I am sitting in the living room with my elderly mother-in-law, Mother Mary. We are watching television. Mother Mary holds the remote.
The television is enormous. I am talking about a TV that’s bigger than a king-size mattress mounted to the wall. The volume is cranked up so loud that bits of ceiling plaster are falling into my beer.
My wife is away tonight, and she has left me alone with Mother Mary. We are watching TV. Mother Mary is flipping channels.
You’d like Mother Mary. She is white-haired, with a voice like Scarlett O’Hara. She sits in her recliner, and we are eating pizza delivery.
She flips past all the major networks. She pauses on HGTV for a little while, but nothing appeals to her. She scrolls past all her favorites: TLC, TBS, USA, TNT, Home Shopping Network, Univision.
She finally lands on the Discovery Channel. The show is entitled “Naked and Afraid.”
On the screen are two forty-somethings. Male and female. They hike through the wilderness trying to survive. And they are both—how do I put this?—buck naked.
The gist of the show is simple and realistic. Two people with desk jobs suddenly find themselves wandering through the woods, fighting insurmountable odds, harsh weather, sleep deprivation, predators, and multiple commercial breaks. And they do it without wearing any pants.
The important thing to remember here is that these are not actors, and they are actually naked. Their primary body parts are blurred by special camera effects, but their secondary body parts are in clear focus.
For example: There is a man on the screen right now. He is bending over to get a drink from the river. And I see London, I see France.
“Oh my word,” remarks Mother Mary. “I see his little hiney.”
I cover my eyes. “Mother Mary, would you like another piece of pizza?”
“Would you JUST look at that?”
“How about something from the kitchen?”
“It’s so white.”
“Some orange juice? Tea, milk, maybe a double shot of bourbon?”
“Are you SEEING this?”
“Yes, I see him, he’s naked alright.”
“As a jaybird. I can see his salt shaker.”
Mary covers her mouth. “Have you ever SEEN such a thing? I’m so offended. I just don’t know what to say. It simply OFFENDS me.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
“Do you mean to tell me that people ACTUALLY watch this kinda stuff on TV?”
“I guess so.”
Mother Mary turns up the volume. She reclines in her easy chair.
And here we are. Mother-in-law and son-in-law, alone in the living room. Just a couple of in-laws, watching some good old-fashioned cable-TV nudity.
On this episode, the man and woman are trying to find shelter from the cold rain because, as I said earlier, they are only wearing their smiles.
Whenever the man’s backside appears on the seventy-two-inch high-definition flat-screen television, his haunches are roughly the size of a Philco refrigerator.
“Oh,” says Mary. “Look at that.”
“No, ma’am. I’m not looking at the screen.”
“He’s bony. He needs to start eating.”
The man and woman build a makeshift shelter out of bamboo and banana leaves. And I will say one thing, the guy is industrious. He might be naked, but he’s clever.
First, he builds a foundation. Then, drawing upon his background as a CPA, he devises a complicated machine that acts like a hydraulic crane. This helps him construct the roof to his shelter. When he finishes, this primitive dwelling is nicer than most one-bedroom condominiums.
But—and I don’t mean to be judgmental—at no point during the episode did it occur to him to make himself a pair of pants.
Cue the commercial.
Mother Mary says, “Can you believe what passes for television today?”
“Why, I remember when TV was wholesome. Ed Sullivan wouldn’t even show Elvis from the waist down, did you know that?”
“All I can say is, I wouldn’t do it.”
“Do what, ma’am?”
“Let someone drop me off in the Amazon so the whole world can see my bootius-maximus.”
“Oh, loosen up. Everyone’s saying that word now.”
The commercial break is over.
The show resumes. The man and woman are hiking through the forest again. This time, the man is climbing a tree for coconuts.
Mother Mary says, “Bony Butt sure can climb a tree. Did you just see what he did?”
“No, ma’am. I was trying not to look at the screen for that part.”
“Oh, you gotta see it. Let me rewind.”
“No, that’s okay.”
“Relax, I have DVR.”
So we watch the man scale a tree. Twice. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that from this angle we get a great shot of his blurred out salt shaker.
The TV program finally ends. Mother Mary clicks off the television. We have finished our pizza, and the night is over. She stands, holding onto her walker for support. It’s past her bedtime. She wanders into her bedroom.
My wife arrives to give me a ride home. She asks what Mother Mary and I did tonight.
“Nothing much,” Mother Mary says, “we watched television and ate pizza.”
My wife asks, “What’d you watch?”
My mother-in-law says, “A show called ‘Naked and Afraid.’ But I wish they’d quit playing reruns. I’ve seen that same episode three times already.”