We live in the age of paranoia: Presidential birth certificates, Vice-Presidential-candidates’ grandkids, terrorist attacks, flu vaccines—there is nothing that cannot become the stuff of conspiracy theory. So it is prescient thinking, if not spectacular TV, that TruTV enlisted wrestler-turned-governor-now-turned-TV-star Jesse “The Body” Ventura to host Conspiracy Theory, which debuts tonight.
The premise: Ventura enlists his regular-guy manner (I cannot hear him without picturing Kevin from The Office) to chat up experts and conspiracists about tales of government plots, secret societies and “alleged 9/11 coverups.”
It’s an excellent idea for a series, but also comes off as something of a missed opportunity. While Ventura and his producers present various sides of these theories, he seems expressly uninterested in rendering any sort of MythBusters style judgment on them, much less debunking (or proving) anything.
Maybe this is Ventura’s personal preference. Maybe this is an entertainment decision: after all, for everyone out there who is interested in getting to the bottom of our society’s various elaborate paranoid theories, there are going to be others who, as Mulder used to say, Want to Believe. Why let them down? “Ultimately,” Ventura says, “you will have to be the judge.”
Well, no. Most of us can’t be the judge. Viewers, presumably, are tuning into a show like Conspiracy Theory because they want an informed third party to do the legwork and be the judge. And our society is already beset with amateur and professional conspiracists—be it Lou Dobbs or Glenn Beck or your cousin forwarding you 10 emails a day—who throw gasoline and matches out there and then self-absolvingly throw up their hands. “Hey, I’m just asking the questions! You be the judge!”
Then again, I’m not sure what would be more disturbing: Conspiracy Theory as it is, or America accepting Jesse Ventura as the arbiter of truth versus myth. It would have been a better show, maybe even a public service, had TruTV put together a more serious and definitive, yet still entertaining, show that actually laid out what was truth and what was myth. But maybe there are things they don’t want us to know!