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Hey! You! Stop watching total crap!

original print date, March 18 2005

     
                Paul Ryan

If you haven't noticed, I don't write about television much. Even when I had 300 channels of digital cable, I never brought it up in this column. I just don't watch a lot of TV. It's not a hipster "I'm better than you" thing. I'm not superior because I watch less television. There's just not much on these days.

When the only choices you have are annoying, tacky reality shows or boring, unoriginal sitcoms, you tend to find other things to do. However, I'd be a television fanatic if the unusual style of comedy I love was represented on TV. Occasionally, a show comes along that attempts quirky comedy, but the effort is usually short-lived. History has shown that any comedy show I enjoy gets cancelled within a year. So if you and I both like something, don't get too attached to it.

If you watch The Simpsons, Monk, or The OC, you're screwed. Sorry.

Yesterday, Megan - who works for FOX out in L.A. - made a good point about cancelled TV shows. Why should we be mad at the studios for making business decisions, when it's you jerks who aren't watching the unique shows? My anger at the studios for not creating something different is misplaced. They've tried, but Americans just don't want anything that takes time to appreciate. They want cheap laughs, not dry humor or clever jokes that take an entire show to set up.

Perhaps it's time for some brainwashing education. Hitler Many well-known people used brainwashing education to create change. Perhaps the same tactic will work for me. Here's a list of cancelled shows that should be brought back, and for any TV execs who are reading, a list of current shows that can be cancelled to make room for them.


Shows to bring back:

Andy Richter Controls the Universe

Without a doubt, this was the funniest show on television at the time. When Richter left his sidekick duties at Conan O' Brien, he didn't take the Jason Alexander route and ditch his successful loser persona. Richter knew it was what people loved him for, and sticking with it worked. He was a lovable dork on Conan, and an even better lovable dork on his own show.

Unfortunately, nobody watched it. The writing was great, the characters were unusual, and the jokes ranged from eye-rolling to gut-busting. But it was a show with no laugh track, which is dangerous territory. The only successful sitcom today without a laugh track is "Scrubs", and it's a rarity. I hate laugh tracks. If a laugh track needs to tell you when a show's funny, then it likely isn't. This is why I love quirky comedies so much. They're so funny that a laugh track would only ruin the jokes. But it may have also been what caused people to not give "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" a chance. The saddest part is since this show was so short-lived, there probably won't even be DVDs made of it.


Greg the Bunny

People will probably argue with me on this one, and for good reason. The whole show was poop humor. The whole damn thing was Eugene Levy, Seth Green, and Sarah Silverman talking to puppets about poop and farts and masturbating. And oh God, did I love it. It was like someone took my columns and created a sitcom from them.


Space Ghost

The last 10 minutes of my favorite Space Ghost episode is just the cartoon superhero crouched to the ground looking for something, walking slowly across various landscapes. That's it. Just him walking. There's no talking, no music, nothing. For ten full minutes, it's just a shot of Space Ghost from afar, crouched and holding a magnifying glass near the ground as he walks. Every so often, Space Ghost lets out a little grumble.

When I first saw this, it blew my mind. Why were they doing this? What was the purpose? Ten full minutes of this?!? How could someone allow this on TV? But after the first five minutes, I began to see the pure genius of it. They were purposely trying to confuse and piss people off. If you weren't a regular fan of the show, you wouldn't get it. You'd be freaking out. "He's been walking for the last eight minutes straight! How long will it go on?!?" It cracked me up more than anything I've ever seen on TV. Silence is truly the best weapon in comedy's vast arsenal.

And let me add that nothing is better than watching a cartoon superhero interview Al Roker or Captain & Tennille.


Sports Night

This was more drama than comedy, but it was well-written. The characters were very likable, and you'll probably recognize most of them. They've all had bit parts in other shows and movies. I'm not into sports much, so the fact that this show could hold my interest was really an achievement.

It's a shame people loved series creator Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing", but not "Sports Night".


Richard Simmons' Dream Maker

Just kidding!


Sifl & Olly

If you weren't too stoned or drunk to remember MTV shows from the late-90s, you might remember "Sifl & Olly". It was a sock puppet show done by Liam Lynch. They sang humorous songs and did little comedy skits with other weird sock puppets. Here's a sound clip that shows their odd style of humor. MTV pulled the plug because of low ratings. Apparently, I was the only non-stoner watching it.


Upright Citizens Brigade

My friend quoted this show recently while talking to me, which is what made me remember it. "Upright Citizens Brigade" was somewhat hit-or-miss with a lot of its skits, but the ones that were good were really good.

"I've been sticking $30 in pennies up my ass for the past 11 years. That's 3,000 pennies a day, 21,000 pennies a week, 1,092,000 pennies a year. To date that's 12,012,000 pennies, eight times the population of Nebraska. Those pennies were in my ass! You think you're better than me? Oh, you're not better than me. You handle my ass pennies every day."


Newsradio

One of the best shows of all time. Dave Foley, Phil Hartman, Andy Dick, Stephen Root. What more could you want? It was one of the greatest lineups of comedic actors in sitcom history. Sadly, the show didn't do as well after Phil Hartman died. Jon Lovitz was good, but it just wasn't the same. Some people the show ended at the right time, but I still think it had a lot of good years left.


Mr. Show

David Cross is funny. Much funnier than "Arrested Development" allows him to be. Add Bob Odenkirk, and you've got a sketch comedy show like no other. I don't know what happened to this show. It was funny the first three seasons, but started moving towards mediocrity in the last one. Did they run out of ideas? Were they not getting along? It's hard to say. All I know is some of those skits almost made me pee my pants.


Shows to cancel:

Real World

I used to watch this show when it started in the '90s. But it's now become so infused with pop culture and style that it's not even a show about people anymore. "Oh my God, you called me a bitch! I'm so angry at you that I'm going to go sit in the jacuzzi and watch the 42" plasma screen TV and not talk to anyone!" Riiiight. It's a little hard to be "real" when your living arrangements are nicer than the hotel rooms Donald Trump stays in.


Every reality show ever made
Pick the top five reality shows and leave them on the air. Remove the rest of them and don't look back. There is no gold left in this river. Let's move on, people.


According to Jim

If only it were Jim Belushi who had died from a drug overdose. Seriously, what's up with these shows about fat, uninteresting guys with hot wives? This and "King of Queens" make me gag. Watching Belushi is actually less exciting than watching your own dad for a half-hour. If Belushi were a horse, the farmer would have shot him years ago. He's just a sluggish, fat, unfunny turd of a man.


Committed

Seriously, have you seen this show? You have to watch it once. It is the worst sitcom on television, and that's saying something. Once "Committed" is gone, you might not be able to see something this bad for another decade. It just has horrible writing. It's like it was written by a fourteen-year-old "Dharma and Greg" fanatic, who threw in a few more characters just to make it seem different.

It's a shame, because the actors themselves are successful. Jennifer Finnigan has won three Emmys for daytime TV. Darius McCrary was the brother on "Family Matters". Tom Poston was the hilarious handyman on "Newhart". Tammy Lynn Michaels is Melissa Ethridge's wife (does that count as an achievement?). So why isn't this show any good? I know it's a mid-season replacement, but come on. A drama about old ladies with the clap would be better than this.


America's Funniest Home Videos

How long has this show been on? It lost its appeal after about the fourth season. Can it please die now? I only get five channels worth of entertainment on my TV, and I'll be damned if Tom Bergeron is going to ruin one of them for an hour each week.


Listen Up

Neurotic Jason Alexander = hilarious. Normal Jason Alexander = CANCEL THIS SHOW, I HATE HIS SQUINTY LITTLE EYES. Small doses, Alexander. You're best enjoyed in moderation.


George Lopez

I don't care if there is a lack of Latino representation in television. He's not funny. A double-matinee with "Schindler's List" and "Brian's Song" is funnier than George Lopez.


King of the Hill

I know a lot of people like this show, but I can't stand it. The characters are boring, the storylines are typical, the artwork is amateurish, and the way the characters talk makes my skin crawl. It's "Beavis and Butthead" without the humor.


The Simple Life

Believe it or not, I liked this show during its first season. During the second season, I found myself watching it less. Then I watched the first episode of the third season and vowed to never watch it again. Every "small town" person on the show knows who Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie are now, and they're all just hamming it up and pretending to get mad at them when they do something stupid. It's lame.

Sorry girls, but Andy Worhol called and said you've ruined his "15 minutes of fame" theory for everyone else. Now move on and find real jobs that don't involve 1) being a whore, or 2) having some premeditated privacy-related tragedy.



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