Total Blackout is the worst show I have ever delighted in. I watched two episodes last night and laughed myself to tears.
The entire show is designed to make the audience feel superior to the poor schlubs who submit themselves to gross indignities for a nominal cash prize at the end. We are never meant to root for our fellow human beings or feel a moment’s empathy. We see all while they are blind, with helpful captions in the upper left corner to ensure our omniscience. In the black and grey world of Total Blackout it can be difficult to discern the nuances of the objects our contestants are placed into contact with, but the show makes sure we are never left with a moment of doubt. We have perfect knowledge. We watch and laugh as the fools scream in terror while sticking their hands into glass tanks filled with (ha!) feather boas. They are just so silly! Check out his eyes wide with fear, his every expression kept visible in our night goggle vision, as he tentatively touches rubber duckies, quickly pulling his hands back as if striking a hot stove and yelping that there is something moving in there. Bask in your superiority; you would never be that foolish, that vulnerable, that bare faced and unguarded in the false privacy of the dark. Look at their unitards, see them jiggle, watch them stumble, listen to the narrator taunt and tease them as they fumble. He (and we) know what they should be doing, we know when they should stride forward without fear. Yes, somehow, the contestants’ giddy joy in discovering the right answers is contagious and it is carefully doled out to make us forget what the real draw is. This situation must be okay, look at how happy and excited she is now!
Next up, after another helpful recap of the funniest moment this segment, we’re putting them in fishbowl helmets and dumping random objects on their faces! No, really, that is a thing we are totally going to do. Are you not entertained? I sure as hell was. As the contestants writhe in horror, slowly realizing what they are sharing their breathing space with, my favorite contestant starts tasting whatever is put in his sensory range. He proudly announces that the current mystery objects are peas. It is a delightful moment of triumph, though we knew it was peas all along. We always know, we know all. Then come ducklings, live ducklings dumped on top of peas, in a fishbowl, with a person’s head stuck through the bottom. One man shrieks that it is mice. I momentarily feel bad for the baby ducks stuck in such an unnecessarily loud environment, but the show breezes us right through that to the next challenge. Now, we are strapping our contestants into harnesses and lowering them into vats of various substances. Tasting guy is ruling this one, dried leaves have not deterred him from employing his sense of choice. Now, I say ruling, but there is no indication as we go along as to who is actually winning. Occasionally, we are given a timer, but these serve only to assuage our subconscious. It is okay, we are watching a game show, there is a point to this beyond pointing and laughing at others’ misfortune. We are really not meant to root for anyone, it isn’t about the contest, it is about the experience. Tasting guy doesn’t eat vegetables, but correctly declares that the mash potatoes are disgusting. His next course of kitty litter really upped the ante, however.
In between each challenge, we are treated to an elimination reveal which perfectly fits with the casual cruelty of this show: each contestant is placed in front of a trap door and must jump on cue. Either she hits a solid platform or falls out of sight and is immediately forgotten. Where do they go? Is it soft? Why hasn’t PETA protested the fuck out of this show? What about Amnesty International? How do the producers of this show minimize their liability? Who cares! We still have play things left to dance for our amusement!
When the last contestant disappears down the memory hole, we are left with our finalist whooping and hollering and celebrating their “victory”. Don’t worry about the disappeared ones (you won’t), they’ll be back to try again on the next reunion show.