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February 19, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | February 19, 2007 |

The TV Whore is feeling a bit angry and disillusioned right now. Not everything here’s going to be negative and bitter, but most of it will be. If you’re looking for sunshine and puppy dogs, best look elsewhere. And to get things going this week, I’m going to steal a little writing device from our own NMN…

First of all, fuck “American Idol!” I hate this goddamn show, I really do. And for some reason, it’s grating on me even more than in seasons past. And yes, while I loathe the show, I am still watching — I’ll explain that in a bit.

Like many, I used to love the early episodes featuring eight freaks to every actual contender, but this year, I was just bored. And it has nothing to do with the (too much discussed) apparent increase in the levels of cruelty. If anything, I’m generally a proponent of more cruelty on TV. Instead, I think it just boils down to the fact that being really untalented and self-delusional and fat and obnoxious and poorly dressed and surly and everything else these early applicants are — well it’s only entertaining for so damn long. I mean, once you’ve seen 200 William Hungs, haven’t you kinda seen them all?

And then last week we got our first hour of pure, unadulterated fluff — in a new way, and even earlier than usual. I’ve grown used to all the results show fluff and the group song/advertisement fluff and all that — in fact, it’s because of that fluff that I think I first truly fell in love with my TiVo (ah…first love). But last week was really something special. We had one episode for all of the Hollywood round, ending with a group of about 40 at the end of Tuesday night. Then Wednesday night’s episode was the whole lonely elevator and one-on-one “stay or go” night. But there were no extra auditions before the “stay or go.” Which means they’ve could just chopped the Tuesday night group down to the final 24, as they must have already made the decision (because, again, there was no new information on which to base the decision). So it was pure fluff. And worse than being fluff, it was fluff that I wasn’t even invested in. Before last week, they had spent so much time focusing on the bad auditions and so little time on the “good,” that I barely know or care about any of these people. So for the most part, I just didn’t give a shit who got to stay or go.

In fact, this top 24 is entirely forgettable There’s the early favorite, the Jack Osbourne look-alike, who’s really only a favorite because of his white-boy ‘fro and the fact that the producers actually gave him a chance to be memorable (with his amusing “I want to make The Hoff cry” comment). And there’s the hippy love-child, Sunshinehead or some such. And the Indian dude who was better than his now-cut sister. And that’s all I can tell you about the guys.

And the girls? Jesus. All I can think of is this one girl who is kind of hot, but who sounded absolutely terrible in the Hollywood round (meaning she clearly got through for the visual). And … that’s it. I can’t think of anything remarkable about any of the other girls.

During the second season, from the very first audition episodes, I remember telling friends that it would be Reuben or Frenchie winning the thing, because they both stood out (and not just because of their girth). Same thing the year Fantasia won — she and Latoya were leaps and bounds above the rest. But this year, there’s just nobody like that. I’m not invested, I’m not excited and I just don’t care.

So why am I still watching? Because, for better or for worse, it’s still an enormous part of the pop culture. And, again, for better or for worse, I’m a huge pop-culture whore. I can’t stand not knowing about shit that is widely popular, and this fucker is still widely popular. Hell, that’s the reason I started watching the show in the first place (I didn’t watch a single episode of the first season until the finale, which I tuned in because all the Justin/Kelly crap was at such a fever-pitch). So I guess I can blame pop culture for my “American Idol” misery.

And speaking of popular misery…

Second of all, fuck “Lost!” I’ve complained about this show plenty of times before, so I won’t go balls-out here, but as I appear to be in the minority with my opinions about last week’s episode, I just have to make my voice heard. Everyone is saying that the episode was great and one of the best ever and, well, everyone’s retarded, because this episode was about 95 percent fucking worthless. (Now is the time where you should skip ahead to the next section if you aren’t all caught up.)

Now yes, I’ll admit that most of the hour was intriguing, but intriguing doesn’t necessarily a good show make. Look at it objectively. We didn’t really learn much new about pre-island Desmond — he didn’t marry Penny because of her daddy and his own self-doubt, and the boat race was to prove himself to her and her pops and himself. But we kinda already knew all that, so that whole facet of the show felt like fuck-all.

Next, the whole “time travel” thing. Again, absolutely intriguing. But Donnie Darko did it better. Plus, at the end of the episode, we don’t know if he actually traveled back in time at all, or if it was all just in his head (though I think the implication was that it was in his head). Which is awesome, because this show totally needs more unanswered questions.

The whole thing seemed fashioned for three reasons. One, for the “look how clever and creative and innovative we are” element. Well, screw you Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Screw you long and screw you hard. Second, to turn the show’s focus back onto one of its favorite themes, free will versus predestination. Well, it didn’t actually, you know, add anything to the discussion, except to show that predestination won in this instance. And third, it was designed to explain how Desmond can see the future. But it didn’t really explain shit. Sure, now we know he gets visions because his life flashed before his eyes. But we don’t know how or why his future flashed before his eyes. And while the claim was that this episode would explain what actually happened to Desmond after he turned the key, it didn’t. How did he end up outside the hatch crater? How did he end up buck-nekkid? Dunno and dun-fucking-no.

Now, about the ending, the “I’m not trying to save Claire, I’m trying to save you, Charlie.” Unexpected? Sure. But it still felt utterly forced and manufactured, and it actually reminded me of the end of the two-part Lee Harvey Oswald episode of “Quantum Leap” (sigh … I miss you, Dr. Beckett). In that episode, Sam is upset because he wasn’t able to save Kennedy from taking some lead to the head, and Al tells him that he was actually there to save Jackie because, in the original history, she also bit the dust. It was a shocking and surprising ending, but it came out of nowhere and didn’t pay off anything from earlier in the episode, and so it all felt manufactured. And I know the Desmond/Charlie ending isn’t exactly the same, but it left me with that same disappointed “feh” feeling in my gut. Plus, there are two big problems with the whole thing about how Desmond doesn’t think he can ultimately save Charlie, try though he might.

First, it’s internally inconsistent. When Desmond’s life flashed before his eyes, he saw Charlie get lit up by lightning outside Claire’s little abode, right? And because of that vision, Desmond was able to save Charlie. OK, I can take that. But how could he also “see” Charlie drown? In the “life” that flashed before his eyes, Charlie died from the lightning blast, so by the time Claire was in the water (awesome unexplained plot device as to why she was floating limp out in the water, by the by!), Charlie was already dead, real crispy-like. So it just doesn’t make sense, unless Desmond saw flashes of multiple lives/futures, but they never suggested this is the case. Second, and much more importantly, the underlying point of the ending was again to emphasize that Charlie was predestined to die, free will be damned. Death will eventually catch up with him because it’s just Charlie’s time to die. So not only did this episode steal from Donnie Darko, but now it’s taking cues from Final Destination? I actually laughed at the end of the episode as this thought crossed my mind, and I don’t think that type of unintentional comedy is really what they were going for.

Stupid “Lost.”

Third of all, fuck “Grey’s Anatomy!” Just two quick things here. First, the big ferry crash thing. Why did this show feel the need to become “ER?” Pretty much all of the drama and storylines that came out of it could’ve been done without any epic disaster. Except maybe for the plot element of my second rant. (And, once again, if you’re not all caught up with this show, skip on ahead.) Sure, maybe they needed something like this to get to Meredith being “dead” and the big shock-ending last week. And I’ll admit, seeing her wake up in the room with Denny and Coach Taylor the bomb-squad guy was entertaining. But we all know they aren’t actually going to kill her, despite our fondest wishes, and despite the fact that she was really in the water too long to have a shot at living (and probably should have been DOA). And it’s not a question of whether they have the balls to do it. If you had the character of Meredith Grey simply leave the show, it probably becomes a better show. But if you kill her off, the show tumbles out of control as only one of two things can happen if she dies. It can go the realistic route, with the effect of her death on at least George, McDreamy and Christine being utterly debilitating. But that puts the whole show in a miserable and unbearable funk-cloud. So the other way things go is that everyone gets over it in a couple of episodes and the show ends up losing the last drop of credibility it has left. Either way, the show would have managed to kill its underlying tone. And Shonda Rhimes knows this (I think), which is why Meredith won’t die.

But that won’t stop me from rooting against her next week with every inch of my being, believing harder than I ever believed for Tinkerbell.

Fourth of all, fuck all this negativity! Let’s end with a couple of positive notes. First, lemme blow a kiss goodbye to “The O.C.” I stuck with this show for four damn seasons, through the Oliver debacle, the weak second season and the steaming pile of a third season. And I’m just pleased as hell that it managed to regain some of its earlier luster so that it could go out on a relatively high note. It found its long-lost sense of humor and fun, and while this season may not have been perfect, it’s ended up being better than most of the other crap out there. So a hat tip to the SoCal Cohen clan.

Second, a commenter asked about my thoughts on Sarah Silverman’s inexplicably named new program, “The Sarah Silverman Program” (Comedy Central, Thursday nights, 10:30 p.m.). Truthfully, the jury’s still out for me. I love Silverman’s standup, and I love the elements of the show that feel right out of her standup act (like last week’s very un-P.C. “if we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man with AIDS on the moon — and then someday, we can put everyone with AIDS on the moon”). But the acting on the show, an intentional cheese-fest, isn’t working for me, nor are the overall storylines. I’m still watching it, however, and as long as it keeps giving me a couple of solid laughs an episode, I’ll continue to do so.

And finally, I recently discovered something that I had not heard about before, and I suspect most of you haven’t either. It’s called the Independent Television Festival, ITVF, and is sort of a Sundance for TV, trying to give a showcase to independently created television. Last year was their first year, and from the look of their website, it’s still a pretty small ordeal, and the submissions were rather rough around the edges (I tried to make it through one or two of the winners, but just couldn’t do it). But the writers of last year’s Audience Award Winner, a show called “This is My Friend,” sold a script to NBC development out of the thing, which is a nice start for the festival. The whole thing seems like a good idea that is probably overdue, and I hope it leads to some fresh television down the line. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to continue suffering through the likes of “Lost” and motherfucking “American Idol.”


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He feels much better now that he’s gotten some things off his chest.

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The Clip Show / The TV Whore
Feb. 19, 2007

TV | February 19, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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