Wrangling a Buffalo: Unwritten Stories, False Starts, and Doctor Who
Peter Tatara - October 30, 2006
I saw Tina Fey a few weeks ago when eating out in Manhattan. She was having dinner with friends, and I felt it would have been in poor taste for me to go over to her and ask her to autograph my napkin or show me her boobs. Years ago, I had a crush on Tina Fey, and with the recent publicity over her new show, 30 Rock, my adolescent obsession with her was rekindled. (I also had a thing for Molly Shannon, but that's a different story.)
I took in the first episode of 30 Rock last night. I had heard good things, including claims it was the best new show of the fall season. Big talk. Still, I recalled Fey being a strong, smart writer. I gave 30 Rock a shot. I didn't laugh. Once. I realized when the show was over that I couldn't recall a single Tina Fey SNL sketch I liked. Instead, I presumed, because she was hot, her writing was spot on. I was wrong.
Soon after, I turned on the second episode of Freak Show, a new Comedy Central cartoon with a freakish amount of talent including David Cross, Jon Benjamin, and Janeane Garofalo. I had watched the first episode and was thrillingly unentertained and turned on the second hoping the show could redeem itself. It didn't.
These two incidents aren't isolated. Again and again, I've been disappointed with TV lately. I swore during my college days never to own a TV again, but when I picked up a new roommate at the start of the year, I also adopted the 200+ channels of Time Warner Digital Cable. Yet, over and over again, after taking in something that I've been told is on par with chocolate-covered latex sex, I'm left looking at my watch and pondering how I could better live my life. Maybe cooking school.
I used to love Drawn Together, an animated show with an ensemble cast of racist stereotypes used to tell a thinly veiled social satire, but in its latest season, the satire's been left behind, leaving the racist stereotypes just that.
Everyone tells me Battlestar Galatica's television's greatest gem. I've watched it. Repeatedly. But, I can't get involved. More often than not, the grim saga of mankind's flight from an unstoppable army of Fundamentalist Christian robots puts me to sleep. I need more story and less today's-politics-blatantly-retold-with-spaceships. I need more substance and less flashy filters and camerawork. George W. Bush bots and look-what-I-learned-in-film-school angles are great, but without a compelling narrative, I don't give a damn.
I haven't written in a while. I've tried to, but nothing really cohesive has come out. How come? Maybe some of the above. Maybe some other funk. Either way, I'm writing this to get the vitriol out of my system. I'm kinda upset I'm writing something as shallow as a critique of TV shows I don't like, still it's clogging me up right now, so I figure it's got to come out. It's like how you feel better after you throw up.
I threw up yesterday. I had gotten food poisoning from eating two-year-old black bean sauce I found in the back of my refrigerator and was just wretched all day -- until I orally evacuated the contents of my stomach into a toilet bowl. After hacking up everything in my stomach, including a presumably unhealthy about of bile, I felt great. This little writing exercise is the same thing. I've got to get it out of my system.
Is it necessary for me to post it for you all to read? Probably not, but I've likely moved on to writing something at least half decent now, and for me to return to this piece to even trash it could likely reinfect my muse's delicate homeostasis. Or I'm lazy. You know, I don't think it was the black bean sauce that caused the food poisoning. It was pretty good. I'll try it again tonight. If I vomit all over my cubicle tomorrow at work, I'll know I should throw the sauce out. Also, I'll probably get to go home early. Score.
Shifting topics to something a bit more positive, but still under the umbrella of TV -- which I suppose is the theme of this little essay -- I don't hate television. Far from it, I'm a big fan of a number of shows. Good Eats and Iron Chef on Food Network. Venture Bros. on Cartoon Network. Doctor Who on the SciFi Channel.
I really like Doctor Who. I really, really do. It's dramatic, it's powerful, and it knows how to have fun. When it should be dark, it's dark, but it's not afraid to laugh, either -- displaying an emotion humanity's apparently evolved out of in Who's angst-laden SciFi Channel companion Galactica. I like Monk, too, but USA isn't airing it at the moment. And Heroes is shaping up into something special.
Golly, I think I should watch less TV. I've been thinking of reading a book as of late. I don't read much. It's a problem, I know, but when it comes to having to exert my brain or worry only about blinking and breathing as Jamie and Adam blow up lighters in this week's MythBusters, there's no contest at all. I should really make a change. I've got my first book all picked out to -- Vampire Hunter D. My girlfriend bought it for me after I only asked and asked for some number of months greater than three, but after all my nagging, it's sat on my shelf unopened. While D probably isn't the greatest piece of literature ever written, I feel it's a good pair of training wheels to fit reading into my ever-so-busy life of downloading Japanese cartoons and passing out on my couch.
I think I'm done. I apologize to the three people who actually read this. Normally, I don't write things that are very bloggy, but I had to get it out. This essay's weak. Now that I've coughed it up, though, I can move on. What's next? How about a story about Douglas MacArthur building a giant robot?