In the early days of television, Johnny Carson hosted a quiz show each weekday afternoon on ABC-TV called “Do You Trust Your Wife?”
Couples were interviewed by Carson in his patented wise-cracking style. Then he asked the husband a question for a cash prize. The husband could choose to either answer the question or “trust his wife” to answer it.
After a couple of seasons the name of the show was changed to “Who Do You Trust?” The change was made to expand the pool of weirdo contestants for Carson to joke about in his interviews. (Turned out the weirdo in a lot of marriages was not the woman.)
In any case, contestants were nearly always a man and a woman, just not a married couple. The man was still in charge and the woman was still the last resort, if he could not answer the question.
No one complained about the sexist format. After all, big money was at stake in the series of three questions — $25 for the first question, $50 for the second and $75 for the third. (Neither did anyone complain about the use of “Who” rather than “Whom” in the title. The show was not put on the air for English grammar professors.)
Of course, this 1950s-era format would not attract viewers today. The answer to important questions such as “How many toes does a frog have?” no longer requires human intellect.
We have tiny computers we call smartphones in our pockets. Smartphones have internet access capable of confirming a frog has 18 toes — eight on the front legs and ten on the back ones. No need to ask your wife, your friend Kermit or your neighborhood herpetologist.
The fun would be in asking the customer to either answer the question, or trust his favorite internet app for the answer.
The new show would be called “What do you trust?”
Do you trust Fox News? Do you trust MSNBC? Do you trust PBS? Do you trust Newsmax? Do you trust Facebook? Do you trust Instagram? Do you trust YouTube? Do you trust Twitter? Do you trust Rumble? Do you trust Amazon? Do you trust Apple? Do you trust TikTok? Do you trust WhatsApp? Do you trust Parler?
Each contestant could trust his own brain or refer the question to his favorite smartphone app. (People with flip phones, bag phones, land lines or two tin cans connected by a string would be screened out during the process of selecting contestants.)
If the contestant picks Fox News, a video clip will appear of Tucker Carlson claiming 28-toed frogs are conspiring to teach Critical Amphibian Theory in public schools.
If the contestant picks PBS, a smiling woman will appear and say “This is pledge week. If you are enjoying this documentary on frog toes, please donate to this public television station.”
If the contestant picks Instagram, a selfie of a frog posing in front of the Eiffel Tower will pop up and the contestant will have 10 seconds to try to count its toes.
If the contestant picks Facebook, an algorithm will search his previous posts and tell him whatever he wants to believe about frog toes is the truth.
If the contestant picks Parler, a message will appear saying Jewish and Islamic frogs are conspiring to allow black and brown three-toed frogs to buy homes in middle-class white frog neighborhoods.
If Amazon is chosen, a box of fogs will be delivered to the contestant’s house the next morning and may be returned to customer service at Kohl’s after the toes are counted.
As always, the contestant’s task will be to either answer the question himself, or “trust the computer app.” Odds are, 99 percent of the contestants will choose one of the apps.
One out of 100 contestants will trust his own brain. Unfortunately, that contestant will likely answer “20.”