I guess first I have to address the new name of this column: Maximum Verbosity. Many thanks, and a copy of Galactic Civilizations, go to forum member One_of_47 for coming up with a name I wish I'd come up with myself. Apparently I spent all my creativity coming up with witty overworded soliloquies. What appealed to me about Maximum Verbosity is how it matches my personality. I like doing thing "˜to the max' as they say, like driving to the max, preparing meals to the max, looking both ways before I cross the street to the max, and, of course, writing these articles. To the max. So, I think this new column name might fit nicely, considering, also, that I seem to have a reputation of sorts for wordiness. I suppose it's my own fault. As President Bartlett said on The West Wing, "anyone who uses just one word when they could have used ten just isn't trying hard enough."Speaking inconspicuously of television shows"…
The past few months have seen me putting in a lot of time in front of the boob tube – which often takes on a literal meaning with Cinemax * rim shot *. Having an infant to take care of means a lot less playing these fancy interactive games that are all the rage. The infant often seems to require feeding, cleaning, and even attention. I sense from him that he's not really open to reason yet, and if he takes to crying about something, I can assure you he won't simply hold off until I finish one last mission. So, I've had a lot of time while attending to the variety of things my son demands, to watch television, and not surprisingly I have some thoughts on what I've seen.
The first thing I noticed is that I really don't have any interest in network television anymore. If it weren't for football, Jeopardy, and reruns of the Simpsons I'd never hit a local network feed. Not that the higher ups on the dial are that much better. I recall TLC was once an acronym for The Learning Channel. I'm not sure when that stopped being true, but it sure isn't anymore. Now, during the day, it's A Baby Story, A Wedding Story, A Dating Story, A Dentist Story, or A Transient Migrant Farmer Story. The evenings aren't much better with shows like Trading Spaces where I believe this week they are fixing up a homeless man's box with corrugated cardboard and some fabric they found in a puddle. Most of the rest of the dial is no better. If I ever want to be reminded of why I wanted to not live in the eighties anymore I need only to turn it to VH1. And if I ever want to watch a biography about Elizabeth Taylor's marriage counselor I can just turn it to A&E. When did stations become one trick ponies?
However there have been a few shows that have managed to occupy my time on cable. Perhaps the most surprising is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Speaking as a Straight Guy, this show is an unusually guilty pleasure. I couldn't say for certain what appeals to me, the humor, the good nature of the participants, the men's makeover tips that make me feel like an inadequate cro-magnon, some unchecked latent homosexuality "… it's hard to say. Part of it has to be the idea of these five gay wingmen appear like redefined fairy godmothers and paste a nice faÃƒÂ§ade on a bunch of losers who are certain, by the end, to get laid. There's something appealing and sexually confused about a show where homosexual men help heterosexual men to seem attractive to heterosexual women.
Also, Sci-Fi's recent Battlestar Gallactica miniseries proved better than I might have expected. Part of that has to be I'm not a slave to the original series, so if they'd turned Starbuck into Apollo's pet pug, then I might have been ok with that as long as it was a really likeable pug. So, when there were changes from the established cannon, I addressed them with barely a shrug and a soft sense of the ire caused across many an internet message board. I may have even tittered a bit. Still, I don't see what the fuss is about. The destruction of the colonies goes from being about as dramatic as an A-Ha video, to feeling a lot more like the end of an entire civilization. Baltar becomes a vaguely sympathetic soul as we understand the source of his treachery – a hot girl. Adama is reborn wonderfully in the skin of Edward James Olmos, and Apollo "… well, it's okay to hate what's become of Apollo. I can't help but think it's some vague jab at Richard Hatch, just in case his life didn't suck enough already.
Another somewhat guilty pleasure comes every morning. The Price is Right has been on for a few thousand years, and it wasn't until the advent of televsion that anyone noticed. The great thing about TPIR is that since about 1972 almost nothing has changed on the show; not the sets, not the games, not fancy European trips given to geriatrics who might consider a trip to the local Walgreens the cornerstone of a busy day, not even the lecherous glint in Barker's eye. only Barker's Beauties, still as tastelessly dubbed as ever, have ever paraded in a talentless cavalcade of vacant looking flesh mannequins, every episode leaving each girl that much closer to a desperate Playboy centerfold followed by fourteen years as the weather girl for Billings Montana. Speaking of age, Bob Barker has somehow sidestepped time. I guess the years of post-show orgies with said beauties have proved good for the old man's health and complexion.
Still, that's not much TV to maintain my busy schedule of changing diapers and then making exhausted faces when my son promptly soils his freshly changed diaper. In the mid-afternoon stretch of television wastes, left with talk shows about unemployed toothless drunks infected with what appears to be mange who take DNA paternity tests – I never understand why anyone would want these guys to participate in raising a child anyway - one must provide their own entertainment or risk serious cerebral rot. And, that's where DVD series compilations come in nicely.
The West Wing, for example, was recently released on DVD, and promptly devoured by my wife and me. Intellectual masturbation for the liberally minded, The West Wing involves starry eyed Democrats who solve international and domestic troubles by spending lots of money on government assistance programs. Naturally, I love it. With President Bartlett, an intellectual snob lording over his fast talking supplicants, distributing great pearls of liberal wisdom, I wallow in the snappy cadence of witty dialogue every bit as much as the happily naive ideology. I also hold my son's eyes open and force him to watch in an effort that I freely admit is brainwashing. After all, isn't that what being a parent is all about?
With my penchant for The West Wing, it should be clear that I enjoy fantasy. Joss Whedon, the uber-scribe of modern geekery, fills a large portion of the rest of my television time. With the recent release of Firefly on DVD, not to mention the fifth season of Buffy, I'm trying not to bust anything in my rampant enthusiasm for these shows. Firefly, despite its criminal treatment by Fox, is one of the best science fiction shows to ever grace the small screen, and Buffy "… what can I say about Buffy that hasn't been said. I suppose it's enough to say that I didn't want to like either show, and now I'm a hopeless fan of both. Every moment that I don't stalk Joss and ask if he wants to hang out in really creepy ways is a testament to either my willpower or procrastination.
These shows manage to remind me that someone out there still takes an interest in providing quality television without setting it as a fish-out-of-water reality series. I admit the concept of putting fifteen steel workers together in a house with fifteen paranoid schizophrenics and filming the hi-larious results is too tempting for television execs, so I appreciate producers that tell smart or funny stories about characters all the more. Television has become a caricature of what it's always been, a format dedicated to pulling in the most viewers with the least amount of content. As every once broadcast show from Different Strokes to Cop Rock goes into syndication, I suppose I should be surprised that anyone is showing anything new at all. Instead of not watching channels like TNT, USA, Lifetime, and the ever popular WE network, we could just as easily be not watching the Everybody Loves Raymond Network, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman Network, and the Law and Order Network. Well, actually we already have the Law and Order Network, they just still call it TNT.
I wish I felt that television had gotten better while I wasn't looking. I can't really blame broadcasters for still doing what they've always done, but it was a naÃƒÂ¯ve hope I'd held out. As much as ever, I tend to be more surprised when I run across a well written well acted show rather than being able to expect such. In the end, all the shows I've been watching did just that in the first place, surprised me, and maybe that's why I have a soft spot for them all. Now, if you'll excuse me The Price is Right is about to come on, and if I don't watch to mock the contestants there's no guarantee someone else will.