What’s Really Wrong With America

August 24, 2015

I, for one, am well and truly convinced that any decline in American students’ academic performance stems from the radical use of one thing: a clear, easy to follow, TV schedule.

You don’t have to live abroad for very long to realize that America is a total outlier in this respect. You think it’s normal to watch Survivor every Thursday at 8 o’clock on NBC until the season ends. It’s not. That is a uniquely American experience.

In Holland, your show may be up to fifteen minutes delayed, because they’ve suddenly decided there aren’t enough babies in the Netherlands, and therefore, they must immediately air some soft porn on primetime.

In England, they love to start shows at 9:05, but that’s just an estimate. It may start a bit early or a bit late depending on how many ‘comic shorts’ they’ve decided to pop in to the day’s schedule. It’s like some bureaucrat knows you’re trying to dodge ads by recording a show, and he gets his jollies off of knowing that you’ll miss the last 30 seconds of Big Brother.

Here, in Australia, a prime time show often airs like this: one and half hours a night on three consecutive nights and then anywhere between one and two hours a night for each subsequent episode of the season. Not with me? Here’s the schedule for the Bachelor: 7:30-8:45 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays in August then 8:00-9:15 on Tuesday nights from September 1st. The finale, in October, will surely be on the one night that you haven’t set the hard disk to record anything, say, Monday night at 10pm.

So naturally, I started asking myself “WHY?!” Why on earth would an otherwise fairly advanced civilization make it so difficult to watch the programs they are presumably hoping you will watch?

Here’s my theory: the government doesn’t want you watching Survivor or Breaking Bad or anything even marginally entertaining. They want you to get so fed up and flustered by missing three improbably scheduled episodes that you give up on TV.

Does that sound far-fetched? It might–until you look at the other evidence. Do you know what was on primetime, 8:00 pm on Wednesday night in Sydney? It’s a show called Australia’s Greatest Spelling Bee. It’s a reality show, where you can sit back and watch other people’s children trying to spell words like ‘disappointment’ with no inkling of irony whatsoever.

Out of desperation, the children here obviously turn to homework for some brief exposure to something rational and predictable. You want to fix America? It’s simple: mess up the TV schedule. That’ll learn ’em.

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