Monday, January 9, 2006

Oh How I Still Miss Buffy

I essentially took the past two weeks off to recuperate from the past couple of years. My official goal was trying to clean my house from fussily organizing my video tapes and CDs, to opening long unopened mail and reading unread books. Once upon a long ago I gave up the fight against cat hair but even this was a challenge I tried to address during my two week recuperation swiffing and sweeping and dusting and picking up globs of hair here and there.

Coming from a tired mind and weary body you'll have to take the following with more than a grain of salt (I'd suggest a Morton's sized container) especially since much of my free time was spent transferring my collection of Survivor video tapes on to DVDs thus proving my standards may have eroded some over the years. I like to say that I majored in TV in college. My major senior paper was all about the history of television and its influence on our culture. My major senior project was spent out in Hollywood trying unsuccessfully to get on to a game show.

In his critically acclaimed book Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson makes a convincing argument that our so-called dumbed-down, instant gratification culture is a myth. Johnson writes that not only are video games quite educational for the youth of America, but that the current slate of TV shows are so much more sophisticated that any shows from the past that just by watching them the American TV viewer is cognitively challenged in ways never before seen in our history.

So I don't know if any of you were fortunate enough to see not one, but two GREAT television moments this past week. One was FOX talk show host Bill O'Reilly's appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Dave was thankfully scornful of O'Reilly's view of our current affairs. When O'Reilly began his segment with his nonsensensical fight against how political correctness is trying to take Christmas away from God-fearing Americans, Dave dismissed it all as silly, a few isolated incidents and examples that can't be taken seriously.

When O'Reilly attacked Cindy Sheehan for calling the Iraqi insurgents "freedom fighters" Dave rightfully called his guest out. "I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ. Honest to Christ." Dave then asked how anyone could defend the decision to invade the country now that the President has admitted that he did so with faulty intelligence. "Why the hell are we there to begin with?" Dave asked a couple of times.

The second great, not to be missed, TV moment was Monday's episode of Arrested Development. The show has all but been canceled by FOX and the writers made great fun of this by tying the show's future in with the show's storyline. The episode centered on a benefit to help the Bluth family out of its troubles only to have the benefit sabotaged by the fact that the family has few redeeming or likable qualities. Conan O'Brien's ex-sidekick, Andy Richter, made a killer appearance as himself and his multiple brothers. Richter of course was the victim of his own too short-lived, too good for the masses FOX TV show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

The episode was a semi-inside joke about the show's plight about not being able to catch on with the public mostly because of its premise- that we all come from screwed up families but the Bluths were perhaps the most screwed up family of all time. God I'm gonna miss one of the best examples of Johnson's book/argument- of how sophisticated TV has gotten. The only plausible reason that Arrested Development failed was that there was way too much going on in the typical episode for the average TV viewer to appreciate. This was a long ways from the Andy Griffith Show but some of us have to see that don't we?

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