Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Did the Strib rehire Jim Boyd? It's possible, given this extremely dumb editorial which excoriates television networks for *gasp* attempting to entertain viewers:

In this time of high-stakes politics and economic malaise, apparently the broadcast networks think the only reality viewers can handle is reality TV itself.

At least that's the early take on next fall's new primetime programs, recently unveiled in New York.

It's an especially escapist schedule, with no new scripted series reflecting the ongoing debate about economic opportunities and outcomes that impact so many Americans, and that have been the backdrop of this season's most compelling TV: the hybrid reality/drama/comedy series better known as the Democratic presidential primary race

Oh, however will we survive? I mean between the local early morning news, network morning news shows, the mid morning news, the midday news, the late mid-afternoon news digest, the 5, 6 and 10 pm local newscasts, World News Tonight, CNN, Fox and MSNBC, why there are precious few programming hours left for hand wringing over fictionalized accounts of what we just saw on the real news programs.

Instead, there's an overwhelming focus on wealth. Indeed, the juxtaposition between reality and TV life played out in New York on the same day working-class voters gave Sen. Hillary Clinton a 41-point thumping of Sen. Barack Obama in West Virginia.

The CW network proclaimed the moneyed upper west side of Manhattan as the perfect setting for "Gossip Girls." Also touted were "Surviving the Filthy Rich," about tutoring wealthy teens in Palm Beach, and "90210," an update of "Beverly Hills 90210," the original celebration of all things young, rich and unrealistic.

Putting aside the rather bold assumption here that the CW is the bellwether of American Culture, the question is still begged:

So? F-ing? What???

So Roseanne Connor and Ralph Kramden need not apply. Nor Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford, two everyman philosophers who helped the nation laugh -- and occasionally think -- in a previous economic downturn. Even the Depression drama of "The Waltons" would be welcome, at least to show how enduring values are not only endearing ("Good night, John Boy!"), but also vital as families go through tough times.

Er, once again indulging for the sake of argument the baseless supposition that some disembodied "families" are enduring "tough times," isn't that what escapist entertainment is for?

This is not to say the have-nots will be completely missing, however. But just as the civil rights movement is often seen through white protagonists in films like "Mississippi Burning," the poor will be seen through the eyes of the rich, as Fox's "Secret Millionaire'' and NBC's "The Philanthropist" are reality shows based on taking some of the haves' wealth and sharing it with the working poor.

Uh, OK.

To many, all of this may not seem to matter.

To many, this is a gross understatement. At least to those who don't get paid to sit around and get paid to think up drivel like this.

But TV's disconnect from reality robs today's fractured society of the connections to everyday cultural reference points. And it also may help explain the dizzying declines in network ratings. For some, prime time has lost its resonance, if not relevance. A key indicator of network TV viewership is economic class: The lower the household income, the higher the propensity to watch. So the people invisible on-screen are often the very same ones in front of them.

And lower ratings mean lower revenue available for news, which may be the only TV time left for real-life stories. Based on what we've seen of the new network programming, higher prices, lower expectations and subprime mortgages just aren't prime time material.

Ah! OK, how about if I pitch a show that might satisfy this editorial writer. I call it "Leave it to LearnedFoot." - A story about an everyday guy and his family just trying to make ends meet. A man with whom everyone except pompous editorial writers can relate. Exploring themes common to most of us like showering, going to work, firework safety and watching TV, this new show is realistic enough to ensure no one is entertained and banal enough to please the Strib editorial board.

EPISODE 1: "Wednesday at the Foots"

SYNOPSIS: Our protagonist LearnedFoot (Chris Noth) rolls out of bed and into the shower. While in the shower, his precocious 3 year-old son Moonchild (CGI animated character) enters the bathroom, and pokes his head around the shower curtain. He says "morning daddy," and then points to Learned's penis. "Is that your penis?" he asks. Learned responds in the affirmative, and Moonchild replies, "I have a penis too... Is that your penis?" The conversation is repeated thus through 2 commercial breaks. After reassuring Moonchild a 50th time that they both do indeed have penises, Learned gets out of the shower, gets dressed and goes to work, where nothing remarkable happens. He returns home to dinner, watches 3 straight episodes of Top Chef with his wife Mrs. Foot (Rachel Ray) and falls asleep.

EPISODE 2: "Taming the Troll"

SYNOPSIS: LearnedFoot rolls out of bed and into the shower. After having the penis conversation with Moonchild again, he goes to work, where nothing remarkable happens. Upon returning home, he finds a comment on his blog that offends him. He alters the comment to leave the impression that the commenter is a hamster-raping shoe fetishist. He watches 2 hours of The Office in bed with Mrs. Foot, asks if she wants to "do it" and is denied.

ONE-HOUR SEASON FINALE: "Thank God it's Friday!"

SYNOPSIS: In this very special episode, LearnedFoot rolls out of bed and into the shower. After having the penis conversation with Moonchild again, he goes to work, where nothing remarkable happens. After returning home, he has pizza with his family. During and after dinner, he downs 8 bottles of Summit India Pale Ale, while Mrs. Foot, weary from another week with their rambunctious kids, empties a bottle of Chardonnay. After the kids and Mrs. Foot have gone to bed, Learned finds a box of M-80s in his garage left over from a past Fourth of July party. He staggers out into the back yard and uses the entire contents of the carton of M-80s to blow up one of his hostas, and then goes next door to urinate on a neighbor's tree. Returning inside to his bedroom, he finds an incensed Mrs. Foot who has just been awakened by the sound of the exploding hosta. She screams at him for 15 minutes. After this dressing down, Learned asks Mrs. foot if she wants to "do it". He is denied.

Anyone want to place bets on whether I get an Emmy before the Strib gets a Pulitzer?

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