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July 18, 2008 |

By Ted Boynton | Boozehound Cinephile | July 18, 2008 |

Pop Culture Item Consumed: Not the masterpiece war movie. Given the well-informed and not-at-all asinine debate about Pajiba’s selection of the 20 Best Seasons of Television of the Past 20 Years, I wanted to give some insight into the process through the dozen also-rans that were each staffer’s second choice. So, we’re not so much talking “consumed” as sucked in, swished around, debated, and spat out - I’m referring, of course, to the Pajiba War Room. Imagine Kim Kardashian at a Hell’s Angels rally: Lots of moist, sticky samples of dubious parentage and composition, indiscriminately pulled in with pursed lips, only to be kkhhhuchhhed out like an unwanted jalapeno. (Minus, of course, the “debated” part; as much as I love that majestic ass - truly, my peoples, the Taj Mahal of asses - Kim Kardashian couldn’t debate the contents of taco seasoning.)

Beverage Consumed: The trusty Screwdriver, for which I will need a reader ruling on definitions. Pour eight ounces or so of orange juice, then add vodka to taste — and by “taste” I refer to how much intoxication/hangover assistance/mouth disinfectant you need. I like an occasional Screwdriver, even though it tends to draw a raised eyebrow. You rarely hear someone order this in a bar, but restaurant waiters and nosy family members tend to refer to this as the “alcoholic’s drink,” a sort of throwback stereotype to the clich├ęd image of a shaky-handed bar roach scrabbling around his trailer home kitchenette outside Las Vegas on a painfully bright Monday morning, spilling a little OJ into a tumbler of iced vodka. In theory the OJ covers the whiff of booze and doesn’t look like a drink to neighbors, family, co-workers, etc. … forget that anyone within a one-mile radius can smell the alcohol.

The nice thing about the Screwdriver is its versatility in origin. Most hotel minibars stock the necessities, and there is a certain satisfaction in whupping up a bottle of Minute Maid with one of those little Absolut bottles and some hotel chipped ice after your 11:00 p.m. flight home from Omaha gets canceled. In contrast, it’s equally satisfying to squeeze oranges by hand to mix with ice-cold Stoli from the freezer and crushed ice from the QuickieMart. Refreshing.

The question is whether this qualifies as a “cocktail,” or just a drink? If just throwing some vodka into another liquid makes a cocktail, that really takes us beyond the Pantheon Theory - true Pantheon Cocktails being composed, of course, of no more than four ingredients (exclusive of water and ice), but typically requiring some imagination. Vodka has smoothed my journey with partners as diverse as diet root beer, lemonade, and iced tea. Not to mention cough syrup, Nyquil, and Milk of Magnesia. And that was just last week.

No matter how good it tastes, however, does it deserve the accolades of a classic like dry gin and vermouth? This is why cocktails are an art, not a science. Sure, I can slap on some body paint, eat a few chili-cheese dogs and jalapenos, and roll around on a dirty sheet with a couple of leprous, menstruating strippers. That doesn’t make me Jackson Pollock, now does it?

So I ask you, ‘Jibans: Is the Screwdriver a cocktail, or just a drink? (Sub-question, courtesy of Barry from Championship Vinyl: For current or former bartenders out there —which must be about every third Pajiban — is the Screwdriver still considered the mark of an alcoholic?)

Summary of Action: Imagine Ryan Seacrest and Mario Lopez in a slap-fight over the last tube of orangey fake tan, and you’ll have an idea of the virtual War Room that led to Pajiba’s series of the 20 Best Seasons of Television from the Past 20 Years. I feel we did right by the topic as presented, but it’s illuminating to review the “almost” shows that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason.

There’s no single defining characteristic to explain why this particular group didn’t clear the bar. It could be along the lines of Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of “obscenity”: I know it when I see it. (Interestingly, there are a number of other things I know when I see them, such as whether the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue is “zipperific,” and whether that “rash” is really “contagious.”) Without further ado, the twelve seasons that almost made it, but instead burned up in the atmosphere of our egos:

“Felicity,” Season Two: Beloved Leader Dustin felt that a show addressing the grave concerns of beautiful college girls with tons of friends, any guy they want, and their whole lives in front of them, reflected the sophisticated concerns of contemporary drama. Also, he “really wanted to take her temperature the old-fashioned way.” Dustin initially wanted to go with Season Four, on the basis that he felt less grungy whacking it to a college senior than a girl just out of high school. Once again, however, we found ourselves circling the drain with a relatively recent entry. We know how you all hate that.

(Side Note: Dustin’s third choice was “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Nathan Fillion. As Dustin conceded, however, “Masturbation fodder, even the good stuff, doesn’t automatically qualify as great TV. I need some social relevance, too.” Tell it to Justice Stewart, pal.)

“Suddenly Susan,” Season Three: Dan Carlson averred that he was “suddenly smitten” with this gem that found Judd Nelson in full roar, continuing his iconic re-definition of the American maverick, which began with The Breakfast Club, continued in From the Hip, and found full stride in his portrayal of Brooke Shields’ love interest/supervisor in a typical American workplace, leading Dan to sum up why it’s so great: “It’s just fucking typical.” Dan also commented that he wanted “to lay Kathy Griffin down something fierce.”

“Xena: Warrior Princess,” Season Five: “It’s hard to pick a particular season,” noted TK, “because they’re all stellar.” TK attributes Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emergence as a viable presidential candidate “at least part-ways, anyway” to Xena’s paving the road for young men across the country to accept a strong woman as a leader, not to mention providing a strong role model for young women to contemplate becoming princesses who also cut people up with swords. Added TK, “Season Five was also pretty awesome because Lucy Lawless had big huge knockers from being pregnant for the first time in 11 years.”

“Rules of Engagement”: As noted in my prior review of “RoR” (as the pajibaland cool club calls it), RoR quickly supplanted “Seinfeld” as my Number One Comedy Ever In The History Of Time By Any Objective, Subjective Or Arbitrary Standard, Fuck You Very Much. Its membership in the Guide was shelved, however, when Ranylt threatened to “weep like Jane Eyre, hack like Lizzie Borden,” if I insisted on including it. At any rate, I think we can all agree that “RoR” joins “Just Shoot Me” in the time-honored tradition of keeping David Spade’s television career a-hoppin’.

“Caroline in the City,” Season Two: “I don’t know why I can’t get past it,” said Prisco, “but every time I think of this show, I think of my favorite comic strip.” Wiping away a tear, he shared with us that “every morning, after all these years, my mom and I still try to be the first one to e-mail the latest Cathy Guisewite masterpiece out to the whole family.” Aha, thought 11 people simultaneously, Prisco’s ten-year bout of celibacy, explained at last.

“Nash Bridges,” Season Five: Beckylooo cautioned, “Don’t scoff! Shawn Ryan went on to create ‘The Shield’ after learning the ropes writing Don Johnson’s and Cheech Marin’s insightful one-liners.” A little research turned up the fact that, at some point when he was working as an intern, Ryan also fetched a cup of coffee for David Chase, so he’s pretty much responsible for “The Sopranos” as well. “So,” continued Beckylooo, “No ‘Nash Bridges,’ no ‘Shield.’ No ‘Shield’ means no ‘Mad Men,’ no ‘Rescue Me,’ and no fucking Dark Knight. Losers.”

“Wilhelmena’s Rationales Substantiating Negative Response Stimuli,” Season One: According to Ranylt, this little-seen Canadian program had a lot going for it: a brainy-yet-knockout-gorgeous literature professor from the fictional University of Ottawa neurotically obsesses over her reasons for refusing to use one-syllable words. The show first aired in 1995, but only the first season featured the original lead actress, who was replaced the following year by Joe Mantegna. (Note: During Ranylt’s pitch for this program, I had to Google the words “perspicacious” and “concupiscence.” Ranylt said this means I have a tiny, tiny penis.)

“Temptation Island,” Season One: About the reality show putting four unstable couples on an island resort for a series of fidelity-testing, inter-couple dates, Stacey said, “‘Survivor’ gets all the credit for kicking off the reality-TV tsunami,” (really, truly and unironically using the word “tsunami”), “but ‘Temptation Island’ is the reality for an entire generation of women.” In response to semi-stunned, mostly-pitying silence, she continued, “No, it’s true. Pretty much every romantic moment in my life resulted from a swinging couples weekend at a cheesy tropical resort.” Never one to acknowledge an uncomfortable silence, she went on, “The girls know what I’m talking about, right?” Beckylooo, Ranylt, and AB could not be reached for comment. Then or now.

As for the rest, here’s a list of the remaining also-ran TV shows. See if you can match the program, along with a defending rationalization, with the Pajiba staffer who selected it. It’s like “Highlights,” but with vodka in the orange juice.

“Homeboys from Outer Space,” Season One: “I was watching this when I lost my virginity, which is just as rational as anything any of you fucking morons has said so far. Plus the racist stereotypes weren’t nearly as bad as the NAACP said.”

“She’s the Sheriff,” Season Two: “It’s from 1989, and if we don’t include some stuff that’s almost twenty years old, some cockmunch will whine incessantly about it.”

“Ghost Whisperer,” Season Four: “It hasn’t even happened yet, but come on! The fact that this survived four years clearly puts it in contention. JLH hooters alert!”

“Cop Rock,” Season One: “I don’t care that it was the greatest failure in television history, this show put more young viewers, ahem, in touch with their true selves than “The Wonder Years” and “Doogie Howser M.D.” put together. Stoopid critics.”

Agent Bedhead
Phillip Stephens
John Williams
Seth Freilich

How the Pairing Held Up: Well-mixed Screwdrivers and a Pajiba show-selection bloodbath? It’s can’t-miss, baby.

Tastes Like: If a nerd herd were thrown into a blender with the master print of Serenity, then that’s what the salty, red spray hitting my face would have tasted like.

Overall Rating: Twelve out of twelve, of course.

Finally, a plea: Please go see The Wackness, my peeps. Despite solid reviews, the box office has been poor so far, and this film deserves better. And you don’t have to take just my word for it. Mrs. socalled, who had both her sentimentality and sense of humor surgically removed in a horrifying procedure, viewed the film this past weekend. Not only did she dab her eyes slightly at the end, she cracked a smile during the film, the first time this has happened since clumsy movers destroyed my NFL-logo Barcalounger three years ago.

Ted Boynton is a dedicated sot who would leave his barstool only to stalk Whit Stillman, if anyone could find Whit Stillman. Ted also manages to hold down a job and a wife, three hours each per day, whether they need it or not. Readers may scold, hector, admonish or taunt Ted by e-mailing him at [email protected]

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