby doing what babies do. Maybe it was giggling, or farting, or blowing bubbles or something else that we have seen children do a hundred thousand times before, but that baby video always won the goddamn contest. Why would a show based entirely on the humour of its clips always select the video that was clearly the least funny? Because ABC hates entertainment and because FUCK HUMOUR BABIES ARE ADORABLE! Once the winner was announced, there would always be a brief segment in the studio audience where the host would go up and congratulate the winning family. In this you could always see the miserable little shit machine, now a few years older, staring blankly at the camera while the parents revelled in their fortune at the hands of America's ever dropping IQ.
"Yeah, fuck you too you smug little bag of fragility!"