Oh Television, what Kenneth from 30 Rock calls “the true American art form.” Whether that’s correct or not there’s no denying television’s a catchall of beliefs, indoctrinating the masses into the American zeitgeist. It tells what Noam Chomsky calls the “bewildered herd” what’s important and current. It instigates trends and shapes behavior patterns. Don’t believe me? How many times have you heard “That’s what she said?” If you say zero you’re lying…or you might live outside the continental United States, it’s two satellite states and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. What I’m saying is that you live under a rock and talk to nobody who has a television or access to the medium. If you say correct I call bullshit—after all, you’re using a computer to read this and I’m sure you have the Hulu Plus.
If television has said anything over the years it’s that procreation is good. Look at The Brady Bunch, they had six children and still vacationed in Hawaii with Vincent Price, hung out with Mr. Hanalei and went surfing. What about the Growing Pains spinoff Just the Ten of Us where that fat gym coach had eight kids? He was happy and the kids were pretty well adjusted. Overall, television tells us to have babies. Lots of babies who have even more babies. Some of them die in wars; some of them buy Swiffers.
Ok, maybe not all of television. Maybe it’s unintentional but there are some shows telling us to avoid conception, to pass on parenthood because it’s a major pain in the ass. Their underlying message, like David Lynch’s Eraserhead, is “don’t have a child, it’ll ruin your life.” Having a child is also ruining the environment. Here is a clip from British television where stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope discusses the environmental impact of having babies:
The man’s damn convincing. If you’re unswayed by Stanhope’s rant you might have children. You might also be a normal well-adjusted individual instead of a maladjusted bastard like myself. But Stanhope has a point. Having children is bad for the environment but he should’ve taken it a step further: having children is bad for the parents, locking them into 18 plus years of financial obligation with no guarantees their children aren’t jerks.
As I stated above, television has told Americans to breed for decades. However, there are some shows that have suggested otherwise, spelling out the negatives associated with coitus’ outcome. These shows are televised population control, conveying that reproduction is a bad thing, destined to destroy the parents and leave behind an unproductive citizen. They serve as a warning that birth control is important and having smaller versions of you is not necessarily a positive. Here are the top five shows I believe effectively communicate this message.
5. Lucky Louie
Before stand-up comedian Louis C.K. landed on the FX Network with the hilarious Louie he had a short-lived show on HBO called Lucky Louie. Obviously Louie isn’t lucky and anybody familiar with C.K.’s stand-up would understand. Basically, Louie and his wife Kim (Pamela Adlon) are a part of America’s working poor. They live in a small apartment with their daughter Lucy, work uninspiring and underpaying jobs and barely scrape by. Lucky Louie is funny but most of the episodes range from bittersweet to outright depressing. No wonder HBO cancelled it after one season.
What caught me was the attention to how life can completely blindside you. The characters on Lucky Louie are constantly revisiting past decisions, regretting their youthful stupidity. Although Louie and Kim love their daughter she’s a constant source of contention. It can also be argued that Louie’s decisions, especially in one episode where he gets a DUI, are juvenile but I feel and provide more fodder for the anti-procreationists out there: if you still act like a child it’s probably best not to have one.
4. Married…With Children
Part of the Fox Network’s original primetime line-up, Married…With Children was crass, cheap and, as it turned out, funny to millions of Americans. Following the misadventures of Peggy and Al Bundy (Katey Sagal and Ed O’Neill) and their two horrible children, Married…With Children shows a dysfunctional family unseen before on American television. Al blames all his failures on a family curse but it really all stems from knocking up Peggy in the back of a car. Don’t have unprotected sex in the back of a car after scoring four touchdowns in a single game.
Regardless of being crass, Married…With Children is a clever critique of the American family, poking fun at the faux functionality of the Cosby’s or similar broods. Kelly and Bud aren’t happy accidents; they’re curses, ruining any aspirations held by their parents. It’s one of the few shows on television, at least at the time, depicting domesticity as a prison. For all its sexism, prejudice and general stupidity Married…With Children is funny and a stern warning to potential parents everywhere.
3. The Sopranos
Described often as the best series of all time, The Sopranos tells the story of New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), his business associates and his family. It’s really his family being discussed here, specifically his son Anthony Jr. (known as A.J.). The kid’s a brat. Not only is he outrageously spoiled but also stupid. Really stupid. So stupid he pretends to understand Bob Dylan lyrics and then accidentally sets his car on fire. What about when he attempts suicide by drowning himself in the pool? The kid can’t even kill himself correctly.
Having children is a crapshoot and even the most benevolent people can spawn dull creatures like A.J. Granted, Tony isn’t a model parent but Meadow, even with all her flaws, has a brain in her head—proof that it’s not only the parents at fault when a child ends up being worthless. This is probably why everybody I’ve ever talked to about The Sopranos always says something like “oh, I hate A.J.”
2. Malcolm in the Middle
Starting in 2000, Malcolm in the Middle was on Fox until 2006 when it was cancelled after seven seasons and features a lower middle-class family with four boys (a fifth child’s born in the fifth season) who are absolute terrors. Malcolm is the saving grace (he’s a genius in gifted classes) but he’s evil too. His older brother Francis starts the show out in military school, his other older brother Reese has been arrested for a low-speed police chase in addition to raising hell in countless other ways (basically one or two antics per episode) and his younger brother Dewey is insane.
The best characters on this show are the parents, Lois and Hal (Jane Kazcmarek and Bryan Cranston), and they are a prime example of why Planned Parenthood is essential to America’s survival. Although their romance, even after having five children and enduring a parenting nightmare, is charming this duo has proven they haven’t learned anything from their past and continue propagating the human race with their evil seed. They’re a solid argument for the return of forced sterilization.
1. Full House
Full House, part of ABC’s TGIF line-up in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s, is family nonsense concerning a large family living under one roof in a decent part of San Francisco. It’s also proof that people should exercise control and use their brains when screwing. Full House didn’t make it to the top of the list, the pinnacle of baby deterrents, because the kids on this show are degenerates. Rather, Full House is here because it’s a cautionary tale, warning millions of Americans of what they could turn into if they have children.
Seriously, nobody wants to be the Tanners. Stephanie became a drug addict after the show ended because she’s a Tanner. Uncle Jesse spent countless hours outside the Tanner household with his horrible band Jesse and the Rippers because he couldn’t face being a Tanner. Even when Jesse married Becky and had twins they still lived in the house. It’s like Danny’s home was a vortex, pulling in everybody living within his domain and turning them into the biggest dweebs in television history. I’m actually uncertain whether Danny wanted to be a Tanner but he was unfortunately branded with the name from birth, ensuring his residence within his own personal hell. That’s why he brought everybody else down into the depths with him. He was even close to bringing The Beach Boys down into the lower rungs of hell a few times; luckily they escaped but not without losing a great deal of their dignity and gaining John Stamos as a drummer (poor guys).
Naturally there are other shows and characters that could make it onto the list of televised contraceptives—Bart Simpson, Meg, Stewie and Chris from Family Guy, Octavian from HBO’s Rome, and more. Yet the characters and shows making the list contain a special message missing from the before mentioned shows: marriage and children can ruin your life. While family life is often depicted as a blessing and a curse (which it can be), knowing baby deterrents exist is refreshing. Maybe George Carlin’s remark that America wants “live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers” isn’t entirely accurate; maybe the powerful in America realize we have too many people, recognizing war isn’t the best method to thin the herd and more subtle forms of social birth control are necessary. Now all we need is a primetime show that constantly says, “don’t fuck in the front hole.”