Over the years, there has been a lot of really awful television. Here’s an example of one of the many lists on the Internet devoted to “the 50 worst TV shows of all time,” http://itscoolweb.blogspot.com/2008/10/real-50-worst-tv-shows-of-all-time.html .
I’ve never had cable TV, so I missed a lot of the shows on the list. But some are too notorious ever to be forgotten. Mrs. Columbo… Cop Rock… Manimal… My Mother the Car… Celebrity Boxing… and many others. I never saw Cop Rock, but this 1990 debacle is described as “a police drama presented as a musical.” Yeeeh–it lasted for 11 episodes.
Now, nobody in Hollywood sets out purposely to fail. It costs a lot of money. Before any of these horrible shows was launched, people who supposedly knew what they were doing held conferences, consulted potential sponsors, discussed writing and casting, and produced some preliminary writing and footage that they could all look at to see if they were on the right track. And yet, with all that preparation, they could still come up with something like Mrs. Columbo, described by several reviewers as “putrid” and “unwatchable,” which went through three or four changes of the title, which started out as a blatant Columbo rip-off but then abandoned every pretense of having anything to do with the original Columbo character–all this in the mere 13 weeks of the show’s existence.
Now please think about this. If it’s that hard to create a successful TV show, and that easy to create a bomb, with professional television people calling all the shots–how hard must it be to create successful public policy?
If the bunch we’ve got running our country now were running a TV studio, they’d be cranking out Mrs. Columbo.
Of course, it’s easy to avoid a bad TV show. But how can anyone avoid bad public policy? My Mother the Car only hurt those who produced and sponsored it. Obamacare hurts the whole country.
Setting aside for the moment the inborn depravity of man, and his perpetual vulnerability to all kinds of temptation, the history of TV bombs should be enough, in and of itself, to warn us off giving great, unchecked power to anyone.
Bad TV gets canceled.
Bad public policy goes on forever.