Saturday, October 15, 2005

Hell Is Other People

My theory is that the one thing people hate the most is to be reminded of the existence of other people. And today is just one long, hard reminder.

In case I haven't mentioned it in the past, I live directly across the street from the stadium here at Northern Illinois University, and of course today has to be Homecoming. Which means the Homecoming game is going on right now. Sporting events kind of mystify me, to be honest, and today is the biggest local sporting event of them all. Nine assholes have been standing under my bedroom window with a beer keg since 7:00 this morning. Idiots are out grilling in the parking lot (and a note for all of you college assholes who love to grill, YOU DON'T NEED THE FLAMES UP THAT HIGH. Tailgaters are morons; they just scream, drink, and say loud things that aren't remotely as funny, clever, or interesting as they think. Give me a fucking break here. If you're not playing the game, you're not a part of the game, alright? Players are going to win with or without your oh-so-important support.

And American football? I don't know, it just seems so...queer to me. I mean, a bunch of guys put on tight pants, bend over, and then run around, trying to jump on another guy and wrestle away control of his ball? Jeez, in a perfect world, it would be played without pants, wouldn't it? It's as homoerotic as all of the other things the Maxim American man enjoys; you know, like wrestling, shitty American beer (which tastes like fermented water), and body spray. Much like the urge to war, it's really all about climbing over sweaty guys.

I don't know. I just think that if you wanted to grind up against some dude's ass, you don't need to make excuses for it like football. It is the 21st century, after all.

Monday, October 10, 2005

TV Bloodbath: Checking Up on the New Season

Head Cases is the first casualty of the 2005/2006 TV season. Hm, who would have thought that no one would want to watch a TV comedy with Chris O'Donnell and Adam Goldberg as crazy lawyers? Or, in fact, yet another goddamn show about lawyers? Or, really, anything with Chris O'Donnell and Adam Goldberg?

It's always fun to watch the TV seasons when they first start, because it's interesting to see what America just won't watch. Hollywood keeps making the same series over and over again (another medical drama, another legal drama, another "quirky" medical drama, another fourth-rate comic you've never heard of getting his own sitcom, another rip-off of last season's hit--yes, I'm talking about you, Invasion), and yet they wonder why no one will watch the damn things. It's hilarious; apparently no one who went to business school studied the Law of Diminishing Returns, so they expect these things to go on and on forever.

And the strategies get worse and worse. This season, the WB! decided that the best way to nab viewers was to become one giant catch-all, pairing unlike show with unlike show in a way that seems to be completely alienating its audience (why pair the 43rd season of family drama Seventh Heaven with a legal comedy starring Don Johnson that looks like it's aimed at single guys?). And Fox...oh, Jesus, Fox needs to figure its shit out pretty badly. They want to air Major League Baseball and the NFL, but they also want to program content. The problem with this is that right now the playoffs are going on, and the World Series will be coming up, so many of the shows on Fox are being taken off the air for the next six weeks (longtime viewers of The Simpsons, ye know it well--this season's Halloween episode will air on November 6). Well, this causes a problem. Typically, Fox waited until November to begin airing its regular TV season, but those shows always did badly because TV viewing is mostly habitual, and by November people who watch TV have their routines set. They don't care about new shows on Fox, unless of course American Idol is on. But what they've done this season isn't any smarter; they started their shows in September when everyone else started, and now many of those shows will be pre-empted for the next month, so any momentum built by the new series is lost and people who aren't sports fans will just start looking somewhere else. Fox, you have to make up your mind about what's more important to you: programming or sports?

I've actually been watching more television than in years past. It's weird, because I can feel it cutting into my time. On Mondays, Arrested Development has come back to Fox and is as funny as ever. There's so little in the sitcom format that I find hilarious, and this tweaks the format very well (though I notice its been pre-empted tonight; it's bad enough it's on Mondays, but I expect this show to get pre-empted a lot so Fox, who seems to loathe the show, can cancel it).

On Tuesday, I was just watching The Office on NBC, which is a fucking hilarious show; frankly, I'm surprised it's even airing in America, since it seems too smart and nuanced for the average viewer. Most people seem to like a show that they can tune out while getting another bowl of cereal from the kitchen. This past Saturday, however, NBC aired the first three episodes of My Name Is Earl, and it turns out my mom was right: it's a very funny show. It's warm, too. It's the first time I've seen anybody "borrow" the Coen Brothers and do it well. I'm not going to tell my mom I liked it, though; I still want to be able to brush her off when she recommends shows with my standard line: "You said Scrubs was funny, too, and it's one of the worst things I've ever seen." So now I have a full hour of NBC on Tuesdays.

My mom also got me into Lost over the summer, and I watched the entire thing on DVD. I've been watching it on ABC Wednesday nights, but as gripping as the show is, it's kind of a depressing compromise, too. On DVD, the show was in a nice widescreen with no commercials, and watching four or six episodes in a row creates a momentum that's hard to look away from. On television, there's a commercial break every seven minutes or so, there's no widescreen (despite the show being aired in HD format), and there's fucking logos all over the screen. And there'll be the inevitable weeks of reruns, too. Networks suck so much ass.

On Thursdays, I was watching Everybody Hates Chris, but it hasn't been interesting or funny enough to keep me coming back to it, which is kind of typical of UPN. It's too muted, and even though the actor playing Chris's father is hilarious, the show feels like just another one of those Wonder Years/Oliver Beene/State of Grace rip-offs. It's too bad, because the title of the show implies it's going to take the piss out of those "coming of age with pretentious narration" sitcoms, (like Malcolm in the Middle, a superior show) but instead it just borrows the same conventions.

Friday has been a constant for me for a couple of years now. What I Like About You is back and as infuriatingly lame as ever, but I goddamn love Amanda Bynes, so I can't stop watching it. At 7:30, I leave the WB! and its Twins abomination for Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, a once-loved show that lost most of its viewers when Fox moved it from after The Simpsons to before The Simpsons. I think it's hilarious. Then it's back to the WB! for Reba (I have a deep, abiding love for Joanna Garcia's ass) and Living with Fran (I've lusted for Fran since I was 13). Neither show is exceptionally good (Reba has its moments, mostly courtesy of Steve Howey, who is a master of comic timing), but they do have some pretty girls, and that's good enough for me. Yeah, I'm shallow, big surprise.

Saturdays I still watch Saturday Night Live, depending on whether the guest is someone funny (Steve Carrel) or someone not funny (Jon Heder). Sundays, when they're on, I still like King of the Hill and The Simpsons on Fox. The Simpsons has been a lot funnier since the cancellation of Futurama, but it will never be a great show again. Not since about the ninth or tenth season. And speaking of funny, Family Guy has never been less funny than it is this season. Granted, the show always had problems, but now they're just sucking up to their fans. In a surprise turn of events, the deathly unfunny American Dad has become incredibly hilarious. The current season is, well, the total opposite of Family Guy. Maybe it's the intelligent political humor.

But, of course, the really good stuff on Sundays is on HBO. Rome has been one hell of a great series, and Curb Your Enthusiasm is back, and the new show Extras, with the great Ricky Gervais, has been excellent.

So, there's still some decent stuff on, and some of it is actually worth watching. There's also a new season of South Park coming up, and Disney Channel's Phil of the Future has become a nicely absurdist comedy (God love Amy Bruckner). I hear Gilmore Girls is still good, too, but I stopped watching that show a couple of years ago because my girlfriend just despises it. Robot Chicken, though there haven't been any new episodes, is pretty damn funny, too (it airs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, which, if Stroker & Hoop and Squidbillies are any indication, will literally air anything).

But the new shows this season are, apparently, doing quite horribly. My Name Is Earl, Supernatural, Everybody Hates Chris, Prison Break, and Greetings from Tucson (whatever the hell that is) are the only ones with full-season orders so far, but apparently Commander in Chief, Ghost Whisperer, Bones, and, in an uholy revelation, How I Met Your Mother are apparently doing quite well. But on the other side, Just Legal, Kitchen Confidential, Inconceivable, and Sex, Love & Secrets have already joined Head Cases in the dustbin (and word is that Killer Instinct, Surface, and Invasion don't have much longer to live). The Apprentice: Martha Stewart has bombed, and that sappy pap Three Wishes, one of the shows that Entertainment Weekly labeled the most promising of the fall season (along with Kitchen Confidential, whose star made their Summer Must List), is probably going to get the axe, too.

Hm, I guess the hicks won't watch just anything.