It's not like it's tough to watch TV for a job. But like anyone in an office cubicle knows, it's tough to break out of a rut. And as a professional watcher of stuff, I get in comfortable ruts sometimes. If you read this column regularly you've probably become really emotionally connected to my struggle to stop paying attention to Tyra Banks's endless parade of really gross topics. But with the whole colonic-on-live-TV thing she recently did (complete with a re-enactment of her own personal irrigation and subsequent poop-splosion), I knew she wouldn't be topping that for a while. So I took her out of TiVo and gave myself the goal of checking out 10 new shows I've never seen. Because it's my job to keep you informed. And my guiding rule was no asshole conservative political shows--even though they're awesomely funny--and no crazy religious stuff. Because until one of those people does something really wild like set themself on fire I just don't want to give them a voice anymore. At least until I change my mind about that.
In no particular order, here's what I poison-tested for you with my eyes:
1. Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew
This show had me at the intake question, "Have you ever masturbated to the point of injury?" It features some semi-famous people and some porn stars and one manic snowboarder (Jamie Lovett, pictured) and a guy from the band Skid Row, all of whom have presumably hurt themselves in the act of rubbing one out. In the Skid Row guy's defense, he looks a lot less haggard at 41 than he would have if he'd been shooting up all these years, so at least sex addiction keeps you youthful. There's a gay guy on there too. They haven't really fleshed out his character yet beyond, "I like younger straight guys." There's already a bet in my house as to when that snowboarder is going to hump a trashcan.
2. King of The Crown
I just finished reading the somewhat controversial book Androphilia, in which the author, Jack Donovan, asserts that gay male culture is steeped in crippling effeminacy. It's a fascinating book and watching this show made me want to get the author involved in a cage-fighting match with the extremely gay homosexuals--beauty pageant consultants in South Carolina--who crowd every moment with weepy speeches at mall fashion shows and, when they're not insulting fat girls who enter pageants by calling them "Mama Cass," like to toss off snippy retorts to one another like, "Take your estrogen!" It would be a grueling fight I'm sure, a match with possibly no clear winner, because these gays are like an all-robot theater company of Steel Magnolias. Watching this show will actually drain whatever life-enhancing hormones you normally enjoy directly from your body. Enjoy at your peril.
It's kind of like The Soup or The Dish but it's about all kinds of stuff and not strictly focused on TV. It's on Al Gore's new cable channel called Current and it features a regular segment called "That's Gay" hosted by Bryan Safi. It's pretty funny, even if he did just bite my rhyme by doing a segment about gay exorcisms. And if you don't get that channel--I'm the only person I know who does--you can watch the "That's Gay" bits online.
4. Monica: Still Standing
In the absence of new episodes of Metalocalypse (finally starting a new season this weekend, for both of you metal fans out there) I need some kind of music-related thing to enjoy. This isn't it. And I like Monica. "The Boy is Mine" is the kind of addictive '90s jam you turn way up when the oldies station plays it. If I could rollerskate I'd want it on a continuous loop. But unlike the brand new and hyper-catastrophic Broke and Famous: Willie Aames, there's no urgency to Monica's career travails. She's been through some tough stuff (a boyfriend's suicide for starters) but at the moment everything's fine. She's building a monster house all Real Housewives of ATL-style, working on a new CD, driving her Mercedes badly. Although I guess I feel pretty sorry for her that she can't decide on how to furnish her eight bedrooms. I woke up in the night fretting about that one.
5. I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant
A woman gave birth in her pants. She felt some pelvic pain and then boom, baby in the pants. Just popped right out. And then the doctor's like, "You just had a baby in your pants," which caused the unsuspecting post-partum mom to yell the title of the show. Then she named the kid Axy Dente. That last part is made-up. But still, my new favorite thing.
6. Three Rivers
If, like me, you're still obsessed with The L Word long after its demise, you'll be thrilled to know that Shane is back on TV. I know her real name is Katherine Moennig but to me she's Shane. She will always be Shane. When I see her in my local supermarket in Los Angeles, I keep my cool but silently think, "Shane!" So now she's playing a really concerned doctor on this new medical drama who would never steal your girlfriend and have sex with her in public at a party held in your honor. She's got longer hair and wears makeup on this show, too, which is kind of like seeing her dressed up in a gorilla suit. And the show is sort of boring. But still, Shane! 7. The Suze Orman Show
Why, after someone gets their own Oprah-sponsored spin-off program, do they start freaking out so hard? On his own show, Dr. Oz now does features on this or that deadly danger you should be scared of because you're going to die within the next five minutes of whatever it is. And Oprah's most famous lesbian pal spends her time yelling at people who are in credit card debt and telling them not to buy a new pair of shoes even if they make $100,000 a year. It's unnerving. I already feel bad enough about the debt I'm in. I don't want someone barking at me about it while calling me "girlfriend." I'm doing my best, Suze Orman! Bug off!
8. Modern Family
The gay characters on this show -- a couple with an adopted baby they treat like a Cabbage Patch Doll -- are always upset, always on the verge of tears, always invoking references to blond highlights or Cher, always listening to the Lion King soundtrack, feeling resentful of straight people for perceived slights or snapping at each other about something called "hurtful bubbly." I'm not mad at the show. It's just that I don't get what's going on with these two.
9. American Chopper
Did you catch this week's episode of South Park where the kids decide that "fag" is really just another word for a super annoying person or a thing that sucks? For the purposes of this episode, the fags in question are a biker gang who are obnoxiously loud, showy and obsessed with being tough. And in South Park's defense, the words "fag" and "faggot" are still a lot of fun to say, especially now that we're all not supposed to do it anymore. My friend Lydia taught me to use as an adjective to describe inanimate objects. (Example: "This faggot stapler won't work!") Watching the episode made me think about how American Chopper is starting its sixth season and I'd never bothered to give it a chance. So I finally tuned in. Not a bad show, really. They build bikes and squabble. It's kind of like a surlier Ace of Cakes. And I would never call any of these guys a fag unless I knew them well and it was clear we were all just having a laugh with English usage.
10. Man Shops Globe
This reality series follows the gay who's the main buyer of seductively beautiful home objects for the Anthropologie chain of stores. That hand-painted Bulgarian teapot? He probably decided you'd want it a full year before you ever got it into your head that you totally needed it. And I have to say that it's better to watch someone else shop their ass off on TV than to go do it yourself all damn day long. And it's an interesting lesson in how certain prime demographics are targeted with fancy bait that makes them think they're uniquely tasteful and socially conscious. But the big kink in this NPR consumerist jackoff-to-the-point-of-injury fantasy is that the big boss man of Anthropologie (and Urban Outfitters) is a right-wing contributor to gross politicians like Rick Santorum. And I'm okay with him being right wing and giving money to whatever creepy conservative asshole he wants. That's his choice. I'm not advocating a boycott or anything, even though I don't plan on giving him any of my own cash. Because boycotts usually don't work. You'll never be clean. But now I'll have to figure out how not to hold it against my teapot.