Monday, April 03, 2006

Up your nose with a rubber hose

Why didn't anyone tell me Gabe Kaplan was a professional poker player? Still alive AND a professional poker player!

I walked in on my nine-year-old son watching a recorded epsiode of High Stakes Poker this morning and went, "Hey! Is that Gabe Kaplan?" He said, of course, "Yeah, why? Who is he?"

I found I couldn't explain "Welcome Back Kotter" in any accessible way. "Like, there's this guy Epstein who always has a note from his mother?" It doesn't translate. I doubt today's kids would get many of our old sitcoms, "Nick at Night" notwithstanding.

My son doesn't even know what a sitcom is since I don't watch any. I always get comments from reality show haters when I post about them, and I respect that perspective on the world, certainly, but it's when I hear people effusing about "Friends" or "Will and Grace" that my gorge rises. I HATE those shows. The utter phoniness of it all, the characters speaking in ways that no real person has ever spoken, entering stage left, hitting mark, futzing fakely with grocery bag, delivering "funny" line, pausing obviously for laugh track, exiting stage right, and AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH.

I can't take it!!!

I swear I'm not lying: Sitcoms make me nervous. It's all SO FAKE! They give me actual anxiety--that's how much I hate all the over-scriptedness and transparent punchline setups and LAUGH TRACKS oh god please kill me. I feel embarrassed by their trying so hard, by their pointless walks across the stage where you can practically see the "x" on the floor where they're supposed to stop, by their dumb lines and . . . I'm sorry. I'm doing it again. But I hate them so much.

I caught a few minutes of a "Will and Grace" rerun just the other day and decided to watch a bit to see if maybe it was so popular because it was a new breed of sitcom or something. They say face your fears, right? I lasted about 5 minutes, which seemed like an hour. It was HORRIBLE. Some cookie cutter Wacky Best Friend characters were over-acting all over the place and I knew exactly what was going to happen next after every setup and hated myself for knowing and please, please don't ever let me face my fears again. I prefer to avoid my fears. I sleep better that way.

I don't know when this terror struck me because, as implied by my delight in seeing Gabe Kaplan alive and well, I liked several sitcoms as a kid. We watched Gilligan too, though I don't remember why. Do I need a therapist to help me root out the traumatic event in my past that caused me to associate sitcoms with hideous psychological torture? Or did I finally just discover that they suck?


At 7:10 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Sitcoms... more fake than reality TV? Hrm. Dunno, I'd have see some solid statistics on that one. :)

Now, if you want some good TV, you'll have to go across the 'pond'. I swear, 'Jeeves and Wooster' has to be the most amusing show since... well, Upstairs Downstairs probably but still. I guess that's what you get from 100-year-old writing though. Anyway, I digress.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Shell said...

Heh. Yeah, I know. I guess it's just that reality contestants (at least on the shows I like) will sometimes surprise you. Even the ones who are trying too hard to project a persona will let the facade slip under pressure, and it interests me. Sitcom writing seems really forced; I can't relax with it.

I completely agree about British TV, by the way. Bless you, Dish Network, for carrying BBC-America.

Thanks for stopping by, Rob!

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

you really think Reality TV is real? Don't get me wrong, I'm not a reality tv hater. I do watch a couple of reality shows. They might be a tad more unpredictable. But real? Ha. Hardly.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Shell said...

Hi, Cynthia. I guess we'd have to agree on a definition of "real" before we could really have this debate, but I should say that being "real" has never been an important criterion for me when it comes to tv. I love Star Trek and X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica, etc., etc.

I appreciate verisimilitude, which is more like when you say "Picard would never violate the Prime Directive that way!" or whatever dork thing--you're not dealing with whether it's *real* (unless you're a total freak) but whether it's believable in that context.

So when I say sitcoms are fake, I just mean that their seams show too much for my tastes. I don't like that the setups and stage direction are so transparent and the dialogue is so obviously contorted to make jokes work. They don't sound like real people talking. They fire off all these jokes but no one on the show ever laughs; they just wait for the audience to laugh. It just grates on me.

I don't think people who watch them suck or anything; they're just seeing something I don't see.

Maybe it makes more sense to compare them to dramas than to "reality" shows--there are some dramas I like a lot, but it's not because I think they're "real."

At 6:17 PM, Blogger CP said...

You have evolved, hon.

Epstein's mother would be proud.


At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Contrary said...

I get where you're coming from, a little. I remember as a kid being absolutely unable to watch shows like Three's Company because every episode operated on the premise that these supposedly intelligent, evolved people wouldn't just TALK to one another.

All those embarrassing situations could have been avoided by someone saying something like 'Oh, I have a date tonight, would you mind making yourself scarce, or if not perhaps my date and I could go to her/his place"

Hey, did you hear that they're making a movie of Welcome Back Kotter? Ice Cube is going to play Kotter. I kid you not.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Shell said...

contrary: Holy shit! For real??

Pardon me while I run to . .

cp: Heh. "Dear Will and Grace, Please excuse Shelley from your program as she is scheduled for astronaut training during that time each week. . ."

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Belle said...

I don't watch a lot of TV but I can say this, the sitcoms of today are definitely not as good as the ones we watched as kids.


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