During my current period of only occasional employment, I’ve had the opportunity to watch an absolutely insane amount of television. So here (after the jump), for your reading pleasure, are the Unemployed Television Nerd Fall 2005 Television Awards.
Thanks to Tim Brayton for showing me how to do this whole “only put a wee bit of the insanely long post on the front page” thing.
I will say this, as a caveat to everything below, especially on the scripted programming. I could never write a script. I can pick them apart easily after years of watching too much television, but writing one is goddamn hard.
I know how hard everyone behind these shows works, and I know people who work on some of them (and who hopefully won’t kill me or blacklist me if they read this).
This list, however is coming from me as a viewer, and not an employee of the entertainment industry. If you read this and think, “Oh YEAH? Could YOU do better?”, the answer is probably not, in most cases.
But there’s some stuff that just sticks out like a sore thumb, and I just have to say something about. This gets a little long, so bear with me.
Amazing Race Reruns on GSN. It is so much more fun to watch this show without having to wait a week between episodes. Seven seasons of gorgeous scenery, entertaining people, and some of the best editing around. It’s been called the reality show for people who hate reality shows, and I’d say that’s a pretty fair description.
I got hooked on it during Season 5, so it’s very cool to see what the show was like in its earlier incarnations. The Fast Forward on every leg and the absence of nasty eating challenges were both welcome, but the “each team member may only do 6 detours” innovation since TAR 6 is an excellent example of rule changes that make the game better.
I will give one caveat: TAR 6, which is starting around Christmas on GSN, is my least favorite of Regular Flavor TARs (see below for my least favorite TAR ever). The presence of loudmouth abusive asshole Jonathan and his obnoxious doormat of a wife Victoria ends up making a large portion of the season really irritating.
Although I will say, when his jerk ass finally got eliminated, I used the 8-second skip back on TiVo to rewatch it about eight times. Man, that was fun.
Amazing Race: Family Edition. I was willing to give this idea a chance, since TAR takes any number of things that sound like a terrible idea and makes them work. This, alas, was not one of them.
The main problem was the boneheaded decision to keep the contestants entirely within North and Central America (largely within the US). Seeing how teams deal with unfamiliar situations causes most of the drama on TAR, and Phoenix? Is just not that fucking unfamiliar. It was better when they were in Costa Rica and Panama, but they were only there for about two episodes.
The families of four bit made sense in terms of the idea of the season, but unfortunately it led to such a gaggle of contestants that even the finalists were referring to each other by what city or state they were from, because they weren’t entirely sure who all these people were.
A third major problem was that due to scheduling and poor planning, the show went almost a month without eliminating anyone. They should have changed the opening announce from Phil to “Who will be eliminated….EVER?”
And of course, there were the astoundingly irritating Weavers, who I’ve written about before. Ain’t much more to say there, but their presence certainly didn’t help.
Best TV on DVD
The Simpsons, Season 6. Episode after episode after episode of pure fucking genius, including my absolute favorite Treehouse of Horror (the one with “The Shinning”), Itchy and Scratchy Land, the Rear Window parody, the hockey episode, the Gummi Di Milo, grandpa’s aphrodesiac, Marge’s fear of flying, the Stonecutters, the list just goes on and on and on. I don’t even care about the extras, the shows are so fucking brilliant it doesn’t even need them.
Favorite New Show
Everybody Hates Chris. This show is hilarious. Chris Rock’s narration is well done, but Tichina Arnold and Terry Crews as Rock’s parents make this show. They’ve both got impeccable timing, and Arnold’s Mom Yell (“Chriiiiiiiiiiis!”) is hilariously spot-on. Some of the 80’s references can be a bit precious, but the ones that fall flat are worth it for the ones that work. Tyler James Williams dressed as 80’s-era Prince for halloween is priceless.
Most Blatant Rip-Off
Invasion. Although I suspect the title was supposed to be an homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the show is less homage and more direct lift. I watched about 7 episodes before I realized I’d already seen this plot, and I didn’t care about the characters enough to watch it again.
Best Talk Show
The Colbert Report. I didn’t think this could pull off the hilarity of its first week on a consistent basis, but it’s only gotten funnier. The interview is still the weakest spot, but the sheer genius of “Formidable Opponent,” in which Colbert debates himself live with the aid of very precise cuts and a chroma-keyed tie, makes up for pretty much every other flaw. It just barely beats out the Daily Show, but you’ve got to give points to anyone who brings out Lisa Loeb and Rick Springfield simply to sing two-second snippets of their hits, and convinces a congressman to stunt-punch him.
Worst Talk Show
The Showbiz Show With David Spade. This could have been so much funnier. If Spade even went for the low level of vitriol he spewed when he was on Saturday Night Live doing Hollywood Minute, it would have at least been watchable. But there’s a palpable sense that Spade doesn’t want to truly piss anybody off, and it neuters the comedy completely. I stopped watching after four weeks because I realized the façade wasn’t coming down.
Characters In Search of A Plot Award
Desperate Housewives. The failure of the second season to click as easily as the first has been endlessly dissected in the entertainment press, but the best theory I’ve read is that there’s just nothing tying the group together anymore. Marc Cherry was lauded for wrapping up a number of plotlines (vs. Lost, which never wraps up anything) at the end of last season, but he also took away the one thing that brought everyone together. Now everyone is wandering about in their own plotline, some of which work (Gabi vs. Sister Mary Hotpants) and some of which don’t (Bree actually agreeing to marry Psycho George because she’s too damn polite to say no). Until they figure out how to tie things together more effectively, it’s going to be difficult to re-bottle the season one lightning.
Zoloft Award for Most Depressing Show
Rescue Me, Season 2. This show is so fucking well-made, well-acted, and occasionally profanely funny, but this season was unbelievably depressing. Every character had some really, really heavy shit come down on him or her, and while it was grippingly portrayed, this show needs to start carrying a warning about depression as a possible side effect.
The My So-Called Life Award For Most Annoying Cancellation
Arrested Development. Look, I know why Fox shitcanned it. If an episode with Charlize “I Have An Oscar And I Still Jumped At The Chance To Do This” Theron airs on a night with no other new programming
on the networks and STILL comes in fourth, it’s pretty well fucked. Still, I really hope the rumors about Showtime picking it up are true. ABC would actually be insane to pick it up, because the plot is just way to intricate to work on one of the Networks, due to the constant pre-emptions and reruns. Part of the reason the DVD sets are so popular is you can watch the shows without any interruption of the almost pathological devotion to continuity the show is famous for, and being on a pay-cable network where the episodes could simply run uninterrupted would be a huge boon to the ability of newcomers to understand just what the hell is happening on this brilliant, brilliant show.
Stupid Plot Tricks Award
Nip/Tuck, “Sal Perri”. Borrowing a page from ER’s playbook, Nip/Tuck centered an episode around a plane crash. While it was integrated into the ongoing plot a lot more organically than ER’s crash was, the fact that N/T is resorting to gimmicks like this is disappointing. The show is so much better when it sticks to the insane, immensely complicated drama between the characters. Oh, and the fakeout at the end was breathtakingly stupid, and nullified a lot of what had made the episode interesting.
Theme Song I Hate To Love
Over There. The country song plays over the end of every episode of this wrenching (now cancelled) series about the current Iraq War, while crucial scenes wrapping up the episode play out underneath. You HAVE to listen to it. You have no choice. It’s not a horrible song per se, but it’s written and performed by the series’ executive producer, which is a questionable choice. The song probably could have been better with a more competent singer (a la whoever sang Joss Whedon’s Firefly theme). Since I watched all 13 episodes over the course of about a week and a half, the song has so firmly entrenched itself in my brain that I found myself figuring out how to play it on the guitar.
Theme Song I Love To Hate
The L Word, Season 2. The Season 1 theme song was a mildly intriguing bit of beeps and boops that lasted about 12 seconds. Fun, kitschy, what the theme song needed to be for such a silly, soapy, very very gay show. So when I initially watched Season 2, the invasion of The Worst Theme Song Ever was hideous. I’d forgotten exactly how bad it was in the 6 months since I watched the original run. Horrible lyrics, off-key singing, almost two minutes long for no apparent reason, and just really stupid images under the lyrics. I want to throw something heavy at the television every time it comes on.
The Day Late And Dollar Short Award for Best Show I Recently Discovered
Grey’s Anatomy. I hung around after Desperate Housewives to watch this one Sunday during sweeps, and was absolutely sucked in. This show reminds me a lot of the glory days of ER, with well-written characters, and actors who actually give a damn and consequently put a lot of heart into their characters. The initial commercials I’d seen for it looked pretty dippy, but now I’m the one who feels like a dip for missing the boat on this one.