I was all set to come here and write a scathing reaction to the new ABC reality show Downfall, which premiered June 22. I was going to tear into the show’s creators for coming up with a program that builds destruction right into the very premise. I’m not a big fan of this type of game show anyway, and I probably would have just ignored the commercial for Downfall, except that it showed the prizes being hefted over the side of a tall building and shattering into a gazillion pieces on the pavement below. You answer questions to try to win prizes, and if you’re wrong, they fling the prizes off a giant conveyor belt. Or something like that.
“Gah!” I shouted at the television. “How can you just destroy stuff like that?” I mean, hello, there have got to be a hundred recreation centers or senior centers or nonprofits within a ten-mile radius of the set in downtown Los Angeles that could put those prizes to good, hard use. What a waste, a ridiculous waste. I mean, here in Nashville, thousands of people just lost all their worldly possessions, with, in many cases, little hope of being able to afford to replace most of them, and a new TV show is going to throw brand new televisions and pool tables over the edge of a building and destroy them? You can see how that really, really rubbed me the wrong way.
Luckily, the disgusted folks at Reuters cleared it up for me: the prizes that fall to the ground and splinter into pieces are only fakes. They’re replicas of the real prizes, not the real thing. Sure enough, the ABC website notes that the prizes that fall are just “fabricated facsimiles.” Still, I would like to grumble, that’s unecessarily messy and destructive, especially as a gimmick.
Oh, but it gets better. The promo for the show says you can also destroy your own stuff on the show, if you’re having trouble coming up with the right answers! Oh gee, then it’s okay. You’re just going to destroy your own stuff–real stuff–that could have gone to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or ARC or whatever. You could have gotten a tax write-off or helped someone in need, but why not just take the chance that you’ll win something and if you lose your old dining room set and no one can ever use it again, who cares, right?
AND you have “the Friend On The Belt option,” which allows you to risk the life and limb of one of your loved ones, just for some cheapo prize. The ABC folks note that the person would, of course, be wearing a decelerator harness to soften the fall. So what does it matter if you stick them up their on the belt that tosses things off the rooftop, if they’re not really in harm’s way? What’s the point? You’re going to lose your new television if you accidentally send the “fabricated facsimile” television off theI’ side, but it’s not like anything permanent (you hope) will happen to Grandma if she goes flying off the building in her decelerator harness. Well, except that she’ll probably write you out of her will, and you’ll lose out that way. Bye-bye, Depression glass that could have fetched a fortune, and see you never, beautiful antique jewelry. Can you nominate a television show for a Razzy Award?
I predict that this show won’t last long. Sure, there are lots of people who love extremely lowbrow televison fare–Wife Swap, anyone?–but I just can’t imagine a big audience getting attached to Downfall. I’ll grudgingly forgive ABC for this pathetic excuse for a TV show (as long as it doesn’t last very long) because they’re bringing Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to Tennessee to help a family who lost its home in the recent flood. At least that’s a show that will be doing some good for someone.
Hmmm. As it turned out, I was pretty scathing after all, huh?