One thing Americans agree on, nut shots are funny.
Recently published research by the New York Times which looked into the television preferences of active Facebook users by zip code, showed pretty clear divisions along party lines: red state residents love “Duck Dynasty,” “NCIS” and “Wipeout,” among others, while blue staters love “Game of Thrones,” “Modern Family” and “Saturday Night Live.” If we compare the “Modern Family” demo, with the “Duck Dynasty” demo, they fill in the gaps for one another:
“Modern Family” is popular on the coasts and in urban areas, while “Duck Dynasty’s” support stems from rural regions. The “Modern Family” map closely resembles that of: “The Daily Show,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Game of Thrones,” while “Duck Dynasty’s” is closest to: “Fast n’ Loud,” “The Voice” and “Pawn Stars.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Duck Dynasty” had the highest percentage of Trump voters of any show. Shows such as “Scandal,” “106 & Park” and “Love and Hip Hop” were most popular in the region the Times coined the “Extended Black Belt” which is based around areas with high African American populations.
Most of these findings are not particularly shocking, including the show that seems to most effectively bridge the gap between urban and rural, red and blue and black and white: the Alfonso Ribeiro-hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos (AFV). The show, which was originally hosted by Bob Saget and debuted in 1989, is one of the most distinctly American entities of the 50 shows the Times looked into. The show is the title, nothing more, nothing less. If you’re in the mood to see a cat paw-slap a toddler, a Father get tagged in the testicles, a pre-teen fly over a bike ramp with far too much (or not enough) velocity, or a myriad of other mishaps, this is the show you turn on.
Check out the AFV map:
Sure, there’s some gaps in there, portions of the Northeast aren’t particularly enthused, but this is as diverse a smattering of viewership as any of the other shows. In terms of simplicity of content, this is the most basic show on the list, and perhaps on television at all. There is nothing really to offend or put off any viewers, and the comedy is as broad as possible. It’s unapologetically lowbrow. A more accurate title of the show would be, Laughing at People Falling Down. In the recently prophetic 2006 Mike Judge film “Idiocracy,” which shows a future, dystopian U.S. overrun by anti-intellectual dolts entirely immersed in commercialism, one of the most popular TV shows is called “Ow My Balls!” It’s essentially a groin-centric spin-off of AFV meant to signal the further descent of popular entertainment.
It’s predictable and rather telling that, in 2016, the show with the most diverse appeal is one that holds zero allegiances, makes no statements, has no narrative, and is as intellectually thin as television can get. There is no thinking involved in watching AFV, there is no work that needs to be done, no theorizing, no harsh judgment. The show does not enlighten or inspire, it exists for one reason and one reason only, to make people laugh. It’s a noble, albeit lazily focused, pursuit. Everyone likes to laugh, but not everyone likes to think. This is why AFV is able transcend demographic barriers.
Those who prefer highbrow content can still laugh at the calamity, and AFV is pretty much “The Wire” for lowbrow-lovers.
Maybe, just maybe, America’s Funniest Home Videos will help bring us all together. This unlikely, fertile middle-ground of panicky pratfalls could provide space for constructive dialogue on contentious issues regarding immigration, the right to choose, government surveillance, healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights.
It’s pretty funny though.
And, apologies for burying the lede, the most important finding here is that we finally know who watches “Bones.” The people of Pullman, Washington apparently.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.