My gift to the fall television lineup


Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 2:36 p.m.

Though I don’t often use this space to dredge up painful issues from my past – that’s what blind dates and grain alcohol are for – I couldn’t help but share with you a time I often try to forget, but which segues perfectly into a topic I will later introduce. I must admit, non-judgmental readers, that I used to be addicted to television.

Alec Baldwin
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Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin won an Emmy for his work on "30 Rock," which isn't impressive given his level of talent. If I were writing a television show, I could get an Emmy for Steven or, God forbid, Daniel Baldwin.

Matt Sayles/The Associated Press

Many were the nights when I fell into blissful slumber after watching a "Gilmore Girls" marathon, hanging on every machine-gun-fired syllable and plunking chicken wings and Oreos into the ottoman-sized FryDaddy on my coffee table. I would mouth along to the words from "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" DVDs while spooning a life-sized cardboard cutout of Caroline Rhea and staring adoringly at my collection of "One Tree Hill" and "Felicity" memorabilia.

Despite owning several "Step by Step" bath towels and an army of soaps carved to look like Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers, I never showered. Any time spent on personal hygiene was time I could have spent watching "Sister Sister." My interpersonal relationships became as strained as the fake marriage between Thomas Haden Church and Debra Messing on "Ned & Stacey." I finally hit rock bottom when "Ally McBeal" was cancelled in 2002 and firefighters had to cut me out of my apartment after they heard me sobbing from blocks away. I loved that animated dancing baby.

I don’t watch television these days, but, like a heroin addict dutifully taking his methadone, I peruse cable television’s fall lineup every year to get one sweet taste of my bitter former life. The problem I have noticed so far is that the offerings from networks like NBC, CBS and Fox all lack the originality, drama and zaniness that made mid-'90s television so enthralling. You can keep your "Mad Men" and your "30 Rock," thank you very much. I’d rather slip into my Snuggie and curl up with an episode of "Caroline in the City" any day.

But rather than merely criticize lazy television studio executives and the soul-less Hollywood infrastructure that allowed an abomination like "The Wire" on air, I have decided to offer my suggestions for spicing up an otherwise lackluster season.

I know that shows with question marks in the titles like "So You Think You Can Dance?" and "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" are popular right now, so my first suggestion is in that same vein. It’s a show called "So You Think You’re Better Than Me?" and it pits contestants against Anthony Ricci, a 34-year-old New Jersey bartender with thin skin, low self-esteem and a short fuse. Contestants are asked to have a conversation with Ricci in which they describe their hopes, dreams and aspirations without upsetting him. If he feels threatened or outclassed at any time, he will shout, “So you think you’re better than me?!” and the game will come to an abrupt end. The prize for getting along with Ricci for the entire show will be $47 in Jägermeister promotional products and a weekend on the Jersey Shore.

In the reality show department, I envision a program called "Cougar Manor," or "Coug-Manor" to the kids. Six older women seeking age-inappropriate relationships with younger men will share a massive home in the Hollywood Hills with a pack of actual cougars. This may not last longer than a season due to insurance restrictions or loss of blood, but I think the entertainment value is plainly evident. By day, the human cougars will lounge around the pool drinking Ensure flirtinis and fighting for the affection of hard-bodied college sophomores. By night, they will fashion makeshift weapons out of low-cut halter tops and stiletto heels to defend themselves against the ruthless onslaught of real razor-fanged cougars. Talk about a catfight! Mark Burnett will co-produce.

For the "Gossip Girl" crowd, I have come up with a show called "Wasilla High." It stars a hunky high-school hockey star named Wrangler Johnson who’s caught up in a relationship with the governor of Alaska’s daughter. To add another layer of complexity, the governor wants her daughter to dump Wrangler because she’s on the verge of becoming the vice president of the United States. The show will deal with high-school drama, death panels, teen pregnancy and the rigors of a national press junket. Zac Efron will play Wrangler, Miley Cyrus will play the governor’s daughter and Oprah will play the governor. I just love "Oprah."

I can only hope that television network executives will take a little more interest in entertaining the public from now on. The joy I felt while contemplating the future of American media made me feel more alive than I have in years. Fulfilling my dreams and bettering the television landscape might just be my true calling and could save me from a life of loneliness and despair. Then again, if the experience isn’t being filmed for millions of people to see and spliced with laxative advertisements, what’s the point?

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