The Curmudgeon attended a five-year public high school in Philadelphia, and one of the first classes he attended was a state-mandated health class taught by Mr. Allen, a gym teacher. Among gym teachers, Mr. Allen appeared to take teaching health class a lot more seriously than his colleagues. Most viewed it as a form of punishment or a professional slight they had to endure in exchange for not really working for a living.
On the first day of class, Mr. Allen rather gravely told the thirty-five or so boys in the class that he was going to give them the best definition of “health” that they would ever hear – the only definition they would ever need and a definition they would remember for the rest of their lives. They then listened, totally stupefied, as Mr. Allen told them that
“Health is that quality of living that causes one to live most and serve best.”
Now The Curmudgeon isn’t sure this is the only definition he’ll ever need, and he’s pretty sure there are better definitions, but clearly, it was memorable: Mr. Allen gave his students this definition in September of 1970, The Curmudgeon remembers it forty-two years later, and he’s positive that at least one reader of this blog recited the definition in his own mind as soon as he saw the reference to Mr. Allen.
Mr. Allen – later to become Dr. Allen, The Curmudgeon understands – was full of such wisdom. One of his pearls was “There’s only two things people will stop to watch: a fight and a fire.” Aside from his obvious omission of the aftermath of a serious auto accident, The Curmudgeon always thought Mr. Allen was right on the mark with this maxim.
Until The Curmudgeon encountered Snooki.
Before proceeding, we need just a little background. The Curmudgeon is not one of those people who disdains television or insists that he doesn’t watch it. He’s also not one of those people who claims only to watch HBO and public television; in fact, he doesn’t even subscribe to HBO and has never been tempted to do so and believes, as he has stated previously in this space, that public television is pretty much a waste of time and money.
But The Curmudgeon digresses (this is a blog; that’s pretty much expected).
The Curmudgeon does watch television, although only a few series, but he’s a pretty active channel-surfer. As a result, he’s familiar with more programs, more performers, and more premises than he sometimes realizes. For the most part, though, he steers clear of “reality” television, which he believes brings out the worst in people, is ridiculous, bears little resemblance to reality, and – most important, at least from this viewer’s perspective – is not terribly interesting to watch.
Yet during the course of his channel-surfing, The Curmudgeon finds it absolutely impossible to surf past Jersey Shore. As a result, even though he has no idea when the program actually airs – it’s a cable series, which means that within just six months of its original airing it will be broadcast more often than I Love Lucy episodes have aired in the more than sixty years since their original broadcast – he has seen more Jersey Shore than he is comfortable admitting.
How can you not watch? How can you turn away? How can that trusty clicker finger not freeze in inaction?
Snooki (and friends, although mostly Snooki) is as compelling as anything The Curmudgeon has seen on television since Martin Sheen uttered “Tomorrow” and the credits rolled on the final episode of The West Wing. See Snooki drink. See Snooki drink some more. See Snooki dance drunkenly on the boardwalk. Or in a club. Or on the beach. See Snooki fall down. See Snooki fall down again.
But there’s more. See Snooki announce that she intends to have sex that evening, with an as-yet unknown partner, in a way that we’re unaccustomed to seeing women – or really, anyone – making such declarations on television. See rather spellbinding displays of promiscuity and abysmal judgment. See the tan, see the hair, see the boobs. See a lot of the boobs, actually. Learn that “smushing” is something that you don’t only do to bananas. See her talk, in a way people are unaccustomed to hearing people of any gender talk about such things, about looking forward to finding someone – anyone – who will “put it in tonight.” See her give new meaning to the term “cuddle.”
But most of all, see stupidity. Even though he’s a city boy and likes to think he’s seen a lot, maybe The Curmudgeon has actually led a sheltered life. He knows there are stupid people in this world but he never realized that people could be as profoundly ignorant and repulsive as Snooki and her roommates.
And yet, so surprisingly, disturbingly, and embarrassingly watchable.
Like Mr. Allen’s fights and fires.