Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Revolution Will Be Televised...

Hello Friends.

Sincere apologies for no blog last week, but I was away from the Big City in the prairies all week and so to post as Big City James when I was, in fact, desolate wintry landscape James would be a first-class deception. The trip was great, the flights were bumpy, and when I tried to say goodbye to my parents' new dog, she bit me, like one of those drunken Housewives of a Major U.S. City. But, as anyone knows, one of the great things about taking a trip is coming home. And one of the great things about coming home is catching up on all the tv you missed. I was away from home for seven days. If there are twenty-four hours in a day and I was gone for seven days, that's almost a week's worth of television I didn't watch. However, it only took me an hour and a half to catch up on Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock (I'm not even counting the Anna & Kristina I PVR'd because it actually aired tonight but they're reviewing Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook and I wanted to blog first so I could be clear-headed while they decimate the Country Strong star). Great shows all three, but I have hundreds of channels and it seems we're more often tuned to Jon's background channel (the Ambient Lounge music one he puts on while he's working, which makes it sound like he writes and researches to the soundtracks of porn films) or my background channel (the Rotisserie Channel, which actually exists, and is 24 hours of rotating chickens filmed in High Definition).

My point is, we don't live extravagantly, but we did shell out a few bucks for our tv, and on good nights we stave off pointless things like talking or having sex for hours. This trend can't continue if there's never anything good on anymore. Which leads me to my new Dream.

Dream: Find great things to watch on tv again.

Goal: Achievable. I thought I'd just give up on television when they cancelled Arrested Development. But I got back on the horse only to watch Boston Legal meet a similar fate. Now I'm enjoying the three network shows I just mentioned, plus Saturday Night Live has it's moments and it's fun watching The Simpsons successfully out-funny most other shows even as it limps lamely through it's twilight years. The point is, there's always something to watch, there's just not enough of it.

Plan(s): Several.

First, let's take those really good shows off of specialty channels that no one can afford and actually put them on tv. It kills me that if the stuff we all have to illegally download under cover of night were on network television, we'd be in a Golden Age. And even with hundreds of channels myself, it's all the same network stuff. Imagine if you could watch regular tv from Monday to Friday and get new episodes of Mad Men, True Blood, Spartacus, Nurse Jackie and Dexter, instead of old episodes of Family Guy and back to back Cake Boss. And I think if we got a steady diet of intelligent, well-made tv, we'd appreciate it more. Even fancy shows feel the pinch. In Treatment has just been cancelled due to low ratings, despite the fact that they're writing staff is seriously comprised of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights. I guess they could all try to find jobs on Wipeout, though. Terriers is done, Weeds has one more season, and Damages is being volleyed between networks. But what was my point? I don't remember. My attention span is shot thanks to television.

Also, let's take a cue from the Brits and make tv seasons like seven episodes long. This would ensure much greater quality control. For instance, American Idol has a whopping forty episodes in a five-month season. There are at least two episodes per week, half of which are two hours long. Fuck! That's too much. I know it's a ratings bonanza but imagine how much better it would do if there were only four episodes a year. That averages out to three high-intensity humiliations per second! And how hard must they work those poor kids on Glee? They seem to be in constant production for their tv show, which entails recording and producing six pop songs a week, plus choreo, and stadium tours, and tv appearances, and It Gets Better PSA's, and all of it is just terrible! And the more marketable it becomes, the less concerned anyone is about the writing. I read this interview with Glee's creator and writer Ryan Murphy who said of two of his characters, “I got bored with them in this relationship so I decided to break them up just for fun.” I'm pretty sure that's not how or why writers write. Tony Kushner (the Angels in America guy) doesn't have his characters go mad or die of AIDS because he's “bored with them.” But Murphy's making money and a billion tv viewers can't be wrong, I guess. But aren't they, kinda?

Finally, I think I should just start pitching my own show. It sounds daunting, but ALF was a successful show and somebody pitched that.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE: So... like, there's this family and this alien comes to live with them.
OTHER EXECUTIVE: The alien just shows up? Are they scared of him?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE: No, he's kind of sarcastic or whatever, but the Dad's a dick too for some reason, and they just get along. But, oh, and he eats cats too, let's say.
OTHER EXECUTIVE: I think we've got a hit on our hands.
So if no one else is going to make shows I want to watch, I'll just make that show myself. Ready? Here we go:
Balls. A lot of shows (House, Bones, Glee, Shark, Friends, Weeds and Firefly) just need a titular noun upon which to base their series. Balls will focus on Kip and Linda Ball, ex-spouses who reunite to coach their son Billy's little league team which hits a snag after their recently neutered dog sniff's out Kip's testicular cancer. The best part about it will be its varying tone based on the subject matter. Some episodes will be funny. “Billy Ball and his team are this close to the championship! But will Linda be able to sew their uniforms in time? Batter up, for a brand new Balls!” Some will be serious. “Kip and Linda have been working on their issues, repairing their broken marriage. But every time Kip yearns to reveal the secret about the lump in his crotch, he gets a lump in his throat. Be there for an all-new can't-miss Balls.” The series will do well in syndication. “That's King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond, followed, as always, by back-to-back Balls. It all starts tonight at 8...” My favourite part will be the voice-overs that precede or follow each episode. When it's a serious two-parter, the episode will begin with the actress who plays Linda saying somberly, in voice-over, “Previously, on Balls.” Similarly, fun episodes will end with the actor playing Kip doing a voice-over teaser, “Next time on Balls!” And every episode will begin with the actor who plays Billy, one of those cute sitcom kids with a lisp, “Balls is filmed before a live studio audience.” Aww... and also you can hear the dog's thoughts.

It's frustrating because, as I've admitted before, my secret Dream Job is writing for television. Frustrating because nothing has come of my efforts to do this, despite hours of watching television every week for my whole life! If there was ever anything I was born to do, it would be to write funny things for people to say so I could turn to Jon, or that new asshole dog my parents own, and say “I wrote that, you know.” And we could watch the screen flickering before us and be mesmerized, even transported, until the next commercial.


  1. id have you write my webseries. if i had one. come up for an idea for me.

  2. I will happily, Farideh, if you write and perform the theme song and let me do hand-claps on it. Although we'd have to improve our communication skills. I wasn't sure who you were and linking on your name gave me the well-kept blog of a cat.

  3. My biggest gripe with ALF is how openly those Tanners hate that rat bastard alien, yet go to such great lengths to protect him. WTF?