Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tube Boob

I’m starting to feel like the Flying Dutchman of television.

It seems like every time I get hooked on a new TV show and recommend it to friends and family, the program is promptly canceled and driven off the air like a plague.

I first noticed this phenomenon back in 1992 when I stumbled across “The Ben Stiller Show” on Fox.

It’s been a while, but I remember the show having some excellent sketches, including a medieval version of “Cops” and a take-off on “A Few Good Men” that featured Stiller cross-examining himself as both the Tom Cruise and the Jack Nicholson characters.

I told my friends at work that the show was funny and they should watch it. And it got canceled.

Twenty years later, I still haven’t lost my touch. The latest victim was “Awake,” a brilliant show on NBC that starred Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten, an L.A. cop who finds himself living two different lives after a fatal car crash.

In one version of reality, Britten’s wife has been killed in the accident and he struggles as a single father.

However, when he goes to sleep, he wakes up in another version of his life where his son has died and he and wife cope with the loss of their only child.

Yes, it was nominally a cop show, but that genre label was really a jumping off point from which the stories could explore the hero’s fractured psyche.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the psychiatrists in the dual (duel?) realities—portrayed by two fine actors, B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones--who tried to help the detective through this bizarre situation.

The show had an original idea, great scripts and an excellent cast. So naturally it was cancelled.

"Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?"

Of course, now you did actually have to pay attention to what was going on and that might have been the program’s undoing.

“Awake” can now go off to TV Valhalla, along with “The Chicago Code,” a well-executed police drama, and “Men of A Certain Age,” a show I really loved about three middle-aged guys trying to get by in Los Angeles.

Now, I don’t want to cop an attitude that I’m some sensitive artistic soul who can truly appreciate good programs, while everybody else is a slobbering, knuckle-walking philistine—even though that’s true.

I know nothing lasts forever, especially in television. And there’s no shame in a short run. There are a couple of shows I actually like that should probably think about calling it a day.

Just because Marshall Dillon enforced the law in Dodge City for 20 flipping years on “Gunsmoke” doesn’t mean every show has to be on the tube through four presidential administrations.

Life on Mars,” a British program about a modern day cop who wakes up in the Seventies after being hit by a car (what is it with TV cops and cars?) ran for two seasons for a total of 16 episodes, but that was plenty.

The story ended and the writers came back with a sequel called “Ashes to Ashes” which has yet to cross the DVD divide to the States.

So “Awake” has been put to sleep and another good show hits the deck. I probably watch too much TV already, even though I zap my way through the commercials with the DVR, and I should be doing more of my own writing.

As for the Curse of Howdy Doody, well, allow me to recommend a little show called “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”…


Ron said...

Rob, this last line CRACKED ME UP!!

"As for the Curse of Howdy Doody, well, allow me to recommend a little show called “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”…"

Bwhahahahahahaha! Brilliant!

Now you're not going to believe this, but outside of "The Ben Stiller Show", I've never even heard of the other ones you mentioned. But that's probably because I don't watch TV. At all. Yeah, I know, I'm weird.

The last time I was ever a TV watcher was when "Golden Girls" was on. What, was that back in the earlier 90's?!?!

However, I have to say, the show "Awake" you mentioned sounded really good! And don't you love B.D. Wong? I haven't seen him in anything in ages.

And of course, anything with Ben Stiller I love. Didn't you love the movie, "Zoolander?"

Great post, buddy! Hope you're enjoying a fabulous holiday weekend!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thanks for your comments. You're not weird for not watching TV; I'm sure you're much better off without it. B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones are both fabulous actors and seeing them under one roof, so to speak, was great. Take care of yourself, buddy, and have a fabulous weekend!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

I'm giving you a standing ovation here. You are so absolutely right!! It happens to us, too - we notice a show, find it good, and it gets canned. I think it started with Crusade, and went on through Firefly, Black Books, Enterprise ... You're right about Life on Mars, too. I quite enjoyed the first few and then it went downhill and we didn't even bother to get the second.

One of my all-time favourites is Boston Legal. Like you, I like a little bit of intelligence to the script and I particularly love the fact that Boston Legal is so irreverent and not in the slightest PC. It usually also had at least two plotlines going on at the same time and it was hard sometimes to decide which was the main one!

Rob K said...

Why, thanks so much for the standing ovation, Jay! It doesn't happen often. My dear auntie is a big fan of "Boston Legal" and I'm seriously considering renting the series. Please feel free to let me know about any other of your favorite shows--I promise I won't tell anybody else!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Haha. Yes you will!

House is another big favourite. At the moment we're thoroughly enjoying Scrubs (which I didn't think I'd like), and apart from that I love the SF series: Babylon 5, Star Trek (I can watch those over and over again, they're like comfort food), and I also like Eureka.

Oooh, and I mustn't forget Due South. If you haven't seen it, give it a try. It's great! Northern Exposure is another with the same type of quirky humour, but Due South has the edge.

Rob K said...

I've seen some episodes of "Due South" and I enjoyed them. Never caught Babylon Five, but I'll get it a try. Same with Eureka. Take care!