Favorite Waste of Time
An Exercise in Sloth
By: Randy Harward
Would you believe that, with all this time I spend on the couch watching DVDs, that I'm actually losing weight? I'm working on a theory that puts forth that the weight loss may be directly proportionate to the amount of shitty programming I put myself through (due to the rapid sloughing of brain cells and/or dignity). Here's hoping it has merit, and that Scientific American pays more than IMWT (no disrespect to my man Alex).
The first bite of quality-lite TV on DVD? Roswell, The Complete First Season (Fox)...replete with newly recorded music to avert licensing headaches. That's not my biggest bitch, but when most of these teen shows have crappy music to begin with (no disrespect to my man Grant Lee Phillips), it's hard to swallow the new stuff, which is in essence the equivalent of a hastily produced compilation CD put out by magazines who charge for the privilege (you know who you are). As for the show itself, its tagline (or was it an actual press quote?) says it all (paraphrasing): "Dawson's Creek with aliens." Effectively, you have pretty teen boys (and girl) with extraterrestrial powers and teen angst and substance that are inversely proportionate to their looks. Follow? Bottom line: Roswell is even worse than the old Tales From the Darkside or Friday the 13th series, which look Emmy-worthy by comparison (although Roswell would fare better in these days of payola).
The next trial of my tolerance was the second volume of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (Rhino). One expects a precursor to Saturday Night Live, SCTV, and MADtv to at least have a modicum of entertainment value...and something more than a nubile young Goldie Hawn to drool over. Sadly, the jokes are obvious and squeaky clean (notwithstanding the fact that my gram-gram would've found them racy, but she thought REO Speedwagon was straight from Hell. Hmm--in retrospect, she had a point), and it is extremely painful to watch. Am I too young to get it? After all, I was born 3 to 5 years after these episodes aired. Nah. This is weak, watered-down comedy for retards (no disrespect to the mentally challenged; I speak of the variety of retard who is not necessarily medically so, but rather the churchgoing type that likes to think he or she has an edge because he watches such brilliant, incisive programming as Laugh-In).
So what of the good stuff, you ask? Is there some other significance to the title of this column, aside from the easy Marshall Crenshaw reference/sentiment? Of course, there is.
Plexifilm's Hell House is probably a good transitional point, since it is chock fulla retarded religious types. Hell houses are fundamentalist Christians' answer to the haunted houses and spook alleys you see around Halloween. Only instead of graveyards with pubescent lurking ghouls and sundry snakes, spiders and webs, the displays are constructed around the evils of certain behaviors such as partying, getting an abortion, or being gay. They manage to make each situation completely horrifying, albeit for reasons they did not intend. Rather, it is the skewed, uninformed, callow worldviews of these people that is frightening...to the point it becomes difficult to watch the film. Difficult, because it is so impossible to believe there are people this twisted in the world.
So back to TV on DVD...is there any more sublime pleasure than having an entire season of a really good show to access at one's whim? Surely, there is nothing better than vintage Cheers (complete second season, Paramount), which lends itself nicely to late-night viewing to simulate the syndication vibe (the second season of Frasier is as good, but surely inferior to its predecessor).
In Living Color and Futurama Season 3 (both Fox) are too good to be true, especially the former. And it's strange, because as huge as Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans have become, ILC is a somewhat forgotten sketch comedy show (you'll notice, despite its obvious quality, that I omitted it earlier). Everyone remembers it, but it has somehow sank in the pop culture ken; you have to be reminded of it. But when the reminder comes, as with this DVD set, it's entirely welcome. MADtv owes ILC a massive debt, and sketches like "Men on Film" and "The Homeboy Shopping Network"...and don't forget "Homey the Clown" are brilliant reminders.
Speaking of which, Chapelle's Show (Comedy Central) is some of the sharpest sketch comedy in decades, an extremely satisfying blend of social commentary and just plain dirty jokes. As such, it's easy to see why Comedy Central rushed the first season to DVD. And God bless 'em for that.
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