THE BLOG

Obsession with Sideshow Takes Our Eyes off Revolution

05/22/2015 03:34 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016

Breaking news tells me that TV's Duggar family (of 19 Kids and Counting fame) reportedly has a child molestation problem.

Why am I not surprised? This is a recurring situation. Maybe it should be called the Honey Boo Boo effect?

Too many of us are couch sitting complacency addled channel surfers in search of a broadcast spectacle to take our mind off the grind and make us feel better about ourselves.

That's the only way I can think of to explain the daily presence in entertainment programming of what we used to call a circus Sideshow.

You know it's true.

Cable Television Sideshow

You've got people fretting over tattoo mistakes on one channel; the daily trials and tribulations of a overweight woman on another; and don't forget the little people. And let's not get started on those titillating shows featuring nakedpeople.

It makes me really miss Gilligan's Island. You remember? It was the original Survivor featuring seven castaways: two representatives from the 1-percent; a pin-up worthy actress; a certified brain; an innocent girl from middle America; and two blue collar Captain and bumbling first mate doing the best they can to hold everything together.

Really, what happened to entertainment programming? There still are some quality comedies and dramas. HBO, Netflix, AMC and even Amazon.com are bringing quality programming to viewers.

But in the rest of the vast cable wasteland, where the Kardashians are Khaleesis, viewers deserve more.

So, I have some ideas.

First, get Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the phone. Give them whatever it takes. We need a quick update of the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour variety show and they'd be perfect.

Imagine the audience MTV could attract with that program? And it would again put music on music TV. What a revolutionary concept! I want my MTV!

But unfortunately the people who introduced many Americans to Duran Duran, hip hop/rap music and Nirvana are now too busy looking for the next teen mom instead of finding the next musical revolution.

They'll tell her she's America's next super star. But previous experience tells us she'll more likely become America's next punch line.

It's the entertainment equivalent of high fructose corn syrup.

Missing the News

In the news - you remember, it used to be the crown jewel of the networks -every night brings us the same stories delivered in the same order in between the same commercials.

There are important things happening in our world that people need to know more about.

China's influence is growing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are involved in a proxy war. A technological revolution is underway in health care, transportation and communication.

But, there's no time or mass audience for that boring stuff. Like futurist Don Henley warned us in 1982, the masses need dirty laundry.

Meet the Pests

Maybe that's why our political discourse today looks more like a segment from the Nancy Grace Show with partisans divided into warring camps locked in eternal disagreement.

What do you expect when the overarching goal of our democratic institutions is to stay on message, protect the party brand and retain power?

It's no surprise that cockroaches are more popular than Congress. The media's numbers aren't much better. Put both together, like on Sunday mornings, and it wouldn't surprise me if a large number of Americans believe Meet the Press should be called Meet the Pests.

So, to improve ratings, on day soon I really expect to read how the executives at MSNBC are giving up on "progressive" news programming and flying to Hollywood, make a deal to create MSTMZ.

After all, TMZ is now in the business of breaking news stories.

Next Stop: Idiocracy?

What about the other channels? With our collective media attention, appetite and trends, we seem to be mere minutes away from the launch of Monday Night Rehabilitation, featured in one of my favorite movies Idiocracy.

In the movie, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho provides a plan for future America.

It's hard to argue that we aren't headed for the society portrayed in Idiocracy.

Tech Revolution Provides Hope

Is it time to pull the plug on hopes of respectful, outstanding and sharp political discourse and reporting? Is it time to surrender and gorge on the neuron neutral entertainment diet being offered to the masses?

Absolutely not.

My experience with some outstanding journalists and political strategists and leaders in Florida and across the country tells me that we really are better than that.

Earth shaking advances in communications tech now provide people with the ability to create compelling content, break news on social media and share on-the-scene photos and video of events as they happen with apps like Instagram, Periscope and Meerkat.

It will be interesting to see how the 2016 presidential campaigns operate in an environment where everyone is a reporter who can move information in real time. Maybe Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on to something when he employed a hologram in his 2014 campaign. Are we ready for a "Hillogram" in 2016? Holograms stay on message or have to answer pesky, off-the-subject reporter questions.

People are getting past the superficial, drilling to the heart of the important subjects and bringing light to subjects that have too long been in the shadows.

And that is truly revolutionary.

Ryan Banfill is a partner and Sr. Vice President with Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee, Florida. He was press secretary to former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles and has worked in Sunshine State politics and public affairs for more than 20 years. Write him at RyBan1001@gmail.com.