This Week's Rant: The Sad State of Network Television

This past Sunday marked the season finale of Arrested Development, network television’s finest series. If the rumors are true, it may have also been the final episode ever. This season was already cut short by four episodes so that Fox can air an idiotic countdown show starring the insufferable Ryan Seacrest.
That’s a real shame, as AD is the most original show since the glory days of Seinfeld. The writing lends itself to repeated viewings; the DVD release of the first season revealed lines and references that I didn’t catch on the original run. And any show featuring David Cross as a stand-in for the Blue Man Group and dressing up as Mrs. Doubtfire is worthy of attention.
It was probably doomed from the start. They didn’t utilize a laugh track or punch lines that were telegraphed five minutes in advance, and the cast didn’t include a chubby fat guy with a hot wife and two precocious kids.
It’s a sad world where That 70’s Show is renewed for an eight season, and AD barely lasts two. It’s also the reason why television is so awful these days. In fact, I’d say that the current state of television hasn’t been this awful since the early 80’s heyday of Love Boat, Different Strokes, and Dallas.
Really, I beg of everybody to come up with three network shows worth watching. I can’t come up with anything, and the only cable shows worth watching are Real Time With Bill Maher, The Daily Show, Springer, Cops, Cheaters, Judge Judy, Family Business, and the baby/daddy episodes of Maury. Ok, the opening monologue of Jimmy Kimmel is the best of all the talkshows, but it’s painful to watch him deal with his lame-ass guests.
With all this in mind, and because I’ve probably angered enough city leaders in the past few weeks, I’m here today to rant and rave about aspects of television that need to be stopped. Sure, I’ve done this topic before, but I’ll refrain from babbling about American Idol, Raymond, Pat O’Brien, Leno, Oprah (aka Satan), and Dr. Phil (aka Satan’s Bitch).
Up first is the person who does the voice-over work for NBC. I believe this deep-voiced cretin also does movie trailers, but I guarantee that any show he’s hyping I’m not going to watch.
Maybe it’s not his fault, though. My beef with him is the over-the-top hype that he’s forced to read. Every ER episode is ground-breaking; every episode of that fire department drama that I’ve never seen is a show you’ll never forget. His spots for the Apprentice always go on and on about a “shocking board room, but what happens after the boardroom will be talked about for”…well, until the next shocking promo.
This guy is not the only offensive aspect of NBC. That award has to go to the over-reliance on Law and Order. I must admit that I occasionally view an episode or two of these shows, but no network should be so reliant on one franchise. There are four different Law and Order programs, and NBC rotates them up to 12 hours a week, not including the reruns on various cable channels.
Not that CBS is any better. There are two kinds of shows on CBS – the fat guy/hot wife comedies I’ve bitched about before, and all of the different variations of CSI, the most overrated show on television. Even cop shows that aren’t CSI are scripted and filmed like they are CSI, so it seems like these shows are on all the time. This has to be stopped.
I guess I need to also chat about ABC. Truthfully, though, I don’t think I’ve seen anything on their prime-time lineup. I can’t imagine watching that blind cop show with a straight face, and the reality show that builds houses for handicapped people is completely unwatchable.
It’s pretty easy to pretend that these shows, along with the Bachelor and the Nanny show, just doesn’t exist. But one has to live in complete seclusion (which is close to my lifestyle) to not hear about Desperate Housewives. There are some people I’m acquainted with that love this show, calling it a network version of Sex and the City. Well, that’s not exactly a ringing testimonial. (Right here I must bring up the worst commercial on the air these days - those stupid Gap commercials with Sarah Jessica Parker singing how much she loves being a girl. Sarah, you’re 40. You’re not a girl; you’re an old hag.)
Back to Desperate Housewives. I’ve never seen it, and I’m still sick of it. You can’t open a magazine, or scan through the news channels, without seeing pictures of these twits or self-congratulating stories about how groundbreaking they think they are. Yeah, that Eva girl is pretty hot, and for an old lady that woman from Lois and Clark still gets it done, but I can’t even deal with these whores any more. Please, go away.
I probably should also talk about UPN and WB, but all I know about these channels is that Fran Drescher, Reba, and Jeff Foxworthy have shows on these channels. That’s enough reason to not tune into any of their programming.
I suppose that I should also mention something about cable programming. Let’s start with the fake reality shows that are plaguing not only E! but also A&E and TV Land. Shows starring Farrah Fawcett, Evel Knievel’s kid, the mother/daughter show where the mom thinks she’s as hot as her daughter, and the show about the princess who wants to be a country singer. I’ve been told by reliable sources that most of these shows are not really reality shows at all. They’re called unscripted fiction, where situations are set up and people are cast not as themselves but as characters to fit these situations. The princess show in particular is widely known to be a project by an out-of-work actress and her acting class buddies. I have a feeling that even some of those shows that I don’t find so bad, such as Viva La Bam and the new one starring Blink 182’s drummer, has a similar background.
FX has gained some notoriety in recent months for their original programming, but the promos that run during every Married With Children commercial break do nothing to make me watch them. Case in point is The Shield. I’ve been told that it’s a good show, but I cringe every time I see the commercial where Glen Close dramatically exclaims, “I need to trust you. Right now, I don’t” or the one where the lead guy says, “I don’t step down. I step up”. If that’s typical dialogue, then I don’t think I’m missing anything.
The good news about the awful state of television is with warm weather finally arriving, I now have an incentive to do something with my life. Hopefully, I’ll get projects such as the CD room finished, or finally start working on converting my basement into a media room. Hell, maybe I’ll even get some exercise. On second thought, that probably won’t happen as long as my DVR continues to fill up with Springer and Stern. But Fox, please, please, please give AD a third, fourth, and fifth season. There are too many unfinished story lines that deserve to be played out.


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