Tuesday, December 27, 2005

List o' Mania

I had to write a TV related list for a website recently. I'm currently writing another article and don't have time to blog, so I thought I'd post this up here. I know ya'll hate when I blog about TV, but quite frankly TV is just a lot more exciting than my actual life.

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The end of year brings not only Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, it also brings The Season of Top Ten Lists. It seems everyone and their friend who watches Access Hollywood has a Top Ten List of Something. Anything. It doesn’t matter, just make a list. Someone will want to read it. As a new contributor to this website I was asked to come up with my very own Top Ten List of TV Shows for 2005. But it turns out I don’t take direction very well.

Instead I decided to come up with a different kind of list, one that is a little more encompassing than merely naming the good shows on TV. Because those of us who live for TV know that there is so much more going on with TV than just the TV shows. There are deals being made, there are technologies being advanced. And most importantly, there are Top Ten lists to read.

So here are my Top Ten Things to Love About TV This Year.

DVR’s - Let us all bow our heads and thank the Lord for blessing us with Tivo. He recognized the pain we’ve all experienced after mistakenly setting our VCR’s to record Telemundo instead of UPN and he sent us DVR’s to ease our suffering. Gone are the days of looking in the TV Guide, searching ridiculously cluttered grids for our favorite shows and stars. Now all we have to do is tell Tivo what and who we like and it does all the thinking for us. It’s so smart sometimes it doesn’t even bother asking us before it records something we should like. Now if only it could do my laundry it would be the only necessary item in my home.

Ensembles - On shows like "ER", "LOST", "Grey’s Anatomy" and "CSI" ensembles share the time and the stories instead of one main character carrying the entire show. I really enjoy this trend. And not only because I have a short attention span and the numerous storylines help keep me interested. I also enjoy how seamlessly these shows have introduced casts that actually look like the real world. If the real world were very attractive, of course. But besides the pretty factor it is refreshing to see how many shows have a multitude of races in their casts. Most refreshing of all is the fact that I barely even notice it. Instead of focusing on race ("She’s Asian, he’s Black. They’re KISSING!") these shows are choosing to spend time on stories and characters. It seems like a simple enough concept, but it wasn’t that long ago that it took "Friends" six years to find someone who wasn’t white in New York.

Sequins! - Please, if you will just for a moment try to imagine the pitch meeting in which an ABC employee came into his boss’ office and said, "So here’s my idea: Let’s put Evander Holyfield in tights and have him do ballroom dancing to a cover version of a mediocre Britney Spears song." Now please imagine how high the executive must have been to actually approve this pitch. And then you will understand that drugs actually do have a place in the workplace. Especially if they result in me getting to see Patrick Swayze come teach someone how to do a dance lift, when the only thing he’s been lifting in the past ten years is his face. Was there anything on TV more horribly wonderful as "Dancing With the Stars"? I think no. It had people being dropped on their heads, strategically placed sequins and of course, "Everything to dance for." The next installment has Jerry Rice, Tatum O’neal and Master P. I smell Emmy Award!

Oprah - Okay, so Oprah isn’t exactly a new addition to our TV screens but this year marks her 20th year on our televisions and I think that is worth noting. Have you seen some of her hairstyles throughout the years? Believe me, those are worth noting. But despite her outrageously big hair in the 90's, Oprah has still managed to build a show that absolutely transcends its medium. Much more than just mindless afternoon entertainment "The Oprah Show" is actually trying to change the world. And if anyone can actually change the world, it might just be Oprah. I wouldn’t bet against her. She loves books, so she got millions of people to read books they would have never picked up otherwise, boosting unknown writers up the best-seller list in the process. She’d had enough of child molesters roaming free, waiting for their next victim, so she offered her viewers $100,000 to turn in the bad guys. And some viewers did. Africa is in shambles, so she is pouring her resources into building a new future for its citizens. Then she interviewed Jennifer Aniston and told us how to buy the perfect bra. Because even Oprah knows that sometimes what we really need is a little mindless afternoon entertainment. And she also knows that the world can’t be changed while wearing an uncomfortable bra.

Cable - Cable is no longer just the place where old episodes of "Supermarket Sweep" go to live for eternity. It is now a breeding ground for new, exciting TV series and movies. Cable stations are not forced to fill an entire lineup of programming and are therefore able to concentrate on one or two quality shows, making sure each one counts. Along the way they are giving cable a credibility just as the major networks seem to be losing theirs. Shows like "Rescue Me", "Nip/Tuck", "Monk", and "The Shield" light up basic cable while "Weeds", "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Rome" entice pay cable audiences. Cable is taking advantage of the leniency that comes from being free from network restrictions and viewers are reaping the benefits. All that AND "Supermarket Sweep"? Man is that exciting stuff.

Tom Cruise’s insanity - This one has more to do with one man’s mental well-being than television, but it sure was fun watching that mental well-being in question as a result of various television appearances. Throughout the summer Cruise seemed to be everywhere on TV, constantly grabbing a shovel and digging an even bigger hole for himself. Sure, it’s a little sad that Tom Cruise was consistently making CNN’s Headline News when there were little things like wars and famine going on, but you have to admit that people losing their minds makes for great TV. So here’s hoping that Tom’s press tour for "Mission Impossible 3" includes at least one couch jump, a proclamation of medical expertise and perhaps even a short wrestling match with Matt Lauer.

Thursday on NBC - Unlike ABC, the drugs that NBC was taking were hurting their primetime lineup. Now I can’t say for sure there were drugs involved, but how else do you explain the presence of "Joey" on the fall lineup while "Scrubs" remained off the schedule until mid-season? Bad drugs are the only logical answer. Because anyone who is sober would tell you that the only people laughing at "Joey" are the computerized laugh track people. Whereas "Scrubs" doesn’t need no stinking laugh track, because it actually has the real thing: Actual laughter coming from actual viewers. But now it seems as though NBC is making an attempt to remove their head from their own rear ends. Starting in January both "The Office" and "My Name is Earl" will move to Thursday night, replacing "Joey" and making Thursday once again safe for those of us who can’t stand to watch others suffer the cruel fate of being contractually obligated to say the least funny lines ever spoken on TV. "The Office" and "My Name is Earl" are not traditional sitcoms but they are consistently, and uniquely, funny. Wouldn’t it be fun if all sitcoms were funny? Ahhh, a girl can dream.

FOX - No network consistently makes as creative of choices in its programming as Fox. Yes, sometimes that creativity leads to such gems as "Stacked" or "Who’s Your Daddy?" but as NBC will be happy to attest to, they can’t all be good. But can you imagine any other network with a lineup that included "Prison Break", "24", "Family Guy", "Arrested Development", "American Idol", "Bernie Mac", "The Simpsons", and "House"? Even if you aren’t a fan of all those shows you have to appreciate the chances FOX takes with its comedies and dramas. "24" was a risky, high-concept show that would have been too outside the box for any other network. Now it is thriving in its fifth season on FOX. And even though it seems inevitable that "Arrested Development" will be cancelled from FOX’s schedule they do have to be given some credit for keeping such an inventive show on the air for three seasons despite the fact that its ratings were anemic at best. In the era of cancelling a show after one episode it is hard to imagine any other network giving "Arrested" three weeks, let alone three years. While other networks struggle to find a comedies that are actually funny and dramas that can hold viewers’ attention from week to week it seems as though FOX is the only network to have a firm grasp on how it’s all done. But they still enjoy throwing an occasional gem like "Skating With the Stars" into the mix, just so the other networks don’t get too intimidated.

News Cameramen - In a year of horrific human tragedies ranging from hurricanes to wars to earthquakes television news cameramen were there to make sure we saw it all. The era of 24 hour news is a bit overwhelming to our fragile senses, but it also means that time restrictions are no longer an excuse for ignoring the realities of the world. Do we really think this was the first year poverty and racial inequality were major issues affecting our country? No, but it was the year we were forced to really look at it as it treaded water on our TV screens. TV news can be exploitive and overly dramatic, but at its best it can also force accountability for events and actions that otherwise might have been swept under the rug.

On Demand - Two of the most beautiful words ever combined for the benefit of the TV viewer. Say it with me, "On Demand". Who needs a TV lineup when you can just select your favorite shows and movies from a menu and play them whenever you like? This year various cable companies and computer programs offered viewers the option of watching what they want, when the wanted it. It was amazing. The new Ipod came with the ability to not only hold a quadrillion songs, but it could also play "Desperate Housewives" if you so desired. Sure, it wasn’t exactly high definition, big screen TV quality, but the concept of being able to access your favorite shows whenever and wherever you wanted was quite exciting to TV fans. We didn’t even know how much we longed to watch "Knight Rider" on a 2 inch screen until Ipod came along. And now we wonder how we ever survived without it.

So there is my list. In no particular order, making no particular sense. Agree? Disagree? Don't care? Probably.

1 comment:

Talva said...

You Say IT :)
Oprah nuff said