I see a lot of television. I don’t watch a lot, but because I use TV for background noise while I work, it’s always on and I do give it the occasional glance when something particularly execrable catches my ear. This is how I found “Decision House”, arguably the sleaziest, dumbest and most exploitative of any show currently on the air.
Produced by Jay McGraw, progeny of the self-important Arbiter of All Things Human, Dr. Phil McGraw, “Decision House” is an offshoot of “Divorce Court”, and is, like that pseudo-legal outing, presided over by Lynn Toler, who may or may not be an actual judge, but who bills herself as one for the purpose of both programs. Ms. Toler apparently recruits candidates for “D.H.” from rejected or leftover participants of “D.C.”. The hapless couples volunteer to be locked up together for three days in constant view of cameras while various professionals bully, exercise and “counsel” them.
This show is a grotesque mélange of “Big Brother”, “Jerry Springer” and “Deal or No Deal”. Accompanied by appropriate ominous music, it starts with an announcer intoning, “Three Days. Two sides. One couple on the brink." In a house that looks like the victim of an explosion at a Sherwin-Williams factory (every wall is a different, garish, clashing color), complete with unmatched furniture, cheap motel wall décor and oversized fake plants, they air the dirtiest of laundry for the edification the world. Thus far, we’ve been treated to abusers, alcoholics, spendthrifts, slobs and bigots, with a healthy helping of adultery to further confound the experts.
These include a couples therapist, a financial advisor, an attorney, an anger management specialist and…are you ready?... a uniformed drill sergeant! Each “expert” has a segment during which the couple is alternately scolded, chastised, questioned, made to do pushups and hold heavy objects while being yelled at and ultimately forced to set fire to their credit cards. Between segments, Ms. Toler earnestly tells us what we’ve just seen and what we are about to witness. And, oh yes… there’s the “ring ceremony” which consists of Toler taking the couple’s wedding rings at the beginning of the episode and holding them until the final denouement, at which time they are asked to Decide whether or not to retrieve them. Divorce or no divorce? Deal or no deal?
In the event that you have not as yet sensed my reaction to this noxious exemplar of personal pain and degradation as entertainment, I will clarify: Decision House is a disaster area. Nobody should live there and absolutely nobody should visit.