Friday, July 18, 2008

TV Confessions

When I was a small child, my father would let me stay up late to watch American Gladiators. There was something awesome about all those regular people doing those crazy events. I enjoyed Atlas, Assault, and Joust best, although the final obstacle course, the Eliminator, was also pretty darn awesome. We would watch these together, my dad toking on his cigarette, while I drank my sugar-filled KoolAid, and pretend that someday one of us would be on this show.

Before I moved in with Biker Boy, I lived in a house with half a dozen other people. When ESPN Classic started showing reruns of American Gladiators, those of us who were, let us say, underemployed, would group around the television and stare. It seemed dated, in a way, but the events still looked impossible. We laughed at the mullets and the costumes, but it wasn’t really in a mean way. The contestants were bad asses and we’d sit around on our lazy grad school asses and pretend one of us would be on the show one day.

When NBC took note of the huge response to ESPN Classic’s reruns and started producing new American Gladiators episodes with Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali hosting, few people were as excited as I was. New, bigger, badder gladiators. Same normal, everyday folk as contestants. Every Monday, BB and I pop popcorn, cuddle up on the couch, and wince repeatedly as contestants are hurled down this giant Pyramid, crashed into during PowerBall, and forced into a giant pond after being hit repeatedly in the head during Joust. We laugh at ourselves because we know it’s cheesy, but it’s awesome. We can’t stop.

About a month ago, the television didn’t get turned off immediately after American Gladiators. And this show called Nashville Star came on. It’s like American Idol for the country music set. I was hypnotized. Some of the contestants were awesome (Melissa Lawson, I’m talking about you), some were so boring I could hear them on country radio with the likes of Clint Black, Keith Urban, and all those men named Trace (Gabe Garcia, I’m talking about you), and some were so awful I just sat there, dumbfounded, as they made the finals (Lauren and Sophie and Coffey, you are who I have in mind). I was unable to turn it off. BB wandered in and out of the living room at this point, rolling his eyes at me, but the striking difference between the good and the bad was so apparent, I thought it was a joke.

In addition, as if it weren’t cheesy enough, the host is Billy Ray Cyrus. I think I’ve defended Cyrus before. He’s actually a decent country artist, if you ignore that annoying song that everyone seems to know him for. It’s more difficult for me to think he’s made appropriate decisions in his personal life, what with his daughter splashed all over the news in inappropriate photographs, but still. It’s Billy Ray Cyrus. The judges include Jewel (country? you decide), John Rich (of the duo Big and Rich – country? you decide) and Jeffrey Steele (a songwriter who has written lots and lots of pop tunes – country? you decide). The judges most frequent criticism is that the contestants aren’t country enough. John Rich, who are you to talk about being country enough? You include RAP in your songs. I can’t wrap my head around it, but I also can’t stop watching. Okay, fine. And voting, repeatedly, for my girl Melissa Lawson.

I must say that watching Nashville Star has made me realize that these phone-in shows are doing it the wrong way. It should be like Survivor, where you vote to eliminate contestants. For instance, this Coffey character should not have been allowed on the show, let alone made it to the final four. If I had the chance to vote him off, I would have kept my cell phone busy for the entire two hours, just so I never have to hear his whispery falsetto with the INSANE vibrato one more time.

The other awful television show I watch is Wipeout, that ABC show with the impossible obstacle course, where two very funny men do commentary, and people fall and get muddy, and BB and I laugh and laugh and laugh. Television really does bring you down to your lowest mental denominator.


  1. I think what would be really cool would be to create a hybrid of American Gladiator and Nashville Star. Get Billy Ray Cyrus and Jewel and their ilk with their Gretsch and Martin "gittars" fighting it out with one another over a swimming pool.

    I'd watch it.

  2. I love American Gladiators. Both the classic and new versions. But is it just me, or does the new version seem so much slower than the old? It feels like there's a lot of standing around waiting for the next event. Wipeout, however, is non-stop hilarious action. I LOVE that show. My Tuesdays are brighter because of other people's misfortune. And I'm ok with that.


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