Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musings on Broadcast Television in May 2009

Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet

The 2008/09 broadcast television season is ending this month, and the collision of the new digital-only demand make a perfect storm of the best and the worst of what is out there. Due to this, I was having some random thoughts about the state of television. In no particular order:

• As a follower of Media Ecology, I found a particular point of interest in the last half hour of The Celebrity Apprentice, a show of which I’ve probably seen maybe two hours worth if you include all of its seasons. In the live finale, Donald Trump asked Clint Black whom he would fire if he had the power, and his response was, “The editor.” These two words say so much about what we know as Reality TV, but it was followed by the sounds of crickets as critics and talk shows ignored it, or missed its significance. It’s a perfect example of what Daniel J. Boorstin coined a “pseudo-event.”

• So far, since there are no other official candidates as of yet, we are being bombarded by commercials for Michael Bloomberg’s illegal run for a third term, even if his own board gave him permission. The people did not give him that, and in fact the voters have twice voted against third terms. It figures he would run though, because he has continually shown he does not care about the people of this city, except those few stockholders of corporate New York. He claims in the ad that he will fight against “special interests,” though he represents them. For example, we taxpayers paid for three stadiums in New York (one still to be built in a ruined historic neighborhood in Brooklyn), and yet we are charged exorbitant fees to attend them. When there was talk of him running for president, the first thing I said was, “Wow, just think of all the stadiums he could build across the country!” Another example of his being in bed with corporate greed was dealing with the closure of CBGB. There he was, in full photo opp mode as he stood there promoting the club, but when it came time to actually do anything for support, again, the sound of crickets. Sadly, he will probably win thanks to tall the people who believe his publicity, but I will not be one of them, as I was rightfully not twice before. Not my mayor, especially again.

• Also, I’ve had enough already with all the commercials for cable. Wonder where all high fees go each month? No commercial break, especially in daytime, passes without one of these better-get-it-or-else-if-you-want-television fear tactics. I just don’t want to see that bland guy in the blue sweater against the red walls in the background drone on, the whinny red headed guy with the beard, the three spinning hip-hop stooges, the gawd-awful Caribbean rap one, the one with the three women singing where the leader had bad make-up and looks like a clown-face, or the singing and conga-line dancing puppets, or any of the others. I now have to sit with the remote in my hand, ready to change the channel whenever these abominations come on.

• Who is that high-pitched Nathan Thurm look-alike guy who seems to be trying to hoodwink people on so many repeated infomercials? I turned on the television recently during the middle of the night when I had trouble sleeping and that half-hour ad was on four broadcast channels concurrently. Are really that many gullible or desperate people out there?

• Then there is Billy Mays, that guy with the beard who sells cleaning products by screaming. I’ve seen him interviewed on some infotainment show, and he was talking normally. Is he trying to replicate the guy who used to hock Crazy Eddie? Well, he doesn’t have the shtick or the personality. Talk normally or shut the hell up!

• For some reason, I do like the woman with tons of make-up who sells Progressive car insurance. Did you know actor Stephanie Courtney’s character has a name? It is Flo. Some of these ads are amusing, but it’s Flo who makes it interesting.

• A new show I like is The Big Bang Theory. While this season seems to be too focused on Sheldon’s neuroses and his companions’ fear of him rather than the group’s friendship, the show is still sharply written. I am hoping it does not become the Sheldon show, ignoring the other great characters, including some of the minor ones, like Leonard's rival from the comic store, the group’s competitor with the bad lisp, and especially Wallowitz’s unseen but definitely heard mother. BBT won me over when the foursome all dressed up as the Flash for a Halloween party, and Sheldon consequently went as the Doppler Effect. Also, they all have great comic genre t-shirts (though they are starting to repeat some of them). Some of my favorite moments from the season have included Penny’s shock when she uses a Star Trek metaphor, and when she matches Sheldon’s idiosyncratic door rapping rhythm back at him (both solo and in tandem). I am sorry they got rid of Sara Rule, though I realize in the story’s arc it was necessary.

• While I still like the original CSI (i.e., Vegas), I find Laurence Fishburne, though a fine actor, has really been slowing down the pace to a David Caruso drip. He’s a new CSI, yet he is already the authority on everything, going on solo cases, which makes no sense. That being said, there was an exceptional episode recently revolving around a “Solar Quest” convention (filling in for Star Trek. While they never mentioned any of the real characters or actors from the original show, during some fantasy sequences and the use of memorabilia, it was always obvious which particular episodes to which they were referring, even to a ST fan like me who is not a Trekker.

• Speaking of which, I recently turned on The View because Leonard Nimoy was going to be on to promote the new film, Star Trek. Seems a staff member of the show named Dave is a huge fan of all things Trek, but especially the original series. When Nimoy came on, he turned to him and said, fingers splayed, “Live long and prosper, Dave.” Dave, who gave the Hebraic-based sign back, was clearly in tears. It was a very nice and touching moment. By the way, did Nimoy get new teeth recently? His speech had a hard “shh” tone, like talking through some kind of dentures.

• Am I the only person who watches Reaper? The show has consistently been humorous, and a cast that keeps getting stronger. Yes, it is occasionally sophomoric, but it also has some thoughtful moments and themes. The introduction of Jenny Wade’s demon character, Nina, was a pleasant addition this year. I hope they don’t cancel it, when they keep all the other ‘tween romance bullshit on. This really is the only show on the CW I can stand.

• I am fully willing to admit that I didn’t appreciate Arrested Development, though I respected its work; however, the new animated show, Sit Down, Shut Up is just terrible. Hopefully, Cleveland will be better (I’m guessing it will fall somewhere between the exceedingly sharp Family Guy and the lukewarm American Dad).

• Someone should bring back The Uncle Floyd Show, already.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You're not the only one watching Reaper! There are a lot of us fans out here. Check us out at and our Save the Show campaign!

  3. Grumble grumble, grammar curmudgeon

  4. Great title! Where'd you get that?
    Anyway, your blog is practically the only source where Bloombergs reign extension is considered illegal. (rightfully so!)
    Mayor Bloomberg commercials promise this and that. I shout at the TV, you're mayor NOW! Implement you programs NOW. Doesnt any body see this?

    I remember how embarassed Bryant Gumbel was when he has to consider the plot twists of survivor, NEWS!
    Today American Idol, Dancing with the Stars (this ruins Jimmy Kimmel's rep as I see it), and other so called reality programs are considered credible news when they are media events or pseudo events. Imagine they invent news and then have the gall to report on it. Media incest I say. Boundaries please!