Wednesday, November 4

A Decade Of Television - The Worst Of The Worst.

"What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

-Billy Madison (1995)

In this decade of instant information, gratification and oatmeal, there is this illusion that states that we all must be evolving and advancing in intelligence at a far more rapid clip than generations past. Surely, now that we all have phones in our pockets and AutoTune, we must be the smartest class of human beings that have ever been fortunate enough to Season Pass TiVo an episode of According To Jim.

Not so much.

Truth is, we're still the same nut-scratching neanderthals that wandered out of the jungles back in the day (unless your a Creationist, which means you probably aren't too keen on all this heathen technology in the first place). We just have more sophisticated things that allow us to rely on less and less of our brains. There was a time where I was the coolest kid on the playground, due solely to my knowledge of video game tips, bands and TV shows. Today, any obscure fact can be accessed by anyone in seconds, essentially making my entire life a wasted venture; my talents destroyed by the Internet. In 2009, nobody has to ask anyone a question anymore; they've all been answered and logged digitally, saving time and avoiding human contact for another few precious minutes.

I ain't bitter.

Today, we take a look at five (six, actually) television shows that embodied the devolution of the human mind in the first decade of the 21st Century. Instead of Jet Packs, Robot Sex Dolls and three-course meals in pill form, we all gathered around the Magic Talking Box to watch people make money by not throwing up. Brace yourselves, because we're going in.

Honorable Mention - Hurl! (G4)
Aired For 11 episodes in 2008.

What Was The Point? - Combining the gluttony of competitive eating and the endless enjoyment of watching people humiliate themselves, groups of jackasses were subject to a battery of foodstuffs and physical discomfort, earning cash by not yodeling groceries.

Wow, Are You Serious? - Yeah. Also, G4 had to censor the vomit, essentially making the whole thing even more pointless than the flimsy premise it was presented as.

I referred to Hurl! as the 'USA Up All Night' of Reality programming. Remember Up All Night? Gilbert Godfried would host an evening of B-Movies and skin flicks on USA after hours, but since USA was a basic cable station, they would have to cut out every instance of sex and nudity. Sure, as a kid I would watch and beg for them to slip up, just once, but to no avail. With Hurl!, you had a show about vomit, where they couldn't even show the vomit. Never has the term 'Epic Fail' been more appropriate (they eventually aired the uncensored episodes after the show had been mercifully canceled).

#5 - Jackass (MTV)
Aired for 3 seasons from 2000-2002.

What Was The Point?
- A 'Don't Try This At Home' show that glorified people who made a ridiculous amount of money hurting themselves. The show that invented YouTube, perhaps.

Wow, Are You Serious? - Yep. Jackass was even popular enough to sustain two feature films. Now, I like to see people get hurt as much as the next guy, but there's a depressing desperation when the pain and humiliation is inflicted on purpose. If certain women can get up in arms over females that don't feel objectified by pornography, then I can also be offended by the idea that every MTV viewing 20-something must get a kick out of watching their generation staple their nutsack to their inner thigh. To this day, Jackass marathons continue to dominate MTV programming, while their only decent video block, Subterranean, is relegated to Sunday nights at 3am.

#4 - Are You Hot? (ABC)
Aired for 1 full season in 2003.

What Was The Point?
- Lorenzo Lamas and Rachel Hunter take turns grading mongoloids with zero self-esteem, solely on their physical attractiveness. A combination between speed dating and a beauty contest...kind of.

Wow, Are You Serious? - Indeed. You know, I always get pissed when I hear people bitching about the objectification of Beauty Pageants. They don't like the swimsuit competition. They don't like that it still exists in any form whatsoever. My opinion on the topic is this: if there are women (and men) out there that want to make a living on their looks alone, then they should be allowed to. But by that regard, a Beauty Pageant should be just that. More swimsuits! Less talent! If these people honestly want to do this for a living, than any arguments of objectification and misogyny should be tossed out the window. That's the path you've chosen, let's stop sugar-coating it.

Then I watched Are You Hot?, and pretty much just wanted to kill myself on the spot.

#3 - According To Jim (ABC)
Aired for 8 grueling seasons from 2001-2009.

What Was The Point? - There was no point. There is no point to this life, either. It's just a random series of occurrences from birth to death. We are not in control of our fates; it is a Godless terrain of dumb luck and cement mixer accidents. We're screwed, we go nowhere when we die, and this is all we have. We are alone. Alone. Alone.

Wow, Are You Serious? - Sadly, yes. This show ran for 8 seasons and 182 episodes. 182 episodes! 91 hours of programming! Almost four straight days of Jim Belushi goodness; an effective method of torture if I've ever heard one.

Just think of how happy you'd be if some of your favorite shows had run for 182 episodes. Think about 182 episodes of Arrested Development. 182 episodes of The Prisoner. Then shudder as you realize that According To Jim has been on the air longer than 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip...combined.

To me, According To Jim perfectly represented the tolerance that mainstream America has for sheer mediocrity and laugh tracks. Doesn't matter if it was funny, doesn't matter if it was clever, doesn't even matter if it was enjoyable. As long as it was on, as long as I got a few of the jokes and as long as we got three flimsy acts in 22 minutes, I'll be there every week for eight years. Sort of like a failed, loveless marriage. You blew it, and now you have to live with it; might as well see it through to the bitter end, it's the only remaining shred of dignity you could possibly cling to.

Here's an idea for a new sitcom. Married couple. Two children, one boy and one girl. Making a modest living, working modest careers and facing modest issues on a weekly basis.

Here's the catch: the husband is an intelligent, fit patriarch that vacuums the floor, knows how to talk to his kids, and isn't aroused by every woman within earshot that isn't his wife. The wife is an overweight, peanut-brained oaf that wears sports jerseys around the house and is constantly bothering her husband for sex at the most inopportune times. Sounds hilarious, right?

The Missus says that the reason why husbands and wives are portrayed like that in sitcoms is because more females watch sitcoms than men, and they like to play to stereotypes and comedic strengths. I think she might be right, which makes it all the more sad and repugnant.

Screw According To Jim, screw cookie-cutter sitcoms and screw every bloat-headed American that finds this sort of garbage funny. Now if you'll excuse me, America's Funniest Home Videos is on, and if I don't tune in right away, I won't be able to follow it at all.

#2 - The Inexplicable Rise To Fame Of Televised Poker (Multiple)
Aired from 2002-Present on every American Television network.

What Was The Point? - At some point during this decade. Poker became a sport. Thanks to multiple camera angles, odds/percentage calculators and colorful visors, this became something that people were actually excited to watch. We made stars out of people with gambling addictions, and found out what Jason Alexander had been up to since Listen Up! got canceled.

Wow, Are You Serious? - Affirmative. I was getting my hair cut last week, and my stylist told me that her boyfriend actually TiVo's televised poker, so he can learn strategies and win big. I flat-out told her that this revelation was the saddest I've heard in a long time, that her boyfriend sounded like a Major League dick and she should remedy the situation by leaving him immediately. If he was TiVo'ing poker in 2002, I'd probably let it slide, but 2009? I was surprised that people still had the patience to watch such pointlessness.

Our nation is in a recession. Most of us don't have a lot of money. Either we watch televised poker because we like the idea that somewhere out there, there's a high roller winning millions at the casino; something that could possibly happen to us one day, or because we're too depressed to change the channel (or too broke to buy new batteries for our remote control).

Also, and I don't care how much skill goes into being a Texas Hold 'Em master, but playing cards is 90% luck of the draw. You might as well just TiVo the Powerball girl drawing random lottery numbers every night, because you can learn approximately the same amount of skills that way.

True story. When I was kid, I spent the night at a friends house, where we ended up playing poker with his parents. I had never played before, and they were walking me through the process. On my very first hand of Poker, ever, I was dealt a Royal Flush. It has never happened to me since, but it taught me a very important lesson. There is limited skill in gambling, at best. All the sponsors, visors and heaving cleavage in the world can't help you if a nine-year-old kid can accomplish something that, for all intents and purposes, will probably never happen to even the most hardened gambler.

#1 - Emeril (NBC)
Aired for a handful of episodes in 2001.

What Was The Point? - "Wow, televised cooking is all the rage these days, and this Emeril guy seems to be the most popular. Let's throw him completely out of his element and see if he can act!"

Wow, Are You Serious? - I wish I wasn't. Hell, I wish I lived in a world where I didn't have three television channels devoted entirely to the preparation and consumption of food. Now, I've never claimed to understand the TV viewing habits of housewives and lonely widows, but boy do they love to watch people cook things. At no point was this more apparent than when we decided to make superstars out of Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray (who has no culinary degree whatsoever), purely on their ability to throw things into a bowl and yell surrealist nonsense at innocent vegetables.

So, people really got a kick out of this Emeril guy. He was sharp, he had a lively personality and he seemed to have decent comedic timing. So NBC, in a foresight-less moment of FOX-like indiscretion, decided to write a sitcom around this guy's life as a chef. Emeril was the perfect storm of awful. An A&R blunder of Hindberg-ian proportions. Seinfeld for retards. a ratings disaster and the death knell for an NBC network that had drained every ounce of their former glory.

What's more, and this is what I feel is Emeril's unforgivable sin, is that it was Robert Urich's final role. Robert Urich, the badass actor from Spenser: For Hire and the Bayer aspirin commercials, died of cancer in 2001, with his Emeril credit being the last byline on his IMDB page. Forget Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut; this was an actor going out on the lowest possible creative note. He was The Lazarus Man, for Christ's sake!

Well, there you have it, a depressing, dirty and irredeemable trip down Repressed Memory lane. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The Decade In Review continues tomorrow, with the first half of the Top 10 Television Shows Of The Decade.

Hahahahahaha "yodeling groceries." Nice one.
I have one word for you: Idiocracy
No, wait...I have three more words for you: "Ow, My Balls"

TV shows allow some sad, disillusioned women to feel justified in believing that men really are just like Jim, so they can stay bitter and resentful, even if their personal reality is quite different. The same shows perpetuate this idea that average men always marry hot housewives with persecution complexes who have shrill voices and big boobs. It makes the tv execs money, as it keeps the ridiculously profitable "gender wars" grinding along and makes the masses think that they should be striving for whatever "ideal" fad of the day is being portrayed on the talk box.

Televised poker is no worse than televised bowling, or billiards. Or golf, for that matter. True story: my husband has a friend who got a free trip to Paris to take part in a big deal poker tournament by being really, really good at on-line poker.

Alton Brown PWNS and OWNS all other tv "chefs". Because why? SCIENCE! (Although I wish he hadn't gone so hardcore on the sardine diet, because he looks gaunt in the new episodes, which are getting a wee mite preachy, I might add...)

Guy Fieri's show is enjoyable, too. But I avoid all the others like Paula Deen avoids a low sodium, low fat diet. More butter, ya'll!
There was a large sub-genre in sitcoms that had a smart, attractive wife and a fat/ugly and dumb husband. I blame "Everybody Loves Raymond". "According to Jim" was the worst of these, although all of them were pretty bad (Even Raymond, imho). "George Lopez" was also among the worst of these except that it dealt fairly with Latino issues.

I think the Geneva convention banned Emeril reruns as a form of torture. Yes, that bad!!
Hey, are you guys playing cards?

BTW - Robert Urich is Dan Tanna! Vega$ needs to be back on TV.
Poker isn't so much luck as it is being skilled at bluffing. We used to watch it all the time, so I'm not sure where your animosity towards televised card games came from :)

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