Tuesday, May 09, 2006

And you thought "Get real!" was bad.

Sometimes when you’re wracking your brain, trying to devise a particularly fiendish satire/send-up of a given something in order to drive home its sheer stupidity, life itself comes along and provides you with a reductio-ad-absurdum scenario that can't possibly be improved upon.

In this category is Mr. T’s forthcoming advice/reality show, to be called—naturally—I Pity the Fool. The show will debut this October on TV Land, which is owned by giant Viacom, which is the parent company to Paramount-TV, which also gives us Dr. Phil’s show. Me? I pity the fool who watches either bozo.

Press releases emphasize that Mr. T (real name, Laurence Tureaud) thinks of his show as a clear and direct challenge to McGraw’s dominant franchise in the tele-therapy sweepstakes. As the T-man so eloquently put it in an AP interview on the heels of the May 4 announcement, “My show ain't no 'Dr. Phil,' with people sitting around crying. You're a fool--that's what's wrong with you! You're a fool if you don't take my advice.” (Can’t you just hear him saying that?)

Though this latest development clearly smacks of “need I say more?”, I’m going to say a little bit more. (I repeat: It's my blog.)

First, I have a question or two about the likely quality of the advice Mr. T is apt to dispense. (See his own quote, above, for a succinct statement of his therapeutic philosophy.) Then there are his qualifications to be dispensing such delving interpersonal wisdoms in the first place. It’s hard to imagine how his five-year stint on The A Team, where he played Sgt. Albert “BA” Baracus, would count as OJT towards a degree in psychology or counseling. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to think of therapy and demolition in the same breath.) Then there’s the persona one would expect Mr. T to adopt in sharing his advice. (Here, I must pause to chuckle at the fact that many serious psychotherapists dismissed Dr. Phil as too in-your-face….!) Then there’s that whole notion of using troubled/fragile people as props in order to win ratings points. (Is there any doubt that Mr. T can be relied upon to "out-Jerry Springer" Dr. Phil in his pursuit of wackos and sad sacks to parade in front of America?) Now, in fairness, I don’t expect too many individuals with actual clinical problems to avail themselves of Mr. T’s counseling services. If ever there were a case where people understood that a TV show is about entertainment, not life-altering therapy, this would appear to be it. Still, there’s no way to control the untoward inferences drawn by the millions (or at least thousands) out there in TV Land's audience who will watch the new show and—just perhaps—be affected (or God help them, changed) by what they see. And surely at some point Mr. T is bound to do something along the lines of Dr. Phil's notorious gaffe involving the 9-year-old boy who, McGraw strongly implied*, was destined to become a serial killer. (And lest we forget—that was from a guy who actually has a valid credential in psychotherapy!)

In fact, bottom line, you could say this new show epitomizes the self-help movement to a T....

* This was during a September 2004 evening special that was supposed to put McGraw on the prime-time map.


Anonymous said...

Well, I think Mr. T's premise is great--a real breath of fresh air in the stuffy corridors of self-help: You haven't gotten yourself into this mess because you've a victim, or because you're a failed attempt at empowerment--you're in this sorry state because you're a fool! And if you think a self-help show can help you, you're an even bigger fool than before. Works for me.

Anonymous said...

You know, I just don't like the word 'fool.' It's degrading. And I think less of people who use it.

My apologies, but knowing Mr. T is throwing his hat into the self-help ring just makes me sick.

Excuse me while I chuck my cookies.

Steve Salerno said...

Chuck away, Anonymous! I'm sure you won't be the last. In fact, I almost find myself wishing that we could all sit around a TV somewhere this October, watch the first show together, and chuck en masse...

emily p. said...

And let's not forget that the person who really started all this advice crap, at least in the mainstream media, was Dr. (supposedly) Laura, who had no qualifications to do any such thing except that she slept with a guy, Bill Ballance who was already a well-known radio celeb and got her her job!