Sunday, February 04, 2007

TV: The Nights of Bankruptcy

ABC, Wednesday nights, catch it while you can, if you enjoy suffering. Tag on the toe reads "The Knights of Prosperity" and possibly it's trying to make a political statement in some sort of Carter Country way (although that lame sitcom at least offered a catch phrase)?

Whatever it's trying to do, The Knights of Prosperity is bad, really bad, TV. It's one of the two worst sitcoms the big three has shoved off on audiences. Your TV Guide will tell you it's a comedy and, while we don't endorse that publication, we think viewers may need to refer to it in order to grasp what genre the thing's supposed to be?

We don't do spoilers but the set up is the entire plot, so consider yourselves warned. A bunch of losers plot to rob Mick Jagger. Hilarity is supposed to ensue as they put their plan into motion. The most interesting thing about the program is that it airs on the same network that had screaming fits, in 1994, over Adam (played by Arye Gross) faking a neck injury to get some insurance money. Screaming fits. It didn't end after the episode of These Friends of Mine was filmed. It didn't even die down after it aired. In fact, when Gross would finally leave the show (by then known as Ellen), ABC would still be harping on the plot for that one episode.

Now they're gladly airing a show (well, less gladly since the ratings came in) whose entire premise is that Mick Jagger will be robbed. What's going on there?

The assumption now is that ABC wasn't keen to feature a likeable character ripping off big business (insurance) but robbing a celebrity is "cute" and "funny." Well, as Lily Tomlin pointed out years ago, big business protects its own.

But who protects the viewers?

This show is the ugly cousin you can't fix up even when you offer to pay a prom date. So exactly how did it end up on air? The creators also made Ed -- aka the show that spent a season vying with Titans for the 'honor' of lowest rated NBC program. Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman's Ed was one of those shows that NBC was convinced you'd like (despite the ratings), so they gave it a roll out, season after season, the way they do when they mistake milquetoast for quality. Having spent four seasons serving bland sunny side up, the creators might have wanted to stroke their inner nasty? Self-pleasure never played so boring.

The cast? Eugene's the main character, the Dadio of this nit-yawn, and he's played by Donal Logue who will hopefully win some raves for Ghost Rider. He's a little too dramatic for the show. Which is partly the writers' fault but he also carries some of the blame. Eugene's hot for/in lust over Esperanza (Sofia Vergara) who's also part of the gang. Characters frequently ask why and you will too. (Vergara's already set up future employment elsewhere, something others working on the show would be smart to do.)

Do we really need to go through this? There is the token "Black guy." He's there mainly so racist comments can be made, followed by the I'm-not-racist-I-got-a-Black-on-my-crew bit. More recently, Eugene had to confront the issue that there are gay people in the world. Something Archie Bunker and Phyllis Lindstrum were addressing in early 70s TV. It's all so badly written, it's all so boring. And that's before Dustin Diamond shows up playing himself.

If you're asking who, you are forgiven. In plot and "special guest stars," the whole thing plays like the intentionally dopey sitcom Michael thought up years ago on Newhart -- with wacky next door neighbors (Don Knotts) and "zingers" like, said to the Grim Reaper, "Why so glum, Grim?"

As a telling spoof of how bad TV could be, the sitcom within a sitcom episode of Newhart had you howling. The problem with The Knights of Prosperity is that this isn't a send up -- this is actually supposed to be funny.

The characters stumble around and any time forward moment is needed the writers seize upon "luck" to explain plot developments. Over and over. They can't explain the characters moving forward through talent or drive, it's always just luck. It must be bad luck since it continues to air (for now), but it's luck none the less.

The Water Cooler Set has wet their pants over this show (well, we hope it's urine) and reading their praises is actually funnier than anything that made it onscreen. We'll note that the woman hater (dating back to Charlie's Angels and running through this year anytime a woman is a co-lead or, heaven forbid, a lead) weighed in with his usual nonsense and praised the show for adding a token woman to the cast. Does he think she's any good? Other than her looks, do you think he even addresses that? We'll ask again, how do you file over four decades worth of misogynist reviews and never get called out on it?

The Set will never notice because they're too busy telling you that this is real . . . man. You almost picture the males stroking their long since clipped ponytails. It's real, man, because this is reality, man, the economy's in the toilet, man, and this is the only way these 'guys' can get ahead, man.

We're all supposed to repeatedly bob/nod our heads and say, "It's copasetic." But it's not and it goes to what we were addressing at the top: ABC gets offended when big business is ripped off for one episode. ABC is not offended when a person is ripped off for an entire season. (Or, for that matter, the audience.) So The Water Cooler Set might want to put down their rolling papers long enough to ponder that.

If they do, they might be able to see that the message is not Robin Hood. Mick Jagger is not an evil king. He has done the gang no wrong (unless they spent money to purchase his solo CDs). They don't even know him. A tour of his residence airs on TV and that's how he ends up being the target of their scheme. He is not Enron, he has not ripped off or destroyed a pension fund.
Considering Jagger's real life roots, he's someone that's not all that different than the characters plotting to rip him off.

Jagger was a late choice in the proceedings. Originally, the gang was supposed to rip off Jeff Goldblum. When Goldblum left the project, Jagger became the target celeb. Right away that demonstrates that this is not Robin Hood. Yes, we all know the "rob from the rich to give to the poor" theme. But does The Water Cooler Set read? If so, do they retain?

The actual story deals with Robin Hood addressing injustice and tyranny (as bad as She's The Boss was, we don't think it qualified as tyranny, just bad music). His enemies were the Sherriff and Prince John. They were formidable foes, corrupt evil doers who got off on screwing over people. That is not at all what The Knights of Prosperity is about.

If the show's merry band were targeting a Dennis Kozlowski, we doubt very seriously that it would have ever aired. The viewers get cheated by wasting time on this sick mess. Readers of The Water Cooler Set get misinformed because that set either can't read anything heavier than In Style or they can't retain it. The network and The Water Color Set are in collusion to convince you this is brave TV -- brave TV would be if either set was targeted. Chances are, it still wouldn't play funny.

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