It wouldn’t be the Olympics on NBC without a giant cock slap of promotion across your face every damn night, now would it? Two years ago I wrote about the poor sap that has to schedule this rotating carousel of vomitous promotional excess with the following passage:

“People who work at television stations are generally insane as it is, they’re moreso during events with live coverage and repetitive commercials. This is especially true when a network is forcing a couple of  semi-wretched looking shows down everyone’s throat and has to air the promos for them to fill in during extra commercial breaks on top of the already excessive scheduled airings.”

Glad to see nothing has changed at NBC in the last two years. But what of the shows they’re force feeding us this year? Let’s take a look…

Minute to Win It

Three questions to ask as you ponder NBC’s newest game show. 1) Remember that episode of “Friends” where Ross and Joey toss a ball back and forth for like, 12 hours, without dropping it? 2) Remember sitting in the cafeteria of your dorm when some asshole tried to eat 6 saltines in under a minute and failed every time? 3) Remember 2010 when Hollywood ran out of ideas and thought the above two accomplishments warranted an entire TV show?

Follow-up question: Remember when we actually turned to entertainment to inspire us and to see people achieve and create things we never could? Those days have long passed, and we now live in an age where television shows centered around the tepidly creative things talentless people do when they’re irreconcilably bored pass as exciting new ideas. And who better to host this show than America’s favorite C+ student and TGI Friday’s pitchman, Guy Fieri? This is a man who’s made a career out of finding economically priced food that’s terrible for you and reveling in it. Why wouldn’t he be our guide for a show that sees people shimmy ping pong balls out of a tissue box attached to their waist or attempt to navigate a cookie from their forehead to their mouth with only their facial muscles?Why should our fair Mr. Fieri limit himself to pedestrian cuisine? Why not indulge the indomitable spirit of human mediocrity as well?

We live in a culture where everyone believes they deserver to be a star. “Minute to Win It” embodies and amplifies this notion because you literally don’t have to be good at anything to win $1 million. You too can be a star if only you had the opportunity to pull tissues out of a box one by one or were able to roll eggs across a floor using only a pizza box as a fan. America is the land of opportunity, and NBC is its voice!

So yeah, even though I pretty much detest everything this show stands for culturally and philosophically, I’ll probably watch anyway. After all, seeing that idiot try to eat those saltines in the dorm cafeteria was entertaining.

Parenthood

 

I recently re-watched Parenthood on one of my 18 movie channels, and now that I’m older, the movie was about 10x better. Characters with real problems, real relationships, and real life consequences do their best to survive in a tough world. And sometimes all you can do is laugh. It’s a nuanced film with a buttload of characters that are all surprisingly developed.

And if ever there was a film perfect to be turned into a television series, it’s Parenthood. You’ve got a lot of avenues to explore, and the characters are all so well-written, you’re not reliant on a gimmick to hang the series on. I applaud NBC for making a correct programming decision for once.

Had I written that in 1990, or the year after the movie came out, everything above would be right on the nose. Now that it’s 20 years later, it’s only mostly true.

Now you can’t use any of the characters people know and love from the movie and have to start from square one with them. That’s fine – the basic plot structure is probably more important at this point anyway – but why is timing things in Hollywood so hard to figure out? Why did the Coneheads movie come out more than 15 years after the SNL sketch was popular? Why did a movie called “Leap Year” come out in January of a non-leap year? And why did it take 20 years for this to be developed into a show?

Regardless, since both Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are involved, I hope the general sensibility of the show remains the same. It’s got a great cast, and I’m personally looking forward to having Craig T. Nelson back in my life. No one plays a belligerent blowhard quite like the former Hayden Fox.

The Marriage Ref

Hey, this sure looks like it sucks!

Host Tom Papa (whose stand-up is generally terrible, btw) welcomes us to the premise with the foreboding phrase “We’ll give every couple what they’ve always wanted – a winner!” If you want to get more specific, here’s what it says on NBC’s page about the show: “In “The Marriage Ref,” Seinfeld’s new primetime venture, married life takes center stage as disputes between real-life couples are revealed, examined — and ultimately judged. For the first time, audiences will be able to look at these fights, analyze them and declare a winner.”

Remember when couples used to seek the advice of licensed therapists, a trusted family member, or perhaps a member of the clergy for marriage counsel? Who wants that when you can embarrass yourself on national television and get chided by a cackling Kelly Ripa or a braying Alec Baldwin (who is divorced and sort of a prick, I might add)? Because that’s what normal people do.

They go on television to have celebrities make fun of them in lieu of sorting out their problems like rational adults. Hmmm… Celebrities poking fun at the personal lives of ordinary people. Is this some sort of celebrity wish fulfillment revenge fantasy about the contemptuous practices of loathsome organizations like TMZ? Is that why real celebrities like Madonna and Tina Fey have agreed to take part in this insipid show?

More importantly, marriage is not, and should not, be about “winning.” You’re a petulant jackass if you need to win all the time, especially if you’re “competing” with the person you claim is your life partner. If every argument you have is part of a mental scorecard you keep, no matter how many tick marks you have in this imaginary win column, you’re a fucking loser.

You’re a loser because you’ve lost sight of everything marriage is supposed to be. It’s trust, it’s compassion, it’s support, it’s teamwork, it’s dialogue, it’s love, it’s passion, and it’s partnership. It’s not winning. Winning in a marriage is for assholes.

And so is this show. Because while I may worry about the devaluation of talent in our culture, a show like “Minute to Win It” is ultimately harmless. It’s a fart in the wind, a mindless diversion to distract you from going to work the next day at a job that sucks. “The Marriage Ref” reduces a supposedly “sacred” institution to fodder for celebrities to lob tired jokes at clueless schmucks willfully humiliating themselves for a national audience. I refuse to participate in this douchebaggery.

But until the Olympics finish their course this weekend, I’ll continue to endure NBC’s fire hose of promotion blasting me in the face. Because god knows we can’t just enjoy the spirit of sporting competition without NBC annoying the piss out of everyone somehow. Hell, it just wouldn’t be the Olympics without ‘em!

edagger@crujonessociety.com