Sunday, December 31, 2006

TV: Fall 2006 -- like so much bad sex

One of the scariest TV images of Fall 2006 was Bo Derek, granny glasses perched on nose, body looking like a sack of potatoes, splayed across a couch repeatedly with legs spread. Luckily, only those who had the misfortune of catching MyTV's Fashion House (a very small number of the population) were exposed to Bo trying to throw her legs around the world, but, in one form or another, 2006 was the year TV put out and who knew sex could be so bad?

The press created genius offered up the much hyped Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada that only served to alert women around the world that sex with Aaron Sorkin would be far worse than what Catherine Keener suffered through in Your Friends & Neighbors. Sorkin is a talker who can't shut up. If you must partake, invest in ear plugs.

Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada played like a singer determined to sing on every beat. But damned if the Water Cooler Set didn't try to tell you it would be ground breaking TV, continued to tell you that it would be after the first shows tanked -- and then they lost interest and tried to slink away as the show continued to tank. To correct something, it was never a West Wing reunion, though the Water Cooler Set swore it would be. Stronger arguments could be made for it being a Jack & Jill reunion since two actresses hailed from that show -- but the Water Cooler Set would have to know that this was not Amanda Peet's first television series, despite what the press created genius told them, to be aware of that.

The Water Cooler Set played out like a thirty-plus single so desperate to get hitched they'd swallow and repeat anything they were told. Which is why TV criticism currently floats in the toilet next to the majority of the TV programs.

On daytime TV, Rachel Ray started out early in the program with Ray noting that a spice rack does not belong over the stove and stating they'd be moving that very soon. As of the programs that aired last week, the spice rack is still over the stove which is a bit like the lover who promises that they will work on the foreplay but never does.

In the land of primetime, the trend was toward the one-minute-men competing for bragging rights over who could ejaculate the fastest. The, er, hands down winner was Swift Justice -- the show viewers couldn't shove off themselves fast enough. Call it a sports reel or Cliff Notes to Perry Mason, but don't call it entertainment -- no viewers did. That's because entertainment has to offer up . . . entertainment. Highlights don't cut if for a weekly show. Audiences want to be drawn in, not rubbing their weary eyes.

A lesson that the anonymous sex encounters should have taken to heart as well but instead we got those shows populated with characters you didn't know because no one cared enough to make them interesting (see Kidnapped and Vanishing especially). These were topped only by the fix-up, where the Water Cooler Set hyped something so much that you knew, going in, it wouldn't live up but you had no idea it would be that bad. 'Till Death is the sort of non-comedy that should have you swearing off blind dates forever and wondering, as you hurry to your car, "What am I? An asshole magnet?"

But still you persisted thinking their must be something out there and along comes Six Degrees which seems to offer so much promise but instead expects you to be amused as it teases itself all night and casts you in the role of detached voyeur. It couldn't even make it as a good sex tape because those generally have to feature people with hot bodies. After enduring an exhibitionist who only cared that he got off, you come across something like Big Day and figure it'll be like hopping into bed with an old friend -- a few minutes of excitement and days filled with guilt. Instead, you're so bored by it you actually sample Standoff which is worse -- like being in a three way with two introverts.

Characters. Relatable characters, relatable events. They were in short supply in 2006. Lot of people offering pale copies of TV shows and movies they grew up on but nothing remotely lifelike.

Things were so bad that the pushy Shark, that everyone says no to, starts to seem like a candidate for the night. But you know tomorrow morning, you'll still have to live with yourself and, besides, who wants to sleep on the wet spot?

The bar scene's not all losers. There's What About Brian which easily became the most improved show in the fall of 2006 when it realized Rosanna Arquette needed to be out front. Yet, it was a bit like going out with an adult who still lived at home with the folks since you never knew when the moment would be spoiled with an unpleasant intrusion (such as the appearance of Barry Watson).

Just when you were ready to ditch the whole scene muttering they were all gay or married, a few worthy contenders showed up. Heroes stands as one of the best of the fall season, an hour you can spend with no morning after regrets. Then there was the slow builder Men in Trees which provided some of the strongest writing and acting on television. Yes, we recommended it be moved to Thursdays and, yes, it has been. If you haven't caught it yet, you're cheating yourself. Also true if you missed Day Break -- which ABC has washed its hands of. At some point, this will become a popular DVD set and a cult classic and, when it does, remember t'wasn't the Water Cooler Set that attempted to steer you to the show.

Veronica is very upset with us. She notes that last year at this time we stated Vanessa Williams should be starring in her own NBC sitcom and "now she's starring in an ABC, hour long sitcom that you haven't even reviewed!" First, Veronica, go back and read that commentary a little closer. In the same paragraph, we also mentioned Salma Hayeck's efforts to bring Betty La Fea to ABC. The show Vanessa Williams stars in on ABC? That's Betty La Fea or Ugly Betty. Our hopes about it bringing more diversity to primetime bore out.

But Ugly Betty didn't need a review from us. The show was slotted for the daytime schedule this summer but ABC quickly realized they had something too important to burn off. The support for the show goes high up and that's why it's gotten the build up it has.

We do at least 52 TV reviews each year. We stick to broadcast TV because many of the readers do not have cable. Which is why we explained, early on in the fall season this year, that we were grabbing shows that were iffy. Heroes may have been our first review of the big three; however, that weekend we almost went with Kidnapped but friends assured us the network were sticking by it. (They didn't.) When we reviewed Heroes, it hadn't aired (and we didn't realize that or we wouldn't have held the review -- we don't do spoilers). There was some concern at NBC that it wouldn't find an audience. Like the Water Cooler Set, NBC was sure Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada would be a hit and was afraid that Heroes would tank. If we hadn't reviewed it before it aired, if we'd waited a few weeks, we wouldn't have reviewed Heroes in the fall. From the moment the overnights came in on the first episode, it was obviously a hit now and we were trying to get to the shows that might not stick around.

That was both to put readers wise to things worth watching (and not watching) and to make sure we had enough things to review for the year. With one exception, we've reviewed all the ones we planned to because they were on the endangered list. In the new year, we will be reviewing Ugly Betty, 30 Rock (hey, we're Tina-sters as our Mad TV friend dubs us), Brothers & Sisters and other shows.

Veronica noted that the review of Men in Trees steered her to the show and the program is now "my favorite of this year." Men in Trees is a good show and had there been more strong shows that needed attention, we would have been glad to steer you towards them but Fall 2006 didn't have a lot to offer period.

Noting one member of the Water Cooler Set who slammed Men in Trees, Veronica wondered if he had something against women? Veronica, if you remember last week when we discussed Charlie's Angels, he was the one we were referring to who slammed the show on the basis of the women's hairstyles. He's long trashed anything and everything with a woman who didn't just stand on the sidelines applauding the males. We're upfront about being feminists attempting a feminist look ("a," not "the") at TV. We wonder how it is that one man can now be in his fourth decade of reviewing TV when he's slammed women repeatedly and yet never been called on that? We'll assume it because that attitude is more the norm than many will cop to.

The hump and pump has had their day and then some. As they continue to pleasure themselves, viewers (like many of their former lovers) tune out. In the meantime, Salma Hayek has brought a hit to ABC and that was no easy task. There are many lessons there but one of the most important is that if you want to capture viewers, you're going to have to look beyond the White Male set wanting to recreate their childhood from long ago (in animated or live action form). We'll go into that more when we review the show next year but for now we'll note that while many viewers could relate to what was on the screen, it was revolutionary that it aired in the first place. Give the credit to Hayek, she earned it.
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