A plea to all the women out there, especially the mothers: Resist the numbing allure of NickMom, a late-night programming block that Nick Jr. began this fall. Do not be seduced by its rehashing of mother-child dynamics from drab sitcoms or its relentless focus on penises. Do not allow yourselves to be captured by its IQ-lowering gravitational pull. You'll end up like me. Like us. Like guys.
I am speaking to you as a member of the subspecies known as men, a group with a noble past but a rather sorry present. We men were once a proud people known for erudition, wit and curiosity. Aristotle was, as far as I know, a man. Galileo was a man. Leonardo da Vinci was a man. Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot and Thomas Edison were men.
In our prime -- which is to say, practically anytime in recorded history except the past 35 years or so -- we men invented important stuff and made magnificent art and thought great thoughts. Then we started watching television geared specifically to us, and we almost immediately developed a level of stupidity seen previously only in slugs and really dumb dogs, the kind that when they want to go out run headfirst into a closed door at full speed.
A combination of jiggle TV and 24-hour sports networks, both introduced in the 1970s, did us in. Network programmers found a couple of our weaknesses and exploited them ruthlessly, turning attributes that once were only parts of our being into our entire being.
It's no accident that most problems from the 1970s -- high gas prices, environmental degradation, comb-overs -- are still with us. Men stopped solving problems when NASCAR and basketball became available all day long. A lot of people probably think of "The Simpsons," with Homer sitting mindlessly on the couch, with a beer, watching the tube, as an animated sitcom, but it's actually a documentary. As I write this -- on the couch, beer in hand -- only by an immense exercise of willpower am I resisting the urge to turn on the Big 10 Network's "Greatest Games," reruns of football games whose outcomes I already know.
This, sadly, is what will become of women who tune in to NickMom, a collection of shows both aggressively lowbrow and narrowly focused on a few areas of interest to the female audience, namely sex and children.
It includes "MMF: Mom Friends Forever," a reality show about two boorish mothers from St. Louis; "NickMom Night Out," a stand-up comedy series whose performers, most of them women, lean toward jokes about toddlers and genitals; and "Parental Discretion With Stefanie Wilder-Taylor," a talk show/street interview hybrid in which crass is the new urbane. (Sample question in a segment about multitasking moms: "What is one of the tasks that you have done while being on the toilet?" Answer: "Brush my teeth.") And the commercial breaks include interstitial bits that sometimes seem borrowed from restroom graffiti.
When NickMom first hit the air, it drew a chorus of complaints from lax parents who apparently allowed their toddlers to watch it, thinking it was akin to Nick Jr.'s daytime fare, which includes "Bubble Guppies" and "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!" How these parents missed the prominent advisory warnings remains unclear, and in any case, shame on them for letting their kids watch so much television. Would it kill the little darlings to pick up a book once in a while?
The real worry about NickMom isn't that some 4-year-old might be watching; it's that women will watch and feel that same narcotic effect that the original "Charlie's Angels" had on heterosexual men: "Mmm. Pretty. Mindless. Me likee." Sure, hardworking mothers and other women deserve a chance to veg out now and then, but that's what the Lifetime channel is for.
It, too, is full of female-slanted programming, but with a broader range and paced more slowly; it can be watched with a blank stare without doing permanent damage. The problem with NickMom' s version of vegging out is that it is dangerously addictive, because it is rapid-fire and panders to just a couple of obsessions -- exactly like the male equivalent programming that destroyed my subspecies.
When the baser regions of the female neocortex -- on medical diagrams, those labeled "cute potty-training anecdotes" and "naughty innuendo about the male sex organ" -- are stimulated repeatedly in a short amount of time, they emit endorphins that dumb down the entire brain, as cat videos do. At least, I presume that's the case; to verify that hypothesis, I'd have to get off this couch.
But, assuming that it is right, repeated exposure to NickMom's two-note material will quickly turn otherwise smart women into zombies who can talk of nothing but sex and the mundanities of child-rearing. Women are the only ones left who have a chance to solve humanity's many problems. We don't want the following to happen at some all-female science panel:
Moderator: "Ladies, we are gathered here today to try to figure out what to do about global warming, since America's men are all watching a rebroadcast of the 1999 Michigan-Illinois game. Any ideas?"
NickMom Watcher: "Wait, you guys, this is so funny: Last night on 'Parental Discretion,' Stefanie asked a tattoo parlor dude for a full frontal tattoo of an apron."
There are, of course, some men who don't care about sports and never watched "The Bionic Woman." And there are some women who aren't moms and don't want to be. But will there be enough to carry the human race forward? All I know is, Illinois upset No. 9 Michigan, 35-29.