Voters determine what shows a Minnesota guy watches each night

Aric McKeown is a Minnesota comedian and writer who is engaging in a very weird experiment: He is allowing people to vote on what TV shows he watches every night. Go to his site, and you can vote for which show Ari will be forced to view each half-hour from 7 pm to 9 pm.

As you might imagine, the voters delight in forcing him to watch some achingly bad crap — or at least, shows that McKeown himself regards as crap, since evaluations of crappiness in TV quality are obviously highly subjective. After each evening of viewing, McKeown blogs about what he’s seen; he tends to be particularly incensed by The Gilmore Girls. Mind you, watching crap is, as McKeown himself argues, the whole point:

When shows like Arrested Development are treated like crap by their networks and shows like The King of Queens keep on trucking, there is something seriously wrong with the state of TV.

In being forced to view the good and the bad programs, I hope to become more educated in exactly why so much TV is horrible. By blogging about different varieties of shows, I think we’ll all discover something about the state of entertainment.

What’s even more hilarious is that McKeown has a “sponsorship” option: If you pay him $5, you can override the popular vote and unilaterally dictate what TV he’ll watch for any half-hour of your choosing. Not a bad deal, eh? Ten bucks an hour for watching TV! It’s like a tiny metaphor for the state of democracy in the US: The popular vote rules, until a powerful lobbyist shows up and calls the shots.

It’s also like the most mundane form of telepresence imaginable. Wasn’t there a similar experiment a while ago, where a guy set up online voting polls that dictated everything he did — from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed and what he ate? Wasn’t it in Japan or something? (If I’m right and someone remembers this, please link to it in my comments area!) You could imagine this trend being taken to its logical extreme — with people in India or China accepting micropayments via Paypal from bored wage-slaves who salve their cubicle ennui by forcing remote meat-puppets to execute stupid human tricks. Even as we speak, there’s probably some biz-dev weasel raising Web 2.0 VC-capital for precisely this idea.

After you vote, you can see a chart showing how things are toting up. Looks like McKeown’ll be checking out My Name is Earl tomorrow night at 7:30 pm!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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