Saturday, February 09, 2008

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.


yajeev said...

Get Lost, Mike...

As it turns out, dear friend, there is one character in Lost who may in fact have the ability to time travel... though not, it seems, at will. And, we know the story has an endpoint (supposed to be three seasons from now, though the writers' strike may postpone that, who knows)... the Lost writers got a sweet deal of limited season run lengths so they won't have too many of those building-bicycles-out-of-coconuts filler episodes.

And, I don't want to spoil the surprise for those of you who haven't yet watched the show but hope to catch up with it on DVD or iTunes or or carrier pigeon, the season 3 finale (last May) did tell us a lot about the endgame, leaving confidence that they either will or will not get off the island and that the writers know what they're doing.

There's also just the right amount of funny.

I'm with you on Survivor. I was especially pumped about Jonny Fairplay He's got the funny written all over him. I'm really hoping he's got that time travel thing so he can come back and change things in episode 1.

Mike said...

I'm on the fence about Lost. I'm skeptical, but I will take your enthusiasm under advisement. As for Jonny Fairplay, I was happy to see him go. I'm all for a good villian, but his 14 minutes of fame are well over. His great stunt, now years in the past, cannot erase the fact that he's generally annoying.

Avery Gray said...

I'm with Yajeev on Lost. I loved the first two seasons. It started wearing thin last season with all the layers of character development. It was a lot of back story, and not enough momentum to move the plot forward. But if you like solving puzzles, this is the show for you! And this season has started out with a lot of promise. It appears that they're narrowing down the cast (maybe).

I was an X-Files fanatic (until the whole alien thing every week bored me to tears), and there are some common elements on Lost. Lots of strange, mysterious goings on on the island. I think you'd like it.

But what do I know? I also watch House and American Idol.

(BTW, have you read "The Time Traveler's Wife"?)

Mike said...

Yo Aves,

Okok, the next time I'm looking to pick up a series, I'll give Lost a shot. And, no, I have not read that book. Would you recommend it? And if so, is there any reason to believe that we might like the same books?

Anonymous said...

Some other suggestions:


Micallef Program

Harvey Birdman

Venture Brothers

Robot Chicken (season 1)


Mike said...

Hi CH, many of these shows you list are unknown to me due to their Australian origin. Wilfred looks excellent though. Perhaps I'll DVD that baby. I've seen Robot Chicken a few times, it usually gets a chuckle or two out of me. Thanks!

Avery Gray said...

No, there is no reason to believe we might like the same books. I like literature, you like crap. Nothing wrong with that. ;o)

Actually, I would have been surprised if you had read it, but you did say if it involved time-travel, it would probably wind up on your book shelf. I could actually recommend some other books that involve time travel, but they also involve heaving bosoms, and I know how you hate those.

Mike said...

Avery, it's sad to admit, but true. I mostly do read crap. My taste in books is completely low-brow. The last classic I read was probably about 15 years ago.

Avery Gray said...

Crap is good. I like crap, too.