Raising a Ruckus: This … is CEN

Allen RuckerHave you ever wondered — and surely you have — why we People of the Chair and our disabled comrades don’t have our own cable network? I mean, for heaven’s sakes, every other demographic in America has one. Surf your 400-channel line-up sometime. There’s the Military Channel, the Retirement Living Channel, the RFDTV Channel for Alabama dirt farmers, even the WealthTV Channel for people who can’t pay their mortgage to admire how Donald Trump gets his hair done. Surely in development are the Housecleaning Channel, a spin-off of the Cooking Channel, and the Honey Boo Boo Channel, a more glamorous, youth-oriented version of the RFD Channel.

With a potential audience of 50 million people, and a lot of them in institutions where they do a lot of sitting and watching TV all day, the Crippled Entertainment Network, or CEN, sounds like a no-brainer. It doesn’t take that many people to have a hit on cable. The evening Anderson Cooper show on CNN averages about 600,000 viewers a night, and that’s on a good night when Anderson takes his shirt off. There are more than 600,000 people with disabilities in the state of Oklahoma, and since there is not a whole lot to do, entertainment-wise, in the state of Oklahoma, almost all of them watch TV. Just take the RFDTV show Successful Farm Machinery and reformat it as Successful Adaptive Farm Machinery and you’ll suck in a few hundred thousand viewers.

Push Girls is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crowd-pleasing disability entertainment. On CEN, with 24 hours a day to fill, you could have PG rip-offs like Push Boys, Push Seniors, and Push Vans Demolition Derby.  Who wouldn’t want to see a football field of “handicapped” vans and RVs, as they still call them, trying to turn each other into scrap metal? It’s not only fun to watch, but the next time some nondisabled Prius driver sees such a van coming up behind him on the highway, it’ll scare the bejesus out of him.

Now that would fall under sports programming, along with live broadcasts of all the wheelchair sports we’ve come to love: wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair miniature golf, and even made-up sports like Wheelchair Wipeout where contestants try to balance their chairs on humungous rubber balls without falling into a vat of caramel.

Entertainment shows would be a cinch to draw the big numbers. Of course you would give star gimp personality Mike Ervin his own show, The Smart Ass Cripple Hour,  where he could satirically tongue-lash the whole world a la Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert. Schedule that right next to an American version of the British Channel Four hidden-camera prank show, I’m Spasticus,  where an amputee runs out of the ocean yelling “Shark! Shark!” and foments heart attacks up and down the beach. Or how about a show called We’re Watching You, Dog, where deputized crips lurk around malls and catch a nondisabled driver parking in a disabled spot and surprise him with a pie in the face? Do the same with those wheelchair pretenders at the airport who just want to shove you aside and get on the plane first. The hilarity never ends!

Lifestyles of the Rich and Crippled, Medicare Lingo As A Second Language — a public service show. Two ‘Half’ Men,  the Odd Couple as macho amputees. The annual glitterfest, The Media Access Awards,  live from the Kodak Theatre in downtown Hollywood. Not to mention endless reruns of Ironsides and the Chill Mitchell sitcom, Brothers.

As cable TV becomes more and more demographically fractured, slicing the audience into slivers of viewers who like nothing better than to watch insane people hoarding old mattresses in their living room, CEN is inevitable. There are enough eyeballs with enough buying power to make it fly. Now just watch. The bean counters will decide that actual people with disabilities are too cranky or unreliable or might insist upon ramps into the studio, and they’ll simply hire out-of-work actors to fake it, Artie-style. Of course they’ll have a hell of time finding a faux Mike Ervin. They’ll have to make a cartoon version and steal all of his jokes.

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