The Simple Life

I was halfway through the four-hour “Family Feud” marathon on the Game Show Network when a thought struck me: Sweet Allah in heaven above me, is this what my life has become? I’m a big loser! Then Richard Dawson said, “Name a yellow fruit,” and the contestant said, “Orange,” and I felt better.

Because when you get right down to it, what’s wrong with taking several hours out of your day to watch reruns of game shows? In fact, if it makes you happy, what’s wrong with setting the VCR to tape them all day while you’re at work?

One thing I like to do with “Family Feud” is to tune in when most of the answers have already been revealed and try to figure out what the question was. When you see a list like “dictionary,” “platypus,” “nipple” and “Genghis Khan,” you know you’ve got your work cut out for you. (“Name something you’d be surprised to find on the patio.”)

It is often simple things like this that make us happy. The big, elaborate pleasures like amusement parks and trips to the moon are fun, but sometimes you can enjoy yourself just as much without spending a fortune or leaving the Earth’s atmosphere.

For example, my 20-month-old niece, Emily, enjoys playing a game called “Bop.” In this game, she stands in front of the beanbag chair and gets your attention. Once you’re watching, she falls backward into the chair and says, “Bop!” Then she laughs like a maniac and does it again. She can do this eight or nine thousand times without growing tired of it, and my mom, whose first grandchild Emily is, can watch it at least that many times and still be delighted at how cute she is. This sort of behavior will not earn either of these people a seat in Parliament any time soon, but it does make them happy, and at least we know they’re not out playing in traffic.

When I tried “Bop” myself, I failed to see the entertainment value. Persuading people to give you their full attention is enjoyable when you can do it, but no one seemed to care that I was going to sit down on the beanbag chair. Also, the sitting process in and of itself is uninspired and trite, and “Bop” is by no means an original exclamation. Overall, “Bop” is an experience best left to the very young or the very easily amused. Grade: C+

So we see that simple pleasures are subjective. For one person, something may be dull, stupid and incoherent. For another person, that same thing may be an ecstatic fulfillment of all their hopes and wishes, and they walk out of the theater truly happy they saw “Final Fantasy.”

My friends Luscious Malone and Tanny Tantan (names have been changed) derive great joy from watching “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns on one of those redneck cable channels. Tanny was delighted to learn, after all these years, that the sheriff’s name is not Rosco Pico Train, but Rosco P. Coltrane. Surely such revelations will not put a spring in the step of every person you meet, but Tanny’s step sure is springier of late.

I was happy all day Tuesday because that morning I received a phone call from a telemarketer who said her name was Pinky Jones, which sounds like a name I would make up for one of my “names have been changed” friends. Again, maybe you would hear someone call herself “Pinky Jones” and not bat an eye, but not me. The only thing that ever made me happier was when Richard Dawson said, “Name a brand of canned food,” and the contestant said, “Potatoes.” Survey says: You’re an idiot.

This is the second column I have ended with a "survey says" reference. It almost certainly will not be the last.

The "yellow fruit" and "canned food" anecdotes are both actual events from "Family Feud," by the way. I think the one about "dictionary," "platypus," "nipple" and "Genghis Khan" is sufficiently bizarre to leave no doubt in anyone's mind it's fictitious, but maybe not.

I don't know how I hit on the idea of breaking into a spontaneous movie review mid-column, but it amuses me. I guess it's one of those simple pleasures.