It seems as if the networks, particularly NBC, have just stopped trying

[20 June 2008]

By David Hiltbrand

The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Granted, summer has always been a dodgy time for television. But this is getting ridiculous. When I flip around at night lately, I feel like I did as a kid going through the lunchline at school. “These are my options? Really?”

At least we used to get silly variety shows in the hot months, like “Pink Lady and Jeff” or “The Jim Stafford Show.” The current chintzy and inane mix of reality and game shows seems like punishment. It’s as if the networks bear open contempt for their viewers. “Why spend money producing decent programs? Those idiots will watch anything.”

The epitome of today’s summer programming is “America’s Got Talent.” The jeering crowd, the nasty judges, the grotesque auditioners - this isn’t TV, it’s a cheap Roman circus.

How about those auditioners? The male Britney imitator, the tap-dancing octogenarian in the skimpy Betty Boop outfit, the nine middle-aged women doing risque burlesque. Yuck!

Even the rare flashes of actual talent are strange, like the opera singing guy dressed like Rerun on “What’s Happening!!” This isn’t amateur hour; it’s a disturbing freak show.

You combine this summer sludge with the weak lineups of new series announced for the fall, and it seems as if the networks, particularly NBC, have just stopped trying. For those of us who enjoy television, it’s a very sad state of affairs.

_That’s country? As I watched the contestants this week on NBC’s “Nashville Star,” I was struck by their material. I counted songs by John Mayer, the Police, Aretha Franklin and Creedence Clearwater Revival, none of which I would classify as country.

It just seems odd to me that “Nashville Star” is so rooted in mainstream pop while “American Idol” is more likely to be exploring the songbook of Stephen Sondheim and other stale musical horrors.

Stealing the show. Happened to catch “Blazing Saddles” on TV Land this week. I always thought of the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy as a showcase for Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.

But to my surprise, Harvey Korman, who passed away earlier this month, totally owned this film as fussy villain Hedley Lamarr. Go get ‘em, cowboy.

Yo, fore. There aren’t a lot of golf courses where I grew up in Brooklyn, so I never got into the game. (I have trouble regarding it as a sport.) But when the U.S. Open fell on Father’s Day. I felt it incumbent upon me to watch.

Seriously, did anyone expect the madras mafia in the USGA to allow a guy named Rocco to win this thing - even over a one-legged Tiger Woods?

If that happened, they’d have to start building golf courses in Brooklyn.

Silly pet tricks. Among the highlights of Dana Carvey’s comedy special on HBO, “Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies,” was an extended imitation of a stoner Andy Rooney.

But Carvey also offered a pretty accurate description of the current human condition: “You’re supposed to get to work, do your e-mail and you’re on YouTube for nine hours just watching a cat flush a toilet.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/it-seems-as-if-the-networks-particularly-nbc-have-just-stopped-trying/