In surveying the network television landscape, it’s interesting to see how many shows premiered in January that couldn’t even make it to March. From "Jake in Progress" to "Emily’s Reasons Why Not" to my favorite whipping boy, "Love Monkey," the networks reeled in anything that the public didn’t bite at after a first chance. And even though I don’t miss those shows, it seems like a shame that networks are willing to cancel shows after one poorly rated episode. Perhaps the reason that every new show seems so formulaic is that television producers are betting that imitating shows people already like will at least guarantee them an audience for a couple episodes. It’s hard to imagine how any original or creative show could get on network television in a climate like this.
Now, I like this show, but it’s going out on a long, long limb when it expects me to believe a terrorist can shoot a small missile into a limo containing the Russian president, his wife, the first lady and a secret service agent and not kill any of them! Nobody survives a missile attack with only a few big bruises.
"Survivor: Exile Island"
Survivor Chuck, an art school teacher, spent this week building a Zen rock garden instead of helping his tribe build a fire. And when he was confronted about it, he had the temerity to claim that calling his rock garden "silly" was an attack on his character. Chuck should thank God he’s on a television show, because if he was really stranded on a tropical island, he’d be fully digested by now.
"Deal or No Deal"
My roommate forced me to watch this show and now I’m addicted. This week, a contestant who promised to use his winnings to start a home for battered boys kept saying "no deal" to offers up to $167,000 from the banker. The very fact that he would gamble with money promised to abused children made for some of the most suspenseful television I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m starting to think this show is better than the British "Office." As much as I like Ricky Gervais and his co-writer Stephen Merchant, their show was often depressingly cruel and cold, while the American "Office" is realistic without being overly harsh. After all, office life can’t be all awkward pauses and cruel jokes.
"The 78th Annual Academy Awards"
Forget all the critics who are saying Jon Stewart was a tame host. When he joked, "And none of those issues were ever a problem again," after a montage of politically charged films, he pointed out the impotence of political films and how silly it is that Hollywood should be celebrating itself for making a difference in politics. And Stewart’s joke about keeping score of who has won Oscars: "Three Six Mafia-1, Martin Scorsese-0," is as funny as off-the-cuff humor gets.