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October 22, 2014

TV 101: Thirteen undeniable truths about TV

by Jay Black, posted Apr 1st 2009 11:05AM
I could have gone with a lot of pictures, but I figured a hot cylon was the way to go.Some things you never wanted to know about me, but that I'm going to tell you anyway: I'm 32 years old, 6'3" tall, and I weigh 235 hairy, pasty pounds. I have a weak chin and very strong glasses. I'm not balding (yet!) but I've got a head reminiscent of The Leader from the Incredible Hulk comics. Seriously, in a pinch, Sully Sullenburger could land a jet on my forehead.

Looking at myself in the mirror after a shower the other day, I came to some realizations. I'll probably never play in the NBA. It's doubtful that a woman will ever use me Brad-Pitt-in-Thelma-and-Louise style. Should my comedy career catch fire, it will be more Ray Romano than Dane Cook.

These are the facts and they are undisputed.

In the spirit of my heartbreaking realizations, I figured I'd list some of the sad (but undeniable) truths about television ...

1. Serialized shows like Lost or Battlestar will never end in a way that satisfies all its viewers.

I wasn't a Battlestar Galatica fan (*ducks thrown shoe*), but I followed the fallout of its final episode online. It went the same way that The Sopranos went and I expect Lost will go: with lots of people shouting "copout" and claiming that the creators of those shows, despite being lauded by fans just a few seasons ago as Dr. Manhattan-esque walking man-gods, were obviously just making up all this crap as they went along.

2. Creators of shows like Lost and Battlestar are just making up all this crap as they go along.

While we're at it, let's be honest about something. TV show creators think about the final episode of their series the same way we all envision our own death: something that will happen in the vague future after we've made our millions and showed up all at the people who mocked us in high school.

You don't pitch a TV show with a definite ending in mind. And, even if you do have an idea about how the show is going to end, you just can't account for all the vagaries of filming over several years. There are pregnancies, deaths, drug addictions, sex addictions, accidental sex-tape leakings, and attempted murderings to deal with -- and that's just Charlie Sheen.

Throw in crazy ideas in the writer's room (Hey, let's kill off Starbuck! Why? Cause it'd be AWESOME that's why!), and all the little, meaningless things fans misinterpret into big, supposedly meaningful things, and what you're left with is a show with the same level of continuity as the story of what I told my wife happened at my bachelor party. It only makes sense if you don't think about it too hard.

3. There's no such thing as a right-wing or left-wing conspiracy.

I'm sorry, self-righteous politically-minded person who watches [insert biased talking head here], as much as you want to imagine that the other side is subtly shifting the national debate for their own nefarious ends, please consider the following things:

a) If there was a conspiracy being orchestrated by the other side to keep you from important news, how is it that you're learning about that news from a talking-head on your side of the political divide? Do you think that your political enemies don't know about the show you're watching? Unless you're picking up Radio Free Europe in a hidden room in your East German flat, you're not getting any kind of secret information. Thus, no conspiracy.

b) Do you honestly believe that any media corporation cares about anything other than money? For instance, do you think there are meetings like this:

"Hey boss, the ratings are dropping on Gay Marriage Abortion Flag Burning Liberal Elites, do you think we ought to tone down our political message?"

"NEVER! I didn't come to Hollywood to make money and snort coke off the taut buttocks of needy starlets! I did it to push my gay marriage abortion flag burning liberal elite agenda! And I'll lose every penny before I stop doing that."

Reverse that conversation for the other side and you get the idea. Money matters before politics, always.

4. Your favorite TV personalities will always disappoint you.

For shame Shamwow Guy. For shame.

5. The American people like stupid things.

Three times as many people watch teenagers performing karaoke than watch 30 Rock. According to Jim lasted twice as long as Arrested Development. People still send money to televangelists despite the hard lessons learned in Fletch 2.

This will always be the case. When the next stupid reality movement happens (I'm guessing it'll be C-level celebrities fighting animals in a Thunderdome-type arena), be assured that people will flock to it rather than the quirky, intelligent show that you love.

6. You're not really learning all that much watching "educational television."

I like "Shark Week" too, but let's be frank, there's a reason only the hungover teachers showed documentaries in class.

7. The media will always focus on the wrong thing.

This is a combination of points 3 and 5.

For instance, let's say that your President goes on a popular late-night television program to explain, at length, his economic policy. Let's say, just for giggles, that at the end of his lengthy (and important) discussion, this president makes an ill-conceived joke about his bowling being something you'd see at the Special Olympics.

Now, unless you truly feel in your heart that the President did not simply make a slip of the tongue, but rather is a secret hater of handicapped persons, there is no reason at all for the media to make more than a passing mention of this comment (and its subsequent apology). The nation, you would rightly assume, needs to spend its mental energy debating the merits of the President's economic plan. Anything else is focusing on meaningless ephemera.

But, of course, the next day, all anyone will talk about is the bleeping ephemera.

I'm going to make a bold prediction: if there's ever a televised announcement that the world is going to end in a nuclear holocaust and, during the announcement, one of the grips accidentally uses the "s-word," that swear will be the number one topic of conversation (right up until the missiles detonate).

8. Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons will never seem as good now as you remember them being then.

And yet, both will be here long after we're all dead and gone.

9. The other judges on American Idol are as useless as the plot of a porno.

Is there anything more meaningless than getting praise from Paula? It's like one of those soccer tournaments where everyone gets a trophy just for playing, right? All anybody cares about is what Simon says, end of story.

10. When you get down to it, the only thing that matters for a television star is that they be attractive.

That's not to say that there aren't talented people working in the industry, just that talent is much less important than looks.

And before you say that I'm just an unattractive guy jealous of the good looking kids ... well, you're right, but that doesn't make my point any less valid.

This is why actors give themselves so many awards: they're scared that down deep they're just really good-looking people that the rest of us tolerate because watching them is a lot better than watching ourselves (which is, of course, exactly why we watch them).

(Do you realize that in TV world, the guy who plays the lead in Chuck is supposed to be a geek? Have you ever seen a real life geek? There are carnies with better grooming habits.)

11. Ty Pennington doesn't care about the people on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Seriously. He doesn't. Also, Dr. Phil doesn't care about the crazy idiots on his show. In fact, none of the people who claim to care about the downtrodden actually care about them -- if they did, they'd care about them without a camera crew around to capture it.

That is, except for Oprah: she cares. That's right, Miss Winfrey, if you're reading this, I complimented you! Please don't snuff me out of existence!

12. The best way to be on TV if you don't have any looks or talent is to push out as many kids as biology will allow.

(Also, if possible, try to give them all names starting with the same letter and dress them like they were sales clerks at a Target).

13. People who read TV blogs only ever comment when they feel complimentary and never insult a writer who tried his best.

Right? Right!?

(Jay Black is a writer and comedian who is best known as the actor who played "Chubby" in 1985's Teen Wolf. For more information about Jay or to catch one of his live shows, go to www.jayblackcomedy.com.)

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Preston

I disagree with your comment on Ty Pennington. He does care about the families he's helping out on Extreme Makeover Home Edition. There are people with medical conditions that live in those newly built homes. It's not like he give Though I don't know if they finish up those homes in 7 days. They might not finish completion on time as they mention on TV. Massive homes like that take months, maybe YEARS to build.

April 21 2009 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Preston

I think that viewers are more comfortable watching amateurs perform on American Idol than seeing established and experienced artists that have done it for years performing at the Grammy Awards. They want to see that person get better every week despite the ridiculous ways those producers throw those musical genres at them like sharks! Idol has more of an interactive thing with the viewers voting over the judges-only ratings on the '80s hit Star Search.

April 21 2009 at 3:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hayson

Continuation on number 5:

Veronica Mars, a series about an underdog strong teen girl with smarts and snark, got the ax after three seasons. What did the CW replace her with? Another season of "Pussycat Dolls Present" and "Farmer Wants a Wife".... thank goodness for TV on DVD.

April 05 2009 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MIke

"5. The American people like stupid things.

Three times as many people watch teenagers performing karaoke than watch 30 Rock. According to Jim lasted twice as long as Arrested Development. People still send money to televangelists despite the hard lessons learned in Fletch 2.

This will always be the case. When the next stupid reality movement happens (I'm guessing it'll be C-level celebrities fighting animals in a Thunderdome-type arena), be assured that people will flock to it rather than the quirky, intelligent show that you love."

Possibly the most truthful comment ever written. Bravo!!

April 03 2009 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jothie

Wow, this was bitter.. and snotty.. and I don't mean in the good "Simon" way. Sorry your "big break' in Teen Wolf didnt work out for you but its time to turn that frown upside down and get over it.

April 02 2009 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jothie's comment
Jay Black

Since you're the second person to mention it I think I should probably make this clear: I am not the person who played "Chubby" in "Teen Wolf". The "who is best known as..." part of my bio is always a different joke.

That said I'd trade my career with his in a nanosecond. That might be the reason I'm bitter and snotty :)

April 02 2009 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
donkey23

Sadly, there are no greater television truths than #5 and #7, the latter of which is the greatest offense on tv IMHO.

As for #13 Mr. Black, tell me how you can completely diss American Idol in #5, and then turn around and validate it by making it the subject of #9??? So there--I've proven you wrong on #13!

Still, it was a pretty entertaining list, and gave me a little bit of a BSG flashback in a post-BSG world.

April 02 2009 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Darren

Another truth is in TV and in movies - if it's a night scene - it will be raining - all the time!

April 01 2009 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Darren's comment
Zachary

Except when it's not.

April 01 2009 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jordancda

I like The Simpsons AND SNL right now. Judge me at your whim.

April 01 2009 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RobynM

Oh boy - here comes the "Chuck's too attractive/well groomed to be a geek" screed again.

Hate to break it to you, but not all geeks look/act like Jeffster. In fact, most of the geeks I know trend more toward Chuck or at worst, Morgan.

What's next? Ragging on Anna because "everyone knows there's no such thing as girl geeks"?

Otherwise, a pretty good list - particularly #7.

April 01 2009 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RobynM's comment
BC McKinney

Agreed, but it's still the male corollary of having the hot chick wear eyeglasses and pull her hair up in a bun so we will understand that she's playing a plain, intellectual woman--have the tall guy whose physique is only marginally less nice than Awesome's get a bad haircut and wear a mis-sized white short-sleeve shirt so we understand that he's playing a nerd.

April 01 2009 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gerakis100

It's not just in America that people are stupid. Our version of Survivor, Big Brother and "Israeli Idol" which is "A Star is Born" Here kill everything else in the ratings.

April 01 2009 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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