Picks and Pans Review: Affluenza
If PBS doesn't do it, who will?" goes the slogan, and it certainly applies to this special. There's simply no way one of the commercial networks would devote an hour of prime time to an unrelenting criticism of pervasive advertising, compulsive shopping, credit cards and just about everything else our consumer society holds dear. The title term is denned as "an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more," and the diagnostic portion of the program is enlivened by tongue-in-cheek dramatizations, clips of old commercials and other amusing touches.
We don't mind that the show is totally one-sided (after all, nobody demands fairness and balance from advertisements), that it jumps from topic to topic or that it has a mania for mind-boggling statistics. (Did you know that Americans' "total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to reach halfway to the moon"?) But we're disappointed to observe that Affluenza loses its sense of irony when it gets into solutions like "voluntary simplicity" and "the redefinition of progress." So many thinkers and activists appear with causes to push and books to sell. If this weren't on public television, we'd swear we were watching some kind of infomercial.