10/04/2006

 

Addictively Bad Television

Next (MTV, Various Days & Times)

Well, kudos to MTV for including vapid, egotistical, preening young gay boys on this totally brain-dead dating show. The premise goes like this: a young gentleman or lady is presented, one at a time, with a van full of potential mates. At any time during the "date" he/she decides the potential mate isn't going to work out for whatever reason, they simply say "Next!" and after a short but bitter exchange of insults, the potential mate is put back in the van and replaced with another. And so forth, until our guy/gal finds someone they might like, at which point a deal is negotiated: take home some cash, or go on a second date. The whole process is pointlessly shallow and dehumanizing for all the clueless kids involved. It's painful enough to watch when the suitors are heterosexual: underdressed young bimbos with overprocessed hair and fake boobs vying for the attention of some studly ultra-jock. I normally reach for the remote. However, when they put a bunch of bitchy, vain, ultra-competitive young homos on that van and let them catfight over the main catch, it becomes addictively bad television. On the van itself, while our contestants wait their turn, it seems anything goes, from making out to clawing eyeballs out and everything in between. Maybe I just don't get this new generation of young gay men, but they are particularly horrible on this show. Spoiled rotten California boys with trendy faux-hawks, stripy polo shirts, and pink elastic belts trading low-blown insults from the shallow end of the cattiness pond. Meanwhile, the dream date himself is making it clear to each successive boy exactly the one thing he's after: sex. Some of the sexual innuendo on this show is enough to make even me turn bright pink. "I hope he's happy being an asshole, because he's not getting near mine - he'll never know how sweet it tastes!" one flaming twit exclaimed after being "next-ed." What?!? It's 3 in the afternoon, isn't it a little early for teenage analingus? If they do finally make it on a date, they end up doing something insane and ultra-suggestive like bareback bull riding, or hot oil wresting. Several times, I've seen the main guy fly through every boy on the bus (5?6?) in seconds flat, declaring "next!" immediately upon sight, and following with a cutting put-down or two like the ultimate picky drama queen, never even getting a date. There's no room for politeness here, no place for being real, being down-to-earth. No, the gay boys of Next are dripping with shallow vanity and sarcasm to the point where I could rattle on angrily about MTV upholding gay stereotypes, but I can't imagine anyone taking this fluff seriously - its joy is in its utter mindlessness.


Midnight Money Madness (TBS, 12-2AM Mon-Thurs)

What an entertaining scam these people have going. It’s a low budget live game show where people can call in and guess answers to dumb little word puzzles, and if they win they get some cash, usually in the neighborhood of $200-$500. Thing is, callers have to wait to get thru with hundreds of other callers to the tune of 99 cents per entry. Calls are taken live at a rather casual pace, so you don’t have to be much of a math wiz to realize that someone along the way is making mucho dinero.

What takes Midnight Money Madness from just plain bad to addictively bad are the hosts of this farce, Jerilee, Danny and Craig. Jerilee is my new favorite British bird. In fact she is really the glue holding the whole lo-budget shambles together. Part of her charm lies in the fact that she’s so fresh to the USA that she hasn’t really learned much of our slang yet, and is frequently bewildered by many of the phrases used in the word games. The premise of one game was for Jerilee to act out a common phrase and for callers to guess what it was she was acting out.

The first one was pretty easy – she came out onto the stage with a large hunk of Astroturf, a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough, and a rake. She dumped the cookie dough onto the Astroturf and began wildly pushing it around on there with the rake. The callers-in are always amazingly stupid (is that somehow intentional?), so it took about 15 calls before someone stated the obvious: “raking in the dough.” Next, my jaw dropped as I watched her grab a corner of the Astroturf and sort of stick it up under her dress and she began making sort-of a butt wiping motion with it. “Is that it? Is that right?” she cackled in her thick cockney accent. She fell on the floor with the Astroturf still up there and kind-of scooted around. Her antics made her co-host burst into tears of laughter as call after call came and went trying to guess what the heck she was doing. Finally, she began pointing to her bum, then the turf, her bum, then the turf. “Your ass is grass” said the winning caller in a monotone indicative of no sense of humor whatsoever. “What’s that mean, eh, never ‘eard of that one!” said our fair hostess.

The show has that nagging QVC-like quality where there’s never one second of silence between the host’s ramblings – the producer must tell them to talk as much as possible, leaving no dead air. And they do – The two male hosts are of questionable sexuality and manage to babble on and on, their words eventually dissolving into a pseudo-sexual pile of goo, like an over-caffeinated improv session for high school nerds. Gratuitous nudity frequently rears its head in the form of thong-clad female and male models presenting prizes and delivering cue cards. I can’t see this show lasting much longer on the air, so I suggest you tune in at least once before it gets killed, and witness the worst lo-fi surrealism currently clogging the cable networks.


Kitchen Crimes (HGTV, Sundays PM)

Oh, god. Get ready to put down your toast when this show comes on. A couple of friends and I got sucked into its evil world last Sunday and none of us have been quite the same since. It’s so totally nauseating, you’ll never want to step foot in your own kitchen again.

Here’s the premise: A homeowner opens their theoretically “clean” kitchen up to a team of health inspectors wielding tweezers, cotton swabs, and black lights. Their findings are taken into the lab (aka the “Kitchen Crimes Unit”) only to reveal that this supposedly clean kitchen is crawling with potentially deadly bacteria and other horrors, a great formula for addictively bad television.

The particular homeowner in the episode we watched seemed normal at first, then became more and more psycho and defensive as her “kitchen crimes” were revealed: endless mouse droppings carrying potentially deadly hantavirus, a dishrag containing so much microscopic scum it could have got up and walked away on it’s own, and a mangled box of ice cream laced with some foodborne critter. The woman tried hopelessly to defend her bad habits, coming off like clueless, careless slob. Worst of all, she had a three year daughter crawling around among the mouse poop and wide open electrical outlets. When they came to clean her kitchen (which is all they did, no actual renovations) they did so wearing white hazmat suits and gas masks.

We grimaced through this entire half-hour show, wondering why on Earth anyone would want to watch close-up shots of beetles, spiders, grime, mold, droppings, etc. Nearly the entire show focuses on the kitchen's filth and contamination. The renovation solution is squeezed into the last minute of the show, making viewing both a painful and boring experience. The hosts are fairly likable and informative, but the repetition of the same disgusting shots over and over and over made us wonder what the show’s producers were thinking. The show has a very forensic, scientific tone and offers little in the way of comfort. I live in an older house with a kitchen that never seems clean no matter how much I scrub – I can’t even make a sandwich now without sanitizing every utensil and surface involved. It’s a good idea to make people aware of potential dangers in the kitchen, but its something entirely different to ruin an entire nation’s appetite with sickening graphics and over dramatized science. Pa-yoook!


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