So around this time last year, I was laid up in the hospital recovering from major abdominal surgery. (Don't let the weighty opening trouble you, folks. I'm steering toward the shallow and the ridiculous as fast as this crate will carry me.) A crack team of talented medical professionals had split me open with a fervor that Conan himself would admire. For several morphine-addled days, I lay convalescing, held together with a complicated web of stitches and staples worthy of Doctor Pretorious. As I soldiered through my recovery, certain friends and family expressed admiration that I was as quick to get back on my feet and as slow to complain as I was.
Looking back, I think this was largely due to simple pragmatism, but I would be lying if I denied credit where credit is due: I owe much of my speedy recovery to Dawson Leery, Joey Potter, and Pacey Witter.
For you see, through some cruel twist of fate, the only thing my hospital television seemed capable of picking up was DAWSON'S CREEK. I know, I know: that's impossible. That would require either some under-the-table licensing agreement between the hospital and the WB, a crazed network-programming executive taking the control booth hostage, or else a fundamental breakdown of the time-space continuum. But I was there, and it happened, people!
Faced with hour upon grueling hour of polysyllabic teen melodrama, I rose, and I walked, and I healed, so that I could as quickly as possible return home to my couch, where I could instead watch hour upon hour of COPS, as God intended.
And so, on the nigh-anniversary of my tour through the intensive care wing, I implore you: just this once, take a moment to be thankful for all the thousands of despised souls who have struggled, who have strived, to hone their talent for producing televised mediocrity to new heights of lowest-common-denominatorism! For the SUMMERLANDs, the SIMPLE LIFEs, the...dare I say it?...the JOHNNY ZEROs...these are the shows that must tolerate the slings and arrows of our disdain, ingrates that we are. But when we're laid up with a busted pelvis? They will be there, driving us toward a speedy recovery fueled by desperation. When we're passing a gall stone? They will be there. Ingrown toenail? You guessed it.
Theodore Sturgeon once observed that ninety percent of everything is crap, and the same can certainly be applied to television. More likely, the ratio is even higher. But the next time you're rolling your eyes and trying to flip off THE SWAN before the image is burned into your retina, just remember: bad TV saves lives.
The Week Rerun
And He'll Look Just Mah-velous in That Rumpled Suit - So you're remaking KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, a genre classic and the show that inspired Chris Carter to dream up THE X-FILES. As a result, you need to cast the new Kolchak, originally played by then-in-his-fifties Darren McGavin? Who to play the sly modern-day Cassandra, cursed to encounter every unnatural critter this side of Tobin's Spirit Guide, but never to be believed? Why, you cast...Stuart Townsend? That Dorian Gray dude from LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN? If you're ABC, you do. Because apparently Carl Kolchak is now a rumpled Calvin Klein model.
Rise and Walk - Flush with a sense of motion and portence that it often lacked in the first season, CARNIVALE has been knocking them out of the park the past few weeks. And even though it was obvious that Jonesy's feather problem would find its solution in Ben Hawkins, freelance healer-at-large, the icing on the cake was the restoration of his leg. And I'm chagrined to admit, but I didn't see it coming until moments before, though I should have. Good stuff.
So what brought you the televisual joy this week? Drop me a line at email@example.com. Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...
MONDAY, MARCH 7
BIG FISH (6:45 PM CST, HBO) Burton tackles tall tales.
POWER TOOL DRAG RACING (7 PM CST, Discovery Channel) Far be it from me not to highlight power tool drag racing.
SUPER SIZE ME (7:15 PM CST, Showtime) Just in time for the dinner hour, so now you can feel better about whatever it is you're eating. Unless you're eating McDonald's.
24 (8 PM CST, Fox) So I'm thinking of pitching my own version of 24. It's about a guy waiting for 5:00 on a Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend. He has 24 seconds left, and each second is presented in slow motion so that it lasts 44 minutes. I think Fox might actually go for it.
AWARDS SHOW AWARDS SHOW (8 PM CST, Trio) A Tatum O'Neal-narrated documentary about awards shows. And if this documentary were to win an award on one of those awards shows, the universe would implode.
CSI: MIAMI (9 PM CST, CBS) "Money Plane." Combine this with the money train from last season's SHIELD and you're one money automobile short of a John Candy/Steve Martin comedy classic.
TUESDAY, MARCH 8
GILMORE GIRLS (7 PM CST, WB) "Pulp Friction." Rory attends a party to spy on Logan after she spots him out with another girl. Sounds like Logan better seek sanctuary. (But there is no Sanctuary!)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (9 PM CST, NBC) "Pure." Martin Short guests as a psychic trying to help out in the case of an abducted teen, but I bet it's nowhere near as fun as his recent ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT bit.
BLIND JUSTICE (9 PM CST, ABC) "Pilot Episode." A blinded cop struggles to return the job. Much like DAREDEVIL, except with a script and without Ben Affleck. (Series premiere)
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9
THE WEST WING (8 PM CST, NBC) "La Palabra." Santos is trailing in the polls, so his performance in California is crucial.
ALIAS (8 PM CST, ABC) "The Index." Dixon butts heads with Chase when he tries to prove that Sloane is still working with his Alliance buddies. Gee, what could Dixon possibly have against Sloane?
ROBOCOP 2 (8 PM CST, Spike) Let's hope that comics legend Frank Miller's newest cinematic foray as co-director of SIN CITY is more successful than his script for this one.
THURSDAY, MARCH 10
THE O.C. (7 PM CST, Fox) "The Mallpisode." Nothing says romance but a locked mall after closing time, and that's exactly where Summer and Seth find themselves in this week's ep. Be sure to look for the candle-lit love scene inside the Gap.
AMERICAN GRAFITTI (7 PM CST, TCM) I hear in the Special Edition, Jabba the Hut shows up to repossess Bob Falfa's ride.
POINT PLEASANT (8 PM CST, Fox) "Unraveling." I'll take "What is Happening to My Interest in This Stubbornly Mediocre Show" for $100, Alex.
CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (8 PM CST, CBS) "Compulsion." The rape and murder of a flight attendant shows disturbing similarities to an unsolved case from five years ago. And why do I always feel like a shower after typing the summaries of these shows?
BLACK BOOKS (8:30 PM CST, BBC America) "Manny's First Day." It's about Manny's first day.
WITHOUT A TRACE (9 PM CST, CBS) "Lone Star." The disappearance of a real-estate agent sheds light on a secret life that includes slavery and prostitution. And that's just during his open-house tours.
FRIDAY, MARCH 11
STARGATE SG-1 (7 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Threads." Daniel gets an invite to the afterlife in tonight's 90-minute special episode (although hopefully it's not a "very special episode".)
STARGATE ATLANTIS (8:30 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "The Gift." Not to be confused with Katie Holmes' THE GIFT, which was memorable for precisely two reasons.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (9 PM CST, NBC) "Vigilante." Tracking the trial of a fella what took the law into his own hands with regards to a child rapist.
NUMBERS (9 PM CST, CBS) "Counterfeit Reality." An artist is kidnapped by a ring of counterfeiters, the better to produce relevant post-modern currency within the broader sociopolitical context.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (9:30 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "The Hand of God." Starbuck leads a raid on a Cylon fuel refinery; meanwhile, the Pres starts seeing things thanks to a new anti-cancer drug.
SATURDAY, MARCH 12
MINORITY REPORT (7 PM CST, ABC) A far more successful venture into latter-day Spielbergian SF than A.I., I'll tell ya that much.
EUROTRIP (7 PM CST, HBO) Features one of the most impressive nude scenes ever committed to film, but not in the way you'd probably prefer.
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Dark Heart." A nice, Atom-centric bit of Warren Ellis-scripted goodness. (Repeat)
MANSQUITO (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) There are no words.
SUNDAY, MARCH 13
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (6:30 PM CST, Fox) "Tiki Lounge." Malcolm's tolerance for school spirit is sorely tested when he's enlisted in a booster club. As opposed to a Booster Gold club, which would just make Ted Kord jealous.
THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "Goo Goo Gai Pan." Homer poses as Selma's husband so she can adopt a Chinese baby. Presumably, guest voice Lucy Liu is not playing the baby.
CANNIBALS (7 PM CST, History Channel) Calm down, stoner crowd; I said cannibals.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Motherboy XXX." Carl Weathers is making a film about the Bluths, starring Dave Attell as Tobias. And typing that brings me no end of glee.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (8 PM CST, NBC) "Death Roe." Get it? It's, like, a pun.
DEADWOOD (8 PM CST, HBO) "A Lie Agreed Upon, Part II." Tension simmers in the aftermath of the brawl between Swearengen and Bullock (and be sure to bring the tension to a low broil before adding the shrimp or you'll ruin the whole dish).
BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "Let Sales Ring." Carl Reiner guests as a lawyer who wants to be frozen by cryonics before he dies. Which is coincidental, since Carl Reiner himself has been cryonically frozen since 1987.
CARNIVALE (9 PM CST, HBO) "Cheyenne, WY." Iris finds another branch of her family tree, while Libby runs up against her mother's authority. This concludes our broadcast.