In 1989, with a stolen concept from Japanese television and America’s new found love for the home camcorder, a show was born. Like many shows it was never expected to last very long, but this show was scrappy and has now lasted 21 years. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is now legally able to drink and I would like to toast it in my own way with a look back at why I continually turn to this show to entertain me.
When Dagger and I lived together we would waste some time watching reruns of this show, it never struck me as odd during that time as we also watched tons of “Boy Meets World” reruns. Oh and just to be clear, we were in our early to mid twenties at this point. But now that I am in my later twenties, something about watching “AFV” makes me feel ashamed and I am not sure why. I am impressed the show has lasted this long, especially with this internet thing hanging around. But alas I still find myself tuning in when I should be doing homework or cleaning the apartment. So what follows is a look at the good, the bad and the other of the show.
This may seem like an odd choice for the good, considering some of the people who have introduced the videos, and the fact the show really doesn’t need a host. But as I thought about it I realized the hosts fit perfectly in terms of my age and what appeals to me. When the show started, and for the first 8 years Bob Saget was at the helm. During this time I was between the ages of 6 and 14. During the last part of Saget’s term I wasn’t really watching the show, as that would have meant spending time watching television with the family and I was getting too cool for that. But during the early years I was the key demographic for Saget’s other show “Full House.” I made the connection he was on one show I liked so I would probably enjoy this show. He was the wholesome dad type and that was comforting.
Once Saget grew tired of the show and left, they tried a format change and had two hosts, John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes. John Fugelsang never had and still doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. No I take that back, it’s fun to pretend to be Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds and call him Turd Furguson. It’s a funny name, say it. Daisy Fuentes, however, is hot. And when you’re 15-16 years old and don’t have cable in your room, you take whatever you can to help with pubescent needs. Other than that it is easy to see why these two didn’t last long.
Tom Bergeron took over after those two got the axe or left or whatever they did, and has been there ever since and has now been hosting the show the longest. Tom Bergeron is a charming man. He is very likeable, seems approachable, and most importantly he understands hosting television. He’s a throw back to the game show host of old like Eubanks and Woolery who made successful careers out of hosting anything that was put in front of them. Tom has been a big part of why I still watch this show.
The videos featuring animals are by far the best videos on the show, with a few exceptions, but more on those later. In general animals are just fun to watch. Animals are just down right adorable and all around funny. And since I don’t have any pets of my own, I can fill the comedic void with clips of other people’s pets. There are seriously very few things funnier than a cat falling off something. I think one of my all time favorites is the small child walking in the yard and a cat leaps out of the bushes and pounces the child, knocking it on its ass and the cat scampers off. That cat got that kid good and it was awesome! Or there’s the one of pool raft full of puppies in a pool. That has to be one of the most adorable things ever.
People Getting Hurt
Now that I have hurt my man credibility with adorable puppies I suppose I should try to get it back. And what better way to do that than to laugh at people getting hurt? For me there is a fine line as to what I can watch of people getting hurt. The short lived MTV show “Scarred” with people breaking legs and junk doing extreme sports, yeah couldn’t watch that. Idiots on this show, yeah I can watch that. When someone gets slightly hurt when doing something stupid, or even just doing something we consider normal, now that is comedy. It’s like unscripted slapstick and who doesn’t like that?
The other fine line is the dreaded nut shot. As a dude these can sometimes be very hard to watch. But also as a dude these are really funny. Why do you think a group of close dude friends try to hit each other in the nuts? Because it is funny, that’s why, until you’re on the receiving end. It is also help when they don’t edit the sound and you can hear one guy asking his friend, “How your co-cos, brah?” That became a catchphrase for Dagger and I for awhile. General concern expressed in a way most befitting a skateboarding teenager. You can’t make this stuff up.
Amusement Park Videos
Some amusement parks allow you to bring your video camera or they have their own set up. Some people think it is funny to share these videos with America. Well it’s not. These videos are all exactly the same. A one shot positioned camera, that is slightly too close to the rider, capturing their screams of terror. We get the same stupid face and the same obnoxious scream, and the same nausea inducing movement. Watching your friend scream like a frightened little girl is fun, watching a total stranger, not so much. And really after the first one of these was aired, there was really no reason to air any more. The only thing that is different is the person.
Once in awhile there comes a video where a child gets hurt or is in some kind of distress and the parent will be incredibly amused by it. Hey dick head, put down the God damned camera and tend to you kid. Act like a fucking parent. Don’t just laugh at them. There are times when it is appropriate to laugh at your kid. When they are crying bloody murder at the top of their lungs is not one of them. Oh and ballsy move showing the entire country what kind of shit head parent you are. And by the way, cameras these days can capture sound, we hear you laughing. I hope your kids put you in one of those retirement homes where the nurses steal from you or force you to make wallets until your fingers bleed.
These just creep me out. The animal is making an uncomfortable sounding noise that kind of resembles a human word but not really. Mostly the animal just sounds possessed. And really they aren’t that funny. The reaction is along the lines of, “Oh yeah I guess that did sound like ‘I love you.’” When your dog can recite “Who’s on First,” or a Monty Python sketch, then maybe I’ll be impressed. Also don’t try to astonish us with your pet’s amazing trick or ability to count, we can’t see you and that’s how we know you’re coaching it to bark the answer to 2 plus 3. Clearly you were rejected from Letterman and this is your alternative outlet, but like the Letterman producers, we are not amused.
For some reason someone doesn’t think a bunch of uninterrupted home videos is enough to make the show work. Their idea then is to use the videos in various games or alleged comedic bits. There’s one where the video is stopped and the contestants have to guess whether the person is going to get hit in the head, gut, or groin. Or three scenarios are given and you have to guess which one is a real video. Then there are “Tom’s Home Movies” in which a giant head of Tom Bergeron is placed over a person in an existing video and the face is “animated” to represent how Tom would feel as whatever was happening happened. I use quotes around animated because it looks worse than season one of “South Park.” These games and bits are unfunny and slow the pace of the show down. Although I will say Tom was able to make the game on Sunday funny as everything fell apart. And there is usually some fun banter or DVD throwing going on between him and who ever tosses the DVD prizes to him, so I guess it isn’t all bad.
The Finalist and Voting
For those unfamiliar with the show, every week three videos are chosen as the funniest then voted on by the audience with the winner getting some money and the losers getting less money. Unfortunately the videos chosen for the contest are never the funniest, and the audience is made up of idiots who manage to choose the least funniest of them all to win. Without fail I would find the last 50 minutes of television I watched marred by the announcement of the supposed funniest videos. Dagger was worse by far. He would often go on long rants about them and put on the Dagger pissy face. By the time the next show started I was usually over it. Despite the ability to change host, the show has been unable to change funniest video pickers ( I hope that’s the actual job title) as the funny ones still miss the cut to the finals.
You know at the end of “Jackass” there is the disclaimer form MTV that essentially says don’t send in your tapes of you being a retard because we won’t watch them and we don’t want the legal responsibility of paying your dumbass hospital bills? AFV doesn’t have such a disclaimer, and Dagger pointed out that you don’t need to send your videos to MTV and Johnny Knoxville. You can send them AFV and they’ll show it. AFV is on a Disney owned channel, and clearly Disney doesn’t care about your well being. Granted the stuff shown is not as extreme as “Jackass” but it still involves dummies doing dummy stunts on camera.
It is apparent there are many more things I dislike about this show than there are things I like. Yet for some reason I continue to watch again and again. I still watch episodes I have seen several times. The videos are not new or fresh, but I still watch. I may have a learning disorder. I guess sometimes the real comedy of real people just draws me in. Or maybe I keep hoping there finally is an episode where the three finalists are actually funny. It’s like watching “Inspector Gadget” in hopes that would be the time they show Dr. Claw’s face. It never happens, but without hope you might as well be blind.
See ya in that changing set from the start of every episode in the first years…
13 Apr 2010 Lee S. Hart