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Archive for Friday, May 19, 2006

Amateur hour never gets old

May 19, 2006

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Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC). There's nothing special about that. The show seems to run every week and every time ABC has a hole in its schedule.

Except tonight's two-hour finale ends the series' 16th season, making it the longest-running show in ABC history. Bob Saget hosted when it debuted as a regular show on Jan. 14, 1990. Bergeron, Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang have hosted since.

The show has seen two Bush presidencies, the Clinton era, two Gulf wars, the sale of ABC to Disney and the network's rise, fall and revival.

While clearly a lighthearted show, "Videos" reflects some deeper changes in viewers' relationship to television and mass media.

The generation that grew up watching tapes of dancing dogs and backyard shenanigans on "Videos" was essentially raised within the viewfinder of their family's camcorder. They've got hours and hours of their lives recorded on tape.

"Videos" was revolutionary in asking viewers to provide content for a prime time show.

This familiarity and facility with videotape and the do-it-yourself philosophy of home videos would result in the stunning success of films like "The Blair Witch Project," the low-budget horror film that seemed to eclipse the return of the "Star Wars" franchise during the summer of 1999. Not only could a credible monster movie be made for what looked like $49, it seemed that kids raised on home videos would rather watch a blurry shocker promoted on the Internet than George Lucas's digital blockbuster.

This same generation would embrace and participate in reality television, a genre entirely dependent on the proliferation of video cameras and an audience's acceptance of hours and hours of edited surveillance as "entertainment."

Videotapes may go the way of 78 records, but in some format or another, "AFHV" may just run forever.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ A spouse needs to leave an abusive relationship on "A Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Escaping Danger" (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry star in the 2003 sequel "X2: X-Men United" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Two murder suspects claim they were defending themselves against an online predator on "Close to Home" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ A serial killer must be stopped on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ On the two-part "Conviction" (NBC), a club bouncer stands accused (8 p.m.), a hostage standoff (9 p.m.).

¢ The news series "Unsung Stories" (9 p.m., CMT) presents musical performances based on real anecdotes and personal achievements.

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