12.05.2006

The Year's Worst: Television

So yesterday I opened a forum to discuss the year's worst movies. I certainly don't mean to cut off that discussion, but I figured that here on T.V. Tuesday it might be a good time to consider the ol' boob tube's worst new offerings.

Is Flavor of Love the worst abomination ever visited upon America's small screens? Perhaps, but I think that may be the show's very point. And intent has to count for something, right? So, instead, I'll nominate two very different shows that are very bad in very different ways.

First is The Class, a show about a doofus who thinks a fun gift for his girlfriend would be to round up their shared third grade classmates for a surprise reunion. Any show in which that character's not dead by the end of Ep. 1 is, in this blogger's humble opinion, an abject failure.

Also, while I realize cliches are to sitcoms what CGI is to big-budget action flicks, this show has taken the use of cliche to glorious new heights. There's Obviously Gay Guy Who Doesn't Realize He's Gay. There's Smiley, Goofy, Aw-Shucks Romantic. There's Cynical Girl Who Really Just Needs A Good Man To Expose Her Sweet Side. There's Jackass Jock. There's Slacker Who Lives In His Mother's Basement. In the 21st Century Sitcom Wing of the Cliche Museum, there'll be wax statues of all these characters.

The only way a person might laugh at The Class is if he or she was in fact laughing at the rememberance of a better sitcom -- Friends, say, or hell, even Joey -- that used these same cliches to comedic effect.

Then again, to be fair, I didn't last beyond midway through the second episode, so for all I know The Class has taken a turn and is now completely hilarious.

My second nomination is a show I wish I'd stopped watching after an episode and a half, because then I'd still think it was good. The Studio 60 pilot was great -- fast-moving and talky in the way of The West Wing. And Studio 60 did a great impression of an aging Saturday Night Live-style show choking out its final gasps (somewhere, Horatio Sanz and Chris Kattan were simultaneously slapping their foreheads for not thinking of Peripheral Vision Man themselves).

And yet the show does a less convincing impression of a Saturday Night Live-style show that's redeemed itself. I don't know if the fault lies with the show's writers, or if lead "funny lady" Sarah Paulson is just genetically incapable of being funny. But there's a giant disconnect between the show's storyline -- which continuosly tells us just how goddamned funny Paulson's character is -- and the reality of the show-within-a-show, which is never, ever funny. I mean not even Polite Chuckle funny. It's like Nervous Shuffling In Seat While Looking Away unfunny.

I mean, c'mon: a Juliet Lewis impression as a featured sketch? At least make your bad jokes relevant to the 21st century!

Is Studio 60 the worst show on TV? No, of course not. But it's perhaps the most mediocre, and the most disappointing, since it's got so much potential.

Anyhow: your thoughts, Barrelhousers?

4 comments:

aaron said...

I do agree mostly with your assessment of the class, but I have found it intermittently funny. My personal theory is that the success of Seinfeld and The Office and other good comedies have enabled the average sitcom to be funnier. "A rising comedic tide lifts all boats", if you will. One episode featured the slacker performing with his band with the married girl he pines for in attendance...he sang the song..and...it wasn't that bad!! I expected some sort of Nickelback drivel or that stupid song on the radio all the time about "lips of an angel". I figured I would have to cringe the whole way through it, but I didn't.

dave said...

I'm going to second your vote for Studio 60 -- it's not so much the worst new show, but the most disappointing. The pilot was great, and reminded me how much I used to like the West Wing. Just about every episode after that has reminded me how much I grew to dislike the West Wing.

My thing is this: the writing is just incredibly lazy. They've taken the flash from the West Wing, etc, the Sorkin Sizzle or whatever you want to call it, and they've drizzled it all over a, well, take your pick of a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich. When characters on the West Wing got all Serious and starting moralizing to each other, it was because there was some kind of Cuban missile crisis going on, and it made sense -- it was in context, relevant to the situation.

When the same thing happens about, oh, let's say some multi-kajillion dollar deal with the Chinese, or that kinda good looking unfunny blond posing in her underwear for FHM, or a tell-all book by the, um, ex-husband of a network executive (and typing that phrase, by the way, you realize how incredibly farfetched that notion -- the tell all book by the ex-husband of the young exec -- really is)? Who gives a shit? Why is everybody so worked up? We went 30 seconds under for the night and Jessica Simpson made a dopey remark. Whoop-dee-do.

And worse, the characters have taken to flat out telling each other every single thing that's going on inside their heads. This is lazy writing. If you were in a workshop and read a story where one character walked up to the other and romantically called her out, a la whatshisname to preggo Amanda Peet the other day, you'd get torn to shreds. People don't talk like that. People aren't making grand pronouncements of their romantic notions. People skulk around, they punch each other in the shoulder, steal each other's lunch money, avoid each other, make stupid remarks, get drunk, do dumb shit, and then regret it and make the rest of their lives awkward and embarrassing.

Or is that just me?

The other one I don't like: Friday Night Lights. Talk about the progressive watering down of a thing until its basically no longer the original (novel) and is now some hollywood whatevers version of what was pitched to him in a meeting.

Housley, OUT!

dave said...

I just want to add on that I truly think, other than The Wire, that Flavor of Love was the BEST show on TV last year. Positively the most entertaining thing I've seen since, well, maybe since last season's Flavor of Love. Or maybe since Joe Millionaire ("How you doing? You all doing okay? I hope you're, you know, doing, you know, okay..."), or maybe even since Man Versus Beast.

"New York" is the craziest person to ever be filmed. Ever. And that includes the news, archive footage, whatever you have. She is most definitely the craziest person ever. And Flav is second. Fantastic television. A true low point. And I mean that in the best possible way.

TMC said...

I'm with Dave on Flavor of Love (And The Wire, actually... Dave's evangelizing has made me a convert; I watched the first 3 seasons on DVD in less than a month). Flavor of Love may be the most awful thing ever aired, but what I appreciate is that there's a self-awareness to it. They don't think they're doing anything beautiful or great; they know exactly what they are and to whom they're appealing. It's kinda like professional wrestling or Jerry Springer in that sense.