Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cathode Ray Fray: Pay Cable TV Lock Down (Locking In), My Pretties

Sneaky Ray, how can I be mad at you, my lil' darling?

'Twas true, like a vision it reached out and instructed my mind in the Ways of Certain Inalienable Instructions. Huddled here at the Helm, swaddled in a parka procured at a Quantum Leap fan meet-up, nestled into the sublime hold of the Southern Fortress, I felt the cell phone pressed against my (TV) parched lips (praise be the Ray) as though of its own accord.

"So sir, you would like the three free months of all the movie channels one couldn't possibly shake a stick at in one's natural lifetime, even if one were to live to such a bracing age as Twentieth Century hero and modern historical legend Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)?"

"Well, I…"

"And you're totally cool, sir, with us charging you up the nether regions without telling you and adding on all kinds of charges that will likely tip your, shall we say, delicate financial balance into unhinged ruin and likely bring Wife, she who puts up with all manner of madness and Idiot Boxed blue glow fury of caffeinated dim morning media-obsessed rant-sermons, to run off into that good sunset with dog and cat in snuggly gripped tow?"

"If you put it that way, I…"

"Very good, Ray, we're all set then. Buh-bye."

"My name's not Ray actually, it's this kind of this symbolic God-entity thing, a representation for my TV obsessed tendencies in which I – "


Ah, Rome-ah…
Political intrigue, hats with feathers, swords and sandals and slaves, togas, and ancient peoples speaking ancient people language (read = Brit-accented English). And lots of sex and nudity of the naughty and brothel and married 'cause I have to but I'm really thinking about the dude I was sleeping with during the seven years you were off with Caesar's army varieties.

Man, it's been a long time since I had access to these premiere-type channels!

I haven't quite gotten a feel for this grandiose of a sweeping look at Rome at the crux of Empire, but it held my interest fairly well, not least because it takes pause to poke fun at itself every now and again.

No visits to the vomitorium as yet, too, which is a very good thing in my book.

Real Time with Bill Maher will launch your posterior into lunar orbit
During his Politically Incorrect days, I recall thinking that Maher was an intelligent host with the occasional ability to land an effective one-line zinger.

The transformation I witnessed on cable was nothing less than transcendent. Freed of the shackles of censorship and objective restraint (this show be for the liberal-minded folk, children of the Ray) Maher is sharp as a tack, brutally effective, and funny, funny, funny while easing off his normally smarmy tendencies.

Check out the transcript of his surgically brutal and bring-down-the-house end-of-show condemnation of President Bush here.

Bill Maher is Jon Stewart with the gloves off. Way off. Bleeding knuckles for bloody knuckle times.

Veronica Mars, it's coming back around again
Back on the non-payin'-for nets, our girl Veronica Mars wrapped up its summer blast of reruns in preparation for the Season Two premiere (Sept. 21, UPN, according the records the Ray provided to me). It's unclear whether or not Veronica is the "New Buffy," but all I know is that I'm at the mercy of its Neptune-centered vortex.

Logan and Weevil and Jake and Wallace, what's a girl to do? Spend most of her time wending her way through murder and mayhem and date rape and cover ups, is what. This show has a magical touch, not unlike both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Harry Potter series (all the books, and tack on the third film for kicks), an ability to mix crafty dialogue, innocent and youthful lead characters, and antics on the surface that give way to truly darkly creepy yet intriguing depth.

Let's just say the Ray has locked in V Mars to the line-up for the foreseeable future, and who am I to disagree?

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and pretty damned funny to boot
A little old tale about twenty-somethings that run a bar in middle-class Philly, this show really pays homage to the Jerry Seinfeld / Larry David School of Comedy by offering darkly comic little forays into… why, nothing at all. Off-beat at the least and truly irreverent and bizarre at the most, this is my kind of single-camera sitcom.

With episode titles such as "Charlie Has Cancer" and "Charlie Got Molested" (turns out neither was the case), we get little glimpses into a world that's twice as slimy, ten times twisted, and thricely more hilarious than our own.

And that's something that me and the Ray can certainly get down with.


Anonymous said...

i hear u like the white stripes

Eric Berlin said...

Yes, 'tis true...

Lucas Brachish said...

Oh, if only I could afford cable, I might never leave the house. Of course, that's also why I avoid getting cable -- HBO, MTV, FX, and Comedy Central are all too tempting and distracting. The networks, on the other hand, are easy to ignore. Especially reality TV, which makes me queasy (brain cells ... dying ... must turn off "Dancing With the Third-Rate Stars" before turning homicidal...)

But I did watch a lot of "Situation: Comedy" because I was curious to see which scripts were chosen over mine. I lucked out and had a friend that had an Emmy screener of the first few episodes of "Situation," so we were able to watch it before the show actually premiered on TV (plus, it was commercial free). Later I realized that they'd probably chosen the winning scripts before my scipt even arrived in the mail -- but hey, if they ever hold the contest again maybe I'll actually get my entry in early, since the script is ready to go.

I enjoyed your interview with the "Situation: Comedy" star "Sperm Donor"'s Mark Treitel -- so awesome that you lined that up. And you did a great job with the article. I never got around to seeing the 15-minute pilots online, so I didn't vote for the winner. And now the pilots seemed to have been removed from the web? If anyone has a working link I'd love to see 'em.

I can't wait for the new season of "Arrested Development." And "My Name is Earl" looks like it could be amazing.

I haven't seen "Always Sunny In Philadelphia" or "Veronica Mars", but now I'll have to check 'em out since you've reviewed them so highly....

Eric Berlin said...

Thanks very much Lucas! Yes, the television is a vortex best traversed by only the hearty indeed.

What was your comedy pilot about? I'd be surprised if Bravo runs a second season of Situation: Comedy because they buried its advertising during its run, changed the time slot, and literally fooled most of the audience about how the final voting process would take place (maybe they just wanted to pick it themselves?). In any event, Steven's Life was the winner, which in no way means it will ever make it to the air on NBC.

I actually do think there are *some* good shows on the networks, and most of what my columns do is to bring out the good stuff that's there.

I really think that TV is like any other medium (music, film, books): there's a lot of crap, but the good stuff is really, really good. So in a way mine is a crusade of the good on TV.

Weird crusade as crusades go, I suppose, but I never purported to be normal.

I've been toying about writing a column along these lines for a while now, and I think I'll actually have to go ahead and do it one of these days!