What follows is a collection of televised atrocities and disappointments, none of which were as dull as any single episode of Accidentally on Purpose. I hate AoP not simply because it’s barely funny unless the sister is talking about naughty sex or the mom from the brilliant-yet-canceled Worst Week pops by to act all loopy and weird. I also hate it because after giving it the fairest shake imaginable (two full episodes on CBS.com, where they stick you with commercials and there’s nothing you can do about it), I never once heard Jenna Elfman’s character mention anything about her job as a film critic. Since I’m part of the extremely small minority of people in this country who get to do that for a living and I also happen to be married to a film critic, I can tell you for a fact that we occasionally have actual breakfast conversations about the merits of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days versus those of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. But where does Jenna Elfman stand on the burning issue of the New Romanian Cinema? We’re never going to find out, so I won’t be waiting around for it.
Anyway, the list, in no particular order, because it’s all equally gross:
1. Five 10 p.m.'s of Jay Leno every week — This actually doesn’t suck any more than it did when it was on 90 minutes later and they called it The Tonight Show. It’s got all the same lazy, softball jokes and butt-smoochy product-promotion guest appearances as before. The revolting thing about it is that it unemployed tons of people who would otherwise be working behind the scenes for scripted shows in its time slot. I have friends in Los Angeles who are out of jobs because of this.
2. The Osbournes Reloaded — I like fart jokes as much as the next jerk. I even liked the sketch on the much-maligned January Jones episode of SNL where she played Grace Kelly ruining takes of Rear Window with her ass. But I expect farts from the Osbournes. It’s something I can count on. I know they’re coming. And back in the early '00s, I trusted them to make everything they touched, including the farts, a little more black-magicky and metal. But these farts were stiff, forced, family-audience-aimed and embarrassing, written by people who don’t understand fart nuance or disgruntled fart charm. It was like watching Donny and Marie try their hand at it. It was enough to put you off farts as an entertainment option.
3. Speidi, in all their appearances everywhere, except for when Al Roker was being mean to them — I admit that for like five seconds I was into watching these entitled dumb fucks get born again on I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! Then they turned into that fruity bubble gum that loses its flavor and you’re just stuck with a wad of goopy nothing in your mouth and you have to find a place to spit it out as soon as you can or you’re going to gag on it. Of course, then Al Roker “offended” them by treating them like we all wanted to. And it was great.
4. Jon and Kate – Unlike Speidi, who are simply two young blond people who spend their days calculating ways to be seen living it up and acting like morons and only doing harm to people like me who occasionally can’t stop staring at them, J/K were famous for actively being gross in the presence of eight unwilling kids whose future therapy bills are going to cost as much as their college educations. On the other hand, I had divorced parents who didn’t know what they were doing either and look how great I turned out: a homosexual whose job it is to lie on the couch with a TV remote in one hand and a brown sugar–cinnamon Pop-Tart in the other.
5. Project Runway — As a general rule, competition shows like this can’t ever really jump the shark and stay jumped. They have a new opportunity each season to come back and jump that shark all over again. For example, American Idol does it every single year and it never gets old. But after the stumbling legs of PR’s Leannimal season (basically from the moment they auf’d Terri and Stella and started painting poor misunderstood brat-diva Kenley as a supervillain) I was concerned. And then when I heard they were going to my hometown Los Angeles, the flip-flop capital of the galaxy, I was concerneder. And then I watched it and what's-her-face won the season and I can’t remember anything I looked at, not a name, not an outfit, not a bickering argument, nothing. At least over on Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew people are complaining that they’re not allowed to masturbate and hurling the furnishings at each other.
6. Miami Social — I hesitate to put this on the list because so few people saw it. But it was everything wrong with a reality show and there was no one around who cared enough to try to cover the cracks. I think they just held auditions and tried to make the characters act like they really knew each other, but none of them could muster the energy to pretend that for very long or to get up off that white couch at that one place they were always hanging out. And if the antigay people out there wanted something to bitch about besides lesbian moms wanting to get married, they could just point to friend-of-Kim-Kardashian Ariel and his ornate custom-made desk/throne/thing with the bejeweled lion heads carved into it, a piece of Fuck-You Furniture that, I believe, may have also turned into a helicopter when you pushed a vibrating button underneath. Time-saver: Just listen to that dumb LMFAO song called “I’m in Miami, Bitch” and you’ve pretty much just watched this whole show with your ears in four minutes.
7. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann — I like Olbermann’s politics. I’m glad he’s on the air saying the things he’s saying. But he’s got this ... I don’t even know ... this way of saying it, like he’s the first guy to think it all up just for you the dumb viewer, that just makes me yell “Shut up, Keith Olbermann!” every time my husband turns it on. And that’s every day. I spend the hour patiently waiting for Rachel Maddow to show up. Beck, on the other hand, is a loon. And bad for the country. But when he cries and shakes and bounces around it fills me with a kind of super-pleasure (and I do not believe it’s sexual) that I can only imagine heroin being like. So in spite of his rotten agenda, I have to keep watching. I’m sure you understand.
8. The cancellation of Pushing Daisies — In the Best of '09 column I wrote about shows my friends happened to appear on for one reason or another. But here’s one a friend created. And I’m not just saying this because I know that dude, but Pushing Daisies was the most vibrantly strange, meticulously detailed and executed fantasy/mystery/comedy/romance/whatever to come along in, well, ever. There was no template for this excellent oddity; it made its own. So of course it had to die.
9. A Charlie Brown Christmas — To squeeze more ad revenue out of this annual classic, ABC chose to butcher it for 2009, slicing out Sally Brown’s vital Christmas list monologue in which she exhorts Santa to simply bring her money, preferably 10s and 20s, and that all she wanted was what she had coming to her, all she wanted was her fair share. They also eliminated the catching-snowflakes-on-the-tongue scene (and with it a chunk of Vince Guaraldi’s score), aborted Schroeder’s annual angry “Jingle Bells” recital and erased Shermy’s grumbling about having to play a shepherd. All you people who pitched a fit about Janet Jackson’s nipple or Adam Lambert’s groin should have spent your time furiously calling ABC about this. It officially counts at my most furious HOW DARE THEY moment of TV watching of the past 365 days. Next year I’m looking at the DVD.
10. Almost all news coverage of health care reform town hall meetings. Runner-up: President Obama on TV talking about gay rights — I think we’ve turned a disturbing corner in this country when ordinary citizens are willing to mock and laugh at other ordinary citizens who are suffering. That’s what those town hall meetings always turned into, a chance for the Haves to kick the Have-Nots in the face and scream until we all conclude that basic health care really is just a privilege for those who can afford not to be bankrupted by it. Worse, the news media acted like it was some kind of debate instead of just corporate fear-frothing carried out by a volunteer street team of deranged, freaked-out citizens (some of whom didn’t have health insurance themselves — figure that one out) who thought the Death Panels were coming. And then there was Us Gays and all our stuff, the marriage and immigration and military ban stuff. And I know that the president’s been busy trying to repair the United States’s global diplomacy reputation and put out the major wildfires committed by the last team of arsonists, but dang, dude, could you maybe give us a sliver of something more than lip service and foot-dragging and pretend-advocacy? I was never a hope-and-changer, but I shouldn’t already feel like heckling you every time you stand behind a podium and open your mouth.