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My List of Lists 2005: TV

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Since the music version of MY List of Lists did well, I’ve decided to talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart – not sprawling babies, you smartarses, television.  All opinions are mine and might be ignorant.  They might be based purely on personal opinion.  In fact, the entire article is America-centric, with some Canadian and British shows thrown in.  Really, I’m just trying for an editor’s pick here like everyone else is, but at least I’ll admit it freely.  It’s a good thing that I follow the television business, too, or else I’d sound right stupid…well, more stupid than I sound right now.  I can pretend to be more intelligent than Alex Trebek.  At least I have that going for me.

SHOW THAT HASN’T DEBUTED AND STILL LOOKS LIKE IT COULD DAMN NEAR SAVE NBC: Deal or No Deal‘s rules are a bit convoluted, to say the least.  Deal or No Deal looks like Endemol USA threw Jackpot, $ale of the Century and Let’s Make a Deal into a bran tub and added in some nonsense backstory whenever the need arose.  Still, the UK version of Deal or No Deal is killing all its competitors in the ratings.  Hell, even with Howie Mandel hosting, it looks like NBC just stumbled onto a winner.

Still…Howie Mandel?  Donny Osmond did well on Pyramid and Richard Karn made Family Feud watchable again, but this is just taking the piss.  No one thought Billie Piper could act, either.  It’s funny how second careers work.  I still would have preferred Peter Tomarken.

SHOW THAT’S DRAGGING NBC DOWN BY BEING ON WAY, WAY TOO LONG: Where should I start?  Is there a continual need for ER?  Has Will & Grace ever been funny?  What the hell happened to Saturday Night Live that it’s become more unwatchable than MadTV?  Why tease people by announcing that Jay Leno is going to stay on The Tonight Show until 2009 when Leno and Conan O’Brien are unfunny now?  (Oh, I’m sorry, did I step on a sacred cow?  I’ve tried to watch O’Brien recently, but the show just isn’t that funny to me.  Coked-Up Werewolf fans will now tell me how I’m homosexual.)  Should The West Wing even be on anymore, considering the creators abandoned the show a few years ago?  Kill a few of those Law & Orders, too.  Slash and burn, NBC, slash and burn.

COMEBACK THAT I CAN VOUCH FOR: The Simpsons.  I’m admittedly a fan, and others think the show has become death.  Still, no show on its seventeenth season should be doing as well as The Simpsons.  The show has finally become comfortable in its pacing as Al Jean seems to have perfected the show’s current formula – The Simpsons is more political, respectful of its past, and has rediscovered the joy of an Albert Brooks voiceover.  The Simpsons isn’t trying to be Family Guy redux like in the Mike Scully “era,” and the show has stopped trying way too hard to relive a past it can’t possibly duplicate.  Sure, The Simpsons makes a dumb continuity error or two these days (uh, Homer never went to college?  I guess Scratchy never finally killed Itchy, then), and it’ll never be what it was.  No show could ever be what The Simpsons was, but it looks like the writers are writing better scripts to justify Dan Castellaneta’s ridiculous salary.  Expand my brain, learning juice!

COMEBACK THAT DIED ON ITS ARSE: Family Guy has become this decade’s Ren & Stimpy.  It’s nice to see that Seth MacFarlane’s prodigal son returned to Fox, but lately MacFarlane’s been letting spitefulness run his product.  We get it, MacFarlane, Fox censored the show way too much.  That does not to any degree explain the inane feud Family Guy has with The Simpsons.  It doesn’t explain why random characters (usually Peter) are in a naked scene more often than absolutely necessary.  Hell, if Family Guy‘s going to show Brian having sex with a woman eventually, at least say that Brian’s father is the puppy mill owner or something.  Alternatively, how about not including any more allusions to bestiality and pedophilia ever again?  I’m not a prude, but do the staff writers think any off-colour joke they can get away with is automatically funny by the joke’s being?  Maybe I have FULL-BLOWN AIDS.

I still think Family Guy is funny (and I do watch American Dad regularly, so I really shouldn’t complain about anything Seth MacFarlane does), but the show has become louder, cruder and more surreal than Mike Scully’s run on The Simpsons.  MacFarlane has the talent, but he’s become John Kricfalusi redux in that he thinks louder, cruder and more sexually explicit is the way for Family Guy to go.  It isn’t, but does he know it?  Family Guy became a hit because of the show’s endearing randomness, but there’s a limit to how far it should go.

Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon proved to the world how much of a disturbed individual John Kricfalusi had become by 2003.  I don’t want to see Seth MacFarlane become another Kricfalusi.  The world doesn’t even need one Kricfalusi at this point.

LONG-RUNNING SHOW WITH THE BRIGHTEST FUTURE: The Doctor Who revival just recently found a home on American television, but CBC showed Doctor Who shortly after it debuted in the UK (no surprise, since CBC funds the show.)  Oh, “new” Doctor Who looked dire in development – Billie Piper acting, a Big Brother parody being the focus of one of the episodes, Russell T. Davies helming the metaphorical TARDIS.  It’s the weirdest thing, though – Billie Piper can act well, and the Big Brother parody turned out to be one of the strongest episodes of the series.  Give Russell T. Davies credit – he managed to revive Doctor Who successfully, which is really quite an accomplishment.

The show’s far from perfect.  Russell T. Davies shouldn’t be writing scripts for Doctor Who, bad satires on pop culture that his scripts are.  That Bad Wolf thing caught on among the limeys, though, didn’t it?  What an amazing show, the Slitheen notwithstanding.  I’m supposed to be scared of farting baby-headed aliens that explode when vinegar hits them?

RELATIVELY NEW SHOW THAT NEEDS TO DIE NOW: The War at Home is awful.  It isn’t that the show is worse than the other dysfunctional family sitcoms Fox is fond of airing.  It’s not funny, though, and it makes a terrible bridge between The Simpsons and Family Guy.  What’s the point of airing King of the Hill, which has somehow remained in first-run against all odds, at 7:30PM?  If King of the Hill hasn’t died in that time slot yet, there must be something to that show.  It’s kind of sad when The War at Home can’t be better than Malcolm in the Middle at its worst, but I’m sure The War at Home‘s weak ratings will assure the show’s quick death.

ASSORTED CLAPPED-OUT BANGERS: That 70’s Show has long since exhausted its supply of “Eric Foreman Kelso Bob Pinciotti makes smart ass remark/Red threatens to kick Bob’s ass/Fez thinks he’s a ladykiller” jokes, yet it goes on like the mutant version of Happy Days that it is.  I can’t even fathom why Kevin Spencer is still on the air recycling that one plotline of Kevin acting sociopathic and Kevin’s parents being dirtbags.  20/20‘s title should be changed to John Stossel and Elizabeth Vargas Give Myths and Lies a Break.  Survivor and The Amazing Race have had good runs, but their times have passed and so has the entire reality TV genre.

WORST NEW SHOW: Popcultured with Elvira Kurt is a Canadian show, so Americans are lucky not to see this.  Imagine a Talk Soup variant with a bad host.  Hal Sparks’ name is thrown around a lot, but there are some John Henson, Aisha Tyler and Greg Kinnear haters out there.  Now imagine the host being a female Canadian stand-up comic whose entire routine revolves around the fact that she’s a female Canadian stand-up comic, but she’s a lesbian so the routine is somehow “edgy.”  Visualize a cast and writing staff around her that yell “THIS IS BAG” and “THAT GUY FROM INXS IS A TOTAL PENIS” at random intervals.  Do you have that image in your head?  Somehow, Popcultured manages to be worse than even your imagination can conceive.  Isn’t Canadian television amazing?

BEST NEW SHOW: The Colbert Report by default.  I’m not fond of the show myself, but some think The Colbert Report is already better than The Daily Show.  It’s good to see Stephen Colbert put something on his resumé that isn’t “voiced an implied homosexual.”  He has a nose for hard news, alright!

UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS SHOW OF THE YEAR: Friday Night Smackdown is the comedy program of the year.  See Undertaker appear in Randy Orton’s mirror…BUT HE’S NOT BEHIND ORTON!  EVIL!  See The Dicks rub baby oil on their chests!  Behold the greatness of The Boogeyman!  Behold the godliness of the Smackdown Juniors!  It’s like WWE executives are aware of how bad Smackdown is, and they’re making the show as deliberately surreal as possible.  That doesn’t mean the show’s any good, as Friday Night Smackdown is somehow worse than WCW Thunder at this point.  Yeah, I said it.

WHY BRAND EXTENSION DOESN’T GENERALLY WORK: ET Canada is a success for Global, but the world did not need a Canadian counterpart to thirty minutes of wasted space.  It just makes for sixty minutes of wasted space.  MTV Canada was made redundant by CHUM Limited’s purchase of Craig Media, but the channel pointlessly lives on as Razer.  Another MTV Canada might debut by next year, never mind that no one needed the first one to begin with.  The Apprentice: Martha Stewart proved that not every show helmed by Martha Stewart is going to be an unqualified success, but that’s probably because the show is mediocre.  My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss debuted in the wrong year.  As for MSNBC, what’s the point of throwing money at that channel?  Just merge it with CNBC and focus on putting out a credible news product, because MSNBC is never going to beat CNN or Fox News in the ratings.  I wonder why NBC Universal bothers keeping its America’s Talking variant afloat.

BEST TV TREND: There isn’t one this year.  Oh, the wags are going to say “well, the old guard of television news is finally gone.”  I can’t take network television news seriously when CBS is thinking of having Katie Couric host CBS Evening News.  Is someone taking the piss at CBS Corporation or did Dan Rather drive everyone there insane?  If CBS News is planning to throw money at any passing fancy, how about hiring Kenny Mayne?  He’s as good a choice as any.

WORST TV TREND: North American versions and/or ripoffs of British ‘programmes.’  The American version of The Office is rather mediocre – the cast is trying hard to make the show work, but Arrested Development tries harder.  Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick character seems like a ripoff both of Alan Partridge (not Ali G, that’s another can of orgasm) and Short’s own Brock Linahan.  Strictly Come Dancing did well as Dancing with the Stars and people like Wife Swap, but why can’t ABC show the original British programs instead of trying to Americanize them?  Finally, could someone explain the title Canadian Antiques Roadshow?  I can’t believe Canadians are that insular.  Then again, CBC does produce the program, so that might explain things.

By the way, I remember first seeing Hugh Laurie on Black Adder when I was seven or eight years old.  It’s hard to believe that he’s the title character of House, M.D.  It’s harder still to imagine how he puts up with that show becoming more outlandish every episode.  I’m waiting for Dr. House to contract ovarian cancer.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE CBC LOCKOUT: Absolutely none.  As soon as the lockout ended, it was back to the forced “diversity” and myopic Canadianism common to the MotherCorpse.  Not every Canadian is liberal-minded, and we don’t all like Sarah Slean and poorly-written lawyer shows.  CBC Television is the closest thing to broadcast vanilla at the moment.

REST IN PEACE: Arrested Development.  Fox promoted the show like hell, but the ratings never materialized.  No one will see a show both smart and stupid like this for a while.

Tobias Funke was too good for this world.  He is the world’s only analrapist, after all.

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About Cameron Archer