Friday, December 4, 2009

Give me that remote control

I've been watching more TV lately. I suppose it could be another sign of creeping, slack-jawed sloth, but I prefer to think it's because there are better shows now -- even though I concede that crap like "Real Housewives" and "The Bachelor" and "Who Wants to be a Publicity Whore?" remain depressingly popular.

But doesn't it seem that TV sitcoms are finally reclaiming some of the territory so long despoiled by reality TV? That's my thesis. In a tough economy, a few good jokes can defeat a whole division of vacuous and venal blowhards. Paula Abdul's ouster from "American Idol" is a good metaphor for this. Market pressure hasn't yet killed the show, but it did force the replacement of one dim bulb. Let's hope it's a trend. America will be better for it. Sorry Paula. Sometimes, just being yourself is not quite enough.

My favorites at the moment are "Community" and "30 Rock." I still watch "The Office," although recent scripts have veered well afield of the milieu that made the show great. Now that the gentle tension between Jim and Pam is gone, the writers are forced to rely on increasingly bizarre and implausible behavior by Dwight and Michael. The best humor is rooted in recognizable reality. Take that away, and all you've got is slapstick.  "The Office" deserves credit for leading the sitcom revival, but it's gone on at least one season too long. Even so, I'd still watch the worst "Office" episode over the best "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I regularly watch one other show, although I'd prefer you didn't tell anyone. It's "Glee."  I like it not for the writing -- since the scripts rely mainly on each cast member developing a crush on every other cast member on a rotating basis -- but for the dance numbers. I love those dance numbers, love the choreography, love those lithe young bodies leaping through space. It's like "American Idol," only with high standards and a lot of rehearsal. You can't call "Glee" a sitcom, since Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester is the only funny thing about it, but it's great eye candy. And yeah, the music isn't that bad either.

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