Network TV’s sordid lives

In my experience as an English major here at PSU, I’ve come to discover two staid and true facts: First, that sleeping with your professor may help but never guarantees an “A.” Second, when writer’s block rears its ugly head, you need only pick two completely disparate and unrelated subjects and unleash a little compare/contrast on that ass. This method works delightfully well in the world of Arts and Culture reporting. Take network television, for example. While we may be miserably inundated with episode after episode of “Law & Order” (which is basically a rehash of every other NBC, CBS and ABC show), copious reality shows and “Frasier” reruns, there is still some variety to be had (provided you have a good, solid piece of tinfoil to assure good reception). Case in point: Fox’s “The OC” and OPB’s “Nature: Deep Jungle.”

To put it plainly, this week’s episode of Fox’s “The OC” was ridiculously bad-ass. Combining essential elements of humor, sensitivity, intrigue and oil smudges on the camera lens left by undulating co-ed asses, the teen drama saw a welcome return to its unflinchingly raunchy roots. First of all, Julie Cooper continues to reconcile with her X-rated past as the vapor trails from an ’80s amateur porn flick haunt her, though now there’s the hint that she and her slippery Scorpions-listening costar are finagling extortion on Julie’s octogenarian hubby – or worse. So there’s that. Then there’s square-du-jour Ryan, who battles with reflections of his own troubled past in the form of bad-boy brother Trey, who, try as he might, cannot win back Ry’s trust after the whole stealing-the-crystal-egg-from-Risky-Business debacle.

No, I’m not shitting you. Plus, Seth is solidly in the throes of once again fucking up the only good thing he has by placing his love affair with comic books and perennially jolly, well-adjusted, asexual Zach before his relationship with exponentially hot Summer (who, by the way, is way hotter than Mischa Barton’s Marissa, who looks like a scarecrow).

And just when you thought you’d seen it all, throw in a good-to-go sorority girl who ends up belly-up in Caleb’s pool, KO’d by an ecstasy overdose, and you’ve got one hell of a modern drama that gives Fox News a run for its money. Oh, and did I mention all the oily asses? Sheer brilliance.

In contrast, Nature’s presentation of “Deep Jungle” on OPB puts together a high-tech, high adventure in some of Earth’s last frontiers. True, there are no montages of capuchin monkeys doing shots of hibiscus nectar off greased-up navels, but there is plenty of smart, educational fun to be had here. Though the scientists, deployed to different jungles around the world, never actually get hurt or killed (unfortunately), they do end up in some pretty sketchy situations, such as trying to tag a wild elephant in the Congo without being trampled. Or trailing a Sumatran tiger in order to get – for the first time ever – video footage of the majestic beast. Or staying up all night in Madagascar’s bug-infested darkness in order to film a moth with an allegedly 12-inch-long tongue. And the series is just getting started – episode two promises some sweet spider action, and episode three features carnivorous monkeys. Look, I know it’s painfully obvious that my TV only gets three stations, but the first episode of “Deep Jungle” made me, for 54 minutes, not lament my lack of cable.