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On Television

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:46pm
The Kid is sleeping on the couch right now, and I have to admit that in the past few weeks, I've become a terrible mother. He'll remain on the couch until I'm done telling you about why. And then maybe I'll pick his suddenly monstrous 6-year-old-post-growth-spurt body up and place him ever so gingerly (ha, that doesn't happen after they hit 40 pounds) back on his bed.

I have a television addiction problem.

There. I said it.

I am confident, however, that I will kick this problem in approximately two weeks, about three minutes after I finish watching Big Love's season finale.

I do this every May. I watch so much television that my brain turns into mush. Here's what I've been watching:

1. The Sopranos
This is the best television show that has ever been. This show is the finest writing, cinematography and directing TV has to offer. In fact, it quite simply makes all other television shows look bad. This is what it could be like. I truly believe there is enough talent in Hollywood to give us more than one truly excellent drama. This season hasn't been as good as the last, but I'm so seriously invested in Tony, Carm and even their stupid, selfish children, that I can't look away, let alone fold clothes or do any other "while watching TV chores" while I watch them. Seriously, Vito Spatafore is going down next week. Is Tony headed for death? Jail? Witness Protection? The Family is falling apart, the whole season has been predicated on the fact that the mob just ain't what it used to be: Gay Capo's, Tony's incapable of getting in bed with Jamba Juice, Paulie totally has cancer, and Christophuh has a monkey on his back, alternatively named Adrianna and Herion. If Tony leaves, this family is done for. Will there be a Michael Corleone thing? Meadow?
I turn my HBO on and off depending on when this show is running. I have two more episodes for the year of 2006, and you better believe I'll be on the phone with Comcast in January of 2007 to order up another 6 weeks of HBO to find out what happens to them.

Or I might order it up for longer:

2. Big Love
In the mold of The Sopranos, this show takes a lifestyle that is generally "contraversial" (putting it a nice way), or rather, "criminal," and somehow melds your brain in to caring for the characters, wanting to know about their internal dialogues, why they chose what they chose, who they truly are. I've been watching along, just kind of because it's an HBO drama, and generally, they are good TV. But then last Sunday's episode shook me deep. That was a damn good hour of my time spent on the couch. Margene's blythe realization, "Do you consider yourself a polygamist?" pitted against Barb's guilty interactions with her sister, estranged since her choice to enter into "plural marriage," blew my mind. And then Chloe Sevigny's wonderfully interesting Nicky, who has been the show's principal villian (second only? to her father), comes to the rescue and defends the family in a way that you actually care for them, and for the first time, made me believe that this was an actual, functioning family. It gives a glimpse of where this show is headed, now that they've brought us in through the male fantasy bullshit of being able to sleep with three women on a regular basis, and we can actually get to the business of figuring out how they make their lives work. I'm hooked.

3. American Idol
Oh, this is by far the most entertaining show on television. I am so seriously a geek about this show that I can't even pretend I'm so cool and I don't watch it, or love it, or geek out about it all day Tuesday. I listen to the radio and think, Wow, this song would be AWESOME for contestant X, or Y. Funny thing? I don't even really listen to pop music. Not in a "buy CD's" way. I'm truly an alternative, indie-rock kind of a girl. But, I was also a theatre geek. Let us not forget that.

So, apart from being entertaining, I think it's so incredibly powerful and interesting. Ultimately, this is a GAME SHOW. I do think that some careers are started by the show, and you can't deny it, but generally, this is not the world's best music, nor is it the world's best pop music. I can't adequately link to the website, so I'm going to quote, quickly, a brilliant run down by Jacob of Television Without Pity who said this much better than I:
The CDs and videos and magic music that they make is roughly the same as a WWF keychain or mix tape or commemorative chugging mug -- it's souvenir merchandise that the show is churning out, so you can remember watching the show, so that you'll tune in and watch the show some more. It's a t-shirt you can listen to. The focus is on ratings, like with all other TV shows, and on the soap opera that keeps us all tuning in, and the way that those contestants are dropped into the hopper every year and the judges and producers push it this way and that way and it's very compelling television, but it occurs in a bubble, and spending all this energy on the imaginary future of these kids is just a waste of energy, because they're on a game show, a stupid TV game show, and the most we can hope for is that Elliott's voice will get noticed, or that A-Fed will do some porn now that he is all grown up.

I would take out the "stupid TV game show," however, because I must assert that I think this show is BRILLIANT. You must respect Simon Cowell and his business partners for bringing us such an insidious marketing ploy, packaged to so many age groups: It's a sexy, funny, and supremely fun show to watch with your family. Plus, Paula's on drugs.

The hubbub about Chris Daughtry leaving brought me to thinking way too much about this show, that and the fact that I have a coworker with whom I can no longer discuss the show because I think she thinks that were I to say, 'I don't like Taylor Hicks' it would naturally lead to the statement, 'therefore, I don't like you.' But seriously, our country is so derisive at this point that the people we root for on a game show will bring upon us such infighting so as to cause petitions, lawsuits and boycotts. For the final, I almost expect Chris Matthews to show up with a map of the US with red and blue markers. Power to the people, y'all! Bring on the electoral college, because those freaks down in Alabama have way too many speed dialers to make it a fair race to the finish between Taylor and Katherine!!!

I remember reading an article back in the 90's about how the television shows of a time reflect the spirit of the country. So, the Reagan-Bush (GHW) years brought us shows about opulence and greed: Dallas (finally, there's your Dallas reference!), Dynasty, LA Law, etc. Clinton's presidency brought us shows about dissillusionment and cynicism: Seinfeld, Thirtysomething, NYPD Blue. So what of the George W age? We get "reality" television. Only fitting that a president that exists in a reality that can only accurately be beset by quote marks would usher in an age where the television shows we watch are about fabricated situations with normal people, packaged to us as "true" or "real life." That, and a television juggernaut that is likely to make us draw Mason-Dixon lines through our homes and offices.
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