Friday, August 12, 2005

What The Hell Happened to TV?

Great Caesar's Ghost, what the hell happened to tv? You're either stuck with shows featuring teeny boppers, or 20-somethings posing as teeny boppers, or grown folks sharing the stage with teeny boppers. Or, you're stuck with the 2 most unimaginative, stupid subject matters on the planet: doofus White guys and their never-ending pursuit of the puss, or the reality show, a.k.a. "I can't come up with a real story, so let me find a burned out group of people, like has-been or pseudo celebrities, and convince them to humiliate themselves on national tv with the promise of fame and fortune, or at least fame."

The latest of the former of my targets is "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," a summer entry on FX. What a pantload, considering that FX has turned out gems like "Nip/Tuck" (which I don't actually watch, but my wife loves), "Rescue Me," featuring eternal dark horse Denis Leary, and critically-acclaimed "The Shield." "Blah blah blah Philly" is the brainchild of three doofus White guys who I think play themselves, who run a bar, with a female friend in Philly. In the first episode, one of the guys tries his best to prove he isn't racist by picking up a girl at predominantly-Black Temple University (the alma mater of one William H. Cosby). He makes an ass of himself, and she dumps him in front of his actual love interest. Another character buddies up to the Black gay friend of the female because Brotha Man is a successful party owner. The twist is that he turns the crew's tanking bar into the new hot gay spot, but of course, the doofus crew can't handle the gay thing, so they bail. Tonight's episode, the second, features another two-headed story, that of possible paternity by the Black booty-chaser, and another dude picking up women at, drumroll please, an anti-abortion rally. Needless to say, Dumb Ass finds and nails a hot pro-lifer, but gets dropped like first-period calculus by a stoner when he suggests she should get an abortion at a pregnancy scare.

In contrast, is the strangely clever "Starved," a Schadenfreude-esque dramedy centered around a compulsive overeater who prefers watching football over sex with his wife, an anorexic actress who pretends to be gay because her fans prefer her gay, a hot Black male cop who is bulimic, and an anorexic/bulimic White guy with a slight addiction to Nemo's chocolate frosted caked that he tries to avoid eating by covering with cleanser before throwing away, although he figures out how to eat around the cleanser. You can't help but laugh at the misfortune of these freaks; a successful accountant jonesin' for corner-store cake, who in the second episode, tries to hook up with his colonic technician; the schlub who, in the real world, couldn't get laid if a vagina was surgically attached to his penis, has a wife who is always horny; a Black man who binges and purges -- what Black man is tryin' to throw up one of Big Mama's meals?

Now, the writers of "Starved" need to talk to the producers of reality tv, which just needs to die as natural a death as low-carb diets. Does Omarosa not have a real profession that she manages to show up on reality show after reality show? Few reality shows manage to be almost as imaginative as "The Real World," the MTV show that started it all. At least TRW brought serious social issues to America, including AIDS, class and race, honest portrayals of gays and lesbians, and substance abuse. What the hell is "Fear Factor" doing? How compelling is watching couples eat pig testicles week after week?

I suppose this means I should really watch less tv, but like the freaks on "Starved," I'm addicted in my own way, even paying more than a hundred bucks a month for digital cable with hundreds of channels. I don't want to give up tv, I just want it to get better.

Gone are the flights of fancy like "Good Times," "Charlie's Angels," "All In The Family." In the immortal screech of Archie and Edith Bunker, those were the days.


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