Friday, April 14, 2006

The Third and Final Part of What I Watch

For the true-believers of 19 Thoughts, Friday just couldn’t get here quick enough, eh? The last part of What I Watch (WIW to the hep cats) is about to begin. Everyone have your scorecards and TV Guides? Good. Let’s, as a priest I used to know was fond of saying, procerd.

I don’t watch much of anything on Tuesday. Aly’s got me into “American Idol”, but I’m usually flicking between that and the Red Sox and a bunch of time, I’m reading or doing other stuff. There’s not a lot to like about AI: it’s full of product placement, it rewards the hopelessly talentless, it has made Ryan Seacrest and the completely unsoulful Randy Jackson stars (Jackson was the bassist in JOURNEY for Christ’s Sakes and he talks like an extra from the UPN … Seacrest is a modern day Dick Clark, except more vanilla), has brought Paul Abdul back into our living rooms and completely exploits and rips off the “talent” it whores out every night.

That being said, it’s like watching a train wreck. I know that this analogy is completely clichéd, but it’s true. Every week these people totally embarrass themselves and the only person who tells them they suck, Simon (who is a class-A prick) gets booed. It’s a microcosm of America: people get rewarded for sucking and when they are told they stink, the person who tells them that gets heckled and is labeled as the “bad guy”. I don’t know, this culture we’re in loves to coddle its crap, from its entertainers to its president. I think that’s a huge problem that we’re facing and somewhere along the line we just lost our way.

Ok. I’m off my soapbox.

So I sort of watch that, which means I sort of watch it on Wednesday nights too. After I take a shower to wash the slime of AI off, (and I have to remind myself to watch the show ironically), I settle in for a nice night of “South Park”. In the early part of this century, I thought that SP had completely lost their fast ball and was going to be this century’s version of “Ren and Stimpy”, brilliant in its originality, but ultimately a flame out.

I was just sick of the over saturation of the brand (and I fell for it when it first came out) and I thought the focus was on the merchandising rather than the writing. Then after a year or so of railing against the Comedy Central machine (and especially creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker), I started to watch it again after my buddy Brad Parker told me that it had gotten better. I’m glad I did because for the past few years, it has rebounded quite nicely. We’re in the midst of the newest season and I can honestly say that now that “Arrested Development” is off the air, there is no better show that constantly satirizes American culture like South Park does.

And not only does the show nail the foibles of modern life, but it gets it right in such a way that it genuinely makes you reflect on what’s going on in this oddly shaped country. The other good thing is that both Parker and Stone are playing with F-You money, so they rip everything the same. From Scientology to Christianity to Comedy Central, it’s rip fucking city. I like that. Equal opportunity offenders.

We need that and you know why? Because of shows like “American Idol”. We need people to say, “You know what? You suck and here’s why” and not just have a bunch of whiny complaints, but some real pointed barbs that make us think that we can do better that a C+ is not a good grade, that just because you can stretch a note out like Reed Richards, it does not make you Aretha Franklin. Yes, mindless entertainment does have it’s purpose, but it doesn’t have to crawl into every single show, movie, story and song.

Yes, there are a lot of idiots in this place, don’t pander to them. Focus on the intelligencia and hope that the morons can keep up. Is that too damn hard to do? Fuck, how did I get on this soap box again?

Speaking of morons, my Thursday night begins with as it has since 2000, with “Survivor”. Quite frankly, this seasons sucks (this has to be a record for the most times I’ve used the word “sucks” and I should probably thinking of buying a Thesaurus) and even after 10 weeks, I’m not sure if I can tell you all of the castaways’ names. I can give you a general description of them:

- Old crazy Hawaiian guy
- Old guy with the immunity idol
- Crazy young chick
- Chick with big cans and the Sox hat
- Older chick who’s the immunity idol dude’s side kick
- Quiet, big black woman
- Bat-shit insane guy
- Jeff Probst

I think that’s it, but to be honest with you I think I’m missing a pretty boy in there. In any event, these dudes are not sticking with me. Last week I watched the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes. The rest of the time I was channel surfing or getting into an argument with my lovely wife (which was quickly resolved).

The problem isn’t the game itself, it constantly changes and updates itself to be tougher and more unpredictable than the previous season, it’s just the cast. After ten seasons (I think) we’ve had about 150 different cast members who do the same exact thing year after year after year. If you don’t have a person who’s a true original, despite being a total scumbag Johnny Fairplay was brilliant, than the show is not going to work. And it doesn’t matter if that person is a “good” guy or a “bad” guy.

Charisma is the oil in this show’s engine and they are in bad need of an oil change.

The last two shows are my favorite hour of television each week. First we start off with “My Name is Earl” starring Jason Lee. It’s like a mini-morality each week without being totally preachy. And although the running theme of the show is karma, the overall “Golden Rule” of just being a good person is universal.

The thing is, this is a show that can be a one-trick pony: Earl has to right a wrong, he does it, hilarity ensues. Yet it’s not. Each week the show manages to stay different and with Randy and Crabman in the scenes, you know that it’s going to be funny. Jamie Pressley is a chick I can’t figure out though, I mean she’s legitimately hot, but there is something to her that doesn’t make her a complete knock out. I can’t figure out what it is, though someone once said she looked like a lizard, but I’m not sure. She has a very weird dynamic to her.

After Earl, it’s “The Office”. I love this show. Absolutely love it, and Aly does too which is weird because both of our senses of humor don’t always jibe. I’ve never gotten into the British version of the show, but I hear it’s just as hilarious. In this case, I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t go into the show with research because I’d be forever comparing it with the original.

What makes this show so great? Let’s start off with the casting, Steve Carell is perfect as Mike, the incompetent office manager of Dunder Mifflin. He brings enough edge to the guy that just when you think that he’s the most detestable human being on the planet, he does something human to make you think, “Hey, he’s not so bad.” Just a top-notch job.

Full disclosure right now, I am using the names of the characters because I don’t feel like looking up their real names (I know, a C+ is not a good grade, but I’m fucking starving).

Jim and Pam are among the best things on the show, but it could also sink the show. They play the pseudo office couple that you just hope gets together and live happily ever after. The one problem is Pam is engaged, yet it’s obvious that she is not happy with this situation and likes Jim. I am begging the writers of the show, literally begging them not to do a Ross/Rachel, Sam/Diane, Wilber/Mr. Ed thing and have them fuck or get married or whatever. It will destroy the show. Just kill it. Don’t do it. I have a feeling that they’re smart enough not to do it, but when the networks start making demands, they might have to.

The background characters are pretty awesome too. Just a tremendous ensemble show that hasn’t been seen since the heyday of “Newsradio”. Hopefully NBC won’t fuck around with this.