Last week, the armchair critic was in the mood for a hearty laugh, and decided to check out the Monday night comedy lineup on CBS.
I should have known better.
Though the evening began favorably with "The Big Bang," a funny, somewhat cerebral program skillfully written for viewers who can simultaneously think and laugh, it was all down hill from there. I didn't even bother to look up from my needlepoint...until love birds on a commercial for the premiere of the sitcom, "The Worst Week" caught my attention. I'm an animal lover, and a bird enthusiast. I've been known to wander the aisles of PetSmart in search of cute canine shoppers, and some of my best friends have feathers. Thus, "The Worst Week" looked quite promising! I put my needlepoint aside, and prepared to enjoy myself.
"The Worst Week," a remake of a British comedy, stars Kyle Bornheimer as Sam Briggs, a well-intentioned goof ball hoping to charm his way into his fiancé's family. The premiere episode involved Sam accidentally killing his future father-in-law's pet love bird, and tossing the departed feathered one over the backyard hedges. In a hackneyed plot twist, Sam then buys a replacement bird, stuffs it in his pants pocket, and accidentally slaps it to death. As an animal lover, I found this sophomoric attempt at humor offensive. As an adult, I found it unwatchable. The remaining plot (Sam gets caught using a maternal breast pump; Sam mistakes his fiancé's African brother for the neighborhood thief) was no better.
What happened to television?
When I was a kid, there were only seven television channels (channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13), and only three of them (CBS, NBC, and ABC) were considered "real." Even with so few channels, there was always something for my family and me to watch. On Tuesdays, we viewed "Happy Days." (My father, amused by "The Fonz," went around saying "Ay" a lot), and "Mash" (my sister adored Alan Alda). On Wednesdays, I watched "Medical Center" (I adored Chad Everett). My favorite program, "The Brady Bunch," aired on ABC on Friday nights. On Saturdays, we watched "Hogan's Heroes." (My dad, my sister, and I marched around the dining room table to Hogan's Heroes' "military" theme.) I remember loads of other programs from my early youth: "Sea Hunt," "The Magical World of Disney," "Flipper," "The Avengers," "The FBI," "The Odd Couple," "Hawaii Five-O." I could go on, but nostalgia has me wondering once again: what happened to television?
Good television reflects the culture of its age, and withstands the test of time. "The Brady Bunch," for example, illustrated the values and culture of the 70s, and has reappeared in reruns so many times that even kindergarteners chant "Marsha, Marsha Marsha!" If "The Worst Week" represents the values and culture of our current society, and kindergarteners repeat its dialogue in ensuing years, and if parents select such insipid programming for family viewing, I think we might be in trouble.
Or maybe I'm just getting older. Older folks sometimes recall the days gone by as better days. They view time as far too precious to waste on uninspiring television, and prefer nostalgic reruns, HGTV's lifestyle programming, or the educational, cultural offerings of PBS. Uh oh...so do I! If not having the stomach for stupid, crude sitcoms means I'm getting older...I guess I am. And proudly so.
Therefore, I make no apologies for hating "The Worst Week," and similar sophomoric fare, and vow to never again put aside my needlepoint for television.
At least not until I can march around the dining room table once again to "Hogan's Heroes" theme song.