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John 3.45 - daMON STERn’s Rambling

 

If you ask me what the least relevant channel on TV is, I’d say, without hesitation, E!  Entertainment Television.  I suppose if you like seeing hours of Joan Rivers talking about what people wear to award shows, then this is the channel for you.  There’s this show called Celebrities Uncensored which is basically paparazzi footage of celebrities who are sometimes mad, sometimes not.  The funny thing is, the show is not uncensored.  They bleep out curse words and digitally distort naked breasts and butts.  I think the only decent thing on E! are the old SNL reruns they show.  And you thought I was going to say Anna Nicole’s show.  I sometimes wish she really was like Marilyn Monroe and died young, before she became so famous that she got fat from her fame and everyone could see just how drugged up she is.  There’s a commercial I’ve seen twice for TrimSpa with her getting out of a limo with a hoard of paparazzi snapping pictures and she’s posing and you hear a woman ask, “Anna, how’d you do it?  How’d you lose all the weight?”  And Anna says, “TrimSpa, baby,” as she rips another glamour pose from her long gone days of modeling.  It depressed me because it was a commercial and all the people taking pictures were actors and what looked like her getting out of a limo at some big event was just a sound stage somewhere.  It was all fake and there were people standing around telling the photographer-actors how many pictures to take, probably, and then they probably told Anna where to stand and how to stand and she was probably so whacked out of her mind, it took all day to shoot the fifteen second commercial.  E!  Yeah, great stuff.

 

Now, if you asked the best channel on TV, I’d probably say Discovery Channel, History Channel or TLC.

 

Monster Garage and Monster House.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with these shows, the basic idea is to take one thing and make something else in a week.  In the garage, they take a school bus and make a pontoon boat or a limousine and make a fire truck.  In the monster house, they add structural features or remove others to change the look like when they did the disco house or the under the sea house.  I first thought I liked the shows because of the whole idea that these people were taking an idea and creating something new out of something that already existed.  But the more I watch them, the more I think that the real reason I enjoy them is because I like finding out I’m not the only one who has problems working in a group.

 

Along the same lines is American Chopper which is a show about a family run business where they make custom motorcycles and all the problems between the father and son team about design and deadlines.  I’m developing a drinking game for this show, though.  Every time someone says, “I gotta tell you” or “To be honest with you,” you drink.

 

Everybody was talking about The Simple Life.  I watched some of the first season and I have a couple problems with it.  First off, I don’t think Paris Hilton is hot.  I think she LOOKS good, but is such a dumb snot that I don’t find her attractive.  And Nicole Richie, when she was dressed up in the Sonic uniform, looked like a lot of girls who have served me my burger and fries over the years.  My big problem is that they give these dummies jobs at places like a dairy farm and they treat the jobs and everyone there like total shit.  They have greeting manners, as in they know how to greet someone, “Hello, pleased to meet you.”  But aside from that, they have no idea how to act or treat people if they’re not at the Viper Room, it seems.  I mean, these are small businesses (with the exception of Sonic) they’re working at and they’re screwing with these peoples’ businesses.  A couple hundred dollars is a lot of money to a lot of small business owners.  Like the episode where they charged some crap like a bird house to the guy’s account who told them to pick up some feed for the cows.  Then he comes looking for them, and Nicole starts crying that her cat died, and all this bullshit which shows exactly what kind of person she is.  My other big problem is, because this is a “reality show”--reality being in quotes because I know these dummies have a producer suggesting things to do in their ears--there’s not going to be a resolution.  After their month is done in Bumblescum, Arkansas, they can go back to Beverly Hills and go back to being famous for doing absolutely nothing with a cute story about how they slummed it for a while.  There’s not going to be a revelation for them about how people are people, no matter where they are or what they have or don’t have.  And I think that’s the worst part.

 

I liked Newlyweds just because Jessica Simpson is even dumber than The Simple Life skanks.  Nick Lachey actually seems like a regular guy.  He’s at least marginally intelligent.  I kept waiting for him to just start yelling at her one day because he couldn’t take her stupidity anymore.  Or at least, start talking to her like this: “Hey, dummy, did you eat dinner yet?”  “Have you seen my car keys, stupid?”  I probably shouldn’t joke around like that because some guys are really like that, verbally abusive and that’s not good.  I mean, even is she is a moron, you don’t need to tell her.  Just tell your friends, right?

 

I used to like Cribs, but now I just find it annoying.  For one thing, everything is an “area.”  Yo, this is my living room area, you know.  This is my kitchen area.  This is the bedroom area.  Uh, begging your pardon, suh, but technically fucking speaking, they are not areas, they are volumes.  The other thing that bugs me about cribs (I mean aside from mainly marginally talented people with big ass houses) are the cars.  Everyone has the same three cars, an Escalade and a Mercedes SL-500, and then some pimped out classic car.  It’s like middle school and Cross Colors all over again.  Another thing: a lot of the homes have these beautiful dens with built in bookcases reaching to the ceiling.  And what books do they have?  None.  They don’t put books in bookcases.  The only person who ever talked about books was some dumb ass who said he had the whole Harry Potter series because they were the only books he could follow.  If I had money, first thing I’d buy is a first edition Catcher in the Rye.  Until then, I’m sticking with the paperback I got when I was in the fourth grade.

 

I get a lot of flack for watching the Gilmore Girls, but I think it’s a very sweet show.  The only thing that bothers me is all the Dawson’s Creek speech that the mother-daughter duo shoots back and forth at each other.  Ed was a great show.  For the first three years, it was nearly perfect, but they screwed it up and put the two main characters together and it seems like they didn’t know where to go with it after that.  That was the whole premise of the show, that he wanted her, but she didn’t want him.  Now he’s got her and now we...uh...

 

One show I love is The Shield, a great cop show.  I like the dichotomy of good cops not being totally good and bad cops not being totally bad.  That’s what makes it dramatic; you have no idea exactly what’s happening next.  It’s hard to believe the chubby guy from The Commish is the bulked up bad ass cop.

 

But my favorite show now is Joan of Arcadia.  Teenage girl is asked to do things by God who shows up in various human forms.  One day she says something to God who had taken the form of a city employee changing a street lamp light bulb (a symbol not lost on me) about her role as a catalyst being anticlimatic and he responds with more than a touch of exasperation, “Anticlimactic!  ‘Anticlimatic’ means you’re against the weather.”  God takes on some of the characteristics of the people he inhabits, it seems.

 

Her father is played by Joe Mantagna, Fat Tony, from The Simpsons, and he’s the chief of police.  The stories intertwine between her school days and his grisly murder investigations.  Now that seems like a stark contrast and I read a few reviews that said they didn’t work well together.  I thought about that and my first response after a couple shows was that God’s tasks for Joan were leading to a chain of events that assisted the police in some way.  And that’s partially true, but how real could it seem for her to help solve crimes every week, unbeknownst or not?  This ain’t Scooby-Doo.  But there’s a theme that runs through some shows that relates to the police and the teenage stories, and that makes me think about the way God has a plan and how things occur for a reason.

 

The show’s main characters is God, pretty much.  Even though God isn’t on screen for much of the time and would probably be considered a secondary character, I find myself waiting for Him to appear and talk to Joan again, give her a bit of wisdom, help her.  I keep waiting for Him to put his arm around her one day, but that won’t happen.  The closest He’s come so far was this episode where He told her to ask a bully to a dance.  She did and after an altercation between the bully and the vice principal wet down, the bully left the dance angry and she went with him to a place where he got a gun and would have gone back to the school, but because Joan was there and was talking to him, he didn’t right away and the police were able to find them and take the kid into custody.  Joan went to school the next day and God was a small, old woman selling cupcakes for a soccer fundraiser.  Joan asked what the deal was, how were things better, the kid was in jail now for pointing the gun at the chief of police.  God/old woman told Joan that because she was there and stopped him from going back to the school, this football player who would have stepped in front of a bullet for his friend, this freshman flautist, that person over there, the vice principal and that person, a dozen in all, were still alive.  A tear slipped down Joan’s face during this and that little, tiny detail is why I like the show so much.  It all seems very real to me.

While I don’t think it’s realistic that God would take various forms and ask someone to get a job at a bookstore, the reactions of Joan and of everyone in her family are real to me.  The things they say, the fights and the tears.  I think it makes me appreciate what God is to many, more deeply than before.

 

There is a character, Grace, who I liked right away.  I watched the credits for her name and did a little internet research and found out she was in an episode of Enterprise called “The Cogenitor.”  She played a third sex of a race who was treated more like a thing that an intelligent being.  The cogenitor ended up wanting to be more than they would let it and it committed suicide.  Anyway, Becky Wahlstrom is her name, who plays this “tough girl” in Joan of Arcadia and I love the story line where Joan’s nerdy younger brother, Luke, has a crush on this girl who a lot of the student body surmises is a lesbian.  One day the nerd goes to his and Joan’s older brother, Kevin, who is in a wheelchair from a car accident, and asks him if him liking a lesbian makes him gay.

 

The show makes me laugh, smile and cry.  Above everything, there’s a strong sense of family and friendship that drives all the characters.  There were these two typical, snotty girls who were in a couple episodes, who were, apparently, Joan’s friends, who were not seen after the first couple episodes because Joan told them to piss off and she moved on to newer, and more unlikely friends: the aforementioned Grace, and a kid named Adam who the whole school thought was a stoner, but in actuality was a sad young man whose only love was making sculptures out of found objects.

 

The show is not perfect, but it’s pretty close, I think.  And anything that can make me feel a real emotion, other than disgust, is worth a watch.  My only question is how long can they keep in interesting and fresh?  Because there’s nothing worse than watching a TV show you love go down the shitter.

 

TV really sucks badly.  I’ve been reading more and watching far less TV, especially network TV.  I do have to say, I watch Cops more often now.  Cops reminds us how incredibly stupid people are.  There are two tenants I’d like to share with you from Cops: 1) I’ve never met a car thief who could drive, and 2) You can’t outrun the radio.

 

I need to mention The Simpsons: great show still.  Curb Your Enthusiasm is hilarious, as is Chappelle’s Show.  And Family Guy is coming back early next year.

 

It does seem that there’s always one real good show with an interesting premise that gets cancelled after six weeks or so.  That show was Wonderfalls, a strange drama about a young woman who works in a gift shop at Niagara Falls who would get strange messages from inanimate objects like, “Destroy her!” from a chicken pin which she assumed was meant to be about a former classmate at a reunion.  The messages turned out to be cryptic enough that they made positive sense eventually.  There was a heart beneath the weirdness, but they moved the show around three weeks into its run and then another three weeks later, they took it away forever. 

 

It just goes to show you groups of people make dumb decisions.  Ever seen the show Last Comic Standing?  I had two major problems with it: 1) The head to head stand up competition that decided who was kicked off the show each week.  The whole idea was flawed because they had only one competition per week, which meant that not every comic had to do any stand up besides the stuff that got them on the show to begin with.  Some comics went up three or four times while others never went up at all.  2) The winner.  Like I said, groups of people make the dumbest mistakes, and I’m not sure how it happened, but the final two stand ups the first season were probably the two least funny participants: Ralphie May, a super fat guy who has the personae of an angry black woman, and Dat Phan, whose material revolves around an unfunny and lame impression of his mother.  Well, Dat Phan won.  America voted, America lost, bitches.

 

John

 

Copyright © 2004 John Lemut