Can it be? I'm laughing at a U.S. broadcast comedy? I mean, not because I fear I'm too jaded and should force myself, or because I grade network TV on a bell curve and am trying to find the best of a humor-starved lot, but because it's actually funny? (I remember an old TV Guide story from Jason Bateman's Hogan Family days in which industry types sang his praises without convincing me, but they were right and I was wrong the guy's good here.) I usually reserve true out-loud laughter for Curb Your Enthusiasm (cable), The Office (British and cable) and The Simpsons (an anomaly). So what a surprise: the cynicism, the arson, the cousin lust. It's dark! It's different! It's daring! And, given my luck and its early lackluster ratings, probably doomed.
The Elizabeth Smart Story
"People will trust you more without your beard," the TV version of Wanda Barzee tells the TV version of husband and accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell (aka "Emmanuel") before he shaves and hits the streets. "Then people are fools," he replies. Indeed. First Ed and Lois Smart hire the spooky panhandler to work around their house and their young daughters after he engages Lois in a second or two of curbside conversation. (Not the first time they've done such a thing; they earlier fired another guy after some of Lois's jewelry disappeared.) We all know what happens to Elizabeth next, and that she eventually makes it back home.
Now, not to minimize the trauma this poor girl and her family suffered; their ordeal was terrible and I was relieved along with everyone else when she was found alive. But after reading accounts of the kidnapping and watching this, I've got questions. Shortly after their daughter's return, Ed and Lois turned around and shielded her from further potentially damaging media exposure by... selling the rights to their story to CBS and writing a book about it. And her uncle's own tome is coming as well.
"Why don't they want me?" Elizabeth asked after producers didn't choose her to play herself in the movie. Hey, she's the victim of an awful crime and just a kid besides. What's the adults' excuse?
Saving Jessica Lynch
I can't watch the story of Jessica Lynch's ordeal (though this account also provides plenty of focus on Mohammed Al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who helped the U.S. military find her) without thinking: She never signed up for this. While I assume she enlisted knowing the general nature of the risks involved, she obviously couldn't have guessed she'd be badly injured, captured, and rescued, only to have her story turned into a mass-media plaything and a political football for both sides of the fierce debate over the war: those who see it as confirmation of Iraqi evil and those who see it as factually shaky propaganda.
In an interview scheduled for Tuesday broadcast on ABC's Primetime, Lynch herself reportedly told Diane Sawyer the U.S. military "used [her] as a way to symbolize all this stuff" and called that spin on her experience "wrong." (At least NBC was honest enough to run a disclaimer stating some of the characters and events in the movie were created altogether or in part for dramatic effect.)
A million-dollar book deal can't make all that much easier, I'm sure. My heart goes out to her.
Austin City Limits: Roseanne Cash and Neko Case
Don't you hate making a blanket statement you don't even believe anymore just because you're in the habit of saying it? (OK, so maybe that's just my thing, but telling myself my foibles aren't unique helps me sleep at night all part of the hell of being me.) I say I hate country music because Garth Brooks and Toby Keith aren't my cup of tea. And then friends who are fans of it shoot holes in that because I like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Good thing those fans aren't around to see me happily sit through this hour, then. Even if Roseanne Cash weren't the talent she is, I'd cut her a break simply because she's Johnny's daughter. And where to start with Neko Case? Several tracks from the former-punker-turned-alt-country-darling's haunting Blacklisted are branded into my brain. And as I gradually drop my flimsy anti-country stance, it's her gorgeous voice belting it into retirement.
Saturday Night Live
"Jock Talk"? It rocked! Except for reminding me of every organized sport I ever played, in a fashion more nauseating than food poisoning (more on that later) could ever be. Issues? Not me. 'Sup!
Joan of Arcadia
So Helen cried at Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure? Thank God I felt so all alone with my own grief. And speaking of God, she shows up at Joan's Career Day gathering (and to think they all laughed when I asked if could watch TV for a living at mine, by the way) and makes her babysit. When I was a kid, one or two of my babysitters were brought in via otherearthly force, too, but it came from a realm decidedly south of heaven.
Life with Bonnie
Ah, yes... food poisoning. The thing about it is, you never quite put the sensation behind you, so it doesn't take much to call up all-too-real memories of it. Good thing, then, that Bonnie merely says she has food poisoning before the show gets right to her doing her show from a hospital bed without any effort to make the experience believable (or funny). It's nausea (and laugh) free, unlike, say, that second-season finale of The Sopranos, in which Tony's horribly realistic ordeal and E. coli fever dreams had me reliving all the bad egg-drop soup, contaminated-plate potatoes and tainted chicken chili of years gone by.