Thursday, March 14

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 4.



I just finished reading Top Of The Rock, about the meteoric rise (and fall) of NBC’s ‘Must-See TV’ lineup on Thursday night. The (pretty good) book was written by the President of NBC at the time, Warren Littlefield, and it’s an oral history of the ups-and-downs of a network that has experienced more feast and famine than the other three majors combined.

The book starts with Cheers and leads into the major NBC comedy hits of the 90’s, such as The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier and Will and Grace. At this point in the Thursday night block’s run, Littlefield is unceremoniously fired and the book ends, but it’s as good of a place for the book to end as any; most TV historians know that following Littlefield’s departure, Jeff Zucker eventually took the reins and drove NBC directly into the shithouse. In fact, NBC is currently ranked fifth in network broadcasting ratings, behind CBS, ABC, FOX and Univision. Univision!

Anyway, Must-See TV has always been part of my life in one way or another. From the classic 1986 lineup of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court, to the outstanding 2013 lineup of Community, 30 Rock, The Office and Parks and Recreation, I’ve always been watching. Even more flash-in-the-pan shows like Wings and Boston Common at least got a chance in my house, and I remember owning a pair of flip-up sunglasses just like Dwayne Wayne in A Different World.

As far as I’m concerned, Thursday night is all NBC has left at this point, and even that glory is fading. Despite all the TV I watch during the week, and despite me being in that coveted 18-34 year old male demographic that advertisers seem to salivate over, I only watch primetime NBC on Thursdays. With the exception of Saturday Night Live, there is no other show on NBC that even remotely interests me, and with the departure of 30 Rock, The Office and (let’s face it) Community this year, they’re pretty much depleting any hope of keeping me around as a viewer. I’m not so much bummed to lose these sitcoms (it’s time for them all to go), I’m more bummed that I’m losing a beloved block of TV that’s stuck on a network verging on embarrassment.

But hey, more shows will come along. That’s the beauty of a struggling network; they’re more willing to take creative chances when they’re desperate, more willing to give creative control to those who deserve it. When the FOX network first launched, they took chances on everything, and most of it was crap. But their hits from those early days (The Simpsons being the most notable) were what eventually launched it into first place many years later. The acquisition of the NFL certainly didn’t hurt, either.

4:35-5:00 – The Late Show With David Letterman (DVR - CBS)

Tina Fey was on, equating her time on 30 Rock to getting out of prison and acclimating to a new reality. I think she’s gonna be okay.

At some point over the last few years, Letterman’s approach to his job has changed, in my opinion, for the better. He’s a bit more opinionated, a bit more curmudgeonly and a bit more honest with his guests (particularly if they are uninteresting). His knowledge of politics is vastly underappreciated and his abilities as an interviewer (despite over 30 years of experience) are vastly underrated. I grew up with this guy on my TV, and I rooted for him to take Carson’s job in 1992, but it was probably better for his career that he ended up blazing his own trail at CBS.

5:00-5:30 – Pardon The Interruption (DVR – ESPN)

Our home appraisal was only days away, and we were still running errands like crazy in advance of it. We weren’t sure what we could do to boost the value of our home other than clean it up and light some candles, but by God, we were going to accomplish that minutiae to the best of our abilities. ALL THE POTPOURRI!

Celia came up with the idea of refinancing the house, as now seemed to be a good time in the market to do so. We were in a position to lower our monthly payments without having to increase our mortgage length, which meant more money in our pockets. However, with home prices in the gutter, there was a chance the refinancing would come in at too low of an amount, which meant that not only would our monthly payments stay the same, but we’d be out the several hundreds of dollars it took to set this thing up in the first place. It was like a weird Catch-22; a lot was on the line.

We treated ourselves to a quiet dinner, hoisted a pint to our inescapable success or failure (one or the other was guaranteed) and headed back home.

7:30-8:15 – Arcade Fire Live (DVR – Palladia)

If you didn’t catch on, we have the Palladia Channel free for the week, so I’m taping literally anything relevant off of it. It’s part of an awful tier that I would never spend money on (would you pay extra for the Smithsonian Channel?), but while it’s on my radar I plan on taking advantage of it. I mean, I think the Smithsonian is awesome, but I don’t need to pay an extra $10 a month to see the same Hope Diamond documentary every six hours.

8:15-8:40 – Community 
(DVR – NBC – ‘Alternative History Of The German Invasion’)

The Office and Parks and Recreation were reruns tonight, so Community was all we had of NBC’s Must-See TV block. And while Dan Harmon’s public departure of Community has left a noticeable (if somewhat intangible) hole in the overall flow of the episodes, it’s still a good show with good characters, jokes, meta-humor and heart. I’m still standing by it, and if you’re no longer watching specifically because of what happened to Harmon, all you’re doing is depriving yourself of a show that’s still as good as when you watched it.

8:40-9:00 – TNA Wresting (DVR - Spike)

TNA Wrestling is the worst show in the history of television and should not be watched by anyone. Although I will say that few things are funnier than Jay Lethal's Randy 'Macho Man' Savage impression.

9:00-9:30 – 76’ers at Bulls (Live – TNT)

Disgusted by the abomination that is TNA Wrestling (an abomination I suffer weekly, by the way, because I don’t learn), I caught the end of the Bulls game for no other reason.

I enjoy basketball more now than I have since I was a kid; I think there are some teams and players now that resonate more with casual fans, and I for one have hopped back on board. I still think the regular season is too long, and the playoffs diabolically too long, but much like baseball, I like finding a game on at night that I can check out when I just want to relax.

9:30-10:15 – Mysteries At The Museum (DVR – Travel Channel)

I have no idea how many people watch this show, but it’s awesome. That’s all I’m going to say; any further attempt to sway you would come off as boring, but it’s great. One of the best educational shows on TV (and as they focus on artifacts from American museums, it’s all stuff you can visit for yourselves), I watch this excitedly every week. I cannot tell you how many things I’ve learned from this show that have randomly come up in conversations days later. If this was what the Smithsonian Channel was actually like, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

10:15-12:30 – Timberwolves at Lakers (Live – TNT)

With the Missus in bed, and with me no longer wanting to work on the house or even passively concentrate on a drama or sitcom, I opened a beer and watched more basketball. I find the Lakers far more interesting when their team is having personnel problems, and that’s all they seem to be known for this season. Kobe is the most entertaining athlete in all of sports when he’s frustrated and pissed off (which is quite often). It’s riveting.


5:30-5:45 – Conan (DVR – TBS)

5:45-6:00 – The Daily Show (DVR – Comedy Central)

6:00-6:15 – The Colbert Report (DVR – Comedy Central)

6:15-6:30 – Pardon The Interruption (DVR - ESPN)

TGIF! Whooo! Typically, the Missus and I would spend our Friday evening at a restaurant with friends, reviewing the week that was before heading home for more drinks and conversation, but Friday was Zero Hour in regards to our upcoming home appraisal. All week, we had been cleaning and accessorizing, but on Saturday, my mom, sister and grandmother elected to come down for one final sweep and deep cleansing.

A couple things to clarify. I know it seems that, by all the cleaning we’ve been doing this week, my house is a disgusting nightmare of Hoarders-esque feces and sadness. Not true; in fact, it’s always pretty clean. But because I’m not sure what this appraiser is going to be looking at, I wanted to leave no stone unturned. I want it as clean as it was the day we bought it; corners dusted, every inch of carpet vacuumed, closets organized, the works. I don’t care if this jackass is in my house for all of five minutes and doesn’t once take into appreciation the steam-mopped linoleum and lilac diffusers, I’m putting my best goddamn foot forward.

Fortunately, Friday night is a ‘death slot’ for most TV networks and shows, so there isn’t much left to watch but DVR’d stuff left in the queue. It was good background distraction while the Missus and I made sure that all the liquor bottles, cocaine and left wing propaganda were tucked away somewhere discreet before my family paid a visit (half kidding).

9:00-10:00 – Bellator Fighting Championships (DVR – Spike)

10:00-10:45 – Friday Night Smackdown (DVR – Syfy)

10:45-11:15 – Inside MMA (DVR – AxsTV)

11:15-12:30 – AXS TV Fights (DVR – AxsTV)

There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, less gay than three-and-a-half hours of sweaty, shirtless guys either beating the crap out of each other, or pretending to beat the crap out of each other. Nothing.

As I sat there on the couch, I thought about how hectic Saturday was going to be with my folks in our house. They were going to be moving my stuff around, opening drawers and asking me where things are supposed to go. They were going to be secretly judging me, my cats and the way that I live. They were going to wonder aloud why I had so much Tupperware, and I wasn’t going to know what to tell them (really, I don’t know where it all came from). It was enough to give me an anxiety attack. I was nervous, but extremely grateful that they were willing to help.

I sometimes think my mom wonders why I decided to move 100 miles south to Madison 11 years ago with my future wife. I think she wonders why we couldn't have just stayed in Winnebago County and attempted a quiet-yet-successful life in one of the many unincorporated towns that litter the landscape of northeast Wisconsin. Truth was, we were stuck there and need something different as quickly as possible.

We were graduated from high school, our jobs were menial at best, and we wanted to attend college in Madison. We didn't have an apartment, we were unemployed and we hadn't even visited Madison too many times before making this decision, but we had each other, and it was all that mattered at the time. Sometimes, when you have nothing and get desperate, positive things happen. You take chances, and these chances work out for the best in the long run...

Am I attempting to tie together the triumphant story of my adulthood with that of NBC's 'Must-See TV?'

Yes. Yes I am, and yes I did. I consider it a personal victory.

Really though, if this appraiser doesn’t notice how clean the house is, I’m going to boot him right square in the sack.

I hate David Letterman. He was a jerk to Tom Felton, and that is simply unacceptable.
Letterman just doesn't like flash-in-the-pan pretty boys that we'll probably never see in another film ever again.

How much trouble are you in for attacking Tom Felton's career, I wonder... ;o)

And don't forget his pivotal role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

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