Monday, March 21, 2005

Spanish Television

(March 18th)

San Sebastian. Last night I saw a great TV show in the candid camera vein. In this particular segment the victim of the TV show prank was a man from Ecuador, a Gruff-looking father in his late forties. The prank took place at a SeaWorld type location called Marino. The 1st gag went thus: The man and his family and other visitors were gathered at the ledge of an outdoor dolphin pool. Animal trainers led a girl up to the ledge and a dolphin came halfway up out of the water and ´kissed´ the little girl. Then the Marino guys led a man up to the ledge and, once again, a dolphin came up to ´kiss´ the guy. (Though, understandably, the guy tried to brush the dolphin away.) The very stern looking Ecuador man was then led up to the ledge. A dolphin stuck its head out of the water and shook its head ´no!´ Or since it was a Spanish dolphin, ´¡no!´ The trainers acted as if they didn´t know what was going on. So, they said, let´s try it at a different point on the ledge. So they ushered the Ecuadoran man to another point on the ledge, and he leaned over for a dolphin kiss and a giant killer whale flew out of the water splashing water all over the man. The best part about this first gag was that this man looks like some sort of businessman reluctantly taking his family somewhere fun. But they get reaction shots of him when the little girl is getting kissed by the dolphin amused despite himself. Humorous. But I didn´t even laugh out loud. And so the seaworld guys take him to another part of the Marino. It is another pool type area, but a shallower pool. The trainers bring out this amazing creature, I guess it´s a walrus--it´s as big as a man. And fat. And the trainers usher some little girls to go and lean on the walrus and have their pictures taken. The picture is taken. Next they tell the man from Ecuador to stand by the walrus. The man is not leaning against the Walrus, and he´s on the left hand side of the walrus, not the right, like the little girls were. They tell the man to smile and look at the camera. What´s strange also is that the fins of the walrus are stretched out, parallel with the ground. And then the left flipper snaps forward and whacks the Ecuadoran man in the back, flinging the man into the shallow pool of water. Luckily the man seems to know how to swim. The sopping man climbs out of the pool, is irate, is yelling at the animal trainers. Somehow they calm him down and they take him to another part of the park. This is a sort of Flamingo pool, with a bridge that spans across it. And the sopping wet Ecuadoran man is being a real trooper. The trainers are telling him to look at the beautiful pink flamingos, and he makes a smile somehow appear on his poor humiliated, very angry face. And as a viewer, one is wondering what the hell are they going to do to this man next. I mean, after bing whacked by a walrus, what could they possibly have in store next? The man and his family and the visitors come across the bridge and they stop and look. Flamingos? Is that it? I wonder. Isn´t that all we should need as viewers? They urge the man to come further out on the bridge, I don´t know why. I can´t understand what they are saying to the man, but I get the feeling that they are showing him something very special, a whole bunch of pretty flamingoes in a pretty pool, and I notice a happy seal waddling at surprisingly fast pace from the other side of the pool--the seal collides its head into the back of the knees of the man from Ecuador--throwing the full of its seal weight into the blow...the man helplessly tumbles into the water below. The image is beyond words. The man falling, his legs buckling and almost crossing one another as he falls end over end torso-first into the flamingo pond. I think they fetch him out of the water, they get him out and he is beyond angry, and I swear I am laughing harder than I have in my entire life. I am crying. The triple soaked man storms away, straight for the exit. The trainers follow him, imploring him to stop--I don´t know what they say but they keep on touching him assuringly. But he storms right out to the exit and FINALLY they tell him he´s on TV. That they waited so long to tell him he was on TV makes me wonder if they had a fourth horrifying gag in store for the man. But the man doesn´t give a damn, he leaves the park, the men and cameras following him to his tour bus and that´s the end of one of the greatest moments in TV history.

How did they train the seal to do that? What kind of sick minds think up this stuff? More to the point, how do they get away with it? There´s no way it could happen in the states. The producers would get sued. Maybe there are nebulous legalities in Spain when animals are the injuring party.

It must be noted that the entiriety of the show was almost ruined with a very bad laugh track, corny sound effects, cartoonish voice-over exclamations and instant replay. When we saw the man get whacked by the walrus we immediately saw him get whacked from two different angles and then the same one again. Effectively undermining the essential ridiculousness of the original situation, but that´s TV.

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