What The Fuck Happened to TV?
For most of my life, I practically mainlined pop culture, my finger wrapped tightly around the pulse of current entertainment. But recently I realized that whenever I'd overhear conversations about popular TV shows I had no idea what anyone was talking about. It seems that while I was exploring the real world (watching Arrested Development on DVD) the pop culture landscape as I understood it shifted; a new crop of shows and stars emerged, leaving me wondering: What's an Adam Lambert? Does Brett Michaels still make music, or is he basically doing this rolling brothel TV show full time now? Is Wings still on the air? Is Wings still on the air?!
To find out, I forced myself to watch the latest episode of the three most popular shows on the air right now. And I hate myself for it.
In a Sentence: Pretty, interchangeable white people wearing clothes. Starring: I don't know who any of these people are, or what they did to become famous. I don't even totally know how many different characters are on this show. I didn't realize there was more than one blondish white chick until two of them were on screen together. I watched 30 minutes before I understood that these three girls were different people.
The Show: The episode that I watched was centered on a wedding between a blond douchebag named Spencer and a blonde whatever-the-girl-version-of-a-douchebag-is named Heidi. Spencer and Heidi are the two most unlikable human beings I've ever seen in my entire life. Also, Spencer's beard is the same color as his face, which seems like it must make shaving very difficult.
Since this was the season finale, it was a double episode. Two full episodes wherein absolutely nothing remotely interesting happened. Super-tan, glass-eyed Californians sat around looking at each other for 44 minutes. Sometimes one of them would cry or smile, but no one ever seemed to understand why. This was the season finale of a show that's lasted five freaking seasons. And it's not as though it's flying under the radar. I hear about this show constantly. Why the hell is it so popular? What's the appeal? Here's a scene where Spencer talks to The One That Isn't Spencer about something (Spencer, probably).
SPENCER I'm not just a cold stone with no heart. THE ONE THAT ISN'T SPENCER Yeah you are. They look at each other for a full 12 seconds, neither of their faces displaying anything that I recognize as an emotion. Not-Spencer didn't say it humorously, or ironically or anything. He just said it because he heard a sentence that started with "I'm not" and decided to fill in the blank with something disagreeable, like this was some kind of exercise for a drama class in which both of the participants are retarded. I mean, Spencer just stared at him. Not mad, or offended, just slowly trying unsuccessfully to process the words he'd just heard. This episode had four million viewers. Also, everyone on this show has their mouth wide open. All the time. I don't know if they're just mannerless mouthbreathers or if they believe that the only way to understand what someone else is saying is by swallowing the sounds they are making. Maybe it's a show about mutants whose ears are located on the roofs of their mouth? I mean there's got to be some reason they're on TV, right? Conclusion: Terrorists try to blow us up not because they hate freedom, but because we use our freedom to make The Hills.
Jon and Kate Plus 8
"Kids sort of lose their appeal after a few days. We're big into those Hawaiian lays, now." The episode I watched was littered with moments of both parents saying things like "I can't take this anymore" and "I'm going to have a break down any second, I swear to God." It's not a show about coping with raising eight children, it's a show about two miserable people in a loveless marriage who are incapable of talking about anything besides their miserable, loveless marriage. All of this is happening right in front of the swarm of toddlers, who I have to assume are being supervised by the camera crew filming the series. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert on raising kids, but that's also precisely why I don't have any. Here's an exchange that perfectly sets the tone for the episode and, I imagine, the series: One of the girl babies was upset about her missing pony toy.
NAMELESS GIRL BABY Mommy, I can't find my pony toy, have you seen it? KATE OK, you're getting a little obsessive-ish... Stop melting down, I've got to go save the world. And then Kate proceeds to stand in front of her sink pretending to wash a single dish for a while before disappearing for the rest of the afternoon. And the world was safe for another day. In another moment, Jon is in the backyard with his dogs and children, cleaning up dog poop."This is the story of my life," Jon says, his voice coated with misery and regret, "cleaning up other people's crap." I've never seen two parents more blatant about their total resentment for their children. The show is compelling if for no other reason than because you want to make sure the kids make it out of the season.
Conclusion: This is pretty depressing as far as entertainment goes, but I can see it functioning as a useful experiment, a time capsule for eight children who can one day look back on the show as evidence of how much their parents despised them. When these poor kids grow up and wonder why they're so maladjusted, they'll be able to look back on
In a Sentence: A Cougar, by which I mean an older woman who preys on younger men, has massive amounts of sex with a bunch of 20-somethings all competing for her affection. Starring: I don't know, who gives a shit? The Show: It's a reality show about a mildly attractive 40-year-old woman who has a dozen or so younger men who all inexplicably want to settle down in their early 20s and raise her three children.
The show focuses on her sexually-charged method of whittling down this list of 20-somethings. By the season finale, Stacey, the cougar in question, has already boned to the point of exhaustion her last two suitors, Colt and Jimmy, and everyone's cool with that, but
But, you know, it doesn't even need to BE a talk show, it could've been anything, and as long as a real cougar was front and center, the show would be a hit. They could've even kept their stupid premise, for all I care, I would have gladly watched a show that was about a dozen 20-year-old dudes taking turns trying to fuck a live cougar. Who wouldn't watch that show?!?! Week after week they would try and fail and I would love every second of it. Conclusion: Somebody greenlight competitive cougar fucking dammit!