>>> Casual Misanthropy
By staff writer JD Rebello
October 30, 2005

Here’s why TV pisses me off. Over the past few years, TV execs have come up with some fairly original shows. Amidst the According to Joes and Yes Dears of the world, we’ve seen a bevy of new and interesting programs (it’s called suspension of disbelief, bear with me). Desperate Housewives, 24, Lost, Apprentice were all at least original shows. Granted, I’ve never seen an episode of any of those shows, but again, suspension of disbelief. So here’s my problem. Instead of execs saying, “You know what? People like original, inventive ideas. Let’s continue to mine our imaginations for new and creative programming,” they say, “Hey, let’s beat this fucker into the ground.” And that’s how you get five shows on the same network centering on the same idea: Hello, CSI. Hello, Apprentice.

The mother of this is VH1, which was once my refuge from MTV, but has since become MTV’s lesbian aunt.

TANGENT ALERT! TANGENT ALERT!

Ok, so I got digital cable a few weeks ago, and now have full access to MTV2. Let me tell you, MTV2 is the worst thing MTV could have done for itself. You have no idea how bad MTV is until you’ve seen MTV2, which actually shows videos and programming that doesn’t seem like it was written by people who splurge to Tiger Beat. It’s like if George Bush opened a new branch of government and put Michael Moore in charge. It’s extraordinary.

“In 1988, I believe, they talked about microwaves. Earlier they opined about VCRs. In the inevitable I Love the 80’s: 3D: Strikes Back will they discuss sofa beds? Curtains? The remote control?”

So last week, I watched old episodes of Beavis & Butthead, complete with their commentaries on videos. Was there ever a more brilliant show than B&B? I’m not even close to being sarcastic, this show was incredible.

Then, three years ago, VH1 premiered I Love the 80's, a shamelessly nostalgic affair that for a decade many chose to forget. Regardless, the show was entertaining, interesting, and very very funny. Plus, it showed the world how unbelievably hot Punky Brewster got. On that basis alone, the show should have won six Emmys.

So what did VH1 do? Well, they created I Love the 70's, followed a few months later by I Love the 80's: Strikes Back!, two installments of I Love the 90's (which could have and should have been a lot better, except 1997-1999 just happened. How can I possibly feel nostalgic about The Sixth Sense and Jessica Simpson?). Oh yeah, and they started a show called Best Week Ever, which allows for blisteringly unfunny commentary on last week’s news and entertainment. It also features one guy (the guy with the field goal uprights for teeth) who has to be the ugliest person in the Western Hemisphere.

And now, just last week, they drove a stake through the heart of their own idea with I Love the 80's: 3D. The trick this time? Well, the show was filmed in 3D, so with a pair of 3D glasses you can see Loni Love’s double chin come right at you. Good times.

By the way, you could apparently pick up a pair of 3D glasses for the show at your neighborhood Best Buy, leading to such rousing conversations as the one below:

Me: So what’s with the 3D glasses?
Doofus: Oh. I got them so I could watch VH1.
Me: Neat. Do me a favor, all right. Stand right there so I can run you over with my car. Stay right there. Don’t move. Good. Be right back.

Some other problems with the new show?

1. Michael Ian Black. Hilarious in the first installment, but apparently too many people told him how funny he was, because every comment he makes now is a ten-minute diatribe with no apparent punch line. He’s like one of those friends whose jokes always bomb, then tells one that’s mildly amusing, and suddenly it’s Evening at the Apollo and you just want to jam a salad fork in his trachea. Michael Ian Black used to be funny. Now he makes Jimmy Fallon look like George Carlin.

2. Those stupid commercial intros, like “Webster’s Dictionary” featuring that little freak Emmanuel Lewis discussing the hit slang term of the year, which would be fine, except it sucks, and much of the slang isn’t even decade specific, like the word “dude.” Yeah, nobody uses that term anymore. What about “cool” or “douchebag”? Ahh, “douchebag.” Was I ever so young?

3. They’ve run out of shit to talk about. In 1988, I believe, they talked about microwaves. Earlier in the series, they opined about VCRs. Are you kidding me? In the inevitable I Love the 80’s: 3D: Strikes Back will they discuss sofa beds? Curtains? The remote control?

4. The black commentators. Listen, you guys know I never make an issue about race, but Loni Love, Tommy Davidson, and that jackass Godfrey (the one who laughs hysterically at his own jokes, which are about as funny as a documentary on lung cancer) all make essentially the same riff. If they are discussing a black person, they say, “So and so was the sexiest/funniest/toughest brother around.” If they are discussing a white person, they give us some variation of, “If they were black…” as in, “If Alf were black, he’d like grape soda,” or something, I don’t know. I don’t care.

5. The idea has been done to death. And that’s the thing. When an idea (even a great one) gets diluted constantly, all future installments will inevitably suffer. Just look at The Simpsons or James Bond. Yes, they had the legs to last this long, but if you can tell me last week’s Simpsons holds a candle to “Mr. Plow,” you’re a bleeding imbecile. Then again, there was no Simpsons last week because FOX is saving their Halloween episode for November 6. Fuck you, FOX.

See, we have to stop this, because VH1 won’t. These shows are easy to produce, easy to cast (it’s not like Hal Sparks is part of Hollywood’s A list), and require no writing. I don’t want to be sitting on my can a few months from now and hear on the TV: “And this is 1933. The flicks. The fashions. That totally awesome year that brought us these burning questions: Where did Hitler get that cool stache? And if FDR is so smart, why does he have polio? Because you love the thirties. Because you got hammered all through prohibition, admit it. This is 1933!”

One last note, if HBO ever pre-empts Curb your Enthusiasm for a Rome marathon ever again, someone dies.

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