29 June 2009

Modal Nodes: Lady GaGa and the Hypersexuality of Late-2000s Top 40

I've thought about the best way to approach this topic for a while, trying to avoid any obvious embarrassment it would inevitably cause me among peers both electronic and factual, but this entry was bubbling around my brain and way too zeitgeist-y to let go. I'll just say it now:

I listen to a lot of pop music. Mostly between watching Michael Bay movies. I crank out Top 40 stations constantly out of my car and track which songs are doing well and which may be slipping to an extreme measure. This means these days I pound out a shitload of GaGa and Black Eyed Peas for one thing, which I both adore and despise myself for. Let me explain some of this rationale here:

For a very long time I thought absolutely that all modern pop was dead. I isolated myself towards not listening to any songs that came out roughly since AC/DC's Back in Black. This meant almost virtually only classic rock, primarily a ton of Beatles, Zeppelin, Doors, and Stones. To me this definitely remains my favourite genre of music, and has huge rotations in my personal playlist, but I've slowly eked out to give modern pop a chance.

And I mean the poppiest of pop. No modern rock at all (I despise musicians who try desperately to be like the legends of the 60s/70s and fail much more than those who would rather accept and revel in their own crapulence). This primarily grew out intrigue with an issue of New York Magazine from May 27, 2008 that was jokingly attempting to track the hot Billboard songs of summer and name a winner. My acceptance of the world of pop is essentially fueled from this inane desire to find the hottest summer jam (It was Leona Lewis' "Bleeding in Love." C'mon).

Naturally then, coming into this summer to see who would be in the running for the renowned title of Hottest Summer Jam, I was priming myself with a ton of Lady GaGa, Flo Rida, and Lil' Wayne. After heavily, heavily inundating myself in this kind of music, I started picking up on the rampant, raw sexuality striking to all three. These guys, in addition to many more who have been climbing the summer ranks are all so insanely blatantly, even needlessly sexual, that I feel like some barriers may have been broken here. Let me explain:

Sex has always been everywhere, I mean, GaGa's Disco Stick isn't much different from 50 Cent's Magic Stick back in 2005, but there tends to be an absolute ton of hypersexual tracks vying for Jam-worthiness this summer. GaGa is ahead of the game right now, although "Poker Face" has been fading, "Love Game" is surging ridiculously, both of which are extremely sexual, "Love Game" much more so, which is obviously from its frank and postured nature. Even going back to "Just Dance," GaGa has a brilliant tropildactic nature to her songs, demanding to be a loose, throw-away model who revels in her sexuality, and to some extent the pro-feminism controlling position it puts her over men. This is in high contrast to the Britneys and Christinas of the early half of this decade, who would drool in sexuality, but publicly deny it in some vain attempt to maintain a wider massive appeal or in a Promise Ring-like conspiracy to sell sex to adolescents. GaGa doesn't give a shit, lives in the moment claiming drunken party fouls ("Where's my keys I lost my phone"), more concealed sexual advancement ("Bluffin with my muffin") and finally the struggling plea to just forget consequences and get it on ("Don't think too much just bust that kick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick"). Again, it's not like this has ever happened with one hypersexual artist (ELVIS) but almost everyone in the game for Summer Jam 2009 has this level of ridiculous sexuality.

Declining in popularity, but a strong forerunner about a month ago was "Sugar" by Flo Rida ft. Wynter. You might remember it as that shitty song that sampled Eiffel 65. Anyway, the whole song is a clever metaphor of sexual oral seduction, replacing a girl's lips (labial and oral) and in general her whole body as a scrumptious little morsel to fuck the shit out of. The first notion is the obvious "My lips like sugar" chorus, but further than that, Flo says "Bottom and top lip, 'bout to have a sugar feast/Level with our trip, I'm a lip bitin' beast," which to me is a clear indication of rug munching. Couple this with his notion to "...wrap you out of those clothes, you my treat, my treat" it becomes clear that the whole body is meant as a lickable, fuckable pleasure. Riding of this very clear idea now, we can move on to the playful analysis of lines such as "Hey, I've got a mouthful of cavities," "Can't help my interest, candy addiction," and of course, "Ain't your mama slirp, stickin', usin' my tree/Like taffy but classy, get at me." I'm not actually quite sure what that last one means actually, but you're getting my point at the lack of any kind of veil towards the sexual intent of this very mainstream attempt at pop hip-hop. Also sorry for the shitty quality of video, for some reason the music vid for sugar is hard to find on Youtube, and one I could embed was even harder.

Let's move on to a little more blatant attempts to chronologue sexual conquest in popular song. If you have turned on any Top 40 station in the past week this should have immediately popped into your head upon reading this post's title. I speak of course of "Birthday Sex," by Jeremih. This is one of those songs you first hear and think 'what the fuck is that.' It is so transparently about having sex on your birthday and that sex being awesome that it is both immediately striking and addictive. There is no metaphor or similies to being "like sugar" or like a "disco stick." The whole thing is just literally a descriptive narrative of the endeavour, the only metaphors per se being "1-2-3, think I got you pinned/Don't tap out...fight until the end" and "First I'm gonna take a dive deep into the water/Deep until I know I'm pleased." Now, I'm a pretty frankly sexual guy most of the time, but if I'm at some party talking to a buddy of mine and there's a lull in the conversation that is serendipitously filled by a lyric like that, things are bound to get just a little awkward. This is nothing that really hasn't been covered by Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy" back in 2001, but with that song you get more the feeling that he's just trying to joke and have a good time. Jeremih actually wants to make love to you. Right now.

Really quick, Drake's "Best I Ever Had" is essentially a huge boast of sexual conquests and aftermath, I cite in the lyrics, "I'll be hitting all the spots that u ain't even know was there/Ha. And you ain't even have to ask twice." There is some notion that is is actually more about love and a relationship, but I think of Drake's verbiage in the title and course, "Best I ever HAD" seems to imply something that he HAS no longer. And since the song has those relationship parts, and he is clearly singing it not out of longing but out of adoration in a current fling, the HAD he is referring to, to me, seems to surely indicate a sexual experience.

The last really blatant Contender fro the Summer Crown comes from an expected place. Oscar winner. Jamie Foxxx's "Blame It" is an absurd song, which virtually gives drunken date rape the same treatment that "Observe and Report" ( 2009) did. "Fill another cup up, feelin' on your butt what/You don't even care now, I was unaware/How fine you was before/My buzz set in, my buzz set in." Literally, looking through the lyrics online, courtesy of a Google search, nearly every line is plea for taking advantage of a drunken whore at a bar. I was going to make a joke here about this being featured prominently on a future NOW That's What I Call Music! album, apparently as it would turn out, the song, along with "Poker Face" are tracks 5 and 3 respectively on Vol. 31, comes out tomorrow. Whoda thunk it.

(On a side note, this is the most bizarre fucking video I've ever seen in my damn life, I mean, it's full of all these absolutely random Hollywood celebs, most out of place clearly is Ron Howard. He even steps out of the limo and kind of shrugs at the camera like "Yeah, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here either.)

Anyway, my whole critique of "Blame it" along with "Just Dance" and others, are that we used to have these giggly pop songs that were essentially incredibly stupid, but ultimately just all about love and how smooth some chick was. Now all our songs are explicitly about consuming alcohol and having sex. It's just a strange place for pop to go right now.

There are, however, a few songs, some very prominently, on the List of Summer 2009 Dominance that strike through to their wonderful pop nature. Kelly Clarkson's "I Do Not Hook Up" is determinately not about sex, which is a rare show of pride compared to GaGa's effervescent exclamation of sexual exhilaration. How exciting! Although this song is declining in its tracking. Finally, Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow," which from the lyrics I can best determine that it is a song about letting beats drop from the future, is really about absolutely nothing. There is not one line in that song that makes any sense, which combined with its huge holdover numbers from spring and consistent summer popularity so far (a feat exactly accomplished by "Bleeding Love" last year) makes it my current pick for Summer Jam '09. If it holds out, its assuredly non-sexual nature should render this entire post fruitless. So sexy.

25 June 2009

First Impressions: Transormers 2

I woke up the morning of yesterday bristling with nubile excitement. This may have been my most hotly anticipated film of the summer. Revenge of the Fallen had come out. For weeks I had caught myself driving by construction sites, fantasizing about Devastator, frequenting truck stops, even sucking a few dicks just to get into the driver's seat of Optimus Prime. My imagination was aflame.

Proudly, the marquee beneath the theater I went to read "Transormers 2" [sic]. An accurate sign of the mishandled things to come. I'll start out by saying that in the past few weeks I've had what you may call a Michael Bay revival. I watched the first Transformers a few weeks back, and a ton of extras, getting some kind of feel for what Bay is like on set. Followed this up with clearly his opus, The Rock, as well as Bad Boys II. I'll say what is deadly ground for any wannabe liberal film buff--

I sort of really like Michael Bay.

Now, be assured that it was pretty difficult for me to come to grips with this. There is not a more honest filmmaker in Hollywood. Bay knows what he's getting into and knows what must come out of it. He has no pretensions about what he's making, he crafts the perfect summer ride, knowing to streamline a plot in favor of radically cool dialogue and incredible shots of explosions. Michael Bay is the penultimate filmmaker for 14-year old boys. He attacks his target like a rabid shark with lasers on its head.
He's not sloppy, either. He demands excellence from every stunt and every effect. He lead a major drive in the first Transformers to maintain a sense of realism and modernism, foregoing size reductions in transformations and updating or reducing some basic characters. The result is simply a more believable movie experience, which rises far above someone like Zack Snyder who copies his material verbatim in a vain attempt to please fans rather than rising above it to create something even better.

Of course now I'm being pretentious enough to compare G1 Transformers to Watchmen. Let's move on.

He is also a fan of limiting CGI to only what is necessary. This may seem like a stretch with the obviously CGI-heavy Transformers movies, but the effects are nearly flawless and limited to the transformed anthropomorphic machines. You don't see, for instance, anything akin to the absurd looking Arnold Schwarzenegger's CGI face on another body or plastic looking humans or sharks flailing about. When Bay's CGI is overdone, it's overdone well.

So that's my Bay Defense. Take it or leave it. Now, it goes without saying that his general plots and sense of humour is abyssmal. With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, though, I can forgive a somewhat convoluted plot. Hell, compared to the first one, round two was pretty smooth in terms of plot convolutions. It's the little things, though, that dragged it down for me. MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!

The number one thing I noticed immediately is the completely awful continuity errors. I mean really, really blatant ones, most of which revolved around Devastator. Maybe I'm too big of a fan and I can pick out which robot is who, but at multiple times, the robots who made up Devastator (Mixmaster, Long Haul, and Rampage) are seen both fighting the Autobots in their individual robot modes, and also fighting as Devastator. Maybe there are two of all of these guys for some reason? There is a shitload of Decepticon meteorites that strike.

Further than that, there were things in the first movie that tied it together well that were really lacking the second time around. Transformers 1 deftly introduced all of the Autobots and all of the Decepticons by name, and you always had a good standing with them. You knew definately that for instance, Optimus killed Bonecrusher, Megatron killed Jazz, Capt. Lennox killed Blackout, etc. In the second film we get no such introduction. Can you guess how I got the names for the Constructicons that made up Devastator? Wikipedia. Can you guess how I knew they were called Constructicons? Wikipedia.

It's really jarring in the second one to see Sideswipe, Jolt, and the three Arcees for some reason, just appearing for no reason. Especially Jolt who is only seen in the last battle. I don't know if this was sloppy editing or what, but these characters needed some kind of intro to know their name, who they were, what they were doing. I think the purple Arcee has like one line and is then immediately killed.

Which leads me to another point, as I said, you could definately track the kills in the first movie. It was really muddled this time, you knew Optimus kills Demolisher and Grinder (Helicopter, got his name from Wikipedia), but much more outside of that it gets hairy. Long Haul is apparently killed by U.S. Air Force air strike, but also may have been killed as part of Devastator? Megatron is hit by the same caliber weapons and is seemingly killed, but then flies away to help The Fallen. Jetfire is a badass killing Mixmaster, then gets owned by Scorponok. There's very little consistency in who can damage whom and what constitutes a killing blow. In the forest fight Optimus lands many blows that killed Bonecrusher in the first movie to someone like Starscream, but he is fine. Likewise, whereas Starscream's missiles could cripple Bumblebee's legs earlier, here they do practically nothing. If this name-dropping just became too much for you, I hope you get my point and we can move on.

There's some basic character issues that I have as well. Although this portrayal of Starscream as a little bitch is generally more accurate to the source material, he was a genuine badass in Transformers 1. Every Autobot is scared of him, almost more so than Megatron, and he has a few bombing runs that obliterate Ironhide, Ratchet, and Bumblebee. He doesn't even get a kill this time and is mostly just a whiny bitch to Megatron. Which wouldn't be that bad if his abilities were still consistent.

Mentioning Ironhide here, I could go off for a good while here actually. Along with Jazz and Ratchet, Ironhide is completely useless in the first movie. I mean, he's supposed to be the weapons expert and he doesn't even get a kill, is completely inept, and gets owned by everyone who fights him. Transformers 2 started off giving him a bit more credit, giving him the first on-screen transformation, and some decent scenes against Demolisher. Then it's downhill. Same with Sideswipe, who is immediately portrayed at least as competant a fighter as Bumblebee and Optimus by taking out Sideways in Shanghai, but is not given another cool scene or kill for the rest of the film. I guess all I'm trying to say here is that Bumblebee gets a spectacular 1-on-2 fight scene against Rampage and Ravage, kills them both, Jetfire gets a fucking awesome 1-on-1 vs. Mixmaster, then Scorponok, kills them both, albeit is mortally injured, and of course, Optimus gets 1-on-3 against Megatron, Starscream, and Grinder, kills Grinder, then 1-on-2 vs. Megatron and The Fallen, kills The Fallen. Ratchet I can accept, he's supposed to be the medic, but Ironhide, the weapons expert should have gotten his cool battle scene. Ironhide fighting against someone like Long Haul would have been perfect, as Long Haul was merely killed by the United States missiles, which apparently are pretty damn good at killing Decepticons. Who needs the fucking Autobots.

Let me not forget to mention the Deus Ex Machina Weapon Simmons used against Devastator. I should have expected that he wouldn't even fight anyone except Skids and Mudflap. Devastator really deserved a kill, if he had gotten one of those little stereotypes I think it would have added a whole ton more interest, especially considering what the other Twin would have done, maybe reacted with a little more character depth instead of being a one-sided, essentially racist joke.

Let's talk about something that was really great in this flick, and that was Optimus. Almost every line he says is extremely important and instantly quotable as being badass and awesome. Peter Cullen has a spectacular voice for the character, it inspires instant leadership. It is very clear from early on that Optimus is showing no mercy, rarely do we get to root for a good leader that is much cooler than anything the evil side can throw at it. The forest battle is completely amazing, basically taking on and dominating the three strongest decepticons from the first movie all at once, and doing well for a while, taking one down, severely injuring another. The move to kill him was very surprising, although it was obvious it wouldn't stick, especially when a possible way to revive him was presented. Of course, this is basically worth it to see the Optimus/Jetfire combo which is the single coolest Transformer to ever be put on screen.

His death brings up weird shit, though. Bay needed a scene of them reacting to it, establishing new leadership, which would have been a great way to introduce Sideswipe, Jolt, and the Arcees, maybe even one of them vying for leadership. It doesn't seem to me like this would deviate from the popcorn, thrilling atmosphere to add a little more depth to some of these charaters, instead of all of them essentially purely existing only as a means to make more explosions.

Another thing I really liked was the insight into the Decepticon base, their homeworld, I guess, getting some interaction between Megatron, Starscream, and The Fallen, and their genuine need for the Energon source to sustain their kind. It was nice to see them sharing some strategy, instead of randomly showing up and blindly following Megatron like they did in the first movie. Going along with this, though, Megatron makes an excellent point to Optimus, asking him why the life of one earth boy was greater than the existence of the entire Cybertronian race. Jetfire may have answered this later, though, when he remarks that if the Decepticons had their way, they would destroy everything. Indeed, it seems they are plenty willing to turn on each other.

This leads me to one of my favourite things about this film, actually, which the mirroring of both leaders receiving new parts. First, the Doctor orders Scrapper to be destroyed (Don't worry! He comes back later as part of Devastator!) to make new parts for Megatron. This is obviously against Scrapper's will, and his teammates immediately kill him and attach his parts to Megatron. Thus Megatron is born from his soldier's shameful, unwilling death.

Optimus gets the same boost in a drastically different fashion. Jetfire, mortally wounded, offers his spark and parts to Optimus as a dying gift for him to beat The Fallen. In this case, Optimus does not demand the parts, but receives them because of Jetfire's respect for the Primes, and his wish to see justice served, even after his own demise. It's a cool scene that demonstrates how the honor and humility of the Autobots contrasts with the ruthless cannibalism and fear of the Decepticons.

Okay, so final thoughts here. Big what the fuck moment seeing Bonecrusher in the background of the desert fight but no Barricade in the whole movie. How do they have the bot who blatantly died the first time around as well as FOUR parts of Devastator that have on-screen deaths TWICE and not Barricade, who was one of the few to survive Transformers 1? Why not substitute Barricade for Rampage in a Bumblebee rematch? It just seems to me that such a continuity error could be solved so easily.

I want to talk about Soundwave for a little bit, which I was kind of pumped but generally disappointed with. He's definately serving his purpose as Communications Officer, and doing exactly what a Decepticon does really well, definately keeping the plot moving on their end. I would have liked to see him transform, or maybe attack the Autobots from space, or come down himself. There is also no resolution to his fate, he is apparently just still mointoring top-secret government communications, which combined with the functional survival of Megatron and Starscream (I think that sums up the surviving Decepticons), could lead to an advantageous start for them in the threequel. If that happens. C'mon, it will.

23 June 2009

Posts about Nothing: Cosmo Kramer; the Convenience of Coincidence

Hello and welcome to the first of many posts examining one my favourite television shows, and perhaps the greatest sitcom of all time, Seinfeld. There has hardly been a show like this in history, dominating every possible accolade during its time, both a phenomenal critical success and a consistent #1 ratings deliverer. During its prime, Seinfeld didn't capture the zeitgeist of the 90s, it fueled it. After nine seasons (1989-1998), the show gracefully backed out of production, right on the cusp of staleness, but still at the top of its game. What we're left with is this canon of near-perfection.

I watch this stupid show every day really; it's one of the few shows that I catch one or two episodes minimum on syndication all the time. I've done so for probably the past 15 years or so. By this time, I've started to notice the little things, flaws maybe, but maybe something quite more extraordinary. I am going to attempt to align the next few entries in this "Posts about Nothing" series (actually an apt title for any post I do here...) with some of the core characters, their nuances, and how it influenced the show. I will begin on the fringe and move inwards, startign with the budding entrepreneur, Cosmo Kramer.

At first it is very easy to write off Kramer as a hipster doofus, serving no purpose really other than to befuddle things and act 'weird.' I disagree. With a closer examination, it is very easy to see that Kramer is a being of destiny silently working alongside the cosmos of the Seinfeld world to increase the general irony and contrivances of the world. Hell, they don't call him Cosmo for no reason. Maybe.

Yeah, this sounds pretty nuts, but go with me here for a minute. Essentially, a basic ploy of the writers of the show - Kramer is such an eccentric guy, they can spin his general oddities to fit any part of the show, and give him any kind of eclectic interest to aid the other characters. They get away with this by first establishing that is an incredibly idiosyncratic and quirky character, and then almost anything he gets into almost has a legitimate explanation based on his own skewed personal philosophy. What I'm getting at is that Kramer tends to have an obsession or object in many episodes that fit the needs of other characters. In addition, his own natural blunderingness tends to either foil his own or the other character's obsessions or objects. I list the following:

In "The Bottle Deposit Part 2" (S7;E22), Kramer and Newman's scheme to drive a ton of bottles to Michigan in a mailtruck to get a better deposit refund playfully runs into Jerry's Mechanic Tony who had previously stolen Jerry's car as well as JFK's Golf Clubs which Elaine had bid on and won for her boss, J. Peterman. While he ends up saving a few of the clubs that were thrown at him, Mechanic Tony gets away, although it was nonetheless terribly convenient for Kramer to be halfway to Michigan and encounter someone who both Jerry and Elaine needed very badly to catch. This blunder is actually none of their faults, as Tony disabled the mail truck with one of JFK's Golf Clubs.

In "The Non-Fat Yogurt" (S5;E7), Kramer is directly responsible for the election of Mayor Rudy Guliani due to a trist he has with a worker in a lab testing both his blood for cholesterol and a suspiciously delicious non-fat yogurt. His nack for landing in pivotal situations at precisely the right time is part of what defines him as making his own coincidences.

A huge example is in "The Voice" (S9;E2) in which he perfects his rubber bladder idea with Darin, his intern from NYU to prevent oil spills. His test of the ball, which lands on Jerry's girlfriend, which both comes back negatively for George, as he loses his job at Play Now, and positively for Jerry, who can use his funny voice (helloooo) again for the amusement of his friends. Kramer's obsessions, or at least his charisma, drive those around him to follow along and then either gain or lose from the consequences. He is a nexus of fate and coincidence that is one of the greatest driving factors of the show. The ball idea is a good summation of a lot of similar schemes he has in other episodes that I will address here:
-The Horse and Buggy he attains in "The Rye" (S7;E11). Don't feed horses Beefarino.
-The Rickshaw in "The Bookstore" (S9;E17). Don't pull fat people up hills.
-The idea of putting his clothes in an oven in "The Calzone" (S7;E20), dooms George on two accounts, that his boss, George Steinbrenner didn't get a calzone, and his delicious-smelling clothes waft through the vents to Steinbrenner's office.
-Spending all his time in the shower, including preparing meals in "The Apology" (S9;E9) dooms Elaine who is trying to reconcile with germophobe co-worker Peggy and boyfriend David Puddy.

The greatest example of this sort of extreme convience that fits a story is in "The Slicer" (S9;E7), in which Kramer, tired of his meat being too thick that "the flavour escapes," purchases and implements his own meat slicer. This particular episode directly inspired this post, so go out and watch it. Or stay in and watch it, I don't care. His obsession with slicing his own meats leads him to affect all other three characters, for better, worse, and ambivalent. The actual machine helps Elaine save her neighbor's cat by sliding it thin meat under the door. The metal cleaner Kramer uses on the machine with Jerry's hand towel gives him an allergic reaction that causes him to become suspicious of his girlfriend, causing a break-up. Finally, Kramer dressed in a white butcher's coat allows him to take a picture of George's boss, Mr. Kruger without a shirt on, Mr. Kruger thinking Kramer is Dr. Van Nostrand, although Kruger ultimately did not care about George's screw ups. Some of this actually makes sense if you see the episode, but spinning from a small, eclectic interest, Kramer serves as an extremely convenient pivot point that drives every one else in this episode.

The show takes a more complicated road, but has essentially the same driving force in "The Van Buren Boys" (S8;E14) which involves Kramer selling his life stories to J. Peterman to use in his autobiography. After he has a nasty encounter with the Van Buren Boys, he accidentally flashes their secret signal and is let off the hook. Later, when one of George's failed proteges confronts him, having joined the Van Buren Boys, George is unable to ascertain their signal from Kramer due to his stories being sold to Peterman. As you can see, this is not the direct route of Kramer following a dream or notion of his own and then affecting his friends, but rather as if the universe itself plucks him as a pivotal point of Seinfeld destiny. Powerful stuff.

As you should be able to see by now, Kramer's eccentricities often cause some incredibly coincidence or irony within the plot of an episode. Even the characters in the show seem to think so. In "The Kiss Hello" (S6;E17), the other characters count on Kramer making a derogatory comment on Elaine friend's Wendy's funky hairdo (akin to what he did in "The Nose Job" [S3;E9]). This ends up backfiring again, this time due to Kramer's anachronistic personal tastes, telling that it is not only his obsessions or plain flair for bizarritudes that renders the Seinfeld universe a perfect ironic whole.

So there you have it. In the Seinfeld Universe, Cosmo Kramer serves as an agent of the Cosmos, his seemingly random personal tastes and interests coming through at precisely the right time to both help and hinder the people around him. Of course, in our universe he is merely a convenient tool for the writers to supplement the irony in any given episode. Take him as you will and have a good day.

18 June 2009

More Adventures to Come!

Right now planning on doing at least one post a week. More if it strikes my fancy. We'll see if we can get some readership going here. After that long critique of American Television I'm thinking about a nice long examination of the inner-workings and subtext of Seinfeld. Stay tuned baby.

Love, Bryan

17 June 2009

Bryan Loves Televison Part 9: All That Other Shit

My friends and fiends, we arrive at last to the final entry in this inane and rambling series of mental jazzercising and fart jokes. I felt this was pretty necessary in addendum to the staples of Reality, Animation, Drama, and Comedy; the rest of the shit on TV. It's pretty good. In fact, I spend the vast majority of my TV watching time on Sports and Movies, both of which make turning on the television every day sublime.

Now, I've tried to uphold a self-conscious deprivation here, trying to be very self-aware of how extremely painful these must be to read, how specific my audience must be, at the same time trying to remain very unpretentious. Not pretentious at all. Clearly, this makes me better than all of you, absolutely zero pretension. This has been a fantastic experience for me, personally, even if it went completely unread. I appreciate your readership, hopefully you've been able to get something out of this.

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, I want to thank you again, it's been a wonderful fortnight. For those who have not wasted their time, instead spending it making great strides against the African AIDS Crisis or something, well that's just super.

We end up taking for granted the unprecedented level of sports coverage on modern television. Not until the January 20, 1968 broadcast of the University of Houston Cougars and UCLA Bruins college basketball game were mid-season relatively low-level sports games proven to be viable to marketing. Now with the huge March Madness hype and the Super Bowl regularly being the annual tent-pole for television viewing worldwide, there is a gargantuan amount of media interest in sports events, athletes, and transactions.

Behold the shameless cheeky advertising
sharkstorm known only as...Mannings.

Furthermore, with the proper channels it is possible to absolutely love nearly any professional team and catch every single game, following the maximum amount of information output everyday for any team you could imagine. Even slightly more obscure sports like swimming and wrestling have their outlets, making it possible to follow at least the championships of your favourite sport no matter where you are. It's a fantastic opportunity to have a 24-hr connection to the sport and team of your choosing. Spectacular.

Now we move on to Movies on TV. I absolutely love movies on TV, which probably makes up at least 85% of my watching. I've tried to determine the reason for this insane love of movies on TV, and I've come up with the following:

A) Movies on TV eliminate the problem of choice. Oftentimes I'd go to Blockbuster, spend a half-hour looking for a good movie, end up making a terrible decision like Van Helsing or something, then drive back and be sorely disappointed. Most of this comes from my chronic inability to choose a good movie. I find I can keep myself much more open by letting TV choose for me, which also eliminates my own bias in choosing what I think will be good, instead laying myself at the mercy of an outside world. That's how you learn, baby. Also, I'm lazy; pressing a button is great compared to that long, miserable drive to the movie store. Of course, you could always download whatever, but again, I always make terrible choices when downloading. Ugh, for a while the only movie on my computer was Undercover Brother.

2) Movies on TV require minimum time commitments. Putting a flick into the DVD or VHS player even in this age of rapid pause, play, and skipping features still really feels like you have to sit through a whole two hours of something. What happens when someone calls to play disc outside? You're fucked, that's what. When watching a movie on TV, you've got no commitment, tied down to nothing, chances are you missed half of it anyway. You can leave at any time, which is great.

Anyone else remember the summer this
was on USA twice a week? That was last

B) By far the greatest benefit from a movie on television is the simple fact that you can watch 3 - 4 of them at one time. This weekend I watched five Star Wars movies and three Lord of the Rings movies simultaneously. Arguably, you could do this online, but again, time commitments would be huge to sit down for all that, and more importantly, on television someone else has already made the cuts and scene changes for optimum viewing. Great for the lazy American. I don't even mind some of the edits, I remember being thrown off the first time I saw Office Space on DVD because I was so accustomed to the Comedy Central censors! Now, you may feel like you could miss something or have a diluted film experience, but quite contrarily, this is not true. On any given night, you could be watching, say, Terminator 3 on AMC, the Mummy on TNT, and some Austin Powers movie on TBS. Now, this works for a number of reasons. All three of these movies, if you have never seen them before, are easy to jump into and follow along, regardless if you even remember the advertising when they first premiered. they also require little to no emotional investment or intelligence to follow the plot closely, and finally, are perfectly suitable to watch only one or two scenes that are actually enjoyable and let the rest fade away. It's the penultimate way to absorb and leech off American culture in the great ADD society we live in. Majestic!

Now, even if sports and movies or other fads of culture aren't your thing, there are so many other awesome reasons to turn on television. There are a shitload of 24-hr news networks to immediately satisfy eager young politicos on a constantly updated basis, most of them completely unbiased, like FOXNews. If the news coverage isn't your thing, then at least you have Stewart and Colbert to make fun of them. Everybody wins! This kind of immediate coverage, however, was not available even 15 years ago, it's really quite incredible.

Beyond this shit, almost anything else you could imagine is on the box. You like Food? We got it. Travel? Covered. Celebrity Gossip, we got VH1 and E! There's practically more channels than possible interests. Jesus? Hitler? Discoveries? Cockfighting? No problem, baby.

Besides what I pick up from TVs on
at the gym, this is my legitimate
#1 source for all news.

Television is the gateway to the world. It's a way of keeping up with our own culture, and also provides insight to the mindset of a generation. Hundreds of years from now, all alien cultures will be measured by their television output and viewership. It will be the only historical record. It's so beautiful in so many ways, even the crap on television can give you insight about the human mind in such a spectacular and deep way. I eat it up.

Our long, meaningless journey is finally at an end here. We are surely in an age of great television. Constant, immediate access to news and sports, plentiful movies, the single greatest era of comedy and animation of all time in terms of sheer quantity of excellent programs at once, unprecedented widespread quality in drama, and you know, even something for the vacuous morons out there, plenty of reality TV for everyone. It's the best. Ever. Ignore the sun and sit down. Be lazy. Be American, dammit. Know that you're not better than this. Become great at what you are. I'm a TV watcher. Trying to be great at it.

I love you.

Bryan Christiansen.

Bryan Loves Television Part H: A Jokework Orange

Because 2001: A Space Travesty was already taken.

Right then. On with it. Akin to the seven previous parts to this lecture on my undying love of television, the following is generally poor for your health and contains no useful information of any kind. There is somewhat of a lack of cable comedies it would seem these days, but the collection is relatively very good, if not somewhat selective concerning citizens who only have basic cable.

Let's get spicy, baby. One-Sentence (mostly) descriptions of the following shows, which precludes me towards expressing the very most basic and childish intrepretations of these staples of popular humour culture.


The face of modern comedy?

Flight of the Conchords - I love their stand-up but it tends not to translate that well into television.

Curb your Enthusiasm - It's Seinfeld! But starring George living in LA! It's exactly as good as that sounds.


The face of modern shitty comedy?
Not if Carlos Mencia has anything to
say about it!

My Boys - Supposedly this is about a bunch of guys who drink beer and hang out together? Somehow that comes off as sooo gay. Makes you think.

Tyler Perry's House of Pain - I loathe Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns - I would really listen and pay attention to absolutely anyone who could accurately and articulately describe this show as different in any way from Tyler Perry's House of Pain. Why the hell does he need to put his name in front of everything anyway?

10 Items or Less - This show pretends to be a really funny and clever program. It's so fucking stupid.

Comedy Central

Behold the mythical creature with the head of a horse, body of a swede and the heart of a Jew!

Important Things with Demitri Martin - Again, great stand-up with a terrible translation to a different medium, in this case based on Marin's complete inability to act in any way.

Krod Mandoon and his Flaming Dick of Fire - I haven't been able to sit through a whole half-hour of this fuckfest, mostly due to the shoddy production values, the atrocious camera work, trite direction and writing and the cringe-worthy sellout acting, but if you can get past this, it might be worth something.

The Sarah Silverman Program - The equivalent of queefing into someones face, there tends to be a select few who find it funny.


Tracey Ullman's State of the Union - If this has HALF the psychiatrist jokes The Tracey Ullman Show had, I'm in!

United States of Tara - The only thing I know about this show is that it's written by that stripper who wrote JUNO.

Dexter - Forgot to include this with the dramas, this seems like a fantastically good show that I somehow always miss catching for no good reason at all.

Here's my last run-around then -- The five current live-action comedies that I never miss:

I don't ever remember this happening,
but it rules.

1) My Name is Earl: Putting my finger on what exactly it is about this show that tickles me was kind of tough. The show is not necessarily country, certainly not urban, definitely and thoroughly white-trash but not in a way that is especially irritating. I get irritated when I see white-trash at FastTrack, that's a big deal for me! This partnered with some truly genuine and endearingly rational characters that seems pretty sorely lacking in other contemporary mainstream comedies make the program stand out. It is also generally consistent with its own plot, well-written and unique in what could have turned into a very predictable and cliched premise. Ultimately it turns into a very positive show that avoids corniness by maintaining a slight edge with the character's criminal histories and recurring lapses into said histories. Some may call it pretty lowbrow, which is probably true, but I dig it.

2) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Yeah, what was I saying about lowbrow? For a while this was F/X's only funny comedy, now it is F/X's...only comedy, I'm not sure if there's a funnier show on television right now. There's never been a show that purely revels in its own shitbath like Always Sunny, they consistently and thoroughly push an outrageous darker humour based on the deplorable behavior of the core characters, which is almost like an updated, rawer version of Seinfeld. More than that, though, I find the major source of this show's potential located in the warped cultural and societal interpretations within the shared minds of the main characters which tends to echo our own collective consciousness and cultural memories of "cool items" like the Duster, or the "correct" way to handle a situation, like for instance if you find a dumpster baby, or someone has sex with your mom. The warped congealment of societal and cultural rules is what attracts me most to this show. Little things to help the day go by.

Kevin's one of the sweetest characters
but doesn't this just scream
"Hey, I've got a pile of candy in my van!"

3) The Office: In a word, the most critically acclaimed, and highest rated current Comedy program on this list, although not coming close to something like Cheers or All in the Family, The Office, to me, remains one of the most brilliant shows on TV, if not the single greatest. It is completely funded on character, very little is arbitrary or forced plot lines. In the best shows like this, the characters are able to develop and write themselves, toying with things we have learned to take for granted like Jim and Michael's relationships with new employers this season has been, in my opinion, revolutionary, not unlike the "Pandemic" South Park episode. One sign of true TV greatness emerges when a show is able to shift its paradigms outside of the box like this while remaining proactive and true to its origins.

And I totally didn't just use those words to try to sound smart. Right. I would also like to give the supposedly untouchable UK version some credit, I've watched that shithole; I'm usually pretty good at distinguishing a thick English accent, I couldn't understand a single word of the thing. Naturally, as an American, I completely gave up and stuck with my comfort zone ever since.

Blue sex.

4) RENO 911!: This is going to read as guilty pleasure at best, which is probably definitely true. Comedy Central's single foray into a truly great sitcom, RENO tends to play as a COPS parody which belies a deeper writing and acting skill that a sister show like Krod Mandoon completely avoids. It tends to blend a ridiculous sense of dark humour with a self-aware front of caring about its character and story interactions, with a constant refusal to jump the shark, literally spoofing it one occasion. It never sacrifices story for a joke, which is going to sound weird coming in this rant, is a very good skill to have in comedy. Again, like "My Name is Earl" it also has a sweaty, white-trash charm that makes fun of the culture only slightly more than it homages the cop show genre. In general, these aspects along with the clever and intermittently sardonic writing make it a pretty righteous experience to watch.

Oh you don't want to see my late night sexy
chat tape either.

5) 30 Rock: Named as possibly the most grammatically correct show on television, 30 Rock is above and beyond much of our other contemporary shows in terms of writing caliber, humour, and librarian hotness. To date this season I have not laughed harder at ANYTHING than that "Bijou" sequence (those who know it will know it, for the rest, close this idiotic facebook note, go to Hulu and watch the "Apollo, Apollo" episode immediately). At times I really can't stand some of Tracy Morgan's stiff acting, but more often than not this is worked into his character which comes off pretty well. In general Jane Krakowski's shitstorm is painful as well, but she also tends to plays up her idiocy for maximum humour potential. When he wants to be, Morgan is the funniest cat in the show, and when everyone is swinging for the fences, the show becomes as good as any hype you can give it. After all, this and the Departed double-teamed and virtually eliminated my entire hatred of Alec Baldwin, and that, my friends, is not easy to do.

I imagine this arduous adventure through time and facebook is almost coming to an end, folks. I want to predict about one more go around here, my induction of EVERYTHING ELSE on television. Stay tuned, mates.

Bryan Loves Television Part G: Dr. Strangelaugh or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comedy

See? A pun on that old Keenan Wynn movie. And with that, we move forward into the most major part of my argument for the greatness of modern television - the Comedy. Contemporary Comedy is so good, so innovative, and there has been mainstream rewarding of creativity and originality that is severely lacking in some other dramatic or cartoon areas that I've covered previously. The formulaic sitcom, longtime bane of any well-written comedy program, is practically dead and the single-camera, laughtrack-free trend has yet to be overplayed or driven into stagnation.

Once again, as fair warning, the parts of this article that aren't pure bullshit or a hootenanny are pretty much balderdash.

That said, let's briefly check out Comedy's history:

Also one of sitcom's first catch
phrases - waaaaa.

1950s: Everybody watched I Love Lucy, was in many ways, along with the Honeymooners, the great-grandmother of the television comedy genre. Looking back on the show, many of the plot devices or styles may seem tired or cliche, but this sucker existed before any of that shit WAS cliche, so it ended up being innovative. It was also one of the first shows to be filmed with a three camera set-up, on a 35 mm film in front of a live audience. This seems typical and tried today, but was a revolutionary leap in quality and authenticity at the time, and due to its enormous popularity, provided the conventions of the genre for the following half-century. I Love Lucy was not the first show to be filmed and treated with this level of respect, but by far it was the first mainstream comedy to lay down the conventions of the genre. While it was innovative in its own right, however, its copycats led to stagnation.

Also note Desi Arnaz as one of the first mainstream positive portrayals of latinos on television, which was a huge step forward. Of course, George Lopez managed to take three steps backwards, but that's another note.

1960s: Everybody watched The Dick Van Dyke Show, I don't know a whole lot about this program, but Wikipedia has some nice nuggets to share. As both an Emmy Winner and ratings king, it was both a critical and commercial success, mostly funded on the writing of Carl Reiner, the funniness of Dick van Dyke, and the cuteness of Mary Tyler Moore. It was apparently considered a very modern and trendy show, often satiring or parodying contemporary pop culture phenomenons, and also one of the few shows to realistically portray basic human relationships. Taken for granted now, but true for the times, there was all matter of "sending people to the moon" and so on. Also Mary Tyler Moore wore pants. Scandalous!

Aww look at the adorable little racist-sexist-
liberal-hating homophobe!

1970s: Everybody watched All in the Family, I remember reading an interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and they were talking about the inspiration for Eric Cartman on South Park, and they basically said they wanted a character like Archie Bunker on their show, but since it was infeasible on modern television, they found out that they could say what Archie said through an animated child. That should about sum up things for a modern audience trying to wrap their heads around this show. Breaking ground on topics of homosexuality, racism, cancer, death, and toilet flushing, All in the Family somehow was an immensely popular, immensely controversial, award-winning and multiple-spin-off producing fiesta for all ages in a time after movies like "The Graduate" (1967) and "Midnight Cowboy" (1969). In this sudden rush of open doors of conversation of previously taboo topics that funded well-produced, well-written, and well-received forms of media. Whenever high controversy is accepted as mainstream art, that's groovy baby.

Zip zop doodly bop dip dap a koo koo kachoo!!

1980s: Everybody watched The Cosby Show, which I debated putting Cheers in here, which was also immensely popular. Cheers won more Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series(4, to Cosby's 1), but The Cosby Show's steak of five consecutive #1 ratings seasons, a mark matched only by All in the Family, puts it over the edge as the defining show of the decade. Similar to I Love Lucy's swath of brainless foundries, basing a show around a popular comedian's routine became a staple in the 90s, leading to some great shows like Seinfeld, also leading to some shit shows like Home Improvement. Anyway, The Cosby Show was notable for depicting educational family values, a positive portrayal of an upper-class African-American family, a relative non-focal point on awkward race relations, as well as goofy facial expressions and noises.

1990s: Everybody watched Frasier, although you were thinking I'd say Seinfeld didn't you! Mostly because I do not have enough room here to rant about the brilliance of Seinfeld, Frasier finished four of its years in the top 10 Nielson ratings, but more importantly racked up a total of 37 Emmy Wins and was voted the greatest sitcom in history from Britain's Channel 4. Fair enough, but what's the big deal? I will admit that I was a big Frasier fan. Yes, I do still have testicles. It was generally a well-paced, educated show, that did not pull punches while sending up the main character's obsession with the banalities of life while maintaining a successive amount of quirks and long-running jokes and multi-arching character and season relationships. Essentially, brilliant, plus that dog had his own house.

Say what you want about the Rachel hairdo,
this man's awkwardness single-handedly
saved the show. True story.

2000s: Everybody watched FRIENDS, which I probably could have easily lumped in the 90s, and put something like Everybody Loves Raymond here, but this tends to work out for my own ramblings. I hate FRIENDS. I absolutely hate it. To me it always seemed like a vapid, idiotic experience, following the lives of half-a-dozen NYC idiots with little self-awareness or irony in its execution. My final intrepretation of the series is that it really wasn't necessarily a BAD show. It just really wasn't an exceptional show. It typified the 90s and 2000s sitcom formula, group of 30-somethings living and having adventures in NYC, mostly in the wake of Seinfeld, which pulled off the formula with much greater skill. FRIENDS to me ultimately seems like an imitator, not an innovator. Again, this doesn't necessary forgo a bad show, but it makes it not great. If that makes any sense at all. Maybe.

Alrighty then, on to our basic Network weekly line-ups! One-sentence reviews of these shitsharks and then on to cable and my Top 5 next time, baby.



Monday, 9:30 pm: Surviving Suburbia - This show just premiered, it stars Bob Saget, I have not seen it yet but if it involves dirty Bob Saget, I'm in, however, it does look very typical.

Tuesday, 8 pm: According to Jim - YES, this show is still on somehow, it's one of those shows like Yes, Dear and The George Lopez Show, that no one ever seemed to watch yet squeezed out like 8 seasons somehow. Suffice it to say that I consider According to Jim everything that's wrong with the American sitcom. Moving on.

Wednesday, 8 pm: Scrubs - This is a truly brilliant and innovative show that jumped the shark about four years ago and as much as I love it, this should probably be its last year. I would have included this in my Top 5 Comedy shows four or five years ago.
Wednesday, 8:30 pm: Better off Ted - I hate punny titles so much, this thing is actually half-ok, but it reminds me of a cross between "Testees" and a less funny "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," but that's probably just because of the similar cast.

Thursday, 8 pm: In the Motherhood - A shitload of these shows just came on and I don't know what the deal is...but this looks pretty stupid.
Thursday, 8:30 pm: Samantha Who? - I'll take Veronica Corningstone as a recovering amnesiac, never watched the thing though.


This has nothing to do with any CBS
programming, but I felt like this
picture needs to be included with
any discussion of any show
featuring NPH. Suit up!

I hate CBS comedies in general. I abhor them. So, without further ado;

Monday, 8 pm: The Big Bang Theory - I've never seen a show that spoke so intelligently, but was written so dumb.
Monday, 8:30 pm: How I Met Your Mother - This is actually half-decent and probably the best 3-camera set-up sitcom on television today, it wouldn't surprise me if it hits its stride in the 4th or 5th season and wins an Emmy in an off-year for 30 Rock. It's got that potential.
Monday, 9 pm: Two and a Half Men - Charlie Sheen (and only Charlie Sheen) acts like he's forced at gunpoint to be funny for a half-hour, and about a quarter of the time he pulls it off.
Monday, 9:30 pm: Rules of Engagement - This is somehow still on the air, nothing about this show is good.

Wednesday, 8 pm: The New Adventures of Old Christine - If a single character on this show was likable I'm sure it would become watchable.
Wednesday, 8:30 pm: Gary Unmarried - Honestly, when you choose the main character's name based on trying to score a punny or rhyming total, do you really think what follows will be a good show at all?


If you get it, you get it.

Surprising to me, actually, FOX has no current comedy show on their schedule that's not animated. C'mon! You had Arrested Development once! You can be brilliant when you feel like it! What the hell. FOX tends to be the kind of network that will greenlight a risky show and then never give it the chance to fully develop. I hate FOX.


An unbiased look at NBC: Look at the cute panda try to climb the tree!! It's sooo cute!!

NBC is like the Spider-Man to CBS' Venom. CBS takes all these great comedy ideas and twists and distorts them. They think they're benefiting mankind, but in actuality, people die. Where CBS as "America's #1 Network" gets to be #1 by selling out and pandering to mainstream comedic tastes, NBC tends to go out on a limb with some more creative ideas and lets them find a following of their own. I watch almost solely NBC comedies, and so, most of them will be covered more in-depth in my next note.

Thursday, 8:30 pm: Parks and Recreation - I've only seen one episode of this so far, it's definitely watchable, if not basically an Office rip-off from the creators of the Office. Still, better be ripping off an excellent show rather than a shitty one. Looking at you, According to Jim.

Well, that's probably enough for now ladies and gentlemen. I love Comedy. The next entry will assuredly be filled with an enormous amount of rantings and ravings about how awesome and wonderful is modern comedy. Ooh what a time to be alive.

Bryan Loves Television Part Seis: Drama Day Cable

See? It's a pun on that Cuba Gooding, Jr movie. Clearly.

Well, moving on, for any of you who are still with me, the following rambling, incoherent diatribe involves little to no original research and was written while under the influence of a weird...warm lubricant that I'm not familiar with. People who I tagged...be honoured. Let's go down together, baby.

I did not bother to include the showtimes. Turn on one of these channels and your show will be on. Furthermore, again, these are my personal one-sentence explanations of all of TV.


Damages - Law & Order if everyone did crack ALL the time, mostly the lawyers.

Nip / Tuck - Dr. Doom, some other dude, and some hot chick are plastic surgeons, to my knowledge...cool?

Rescue Me - I enjoy this show when I catch it, wicked intense with a dark sense of humour, awesome.

Sons of Anarchy - Hellboy leads some dudes in a chain gang...cool?

TNT-ugghh TNT shows. What a crock. I really actually had a hard time coming up with even my first one-sentence thoughts on this shitshow.

It's good that we got such a recognizable name-based star to anchor our faltering programming schedule! Yeah!

Leverage - Advertised as starring Academy Award winner, Timothy Hutton. Real quick - name the role and movie he won it for and then named a single other movie starring Timothy Hutton! Oh shit!

The Closer - I have no idea if this is pronounced "Clozer" or "Close-er." Frankly...I don't wanna know.

Saving Grace - This is different from the Clozer somehow.

Raising the Bar - This is actually a show and not just a phrase, apparently.

Trust Me - The show whose title sounds like "Lie to Me" but in reality is actually like Mad Men without ANY of the finesse.


Burn Notice - This is one of those shows that sounds pretty cool but I never watch it.

In Plain Sight - Another police procedural. Yep. The world needs this.

MONK - What's his face, I only know him as Jeebs from Men in Black, brings up a stupid character from shitty...to OK.

PSYCH - This would be the most typical show ever if not for the two leads which actually make it interesting and funny at times. If only the writing wasn't the cliched plots it'd be awesome.


Breaking Bad - Malcolm's dad is a meth addict or something. Groovy.

Mad Men - Apparently amazing. I wouldn't know.


True Blood - Vampires are involved somehow, but not in any way that's cool.

Entourage - Ari Gold is awesome, that's all I know about this show.

In Treatment - I had never heard of this show before I looked up HBO's programming on Wikipedia.

Big Love - I remember hearing about this like 3 years ago, it's still on? What is this, HBO's According to Jim? I'm sure it's exactly as funny!

I actually have no idea if this is from an episode of Californication or just Duchovny's daily routine. I'm pretty good either way.

Dexter - Pretty legendary, apparently, but I don't get showtime. Or the internet.

Californication - Mulder has a lot of sex. That's all I know.

The Tudors - I don't know what this is about, I presume it's like NBC's "Kings," but set during a time when it's actually relevant.

Weeds - If this show is as good as its namesake it should make me hungry, a little spacey, and highly able to tolerate Dave Matthews Band.

Channel Summations, because I was too lazy to get into them:

ABC Family - Youths have problems, but in a safe and cautioned environment.

Disney Channel - Youths have no real problems but think they do, in a safe and cautioned environment.

TBS - Crappy movies and worse TV shows.

History - UFOs or Hitler.

Discovery Channel - Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, or something else that pretends to be educational.

E! - Presenting, the brainless masturbation network!

BET - Black people serving to put black people back 20 years. I watch the Boondocks instead.

SciFi - Absolutely terrible F-Level movies sandwiched between Star Trek and BSG repeats.

Bravo - Presenting, the brainless masturbation network! For gays!

So hopefully that's most of the shit on TV. Not a great time to turn on the box, really, but here's three shows that I watch regularly and enjoyed a lot:

Hey! The good one was British!
Who'da thunk it.

1) Life on Mars: This is a gimmicky police procedural that only has a few shows left (actually I think it ended a few weeks ago) that I really overlooked but occasionally caught because it followed LOST. I started reading about it, though, including its British inspiration, which was ranked among other things, the greatest ending of any television series EVER in a recent TV show. Anyway, it peaked my interest and I tried to follow this shitstorm a little closelier, to little reward, really, but the things is definately watchable. I have not seen the American finale yet, whether or not it lives up to the made-up British hype or not I'll have to find out.

And for a split-second...we all want to be Asian.

2) HEROES: Here's a show that was innovative and revolutionary its first season, then stagnated, got screwed by the writer's strike, and has just been spinning its wheels ever since. The first season's tight storyline, conclusive and rewarding finale, and interesting interpretation of a world where super-powered individuals exist easily made it must-see NBC TV in 2006. The second season had the exact same plot...and then the third season had...the exact same plot. A handful of characters have had...the same character and also the same powers since the first season, but the rest pretty much play musical chairs to fit the plot. HEROES ends up playing out like a poorly written LOST, if it can rekindle its first season magic it will become very decent, until then, it's a fucking fishy twatfest.

Yeah, they're cute now, but pretty soon they're
going to escape their Dharma cages and try to
bite Charlie's face off.

3) LOST: The single drama that I consistently watch and actually enjoy these days. LOST is like a serious Moral Orel that has lasted five seasons of hour-long episodes instead of three seasons of 15-minute long episodes. After the first two or three mind-fuck seasons, it started answering half the questions it raised and still poses relevant ones. The characters and production values are incredible, as is the editing and overall story structure. Its recent (actually since it began) handling of time travel is brilliant and also evident of how well it is written and how well it has been written for the past five years.

Now, LOST is a major part of my reasoning for loving modern television. Despite declining ratings after the first mind-fuck season, LOST remains a perfect example of how incredible TV can really be. Film-like quality of both writing and production values, a well-thought out story that is meant to take place during the course of a few years, impossible for the arch of a simple two-hour film. It does owe a lot to the 1990 series, "Twin Peaks" both in terms of film-like camera work and production values, long over-arching stories, and in general, a whole shittruck full of confusing fuckin shit that went on all the time. That the Twin Peaks legacy did not really find a foothold until LOST premiered in 2004 is disappointing, as is the fact that a reality show like "Dancing with the Stars" is vastly cheaper to produce and gets much better ratings. Coupled with the fact that another show like Heroes has essentially failed miserably and the chances of another program the quality of LOST coming around any time soon is slim. But I dig a lot that a show like this can be still on, even if next season will be its last.

So that's drama, baby. As soon as I think of a good punny title for Comedy (read: bad punny title for Comedy), we'll continue this shitfest of a Blog Entry.

Bryan Loves Televison Part Cinco: Drama Day Care

A pun on an Eddie Murphy movie! Yay!

My taggings have hopefully become both more annoying and random.

So we move at last into the realm of the gritty serious American television drama. I'll be honest here, I don't watch drama. At all. I thought about doing some heavy research to back up this article, but then decided a lazier route would be much funnier for the both of us. So essentially what I plan on doing on this quagmire is do my usual schpeal about the 2 or 3 current dramas I actually watch and then just write whatever comes to mind with about the entire rest of the current schedule.

But first, a history, drama's real easy. And in case you can't figure it out, all this shit I either made up or stole from someone else. Here we go:

Also only the 5 Kings of Prussia were
allowed to watch this show.

1950s: Everybody watched GUNSMOKE, an adapted western radio show. I know this mostly because when my mother was growing up it was the SINGLE show my strict grandfather would ever allow anyone in his household to watch. Oh what a time to be alive. It also held the greatest rating of any TV show ever, mostly because when it peaked in the mid-50s there were only 7 television sets that were split up between the 7 Great Kings of America. It also was on the air for about 20 years, a record which the Simpsons matched this year. What a time to be alive.

1960s: Everybody watched THE FUGITIVE, It wasn't me! It was the one-armed man! Besides the Harrison Ford movie, that's all I know about this show. Most 60s and 70s dramas are today only known as great shows made into crappy 90s and 2000s movies. Harrison Ford's "Fugitive" (1993) was an excellent movie, however something like Eddie Murphy's "I Spy" (2002) was not, although I do enjoy that Leafy-Bug scene immensely.

You like comics, don't you, dingus?

1970s: Everybody watched COLUMBO, as a kid I thought this starred some kind of gangster Christopher Columbus or something. When I found out what it really was, I was disappointed. Still, multiple-Emmy award winning show. I've never seen it, or even know any references to it beyond "Dial N for Nerder," a Season 19 Simpsons episode.

1980s: Everybody watched DALLAS, which only equates to two big pop culture items, who shot J.R. and the Patrick Duffy in the shower dream thing. When I was younger I didn't really understand the significance of the dad from Step By Step being in the shower, but it's a funny little writing trick that basically says "Haha! Fuck you!" to the majority of the TV-watching American public. But then again, in the 80s, what part of pop culture wasn't a big Fuck You to the American public? Men at Work? Please.

1990s: Everybody watched ER, only for George Clooney. In the following decade they continued to watch, mostly for John Stamos. I continued to watch mostly for John Stamos. I only watched it when John Stamos was on.

2000s: Everybody watched CSI, apparently, loving the glamour of forensic investigations along with jazzin music and smash cuts, the Cosmopolitan Era TV watchers for some reason love this crappy show which from what I can tell, that bearded guy solves the same case every week. It was semen! Semen on the titties! Oh what a world!

So there's your history. Forgoing CSI, Here we move on to my very in-depth, one-sentence analysis of the current Dramatic TV schedule, starting with everyone's favourite, and also most alphabetical, ABC.

Priceline Negotiator!

Sunday, 9 pm: Desperate Housewives - chicks that were kind of MILFs four years ago have problems for some reason!
Sunday, 10 pm: Brothers & Sisters - Ally McBeal, Forrest Gump's Mom, and Rob Lowe have problems!

Monday, 10 pm: Boston Legal - Shatner!

Tuesday, 10 pm: Eli Stone - I have no idea what this is.

Wednesday, 8 pm: Pushing Daisies - Intriguing premise but failed delivery!
Wednesday, 9 pm: Private Practice - Liked it better when it was called Law & Order, also I think this is the show that has that chick from those car commercials you know, the "when you turn your car on does it return the favour" deal, pretty hot.
Wednesday, 10 pm: Dirty Sexy Money - feels like it should be on F/X.

Thursday, 8 pm: Ugly Betty - I don't know, I don't want to know.
Thursday, 9 pm: Grey's Anatomy - The only reason I don't watch this show is the simple fact that I have testicles.

Mid-Season Replacements!

Monday, 10 pm: Castle - I like Nathan Fillion and the girl looks hot, I'd give it a try if the commercials didn't make it look like the most irritating show ever (I watched it, it is).

Tuesday, 10 pm: Cupid - See Grey's Anatomy.

Wednesday, 10 pm: The Unusuals - did this even premiere yet?

ooooo TWO SHOTS!!!

Sunday, 9 pm: Cold Case - What is this, the show about the old-ass crimes that they've just now got off their ass now to solve? Why?
Sunday, 10 pm: The Unit - This is that one starring that guy from the All-State commercials right? Great.

Monday, 10 pm: CSI Miami - GREAT drinking game.

Tuesday, 8 pm: NCIS - slightly different anagram of CSI, both in name and delivery.
Tuesday, 9 pm: The Mentalist - what the hell is this show supposed to be about?
Tuesday, 10 pm: Without a Trace - The single thing I know about tihs show is that it stars the dude who played Daphne's cousin on Frasier, which simultaneously shows how much more I know about comedies.

Wednesday, 9 pm: Criminal Minds - There's really a show with this name that's not a descriptor of another show? Huh.
Wednesday, 10 pm: CSI: NY - Trade that bearded guy for Gary Sinise. Cool.

Thursday, 10 pm: The Eleventh Hour - I had never even heard of this show before looking up CBS' broadcast schedule.

Friday, 8 pm: Ghost Whisperer - Big tits.
Friday, 9 pm: Flashpoint - Something to do with snipers that isn't "Enemy at the Gates" or "Shooter."
Friday, 10 pm: Numb3rs - Has to do with some math and that Jew from "The Santa Clause 3."

I'm gonna FUCK Cuddy.

Monday, 8 pm: Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Lena Hedley kicks Linda Hamilton's ass.
Monday, 9 pm: Prison Break - They broke out sooo long ago!
Monday, 9 pm (alt): 24 - I've never been able to sit through a whole day, but it seems like an awesome concept and from what I hear, brilliant execution, but definitely something that you need to devote more than my sporadic attention span to.

Tuesday, 8 pm: House - Watch House use voodoo magic to solve the same damn illness each week!
Tuesday, 9 pm: Fringe - I actually watched the premiere, caught my interest juuust enough to sit through those two hours and nothing more.

Wednesday, 8 pm: Bones - Uhhh the one chick's decently hot, and its got a quirkiness that I can't ever really figure out.
Wednesday, 9 pm: Lie to Me - What is with these kind of gimmicky shows this season?

Friday, 9 pm: Dollhouse - Dusssshkkuuu!!!

From memory I thought this dude was bald. Sorry Meloni.

Sunday, 8 pm: Kings - This looked like the stupidest show I've ever seen, why would you watch this while the Simpsons are on.

Monday, 8 pm: Chuck - The blonde chick is absolutely gorgeous, and its got an ok sense of humour that I think tries to be funnier than it really is.
Monday, 10 pm: Medium - What is with all these ghost shows?

Tuesday, 10 pm: Law & Order SVU - Is this the one with Ice-T? Also that bald guy is one of the funniest fucks on television when he wants to be.

Wednesday, 8 pm: Knight Rider - Of all the shitty 80s shows to bring back, why this one?
Wednesday, 9 pm: Life - stupid.
Wednesday, 10 pm: Law & Order - dun DUN!

Friday, 9 pm: Friday Night Lights - stars Bruce Baxter from King Kong. Cool.
Friday, 9 pm (alt): Lipstick Jungle - What the fuck?

Mid-Season Replacements!

Thursday, 10 pm: SouthLAnd - 15 years of ER and then they put this on TV?

Tomorrow it looks like I'll have to tackle Cable Drama and my only favourite shows. Guess which ones were left out! Wa-hey! You may notice how extremely critical this list was. Take what you can from my personal interpretations of all this nonsense and feel free to add your own favs, I know there is some Law & Order fans out there and it seems like a decent show, I just can't get into it.

Bryan Loves Televison Part IV: The Flat and the Furriest 3: TV-MA Drift

Hopefully someone's noticed the more and more random people tagged in these things. Enjoy it. This is about 50% made-up my myself, 50% made up by someone else, so enjoy. From where we left off with children's cartoon programming last time, following in the path of the Simpsons, I give you; adult cartoons.

As I said before, there were many many adult cartoons prior to our current decade, but nothing really mainstream. Early Warner Bros, Disney, and MGM cartoons were genuinely meant for all ages, but not until very recently were there cartoons whose explicit target audience were the same as those who previously were meant only to watch live action comedies and dramas.

AdultSwim has done the same thing for these kinds of programs that cable channels in general could do for programming in general. They have formed a creative outlet for some shows that would certainly not have a chance elsewhere in a much more specific way. What happens then is good and bad, some shows really knock it out of the ballpark, others are really random wastes of time. I still need a good-quality animated show to really enjoy it, things like Squidbillies and Xavier: Renegade Angel really don't cut it for me. I am a fan of traditional over digital, but sometimes digital can be pulled off in creative and constructive ways. Total Drama Island is a good example of a brainless show that looks incredible, pulled off completely using Flash Computer animation, which I tend to watch and appreciate for its visual appeal.

Besides AdultSwim, the next biggest source of Mature Animation is FOX Broadcasting. Futurama and the first few seasons of Family Guy I will admit to being some high-quality and groundbreaking stuff, however, their current line-up consisting of now-irrelevant Family Guy and American Dad is really complete trash. King of the Hill requires patience to sit through, but once you get into it and establish, very easily, by the way, strong emotional ties to the characters, it's easy to realise how brilliant that show is. Besides FOX other stations have tried some adult animation, none of which has ever taken off, none of which is currently on television anyway. I do love the six episodes of Clerks as a great show that toyed with the conventions of a sitcom much better than Family Guy ever tried to do, and for worse or better, was canceled before the formula became stale. Repeats on AdultSwim now, I'll keep that as a reason to turn on the box these days.

So, before these notes become stale (has that already happened?! I hope so!) Here's five excellent contemporary Mature Cartoon shows, most of which on AdultSwim:

Every praise I gave to this show is
still true, I swear.

1) Moral Orel. Moral Orel is one of the best damn shows I have ever seen in my life. It's so excellent because you need to watch the entire series, all three seasons, to full appreciate the inter-connectivity, call-backs, and whole metanarrative of the story. In an incredibly strong way, it established its schtick the first season then slowly turned away from these conventions in the second, then completely blew them away in the third, completing a full story and character arc with its feature character. The continuity between episodes, some of which flashbacks or flashforwards, or even simultaneous stories with different characters in town, is the most solid and brilliant I've ever seen on TV. Its claymation is more of a gateway to the surface spoofing it does, but greatly belays the subtext of a send up of middle-American Puritanical and small-town culture, but more importantly, doesn't look shitty. There are flaws in the first season, for sure, most episodes are very very prototypical. The trick is once you notice the contrast by the way the third season changes, it makes you look back at the first one with an entirely new lens, which is something only a handful of series in the history of television are able to do. Technically this is a canceled program as of Decemeber 2008, but repeats may still be found sparingly.

Puke! That's a funny word!

2) The Drinky Crow Show. At first glance this is a very hate-able show. AdultSwim, seems pretty random for the sake of random, heavy drinking appearing to yearn for that frat boy crowd. I stayed away for a while until I accidentally watched it one time and it kind of grew on me. You know. Like a boil. The animation gets its foot in the door, first off, a very distinctive cel-shaded look that isn't meant to be flashy or look like something it's not. When the animation propels the kind of story the creators want to tell and isn't a distraction, that's a big plus. Drinky Crow nails it. Digging deeper though (stricklaaand), it's really a great show in that it treats its characters as real deplorable characters who take advantage of their cartoon world. For example, Drinky Crow will often exchange his brain for something or have sex with and impregnate the planet, or something else that really takes advantage of its medium. It's able to bounce back and forth, treading a line between realistic consequences of actions but maintaining a cartoonish disposition. It's as if when Elmer blows Daffy's face with a shotgun, Daffy suffered real consequences, brains everywhere, etc, but maintained his tooniness and was able to put himself together. Or would have to go find his brain somewhere. Drinky Crow pulls this schtick off, which just delights me.

Naked men threatening dudes in butterfly
costumes. Take that, According to Jim!

3) Venture Bros. As virtually the only half-hour traditionally animated show on AdultSwim, Venture Bros is a well-animated and written show that stands out admist the sea of shit that the channel regularly spits out. Again, at the surface this is a mere spoof show of a lot of nerd culture, lifting off from a Johnny Quest-style premise and taking it around Star Wars, comic book, even Scooby Doo spoofs. It's a lot deeper than that though, so I'll dig deeper. At its core it is a complete send-up of this world examining the repercussions something like having costumed super-villains in the real world, but lacking the sardonic tone of something like Robot Chicken. Deeeeeper than that, though, the show is ultimately about the repercussions on the psychology of someone's life being one of these characters, or more specifically growing up as the son or daughter of one of these characters. It essentially spirals out of control into failure and lost dreams, but mostly with a wit, hope, and layers that lacks in a lot of other shows.

Oooh Shelly put you hand out like you're
holding the Guineasaurus Rex!

4) South Park. I personally think South Park peaked around Season 10 or 11, but they still crank out some legendary episodes. The current season so far I believe has left something to be desired. Obviously we're still in the middle of it, but the only real stand-out episode so far has been "The Coon," with maybe "Margaritaville" as a close second. Neither of which has impressed me as much as "Ungroundable," "Super Fun Time," or "Over Logging" from last season, which is admittedly on a more epic scale. I still believe, though, that South Park is the best show on television right now when it hits its stride. It has finally gotten to the point where it can play around with its conventions and character interactions with a show like "Pandemic," and an ep like "Breast Cancer Show Ever" is completely fueled by its incredibly strong character development. In fact, that may be my favourite episode ever due it being completely driven by its complex motivations of its characters acting very consistently, yet still acting and reacting outrageously to situations they find themselves in, not arbitrarily to force a progression of plot, but by the very characters interacting in their world. It's textbook brilliant teleplay writing, and regardless of the content, is an incredibly well-crafted show in every sense of the word.

Simpsons Christmas Boogie!

5) The Simpsons. Yeah this one pretty much had to be in here. See, the thing is, even an absolutely awful Simpsons episode is light-years beyond much of anything else TV has to offer. I've also been catching it about every week for the past, oh, 17 years or so, so why stop now. Even with a perceived declination of quality, if the thing runs another 80 years it will still remain the single greatest show on television due to its first 10 seasons. Some stats here actually not made up by me, no show is more grammatically correct according to June Casagrande, author of "Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite" (I actually read this in a book, http://www.amazon.com/Grammar-Snobs-Are-Great-Meanies/dp/0143036831), besides maybe 30 Rock. The greatest key to the Simpsons though, is their refusal to compromise for an easy joke or plot element, their preservation of artistic and thematic integrity, and the biggest key to all great comedy, drama or whatever, having realistic and deep characters who actually motivate and care about each other. This is the big difference between Simpsons and Family Guy that is hard to see sometime. At the end of the day, Homer may act like a buffoon but he will always make the right decision for his family, Bart and Lisa do love each other despite the cruel things they may do, Marge can be greedy, Burns can be loveable, all within the boundaries of their basic character models. At the end of the day in Quahog, everyone still hates Meg, Stewie's entire existence is a joke, and there is little to no impact on Brian's secret love of Lois or whatever the hell plot they're developing there on his and Peter's relationship or Peter's and Lois'. All Family Guy is is a string of jokes. The Simpsons start with a strong story and then add jokes. The greater emotional investment there is in a show the better the jokes. Simpsons has this in spades. Anyway, that's a much needed rant on why I can despise one show and absolutely love another that on the surface seem very much the same.

That's about it for Cartoons. Next up we have the ever exciting and thrilling adventure known as Drama! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!
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