The new TV shows were stretching further and further, going more and more extreme in their desire to get the viewer’s attention. First it had been the Extreme Games. Then it had been the Survivor Shows. Now… Now it was this.
Aisleigh left the television on as she tidied the house. She was an honest citizen in good standing, and so her home wasn’t monitored, of course. Still, it was easy to track viewing practices, so she left the TV going.
The bookshelves needed a good dusting. Not only did that make the place look sharper, Aisleigh often found things she’d mislaid, and, less often, bugs someone had intentionally hidden. If they thought she never moved The Lesser Uses for Goldenrod, well, then obviously they weren’t studying her all that hard.
“Today, here on The Biggest Challenge, we have a brand new obstacle! Stay tuned to see our contestants struggle to stay on their skis as the tow boat executes turn after turn. Will they make it? Just how skilled are they?”
The announcer’s voice dropped deeper and softer. “The station and the Enforcement would like to remind all of the viewers that theft, murder, and rape are crimes. All criminals will pay restitution to their victims and to the state. And we all know –” now his voice rose up into his dramatic near-shout “–what happens to those who cannot pay!”
The audience behind him shouted happily. “They dance the dance!”
It was, Aisleigh thought, one of the worst slogans: Those that can’t pay the fiddler must dance the dance. But it certainly kept the reality shows stocked with “actors.”
“Today,” the announcer declared, “triple-murderer Shaun Cortwright is going to face an even more exciting challenge. Today, he is going to have to jump a shark! Let’s see how long he can stay on the skis while the hungry beasts swim below him!”
Somewhere in a planning meeting somewhere, Aisleigh was certain, someone had uttered the phrase “jump the shark” to a director. And someone had said “that’s it!”
She turned off the television. Criminals couldn’t pay their restitution if they didn’t bring in the ad revenue. Certainly, people would watch. Bloodsports always garnered attention. But maybe, if enough people turned off the tv, someone would explain exactly what “jump the shark” was supposed to mean.
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