Oh, please, take pity on us poor satirists, for reality keeps nipping at our heels and increasingly overtaking us. There was a recent report that a Sunday School teacher instructed a student to write, "What Would Jesus Do?" on his penis. So here I am, trying to extrapolate on trends in the television industry in order to forecast programs to be seen next season, and simultaneously hoping that they won't already be on the air by the time you read this.
"The News Dude" -- Recent polls indicate that less and less young people watch the network news. In order to entice that demographic, a 19-year-old will deliver the evening news accompanied by appropriate music. For example, when reporting the latest corporate crime, this one involving the Carlyle Group, he will be backed by a tape of Jimmy Cliff singing "The Harder They Come, the Harder They Fall."
"Snitch" -- At last viewers will be like flies on the wall, free to observe, in the comfort of their living rooms, paid informants divulge information to their control officers. A split screen will reveal the informee reacting to a monitor in the Green Room. Security will be very tight. The show will be hosted by Bill Maher -- at the National Organization For the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) convention Maher outed Ted Turner and Harrison Ford as pot smokers -- who will perform a hilarious parody of the good cop/bad cop syndrome in the pilot.
"Tips for Terrorists" -- This is a spin-off of those segments on the news, originally intended to inform American citizens about the plethora of vulnerabilities in our infrastructure. However, intelligence agents learned that international terrorists had been busy taking notes, ever vigilant for weaknesses in this, their target country. When the first episode is aired -- disclosing the lack of security at the nine dams scattered around Los Angeles -- it will be attacked as stretching the First Amendment too far, but defended as the risk of democracy.
"With Spying and Surveillance For All" -- This series will feature highlights from public outdoor cameras along with hidden indoor cameras so that the viewing audience can invade the privacy of an unknowing J.D. Salinger and catch him tossing paper clips at a mandala.
"Pot Party" -- An ongoing reality show for those who find themselves smoking marijuana alone, but feel more gregarious to at least see fellow stoners on the screen passing joints around the room, talking, laughing, listening to music and munching the hours away.
"Voices From Hell" -- This show will be the result of an FCC equal-time requirement in response to such mediums as James Van Praagh and John Edward, who hear only from departed souls that are in Heaven.
"The D Files" -- D, of course, is for disinformation. Ever since the Bush administration announced that there would be an Office of Disinformation -- and then, as its first official act, the Office of Disinformation announced that there would not be an Office of Disinformation after all -- folks have been wondering what they're clandestinely up to. This game show provides the answers, as contestants attempt to distinguish between facts and propaganda.
"Libel" -- Each week a panel of experts in public relations will take a completely unknown person and, like alchemists transforming underground buzz into mainstream awareness, they will turn him or her into an instant commodity with total name recognition. When that project is successfully completed, then that same panel will carry out a vigorous campaign to libel those same individuals, who cannot sue because they are now public figures.
"The Nielsen Family" -- Sponsors used to depend on the number of eyeballs that a TV show could deliver. But, since a study indicated that scenes of sex and violence tend to distract from the viewer's attention to commercials, this new series is actually intended to be dull, thus aiming for quality -- that is, brand-name consciousness -- rather than quantity. And, indeed, the ratings should soar to the top, perhaps because it will feature a different Nielsen family each week, and all the other Nielsen families will watch it regularly.
"Celebrity Enemas" -- Executives at the Fox network will readily admit that it was a real challenge to develop this particular series. "It was important," according to one spokesperson, "that this program be presented in a tasteful manner." At first agents and publicists alike refused to return calls from segment producers. But when Marlon Brando agreed to participate in the pilot other celebs started volunteering. "I'm on a special diet," the portly actor stated -- "low salt and high colonics." The program will be sponsored by Starbucks to help promote their new coffee enema, the Anal Latte.
"Laugh Track" -- Even diehard sitcom fans have grown tired of listening to the reconstituted sound of an audience that had originally been laughing at "I Love Lucy" and now ostensibly laughing at "Will and Grace." Virtually all of them are dead, but it's the only form of an afterlife that I can conceive. "Laugh Track" will present clips of all new laughter, with the only visual being that of the studio audience laughing. It will serve as must-see TV for those who want their own laughing to be stimulated only by pure peer pressure without any interference from content.
"Godspin" -- Every Sunday morning, representatives from a variety of religions -- including cult leaders and professional skeptics -- will discuss spiritual matters in a lively fashion. Such topics as the following will be explored: "Does the Deity Have an Awareness of Itself?" "Can Blasphemy Be a Form of Prayer?" "Is Scientology Really a Religion?" "What Motivates Suicide Bombers?" "Should 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance Be Changed to 'Inside God'?" And, naturally, "Did Jesus Masturbate or Did He Just Have Nocturnal Emissions?"