When I first read the press release, I thought it was a late April Fool's Day hoax.
G4, the 24/7 network devoted to all things video game, has a new show in the works. I'll let them tell you about it:
"G4 is taking competitive eating competitions to the next level with a new series that combines speed-eating with intense physical challenges. In each episode, five brave contestants attempt to consume the largest quantity of food in a short amount of time and are then immediately subjected to a series of challenges designed to shake them up. The one to hold his or her food down the longest claims victory and walks away with a cash prize, the Iron Stomach Award, and more importantly, serious bragging rights. The half-hour series, ‘Hurl!' premieres summer 2008 on G4."
"G4's mission is to be a multimedia destination that's ‘relevant' and ‘authentic' to the interests of today's young male demo," said Neal Tiles, president, G4. "‘Hurl' is really an idea that is inspired by the world of viral video which has proven to be massively popular with young guys today."
In a word: Ewwwwww!
I'll be the first to admit I don't have a very strong stomach. I get nauseous just watching someone else brush their teeth. I doubt I'd make it through the opening credits of this show. Even tied up. With a gun to my head.
It absolutely astounds me that this project isn't the work of one addle-brained individual. It takes a whole cadre of people working in unison to bring such an effort to fruition. How one earth do you phrase a help wanted ad to locate these folks? Words like boorish, crass, vulgar and vile would be indispensable.
The press release quoted a Neal Tiles, the president of G4. I did a little research and found that Mr. Tiles is a graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in advertising/marketing. He started his career with ad agencies in New York and San Francisco. He then moved on to ESPN. In 1997, he was hired by Fox Sports and earned a shelf full of kudos for his work there. He also earned subsequent praise for his work at DirecTV.
So far, so good. It looks like the usual ad exec resume.
Then in September 2005, he made the leap to president of G4 and the rest is hurling history.I wonder what his friends and relatives think of his current project. Really, what do you say when a beloved family member makes a career move that's embarrassing or unbelievably stupid?
"Robert was doing quite well at the Centers for Disease Control, but he's much happier now that he's an armpit tester for Proctor and Gamble," or "Mary finds all those years of ballet training are certainly paying off now that she's a pole dancer."
Mr. Tiles' advertising background will come in handy when they pitch the show to sponsors. I'd suggest they give preference to Pepto-Bismol and Listerine.
What really keeps me awake into the wee small hours is the realization that these shows aren't created in a vacuum. They're a response to a demand, validated by endless focus groups and research. There are people out there who actually want to watch this drivel. Who program their TiVos to record it in case the Xtreme Fighting Championship runs late. Who invite their friends over to watch with them and cheer for their favorite hurler.
Just when I think modern day culture has finally bottomed out and can sink no further, along comes the likes of Neal Tiles who digs a hole so the bar can be lowered even more. It makes me want to hurl.
(Originally published May 20, 2008 in the Gainesville Times)