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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hole in The Wall May Be A Portal Into Hell

The idea of Fox’s new game show, Hole in The Wall is a simple one: You stand on a platform as a giant styrofoam wall slides towards you. There is a hole is the wall. If you can fit through the hole in the wall, you win. The show, we are reminded by the smarmy, unctuous host, is based on a “hit Japanese game show,” a fact that is suppose to keep us from noticing that the entire thing is incredibly stupid. We have truly reached the bottom of the barrel; this is 1 step above the game shows from the dystopic game show in Cyril Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons

Three people, all unfortunately proportioned and shoehorned into silver lamé jumpsuits, line up on each team to compete for who can fit through the hole. If they fail, they fall into the chartreuse pool below. I came in on episode four in which six shrieking gorgons get soaked as punishment for not conforming to size norms. How dare they.

First up is Portia, who, we are told numerous times, happens to be the daughter of Fred "Rerun" Berry from the 1970’s sitcom What’s Happening? Apparently, Rerun’s genetics, or perhaps simply the shame of being Rerun’s daughter, have gotten the better of Portia, who stands 4’11’’ and weighs 320 pounds (we know this because Fox displays her stats in big, pastel digits next to her). She has spunk, however, and she greets the oncoming wall with admirable alacrity. The crazy-yoga-ballerina cutout shape in the wall is obviously too small for poor portly Portia who tumbles, vanquished into the neon ooze. Next up is the fat girl on the other team, 270 pound Beth. She makes a better effort than Portia, but alas, her hips are too wide.

The Japanese version, referred to as Brain Wall or “Human Tetris” on Youtube, is almost identical, save it features smaller players and more difficult shapes:

Indeed, Fox might as well just call the American version of the show “Is Your Ass Too Big?” What apparently started out as a test of spatial reasoning has turned into a simple test of girth. It is also a test of my patience. I hated I Survived A Japanese Game Show, another recent Japanese-inspired program that can be seen on ABC, because I found it to be silly and dismissive of Japanese culture. Hole in The Wall, however, is really just a testament to how dumb we are getting all over the globe. Now I realize there is a counter argument to this, namely, “why is it okay to have a game show testing random trivia but not spatial reasoning?” That’s a good argument, since both are important measures of intelligence. The program I just watched, however, only appeared to measure one thing: the willingness to humiliate one’s self for ephemeral television exposure. And I got a chilly feeling about why people watch this in America—they like to see someone who is even heavier or clumsier than they are fall down and get hurt. Make no mistake, the people on this episode of this show were all overweight, and I don’t think that was an accident. They failed almost every challenge, falling consistently, screaming and flailing around in the pool like stuck pigs. This is how far our schadenfreude has taken us—through a hole in the wall that may very well lead us straight to hell, full of Cenobytes with puzzle boxes threatening to tear my soul apart. Don't make me go through that hole, Fox; I don't want to fit through that hole. What's next? How about Coverage, the show where Americans compete for health insurance? Or maybe Hammer on a Table in which you have to sit at a table and hit yourself on the hand with a hammer until they give you money?


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