Wednesday, January 05, 2005

TV, I trusted you!

I don't want to shock anyone, but I think I'm kinda over TV. There hasn't been anything on in weeks of any interest whatsoever. I don't require quality, necessarily; you know me, I'm always happy with entertaining crap, but lately the crap has just been...crappy. For a while I was watching The Real Gilligan's Island out of some sense of ironic duty, but it was shockingly un-fun. The Explorer 8000 Home Entertainment Server automatically recorded four episodes of High School Reunion before I even realized they were there, decided I had zero interest in watching them, and deleted the series from the record list.

Sure, there's Lost and Desperate Housewives and Chrismukah goodness, but with everything on hiatus for the holidays I find I haven't missed any of it one little bit. 24 and Alias return after, what, nine months? And my excitement about them feels obligatory.


So, um, yeah, The Real Gilligan's Island... It's a fascinating idea, actually, if just to see how ridiculous the original show was when put through the filter of reality. Not real reality, reality show reality, but even so we see that those castaways were fucked. I really enjoyed how fabulously weird the first episode was, because they really seemed to be taking the idea of recreating the sit-com seriously. There were two teams, and everyone involved was an actual whatever (skipper, professor, millionaire, etc.), which meant they needed two actual movie stars. Enter Rachel Hunter and Nichole Eggert. Genius! And both were utterly charming and self-effacing and lovely. Then there was the fact that the sets and costumes from the sit-com were very faithfully recreated, but the whole thing was also a spoof of Survivor. This meant the "cast" had to do ridiculous challenges in full costume. This meant the Gingers -- actual supermodels, remember -- had to do ridiculous challenges in silver lamé gowns. Genius!

Sadly, the genius ended quickly. They seemed to stack one of the teams entirely with hideous people who were doomed to fail. True, we never knew what The Professor was a professor of, and he may have been gay, but I'm willing to be he wasn't a gay sociology professor. I'm also willing to bet that gay sociology professors, in general, are intensely annoying. The one they cast here was possibly the most irritating person on the planet. And of course he's on the same team as a millionaire's wife who was possibly the dumbest person on the planet. I mean, not just mean and nasty and selfish and homophobic and racist, but exquisitely dumb. Which might have been entertaining were I more interested in trash TV right now, but instead I just wanted to claw her eyes out. Some of the other castaways "got an idea" to dress Professor Homo in drag, and there just happened to be a dress that fit him perfectly lying around? Okay, very truthful to the wardrobe department of the original Gilligan's Island, but absurdly contrived and transparent on the part of the producers.

Once the smidgen of fun in the concept wore off, the show was just dull. There's an inherent problem in casting a married couple in a show that involves voting people off and not given them one vote as a pair. Especially when you've also cast people too dumb to realize that and get rid of one of them right off the bat. There's also a huge problem in casting a multi-millionaire in a game show with a $250,000 prize. Especially when he's one half of that married couple and it's kind of a foregone conclusion that he or his wife will win. And when he's an asshole. And when he does a little victory dance around the car with a trunkful of money he's just one even though he could easily buy it anyway. It makes for hateful television with non stakes and no incentive to watch or care. And yet I just spend three paragraphs on it. What is wrong with me?


At least it wasn't as dull as Regency Party House. I love the House series. It's reality TV for smart people...or PBS for dumb people, depending on how you want to look at it. So the real problem with Regency was the large number of dumb people. All the previous versions of the show involved serious immersion in a particular place and time in history (Colonial House, Manor House, [Edwardian] Manor House). The participants were, for the most part, serious about "the project" and, if not prepared for the hardships compared with modern life, at least willing to deal with them. I guess the idea behind Regency was to make it a period dating show. But no one seemed to keen on either the period or the dating. The women kept whining about how bored they were and how hard it was to be chaperoned all the time. Um, yeah! I guess that's also a flaw in the choice of "house party" and not, say, "American colony" as the setting. Once you get past the clothes and the bathing rituals, there's really nothing to do. The other shows have had some serious work involved. Watching the show felt like school, since everything even remotely interesting was conveyed in voice-over, and even that wasn't that interesting. (In contrast, I'm renting Manor House on DVD and it's brilliant, but more on that later.)


life as we know it remains just interesting enough that I feel like I should keep watching it in case something slightly more interesting happens, but I may not pick it back up again when it comes back this week. I know it's supposed to be a teen drama from the typical dumb guys' point of view, which is a little radical, I guess (let's face it, Dawson and Pacey were basically girls), but does that mean the female characters have to be so hateful and annoying? I want to smack each and every one of them. Especially Kelly Osbourne. I hated that girl in high school and I hate her now (I didn't go to high school with Kelly Osbourne, I mean I hated that type). They seem to be pulling back on the nudity, which was really the show's main appeal. And what was up with that hideous musical production of Romeo and Juliet? Why were the men and the women costumed by two different designers? What the hell kind of public school puts on such a huge lavish production, written by students? I mean, I don't expect a ton of realism, but in a show that claims to be edgy, I'd like a little drop.


I once defended Drawn Together against the critics, but it's really degenerated into just its worst parts. For a while the visual gags (eating-disordered Toots as Jabba the Hutt with Xandir as gold-bikinied Leia) were funny and creative even when the stories and more overt jokes were lame and gross, but towards the end even that shred of fun was gone. The (season?) finale did have a fun moment rallying against all reality TV (and gave me the title for this post), but I'm glad it's over.


Over in real reality TV, the end of Manhunt was very disappointing. Jon might have been better-looking in a traditional modelly way, but he was just so astonishingly dumb. Rob had the advantage of being not only gay, but smart and charming. And intelligence is always sexier than a bag of rocks. Which made the agents asking Jon, "So if you lose this contest, will it be hard to go back to astrophysics." Wait, what? The guy with only one facial expression is an astrophysicist? Oh, reality TV, I just don't know what to do with you anymore.


Speaking of, how how how did Chris win Survivor?? Again with the not smart!! I can't deal.


Finally, Jack and Bobby remains problematic, but I figured out just in time for the hiatus both what bothers me most and what is most awkward about the show. The thing is, I'm not even a little bit interested in the boring teen drama element of the show. They finally added an interesting character, Grace's gay brother, and then wrote him out three episodes later. The teenagers are boring, the adults are inconsistently written, and the ridiculous conceit of this happened to Bobby when he was 12 so this then happened when he was President (apparently the intervening 30 years were irrelevant) gets more absurd each week as they run out of life lessons for him to learn.

But, I find the flash-forwards to the Presidency entirely compelling. I'd much rather see a West Wing clone with that cast of characters (maybe Christine Lahti in old-age makeup) than anything involving the kids. And they're telling better stories there. I mean, it's totally weird that the pre-holiday cliffhanger was in the "documentary," not the "main" show. Of course, the way the show is structured, we may not come back to that storyline this week, if ever, because the flash-forwards aren't in chronological order. And I really am dying to know what happened with the nuclear bomb in Chicago, but not so much with Jack and Diane, or whatever her name is.


Well, JJ Abrams Night starts tomorrow, so maybe there's still hope for my never picking up a book again.

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