Monday, June 22, 2009


A couple of links and an embed or two while I crack my knuckles and attempt to resume regular narrowcasting:

Jonathan Franzen reads and discusses two classic "casuals" from the New Yorker archives, "Love Trouble is My Business" by Veronica Geng and "Coyote v. Acme" by Ian Frazier here, a podcast that makes me feel anew as if my limp efforts in their respective directions are like trying to read Proust while strapped to a rocket sled with the corpse of Mr. Reagan harnessed to my back like a proto-neo-conservative parachute.

ABC is presently engaged in an odd variation on the time-honored tradition of Summer Burn-Off Theater, in which the low-rated show whose unaired episodes they're filling the dead, dancing-and/or-dating-show-deprived weeks of June, July and August with hasn't been cancelled yet. The show in question is Better Off Ted, which I watched for the first time today via's new and evidently improved online viewer. And once past the groansome show title, the omnipresent wacky-sitcom music-cues (the hey-morons!-this-is-where-you're-supposed-to-laugh imposition that has increasingly replaced the laugh track for single-camera network sitcoms) and my ambivalence towards its titular hero (who has grown on me already over the course of the three episodes I've seen so far, but I have to ask in light of both this and How I Met Your Mother, what is it with sitcoms with stellar supporting casts and bland-unto-irritating protagonists named Ted?), it turns out to be pretty damned hilarious in the vein of Victor Fresco's previous TV excursion, Andy Richter Controls the Universe. So I encourage you to throw your support behind BOT before it goes the way of that other worthy effort, and once you've exhausted your laughter, you can use the beta player to mourn the passing of the smug comedy geek's shorthand for lame, soulless laugh-hackery. But dry your eyes, fellow yuk-snobs; we'll always have Dane Cook.

The following is very low-quality and not otherwise particularly substantive, but kinda interesting-unto-surreal all the same: watch, if you dare, as one-half of Monty Python (and their female foil, Carol Cleveland) shares a stage (and, in one case, a lap) with one of the oddest assortments of mid-seventies celebrities you're ever likely to see, from a 1976 installment of The Mike Douglas Show. (Full disclosure: this posting is mainly here to win the coveted title of Most Blog Posts Featuring Bizarre Talk Show Appearances by David Soul, sponsored by Which One Was Starsky Again? magazine.)

They don't make talk shows like that anymore, I'll tell you what. In fact, I'm increasingly convinced that they shouldn't make talk shows at all anymore, at least not the bits where the host actually talks to people. Other than the occasions when David Letterman has a guest that either interests, irritates or slightly frightens him, what passes for conversation on these shows is mostly just so much canned airtime. Oh, you get some decent, ephemeral amusement with reasonable frequency, but man, what I'd give for one of these guys to engage their guests for real, get into scraps or scuffles that can't be explained away as publicity stunts, rip the skins off at least some of their guests and let us take a good, hard look at the machinery underneath. Or just get them the hell out of their comfort zones, publicists and pre-interviews be damned. How much more interesting would, I dunno, Shia LeBoeuf be if he were questioned about his personal traumas while being waterboarded? Yeah, you're right, probably not that much more interesting. Failing that, then, why can't we just enlist Robert Smigel's right arm and simply unleash a nightly torrent of anthropormorphized abuse on all and sundry? Don't even give the fuckers a chance to answer. Wouldn't you rather see a vulgar, cigar-chomping puppet mutt like this poking up behind a desk night after night? I know I would...

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