Saturday, September 25, 2004

Screen Shots

Among the many, many changes wrought by parenthood is the newfound necessity to choose carefully when it comes to pop culture offerings. Your window is simply way too small to accommodate the amount of stuff you used to consume. Want to listen to a bunch of CDs on the seven-hour car ride to Cape Cod? Better be a fan of the Wiggles or Philadelphia Chickens. And where once you gladly would have ponied up eight bucks for a trashy art-house flick whose chief attraction is the rampant nakedness of a hot former TV ingenue, you're now reduced to squeezing in whatever's in your Netflix queue after your little one conks out following a night of Pooh and Piglet.

The real challenge comes in September, when the television networks roll out their new offerings. In years past this was a chance to pick and choose from the best of the debuts, while also retaining ongoing favorites and the usual filler that occupies your time when nothing else is on. Now, though, time is just too damn short. Fully immersing myself in a good new show -- getting to know the characters, following the storylines, really giving the work the attention it deserves -- has gotten harder and harder. (Imagine if I had been forced to shoehorn baseball viewing into such a compressed schedule.)

Yet as much as I can't imagine following another serial -- I gave up the weekly apocalypse ER had become years ago, and the dumbing-down absurdity of The West Wing turned me off that former stalwart last season -- I found myself engrossed in the premiere of Lost last week. I'd never watched J.J. Abrams's other stuff -- the well regarded Felicity and Alias -- but quickly came to see why those shows have had so many fans. Lost takes 40 or so survivors of a plane crash, sticks them on a deserted tropical island, stirs in the myriad facets of the human condition, and then tosses in a mysterious, unseen threat the likes of which hasn't been seen since Predator. The first episode began to establish some interesting characters and offered an intriguing mix of thrills, sci-fi/horror, and drama. It was very well done TV, something I can see myself hunkering down in front of every Wednesday -- in other words, exactly the thing I really don't need.

As for a couple of last year's diversions, I'm finding that both Survivor and The Apprentice are starting to show their age. The former kicked off with the no-longer-innovative battle-of-the-sexes format, the same old challenges, and the infuriating spectacle of watching contestants lose it after a couple of days on the island -- like, haven't they ever watched the show before? And The Apprentice, in just its second go-round seems determined to remind us why we took such glee in Donald Trump's 1990s fall from grace -- the gruff but lovable mogul of season 1 has been replaced by the irrational and self-involved prick that you suspect he really is.

Finally, a last valedictory for The Amazing Race, which copped its second straight Emmy Sunday night and which concluded its fifth excellent season with a victory by the extremely likable married couple Chip and Kim. The fortysomethings outplayed their younger rivals -- the volatile and self-destructive pretty people Colin and Christie, and the annoyingly God-fearing pretty people Brandon and Nicole -- to win the million bucks. CBS was set to start Race's sixth season tonight, but after the show delivered big-time ratings this year, the network reportedly decided to find a better time slot than the wasteland of Saturday night. Nice to see the Eye get something right for a change.


At September 26, 2004 at 9:37 PM, Blogger Wyatt Earp said...

Didn't watch Lost - primarily because it goes up against my fave, Smallville - but it turned me off that one of the survivors was WAY pregnant. When my wife and I were going to DisneyWorld before the birth of our first son, the doctors told us the risk of flying while she was pregnant (and she was only two months along!). The fact that we are supposed to believe that a woman nine months pregnant got on a plane (even with the lax security checks) is so unbelievable, it "lost" me as a viewer.

At September 26, 2004 at 9:40 PM, Blogger Tom G. said...

Given your time constraints, I would highly recommend TiVo or Replay TV (I have Replay TV, but both are good). The common misconception is that if you get a DVR you will spend more time watching TV, but that is not the case. You end up watching better TV more efficiently. You can watch a 60 minute drama in 45 minutes and a 30 minute sitcom in 20 minutes and you can watch them when you have time to, not when they are airing. And, channel surfing becomes a thing of the past, no more flipping around the channels trying to find something - anything - to watch. You just go to your hard drive and play something you have recorded.

I was wondering how "Lost" would be, I'm glad you can recommend it, I may have to direct my Replay TV to it.


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