As most people who spend their free time reading frivolous blogs instead of watching TV know, most TV shows suffer from serious suckage. Even among the shows that don't suck, I'm just not interested in the majority of them. Let's quickly go through the top shows (ordered by Nielsen ratings) from last week and identify their flaws.
FOX SUPER BOWL XLII - I can't really pass judgment on this. One gets the idea that TV was invented primarily to show Super Bowls. It has pretty colors, violence, and plenty of built-in pauses for commercial breaks. It's nearly a perfect caricature of U.S. culture and we sop it up, present company included.
FOX SUPER BOWL POST GAME(S) - There was a post game show? Ok, now people are just being lame. Umpteen hours of super bowling wasn't enough?
AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY - This show I don't quite get. I mean, I like hearing people sing, but most of the contestants on this show all sound similar to me. It's like someone decided that all singers need to sound like Beyonce, so that's all we get, and somehow they battle it out for the title of Most Beyonceest. Although I have a soft spot for reality shows that pit people against each other, this show seems rather one-dimensional. I've only seen a couple episodes, but from what I gather, every round is just a bunch of singing. No obstacles courses. No quizzes. No nasty-food-eating competition. This show suffers from a serious lack of imagination and crocodile-filled moats.
HOUSE - SUNDAY - I've heard good things about this show, but I'm disinterested in hospital dramas, especially those where the brilliant doctors conclude most episodes by diagnosing rare cases of Madagascar Lemur Leprosy or Third Testicleitis. If you're going to make the main point of the show a mystery, then give me a chance to solve it along with the protagonist. I'm not the expert in Lemur Testicles that the networks make me out to be.
AMERICAN IDOL-WEDNESDAY - Can we just give the award to Beyonce and move on already?
HOUSE - Again? Was this the Fourth Nippleitis episode? I hear that's a bodacious one.
MOMENT OF TRUTH - Is this the show where they strap a contestant to a lie detector and then humiliate him/her? I'm not a big game show fan, but this may have merit.
LOST THU 9PM - Everyone loves this show, and I've never seen an episode, but it would seem to suffer from what's known as the Gilligan Problem. Rescue the characters and the show ends, so you must put blockade after blockage in front of them despite their desperate attempts to build bicycles and sexual companions out of coconuts. I used to love the X-Files until I grew weary of the same issue. Every episode either teased me by dangling aliens in front of the screen, or they annoyed me by going off on some irrelevant side plot. Good luck, Gilligan, but no thanks.
LOST-THU 8PM - Still lost? Yep. Still lost.
NCIS - Apparently this stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. I didn't watch this show when it was JAG and I won't watch it now. I feel a new rule coming on. No shows with acronyms for titles.
CSI - Acronym! Denied!
LAW AND ORDER - Like House, this show shoves a mystery at me and then doesn't give me enough information to solve it. I'm supposed to marvel at how fictitious characters with fictitious evidence make brilliant fictitious deductions. Somewhere NBC has a vault with the three plot lines this show uses and the madlib-based script generator that pumps out the episodes. Last night's episode involved Colonel Mustard in the Katrina Hurricane with Waterboarding.
ELI STONE - Rumor has it that this show is 2008's Ally McBeal. You can write your own punchline.
WITHOUT A TRACE - This is a show and not a Scott Turow novel? Really?
SMARTER THAN 5TH GRADER - It's Jeopardy except without all the smart questions. What's that you say? The whole value of Jeopardy IS the smart questions. Soooo, all this show has going for it is Jeff Foxworthy, whose sole claim to fame is the "You know you're a redneck if...." brand of stand-up comedy? That's Must Suck TV.
Ok, I give up here. I'm going to leave the mocking of the rest, including "Two and a Half Men" as an exercise for the reader.
So, what am I looking for in a TV show? That's a good question. Well, it must have at least one of these three qualities:
1) The Funny
2) Subjecting people to humiliating challenges and then kicking them off the show
3) The possibility that someone will utter the line, "I'm from the future and I have a message for you."
Obviously #1 is subjective. What's funny to me (Daily/Colbert/Office/30 Rock/South Park) may differ from what's funny to you (2.5 Men).
#2 is no guarantee of success either. Some shows like Survivor seem to have hit my sweet spot, while others like Amazing Race are uninteresting to me. It's hard to humiliate the contestants just the right amount: too much and I'm embarrassed for my species, too little and I'm bored.
#3, however, is nearly always a slam dunk for me. You put a time-portal in a show and I will sit in front of the TV with my jaw dropped open and the hair raised on the back of my neck, regardless if the portal is a stone hoop, a phone booth, or a computer with rows of red blinky LEDs. Sometimes science fiction shows suck me in despite little promise of time travel (BSG), but if they give me some of that sweet lovin', I will swoon with adoration.
My newest love is Heroes. I've been watching Season 1 on DVD and I'm only 7 episodes into it, but THERE'S A LITTLE TIME TRAVEL! And, in fact, a little time travel is the right amount. If you spend every episode hopping around through time and space (hello Quantum Leap), you're going to burn me out.
This process, however, that the characters are going through on Heroes where they come to terms with their various super powers, is very compelling to me. Much as I have come to grips with my super farts, I am eager to see how they integrate their abilities to fly, time-travel, etc into their lives.
That's today's TV roundup. Another day we'll go through literature, but I'll give you a preview. If a book involves time-travel or The Funny, it's probably going to get a place on my bookshelf.