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Fox's 'World's Funniest' Hits Below the Belt

Television Episode dedicated to groin humor demonstrates how low a show can sink.

November 16, 1998|TOM SHALES | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — An advertisement in some editions of TV Guide made it look as though an entire hour of the Fox series "World's Funniest" was going to be devoted to home videos of men getting hit in the groin. Yes, really. In the ad for the "World's Funniest" that aired Nov. 8, a cartoon of a man was shown with his hands over his genitals as if about to be assaulted.

"Hurts So Funny!" the ad said. "Tonight--an hourlong tribute to getting hit where it hurts the most!"

Ha ha ha. Talk about fun.

Would even Fox stoop this, um, low? We had to watch the show to find out, because Fox rarely sends such trash out to critics in advance. As it happens, the Nov. 8 program was not entirely devoted to men getting "hit where it hurts the most." But the program was peppered with several home videos of just such occurrences. Every time it happened, there was a loud "boing" on the soundtrack.

Host James Brown told viewers that if they counted up the number of "groin hits" on the show and sent in their estimates to Fox, they could be eligible for a $5,000 prize. He also referred to the "groin hits" as "those shots to the privates." And indeed, there were plenty of them--though we didn't bother to count--with hapless males getting conked, thonked, thwacked and whacked in the sensitive area.

So this is Fox's idea of Sunday night family entertainment--men grabbing their crotches in pain and falling to the ground in agony. It really makes you long for the arrival of digital television, doesn't it, so that we can see this junk in high definition and on a wide screen?

*

Obviously "World's Funniest" is Fox's rip-off of the long-running ABC series "America's Funniest Home Videos." And in many installments of the ABC show, there were indeed shots of dads or brothers or boyfriends groping with camping or sports equipment and, in the process, taking an accidental blow to the area in question. But ABC at least had the taste never to advertise the show as a festival of crotch-yocks.

You'd think Fox might at least have been clever enough to call the special edition "Against the Groin." Instead, it was supposed to be the "Bad Boys" installment of "World's Funniest." However, whenever the commercial breaks came along, a Fox announcer said this was actually the "Private Parts Edition" of "World's Funniest." Good grief, whatever they called it, it was appalling beyond belief.

Or almost beyond belief--this is Fox, after all.

In "Satyricon," Federico Fellini's great epic about life in ancient Rome, Fellini included scenes of audiences at crude stage shows being entertained by performers demonstrating extreme flatulence. Have we progressed much since then? Here is television, the greatest instrument of mass communication ever conceived, and what do we use it for? For shots of men moaning in agony because of pain to their testicles.

A flatulence festival on Fox is just around the corner, surely.

In addition to borrowing generously from ABC's "Videos" show, Fox's version also rips off NBC's "Bloopers and Practical Jokes," a series of occasional specials dominated by outtakes from TV shows. "World's Funniest" had a classic blooper from 20 years ago on its Nov. 8 show: Gene Rayburn, host of "The Match Game," introduces a new contestant named Karen to a continuing contestant named John by saying, "Doesn't she have pretty nipples--uh, pretty dimples--John?"

It's funny, because it really was an accident and it was clear that Rayburn was mortified. But Fox couldn't just let the blooper speak for itself; it had to add comments on the soundtrack from Brown: "I guess maybe Gene has X-ray vision!" And then, "Or maybe, X-rated vision!"

Yes, the writers and producers of "World's Funniest" manage to ruin even the jokes that weren't already offensive. "World's Funniest" is really "World's Lousiest," and it figures that it airs on Fox, the world's crummiest.

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