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TV 101: Dribs and Drabs (or, stuff that wouldn't fit in my last column)

by Jay Black, posted Feb 20th 2008 11:41AM
No offense, but if you actually label a part of your fridge Like a lot of writers, I have an idea folder (it's manila, but I have it covered in puffy rainbow and unicorn stickers, so it's beautiful). As each week progresses, I jot down all my ideas -- for columns, for stand-up bits, for ransom notes -- and at the end of that week, I take stock of my creative output.

This week, I noticed that there were a lot of ideas that I wanted to share, but that weren't quite big enough for a full TV 101 column. I attached them to the end of my last column in a section called "Dribs and Drabs." It was a good thought, except that it took an already bloated piece (my writing makes the Unabomber's manifesto look like a dream of concise thought) and puffed it up into a 3000 word monstrosity. My editor suggested I break up the Dribs and Drabs section into its own piece, and that, dear readers, is what I did. Dribs and Drabs, after the jump...

(My original idea for this section was to make it look like Larry King's old column for USA Today. I remember even as a kid thinking that that column had to be the easiest gig in writing. Seriously, it was a collection of one liners that pretty much read like a plug-for-cash scheme. "I read Grisham's latest -- man, what a read!" Every single one of his columns read like they were dictated the hour before they were due. I always swore that if I ever got a writing job, I would try a Larry King model column at some point.

You can tell from the first item -- several paragraphs and written with a deep sense of irony -- that I've already failed in my mission. But I'm working on it! I promise to eventually fill the Dribs and Drabs entries with dozens of awareness- and content- free references to restaurants and TV shows that I've been paid to talk about! That is my solemn oath to you, my loyal readers...)

Two TV 101s ago
I wrote a pretty scathing attack on How to Look Good Naked. My wife has since begged me to take another look at the show since, she feels, that a lot of my criticisms have been invalidated by the later episodes. Consider it done. I'm going to watch a cache of TiVoed How to Look Good Naked episodes this week. Assuming I survive, I promise to re-evaluate the show.

That being said, I took a drubbing on a lot of blogs due to that review. That's fine; if it wasn't for uniformed blogging, I wouldn't have a job. I do want to address one thing that the bloggers kept eviscerating me for, however:

I argued that being fat was about lifestyle choice, not genetics. Nearly every anti-fat-phobia-blog (and you'd be surprised how many there are) in the world said that was stupid; that biology played a much bigger role in how you look than choice did. Calling fat a moral failing, easily remedied with hard work and self-discipline, I was told, only continued the cycle of self-hatred so many women are trapped in.

It was never my intention to hurt anyone's feelings. To all of those women who felt like I was attacking them, I truly, deeply apologize.

But...

Those arguments got me thinking about other so-called moral failings that have deep roots in biology. Then, after looking at Lifetime's lineup, it occurred to me that if I have to apologize, then the channel and every woman who watches it owes men an apology too! See, Lifetime (and a lot of other channels), constantly feels the need to criticize a subset of men who, like overweight women, are trapped by their biology into acting in a socially unacceptable manner.

That's right, men who cheat on their wives are constantly criticized and berated for doing nothing more than listening to their bodies!

So, here's my proposal. I'll never criticize fat women, Carson Kressley, or Lifetime again if fat women, Carson Kressley, and Lifetime stop criticizing men for cheating on their wives. Like weight, the drive to cheat is a biological one which men suppress (often to the detriment of their lives/genitalia) because of the unfair standards set by the media. Since doing what your body tells you to do is obviously not a moral failing, criticizing people for doing it is wrong. Wrong, I tell you!

I mean, how come the cheating husband is always the bad guy, huh? Cheataphobia, that's why.

What do you say, Lifetime? Deal?

Chelsea Clinton's email in support of her mother, which quotes Robin Morgan's update to her famous feminist screed "Goodbye to All That" had a reference to South Park in it:

Goodbye to Comedy Central's "Southpark" [sic] featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC's vagina. I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.

Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not "Clinton hating," not "Hillary hating." This is sociopathic woman-hating.

Ms. Morgan makes a lot of good points in her essay, but on this particular issue all I've got to say... come on! You're writing an email in the hopes that your favored candidate wins the election and the best you can come up with is misguided attack on a cartoon show!? Seriously!? What's next? Are you going to criticize Murphy Brown for its depiction of single motherhood? For shame.

What is it with otherwise intelligent people being unable to grasp the concept of irony (verbal irony specifically -- when you say one thing but mean another -- not Morissette irony where you ignore the concept of irony altogether). Does Ms. Morgan truly feel that Matt and Trey were arguing that Hillary Rodham Clinton's vagina was the perfect spot for a terrorist bomb? That the true aim of the episode was to make the people who watched it hate Hillary and, more generally, all women in the world?

What about the other episodes of South Park? Is it possible to see sociopathic Ginger-hating? Sociopathic Jew-hating? Sociopathic Scientology-hating? (Actually, now that I think about it, yeah, it probably is possible to see that last one on a regular basis.)

It saddens me that we're still at a point where mocking a public figure has to be taken and twisted into a gender or race issue. Had Matt and Trey put a terrorist bomb in, say, the colon of Bill Clinton, would Robert Bly have felt moved to write about South Park's obvious and sociopathic man-hating? I think not.

With a little more imagination, Ms. Morgan might have seen Matt and Trey's attack on Hillary as a positive one. She mattered enough to mock; isn't that a victory in and of itself?

(Incidentally, Chelsea and Robin and Hillary should take note that South Park Republicans do, in fact, exist and are the least likely to take kindly anything that smacks of this type of politically correct idiocy.)

Does everyone else agree that I'm F*cking Matt Damon [link mildly NSFW
] is the funniest thing that Sarah Silverman has ever done?

It should be noted
that in researching my last column, I couldn't find a single online video of The Real World: Los Angeles (not even of the famous blanket incident). I find this shocking, and, quite frankly, a little sad. It means that the youth of America (the only group with enough time on its hands to waste a few hours capturing and then illegally uploading video) doesn't consider The Real World: Los Angeles worthy of their attention.

Of all the things that have indicated my age to me -- graying hair, softening muscles, a growing predilection to discussing mortgages with my friends at dinner -- none have made me feel old as much as this did. It means a pop culture event that pretty much everyone in their late twenties and early thirties remembers vividly is as important and valid to people in their teen years as the Charleston.

Sigh. I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

If anyone has a link to some Real World: Los Angeles video, please -- please -- post it in the comments.

I've started doing a podcast for TV Squad, called "TV5". Essentially it's a rundown of the five interesting stories that we've published in a quick, easy-to-digest 5 minute format. It's weekly now, with the hopes that if it catches on, it'll go daily. If you get a few minutes, please check it out.

Alright, kids, that's it for me. More Larry-King-like wisdom next week!

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Nathaniel

Well, I watched the video, and I have to say I disagree with your previous column's assessment that she wanted the blanket pulled off.

That said, she was fully covered, so I don't see what the big deal was.

I remember the Real World Hawaii, and knowing before that that it existed. I never really watched, though.

Also, shame on MTV... they cancelled Real World: Atlanta, the only one I would have actually watched!

I'd also like to throw out that the Real World/Road Rules Challenge is the most worthless spinoff ever. That said, it was always funny when Road Rules played a prank on Real World. But on their own series, not in a crossover challenge event thing.

February 20 2008 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chuck

I suppose that's possible. I was in college, and had other forms of debauchery on my mind. Also, I had already decided that MTV had stopped offering anything I was interested in, except "The State," which was the best sketch comedy show ever.

Jay, I wouldn't cry too much over it. Look at how it's all paid off, 14 years down the road, with such a cushy gig? :-)

February 20 2008 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Midnight Penguin

Isn't 34 on the older side of Real World watchers? I'm 27 and know it was HUGE for myself and younger generations, I would think that 7 years older might be out of the range? Maybe not.

February 20 2008 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chuck

Maybe I missed something, but I'm 34 and NEVER watched an episode of Real World, including Los Angeles. Even more, nobody I knew watched it. We never knew of any of these people, or what I guess is an infamous "blanekt" incident. I'm thinking it might not have been quite as significant as you keep claiming it to be . . .

February 20 2008 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chuck's comment
Jay Black

It might be Chuck that you were one of those people who spent their teens actually "living their own lives" and "enjoying the moment." I speak for the other contingent -- nerds who learned what sex was from the horror that was "Garden of Rama" and watched MTV the same way Ronald Miller watched American Bandstand. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to retreat to my bedroom so I can cry.

February 20 2008 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
annacsmith08

yes the Sarah Silverman/Matt Damon video was freakin hilarious! and i'm not even a fan of Sarah Silverman! I know many of you will totally disagree with me, but I have never laughed at anything she has done or said... until this video! that may be because Matt Damon was actually in it, though. Either way, props to Sarah.

February 20 2008 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian

Congrats on your almost 1 year anniversary, TV 101. And I guess Jay too. I've enjoyed your columns.

(I didn't have it memorized that it was 1 year... I just happened to go back looking at the archives and noticed when the first one was posted)

February 20 2008 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brian's comment
Jay Black

Hey Brian, thanks for reminding me of that -- I guess I came in with column number twelve right under the gun for a once-a-month average. (Though, I like to pretend that the first two columns didn't happen -- I don't think the column "found" itself till the third one, "The House Dilemma." The other first two were, uh... what's the word I'm looking for... bad? Yeah, that's the word :) )

February 20 2008 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CaptainAmericaHatesHippies

You mention that, "...if it wasn't for uniformed blogging, I wouldn't have a job." C'mon, Jay! You can't mention that you wear a uniform while blogging and NOT TELL US WHAT KIND OF UNIFORM!!!

I had fleeting thoughts that it might be a French maid's uniform, but that made me throw up a little. Now I'm wild with curiousity, so 'fess up!

February 20 2008 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
5 replies to CaptainAmericaHatesHippies's comment
Caroline

Found it:

http://jezebel.com/gossip/clips/vintage-real-world-las-david-tami--beth-get-into-it-328742.php

By the way, I completely agree with you about the Matt Damon video.

February 20 2008 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Caroline's comment
Jay Black

Thank you Caroline! Much appreciated...

February 20 2008 at 1:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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