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New Shows That Might Be Good and Stuff September 9, 2013

Posted by Ted in : 1600 Penn, 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, General, Hannibal, Heroes, Lost, Lucky 7, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., NBC, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Reality TV, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Terra Nova, The 100, The Blacklist, The Crazy Ones, The River, The Tomorrow People, The X-Files, Uncategorized, Whedonverse , add a comment

Wow, the 2013 Fall TV season really snuck up on me this year, so I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. I’ll spare you the excuses. Since I haven’t written in a while, first I’ll say a few words about last season’s shows.

As I might have mentioned last time, I’ve started to question my faith in network television over the last couple of years, with so many great new shows getting axed after one season or even half a season. Earlier in the year, two more favorites, 666 Park Ave. and 1600 Penn were tossed into the TV mass grave with the corpses of The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer.

666 Park Avenue, in spite of its campy name, turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. I think if more people had given it a chance, it would still be with us. ABC delivered the final four episodes during the summer, as promised, and the show’s writers managed to wrap the whole thing up in a way that provided closure to the fans. The ending was a suitably dark leap ahead in the show’s timeline, showing us the destiny of characters in this creepy-but-fun drama. If you have a taste for the supernatural genre, this is definitely one to get on DVD (or to watch on Netflix or whatever. I fully realize that the trend of technology is away from physical ownership and toward internet cloud-based storage and consumption. Kind of depressing, really. We’ll be sitting in our empty houses with no DVDs or CDs or books, glued like addicts to our wireless electronic devices. Not to mention, all the music, movie, and book stores will be put out of business in the process. Is there any way I can opt out of the future?)

 

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Jane tries to figure out what happened to her show.

 

1600 Penn – NBC has come up with a lot of terrible sitcoms in recent years, but this show about a fictitious US president and his family was a winner in my book. Jenna Elfman co-starred as the first lady, and exuded a kind of warm, cub scout den-mother likability (and she looks pretty stunning for her age, I might add.) The adult son’s lovable-goofball antics in a White House setting seemed like a witty enough premise, but America has once again disagreed. Yet another great show cancelled after half a season. Somebody tell me again how the hideously terrible 30 Rock lasted so long.

Siberia – Just when I was sure there would never be another show as good as 666 Park Avenue, NBC aired this amazing serial drama during the summer. It tells the tale of a Survivor-style reality show that turns incredibly weird. The first few episodes are presented in the style of a reality show, which may have had some people mistaking it for the real thing. Siberia is also similar to Lost in many ways, but is more coherent and suspenseful. It keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The writing, acting, and directing are all top notch. I can already tell from the mania in various blog comment sections that this show is destined for cult status.

Too bad NBC made the highly questionable decision to run the show in the same time slot as the CBS series Under the Dome, which is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and has been killing Siberia in the ratings. I would probably be watching the show too, but I made a rule that, as a Stephen King fan, I wouldn’t watch any TV show or movie based on one of his books until I’ve read the book first. Anyway, I think most of the Under the Dome fans would love Siberia if they were aware of its existence. For the last couple years there’s been a lot of great shows to get iced before their time was due, but I think I’m really gonna be sick to my stomach if Siberia doesn’t get at least one more season.

 

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 Sam and Daniel await cancellation on Siberia

 

Hannibal – This dark crime-thriller featuring the famous movie cannibal debuted back in April on NBC. I watched an episode to see if I could keep my cookies down. I was in luck. This version of Hannibal is suave and stylish. He doesn’t tear at his victims’ bodies like a wild animal, but instead converts them into tasty culinary creations and shares them with unsuspecting dinner guests. By day the devious foodie works as a forensic psychiatrist who aids the FBI in tracking down serial killers, and his profiler friend Will sometimes gets lost in his visions and turns to Hannibal for support. Another factor influencing watchability is Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame in a recurring role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist. (Were you aware that psychiatrists have psychiatrists? I wasn’t either, but I could probably use one of my own after watching this show.) Hannibal has been renewed for a second season that will begin in 2014.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of new shows that might be good in the upcoming 2013 Fall season:

Sleepy Hollow (Premieres Monday, Sept. 16th on FOX) – As the name implies, this is a TV adaptation of the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I’m assuming this modern-day interpretation will be a prequel of sorts, which takes place before Ichabod Crane’s fateful meeting with the Headless Horseman.

The Blacklist (Premieres Monday, Sept. 23rd on NBC) – James Spader plays an enigmatic crime boss who turns himself in to the FBI, then offers to rat out various big players in the crime world, but, for some unknown reason, will communicate only with rookie agent Elizabeth Keen. As you might know, I’m not big on the crime shows, but I will at least check out the premiere of this one.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – Despite the severely clunky title, this comic book-derived action drama could be one of the better new shows of the season. Why? It is co-written and co-produced by Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, who has been having big success with the superhero movies in recent years. Expect lots of wisecracking and fight scenes.

Lucky 7 (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – This one has a premise I can relate to: It deals with the lives of seven convenience store workers after they win a lottery jackpot. It’s based on a British show called The Syndicate. Maybe we’ll get lucky with this one. I suppose it’s a good sign that Stephen Spielberg is listed as a co-producer, along with ER‘s David Zabel. Then again, it seems like Spielberg’s name is on all the shows these days. He’s either cloned himself or he’s world’s biggest workaholic.

 

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Breakin’ out the bubbly on Lucky 7

 

The Crazy Ones (Premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 on CBS) – Sarah Michelle Gellar has risen from the ashes of the sort-lived Ringer and teamed up with legend Robin Williams in this new Office-style single-camera comedy. I would have preferred to see her in some type of supernatural or sci-fi thing, but I’ll take this as a consolation prize. Who knows, it could fly. Gellar’s comic sensibilities were part of what made Buffy such a huge hit. This girl desperately needs a second hit show, so maybe the viewers will smile down upon this one. In case you were wondering, this is Robin Williams’ first regular TV series role since Mork and Mindy wrapped up back in 1982! Let’s hope Robin is as good at picking TV roles as he is at picking movie roles.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC) – As you might have guessed, this is a spin-off of ABC’s excellent fairytale drama Once Upon a Time which focuses on the characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice will have a love interest in this version — a genie named Cyrus. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) was originally cast as the voice of the White Rabbit, but has been replaced by John Lithgow. Alice learned that curiosity can lead you to some really weird places, and hopefully the CGI effects in this live-action drama will do her adventures justice. Strangely, there’s no word on who will play the Mad Hatter.

Dracula (Premieres Friday, Oct. 25 on NBC) – NBC has finally clambered onto the vampire bandwagon with this reboot of the well-worn Bram Stoker novel. One good sign: It will be co-written by Daniel Knauf, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO show Carnivàle which aired a few years back (which I haven’t actually seen, due to my ongoing lack of access to cable television.)

The 100 (Scheduled to premiere on The CW as a midseason show in 2014) – The CW must have heard my prayers, they are cooking up two new sci-fi shows for us this season. This one is summarized by TV Guide as follows: “Nearly a century after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, a spaceship sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing.” Sounds like fun, right?

The Tomorrow People (Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 on The CW) – If you loved Heroes, this could be the antidote for your aching heart. The Tomorrow People, based on a British TV show of the same name, has more than a few parallels to the ill-fated NBC superhero drama. It tells the story of several young mutants from around the world with various supernatural powers, and is written and co-produced by Phil Klemmer, who wrote several episodes of Chuck and Veronica Mars, of all things.

 

Summer Viewing Report 2010 September 16, 2010

Posted by Ted in : America's Got Talent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DTV, ER, Friends, General, Hell's Kitchen, Inspirational, Lost, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The X-Files, Whedonverse , add a comment

The DTV Nightmare Part IV: In spite of the umpteen public service announcements that promised all I had to do was hook up a digital converter box and my TV viewing would not be affected in the slightest by the digital television transition, I discovered after the switch that I was unable to receive my local ABC affiliate — in spite of buying two different antennas for that purpose — and was unable to watch the final season of Lost. Not the biggest surprise of my life. It’s OK, I’ll just pick up Lost on DVD. That show’s definitely worth owning. I’ve already started to accept the fact that this could the beginning of the end of free over-the-air television, thanks to the greedy telecom companies wanting to usurp all the extra bandwidth, and I could eventually be forced to pay for cable or satellite television for the first time in my life. Honestly, the thought of paying a monthly fee for TV makes my stomach turn, but I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it. I may have to change the name of my blog to Book Wormhole. God knows, I have plenty of books to read.

So maybe the fact that one of the major networks is out of my life for the foreseeable future accounted for the lack of things to watch on TV this summer. Although, that seems unlikely, since Lost is the only show I can remember watching on ABC since The Six Million Dollar Man. I guess part of the problem is I’m finally getting tired of some of the summer reality junk that used to amuse me on occasion. I once again elected to miss the circus of stupidity called Big Brother, and sidestepped the parade of wasted lives know as America’s Got Talent. I chose to opt out of Chef Ramsey’s masochistic cooking school for a second season in a row, maybe I’ll be bored enough to watch him next time Hell’s Kitchen rolls around, and yes, there will be a next time. There’s always a next time for these abusive British types.

Supernatural reruns: This CW show has been pretty amazing for the last couple of seasons in spite of the fact that I never particularly liked the Winchester brothers. Their melodramatic bickering and overwrought machismo are still annoying at times, but the show consistently delivers interesting, well written stories, with witty dialogue reminiscent of Buffy in her heyday (but don’t tell Dean I said that).

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Need To Know: I tuned in to the new PBS public affairs program, needing to know if the show was a worthy replacement for the recently ended Bill Moyers’ Journal. It’s not a bad program, but they seem to take more of an apologist stance on American foreign policy than I would have hoped for. In other words, more of the same warmed over middle-of-the-road opinions you can hear anywhere else. Well, we can look on the bright side. Maybe the talk radio Nazis will quit calling PBS liberal now that Moyers is gone. Of course, they would have to actually watch the network to figure that out, which seems unlikely.

Ghost Story / Circle of Fear: Lucky for me, I have a small stockpile of DVDs of favorite TV shows from the past. These are a real lifesaver at times when there’s nothing on but infomercials or court shows. Receiving top billing here in the crawlspace this summer was an old childhood favorite, which had never been officially released on DVD, but I was enthused to find it for sale as a bootleg. It was a supernatural-themed anthology show (meaning that each episode was a stand-alone story with a different set of characters) called Ghost Story, which was renamed Circle of Fear in its second and final season. The program is very similar in style to Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. This show originally aired in the early 70s, but I discovered through reruns in the 80s. The passing decades have only made it more appealing — the old cars, the clothes, the psychedelic music and directing style all add up to a nostalgia high for this aging potato. Plus, Sebastian Cabot adds a touch of class as a mysterious innkeeper who introduces each episode.

Hangin’ out with my Friends: Other shows in my DVD player recently included the first seasons of X-Files, ER, and Friends. You might not believe this, but I was actually going through an extended “I don’t watch TV” phase back in the 90s when the early seasons of these shows where on. But I fell off the wagon hard in 1996 when I discovered them, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Seinfeld. That was the year I became a TV fanatic. I couldn’t believe how much good stuff was on, and so happily rejoined the ranks of the low-brow and unrefined. My renewed friendship with the glowing box has gone on for 14 years now.

So sue me. I’m sure you anti-TV snobs that read that last paragraph will recognize me as a traitor to your cause, and call for an immediate intervention on my behalf. No doubt, you’ll have me sent to a TV watchers’ rehabilitation center somewhere, where my treatment will consist of a rigid daily regimen of life affirming get-em-off-the-couch activities, including skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding, cake decorating, metallurgy, tightrope walking, bee keeping, long distance swimming, marble sculpting, barehand tree climbing, helicopter piloting, CPR classes, square dancing, jazzercise, tennis, karate, taekwondo, tai chi, feng shui, and advanced survivalist training. Evening hours will be dedicated to group therapy and the speed reading of great literary classics. Concurrent with these activities, I’m guessing, will be daily deprogramming sessions involving the use of psychoactive medications and the forced viewing of Clockwork Orange-style propaganda videos. At the end of my 60 day stay I will roll my eyes at any suggestion of watching TV, and join the ranks of the sweater-wearing latte sippers at my local trendy bookstore.

This is Howie Change the Channel March 1, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Candid Camera, Reality TV, Reviews , 2comments

  I’ve been wondering how many words to devote to the new show Howie Do It, which is similar to hidden camera shows of the past such Candid Camera and Punk’d (with the enigmatic apostrophe). Given its sinking ratings, I guess I should go ahead and get my review done before the show is cancelled. Some of the zany pranks featured on this program have included: Howie in a wig posing as a waiter who sticks his fingers into people’s food and drinks, getting a man to pick his nose, bumping a microphone repeatedly into someone’s face while conducting an interview, and the old standby, farting.

One segment involved recruiting participants for a fake reality show called “Break-In Makeover,” who were told to break into a house and smash the owner’s computers and televisions, which they were told would be replaced by new equipment. Then Howie pulled up in a strangely fake looking police car and disrupted their activities with a bullhorn. In one especially annoying prank a member of Howie’s crew attempted to seduce a man’s wife while the man watched on the set of a fake TV commercial. After each segment, Mandel cues a large studio audience by saying “This is…,” to which they respond zombie-like, “Howie do it!”

I think this show fails for at least two reasons:

  1. It insults the intelligence of the audience with the same old sophomoric garbage they’ve seen a thousand times before. Why do television producers constantly treat their viewers like a bunch of drooling chimpanzees?
  2. The few pranks on the show that could actually be funny are rendered humorless by Howie’s clumsy comic sensibilities. It all seems very forced and unnatural. Mandel treats his victims as disposable props to be used and throw away, herding them through the stunts like cattle.

The quality gap between Howie Do It and the classic Candid Camera show couldn’t be wider. Allen Funt had a light touch and, unlike Mandel, seemed to have sympathy for his subjects. He made it a point not to offend or degrade the people on his show. It played like a sociology experiment, helping us to gain insight into human nature. Mandel has dispensed with all the class and intelligence that characterized Candid Camera, opting for the cheapest laughs possible. The result is a sad, unwatchable mess. No deal!

13 – Fear is Real: Be Sort of Afraid January 17, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Reality TV, Reviews , 4comments

 You want to know how to make a reality show really scary? Put the number 13 in the title. Now you’re talkin’! Then you have the 13 (there it is again!) contestants competing for $66,666 dollars in cash prize money. Holy cow! That’s over one twentieth of a million dollars. I could live forever on that kind of money. But wait a minute. Look at all those sixes! Didn’t I read somewhere that it was evil to have three of those together? Let me count 1,2,3,4…..oh my God! That’s five sixes! This must be the scariest, most evil reality show that ever ever existed! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

The ill-conceived 13 – Fear is Real on the CW takes cornball to a whole ‘nother level. It’s kind of like a halloween edition of Big Brother, wherein the usual cast of failed actors and deluded losers live together in an old cabin out in the woods, and receive tape recorded messages from a guy who calls himself the mastermind. They must follow his deep voiced instructions to the letter and endure various trials and tribulations in order to stay in the game. This includes such activities as handling snakes, getting face time with rats, midnight canoe trips, and being buried alive. The esteem challenged contestants are play-killed one at a time until one lucky winner receives the evil prize money. Tune in or die! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Midseason 2009 TV Explosion! January 6, 2009

Posted by Ted in : 24, 30 Rock, Amazing Race, American Idol, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Fringe, General, Hell's Kitchen, Heroes, Holiday Posts, Kath & Kim, Lost, Midseason, My Name is Earl, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Smallville, Terminator: tSCC, The Office , 8comments

 January is here. The festivities and laziness of the holiday season are behind us. It’s time for everyone to once again get serious about things, get back to work, and face up to the hard cold reality of life. Right?

Wrong! January is the time of year we TV watchers plunge head first into some serious escapist entertainment, and here at TV Crawlspace the only reality we’ll be facing is reality television. In just a few days, a massive wave of midseason premieres will hit like a tsunami, carrying us helplessly out into the television ocean, hopefully never to return again.

For TV Guide’s complete schedule of midseason premieres, click here.

Here’s a rundown of shows I’m looking forward to (and a couple I’m not looking forward to) in chronological order:

13 Fear is Real – (starts Wed., Jan. 7 on CW 8/7c)
This is a spooky themed reality show that might be amusing, something along the lines of Survivor meets Blair Witch Project. I hope there’s something more going on here than guys in masks jumping out and scaring contestants.

NBC comedy night done (halfway) right – (all four shows resume on Thur., Jan. 8 on NBC 8/7c)
My Name is Earl – This has been a little bit better this season, with a half hearted attempt to return to the theme of redemption (Earl’s list) that made the show so appealing in the first season.
Kath & Kim – I watched this show just to see how bad it was, and to my surprise I liked it. Slightly demented but well written, it’s sort of a kinder, gentler version of John Waters. Everybody on this show apparently works in a mall. How cool is that?
The Office – This has been brilliant as usual. I especially liked the episode where Jim and Pam had their first disagreement. I hope this is a foreshadowing of things to come. I think I like them better as enemies than lovers. Is it just me, or are all the female characters on this show mean and vindictive?
30 Rock – As a fan of Tina Fey during her SNL days, I wanted to like this overhyped show, but the cutesy self-satisfied tone of it left me cold. The jokes aren’t funny, and the endless parade of guest stars can’t make up for the show’s lack of direction. The emperor has no clothes!

Howie Do It – (starts Fri. Jan. 9 on ABC 8/7c)
This appears to be a hidden camera prank type show with Howie Mandel. I may watch the one episode that is aired before the show is cancelled.

24 – (starts Sun. Jan. 11 on FOX 8/7c)
What I always liked about 24 was its sci-fi elements, like the spacey soundtrack, and the high tech gadgetry. This season Janeane Garofalo plays the new computer guru, Janis Gold. According to TV Guide, “Mid-season run-ins with Chloe should make for hot geek-on-geek action.”

American Idol – (starts Tue. Jan. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
It is what it is.

Smallville – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 8/7c)
I’ve gotten hooked on this show again after sitting out for a couple of seasons. It seems unfair that Smallville’s best season ever may be its last, although I don’t know if that’s been made official yet.

Supernatural – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 9/8c)
Another CW show that I’ve rediscovered. It seems to have improved a lot since its first season. CW deserves credit for giving shows like this and Smallville a chance, and not axing them at the drop of a hat.

Fringe – (returns Tue. Jan. 20 on FOX 9/8c)
This sci-fi drama from the co-creator of Lost is my favorite new show of the year. Run and tell your friends.

Lost – (starts Wed. Jan. 21 on ABC 9/8c)
There are few television pleasures that compare with getting lost in Lost. It’s pretty amazing that a show this weird could stay on the air for five years, but it’s been reported that season 6 in 2010 will be the last.

Hell’s Kitchen – (starts Thur. Jan. 29 on FOX 9/8c)
Not a great time slot for Chef Ramsey this time around. He’s going up against The Office and the ratings powerhouse Supernatural.

Heroes – (returns Mon. Feb. 2 on NBC 9/8c)
This quality of this show has fallen faster than Nathan Petrelli during an eclipse. The storylines seem to be wandering aimlessly. Too many characters to keep up with is part of the problem. Some have suggested it could be the show’s last season if the ratings don’t improve.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – (returns Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
FOX is moving this to Fridays, where it will be paired up with Dollhouse.

Dollhouse – (starts Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 9/8c)
This is the one that everyone’s waiting for, the new show from Buffy/Angel mastermind Joss Whedon, but there have reportedly been problems in production and FOX has now relegated the show to the dreaded Friday night time slot (set to debut on Friday the 13th, no less). Of course, the X-files thrived on Fridays, so there’s still hope.

The Amazing Race – (starts Sun. Feb. 15 on CBS 8/7c)
My favorite reality show will feature less airports this season, according to TV Guide.

Beating Back the America’s Got Talent Audience July 29, 2008

Posted by Ted in : America's Got Talent, Reality TV, Reviews , 4comments

 

Et tu, Hasselhoff?

 

The NBC show America’s Got Talent, currently in its third season, has a lot of good things going for it. The cheerful Sharon Osbourne is a welcome addition to the judges’ panel, and is more sympathetic toward the contestants than her predecessor, the pop singer Brandy, who seemed oddly disdainful and moody during her one year stint in the first season. David Hasselhoff remains the spiritual bedrock of the show, in spite of his occasionally erratic behavior, such as demanding to stand on contestants (ouch!), and having singing duets with cars (as witnessed in season one). Meanwhile, acidic brit Piers Morgan seems more civil these days and continues to be the voice of reason on the show, the much needed earthly anchor to the celestial flights of fancy taken by Hasselhoff and Osbourne. Jerry Springer, who replaced Regis Philbin as host in season two, seems like a better fit than Regis, who was left speechless at times by some of the more bizarre acts on the show. Springer is surprisingly likable as the host, especially in his backstage interviews with the performers.

Yes, all is going well for America’s Got Talent, which is currently enjoying high summer ratings. There’s just one problem I’m having with the show. I can’t take the studio audience. They’re mean, abusive, and kind of stupid. They yell, boo, and hiss at any act that doesn’t conform to their personal tastes. They foam at the mouth. They spit blood while their heads spin around. There’s almost nothing you can say about them that’s an exaggeration.

In a recent episode, an older contestant came out dressed like a king and had intended to recite some type of Shakespearian monologue. The first word out of the king’s mouth was greeted with a deafening wall of boos and jeers, followed quickly by three X’s from the judges. The mean-spiritedness of the incident was startling. Another contestant was a man who had lost the use of his vocal cords for several years due to injuries received in a car crash. Before the crash, he had dreamed of being a singer. He was appearing on the show to sing in public for the first time since regaining his voice. His wife and kids watched from backstage as he performed a pretty decent rendition of “You Lift Me Up”. The audience’s reaction? Boos and catcalls, of course. This kind of rude display is not why I watch the show, and apparently there are many who agree with me out there.

One can’t help but wonder if the new crowd dynamic is the handiwork of Springer. This phenomenon seemed to coincide with his arrival in the second season. Was this behavior learned from watching Jerry’s lively after-school specials, or is it the result of active coercion by AGT’s producers? Either way, the audience is clearly out of control.

Order and civility must be restored.

Here’s my proposal for dealing with the audience on America’s Got Talent:

1. Recruit former and current contestants to form a crowd control freak force, comprised of lion tamers, fire breathers, snake handlers, and assorted transvestites who will use their various talents to keep the heckling mob in check. If nothing else, the confrontation between the two camps would make for interesting television.

2. If the freak force proves ineffective, it’s time to bring out the fire hoses. This technique probably leaves a lot to be desired as a means of subduing a crowd. After the initial shock of the water wears off, the recipients will most likely be more hostile than ever. But the satisfaction of seeing wet people flailing about in pursuit of their dislodged cell phones makes this an essential part of the plan.

3. If the spectators still won’t mind their P’s and Q’s, phase 3 of the operation will be underway: bring in a massive swat team armed with billy clubs, tasers, pepper spray, cattle prods, tear gas, and napalm to pacify the crowd. Large nets would be dropped from the ceiling, allowing the distracted audience members to be gathered into bunches. They would then be loaded onto ships and taken to Polynesia where they would be sold as high quality food stuffs, for use in sushi and that type of thing. NBC could use the profits to develop more of their fabulous game shows that viewers can’t seem to get enough of.

Tale of Two Walbergs, Episode 2: The Prophet of Doom June 19, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Antiques Roadshow, Moment of Truth, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews , 1 comment so far

 

 

 

The primetime game show Moment of Truth on the Fox network takes its viewers on a thrill ride through the private lives of its contestants, who answer awkward personal questions in front of family and friends in exchange for cash prizes. Before the show starts, each participant is required to take a polygraph test to verify the truthfulness of their answers to each question. If the answer they give to a question on the show is false according to their polygraph, they go home with no money. Contestants cheerfully come clean about their darkest secrets, often to the horror of their supposed loved ones. Some of us instinctively know we shouldn’t be watching this kind of show, but morbid curiosity takes hold and forces us to watch.

Perhaps the best thing that could be said about Moment of Truth is that it gives interesting insights into human behavior, although those insights are rarely comforting. Contestant Ellen replies with confidence, “absolutely” when she is asked, “If you knew you would never get caught, would you rob a bank to pay off your debts”. Brandon, who is a waiter, confides in front of a national audience that he has changed the amount on a customer’s credit card receipt to receive a bigger tip. It turns out we weren’t just being paranoid. Our fears are confirmed. Our faith in humanity is routinely crushed on Moment of Truth. Contestant Paul admits to his baffled girlfriend and parents that he keeps a spreadsheet of all the women he has slept with, numbering over a hundred.

One memorable episode featured hair salon assistant Lauren, who seemed determined to destroy whatever reputation she may have had before her appearance on the show. As her family and husband looked on, she answered “yes” to the questions:

Would you give food to a stray dog before you would give it to a homeless person?

Have you ever derived pleasure when one of your siblings got into trouble?

Have you ever been fired from a job for stealing money?

Have you ever taken off your wedding ring to appear single?

Have you ever cheated on your husband?

A strangely satisfying moment came at the end of this episode, when the cold blooded contestant was reduced to tears, not by remorse over her past misdeeds, but by giving a false answer and losing all her prize money. Ironically, the question that sank her, which she replied yes to, was “Do you believe you are a good person?”

Riding grimly on this apocalyptic beast of a game show is host Mark L. Walberg. He defended the show’s infamous reputation in a recent TV guide interview: “Quite honestly, the ‘wrecking-your-family,’ evildoing rap we get, I think it’s crap.” The first time I watched the show Walberg’s face seemed immediately familiar. Then a stunned realization hit me. This man was also the host of Antiques Roadshow on PBS, a show as different from Moment of Truth as could be imagined. (See my previous post for more on Antiques Roadshow).

So what has happened to Mr. Walberg? We had assumed that as a host of a PBS program he was a force for good in the world. He seems to have entered into a simultaneous incarnation as a force for all that is wrong with television. It also appears that Moment of Truth is not his first foray into the world of sleazy reality TV. A look at his Antiques Roadshow bio page reveals that he was also the host of Temptation Island. Still, we know there is a side of the conflicted MC that longs for respectability. The same bio also states that the happily married Walberg is the coach of his two children’s little league teams.

The two versions of our host have apparently become locked in a death struggle to determine the future of television and possibly the solar system as we know it. What will determine the outcome? If he is replaced with a different host on Roadshow, and remains on Truth, he will be lost to the dark side. If he remains as a fixture on PBS, and can leave behind the temptations of big-money reality TV, he may once again become a force for good in the world. The odds may seem insurmountable, as in Luke Skywalker’s one man attack on the Deathstar, but each one of us can us influence the outcome with the force of our remotes, and turn off stupid trash like Moment of Truth.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...