“Terrifyingly engaging” Uncle Miltie plays with Lucy & Desi
by Larry Brody
I love TV.
I’ve loved it since the first moment I watched it, way back in 1948.
The show that captured me then was The Texaco Star Theater, starring – and all about, in every possible way – Milton Berle. To my pre-school self, Uncle Miltie was terrifyingly engaging. I couldn’t stop watching…until I discovered The Howdy Doody Show, starring Bob Smith and the puppet called “Howdy,” both of whom were engaging as hell, without the terrifying bits.
Over the years, I’ve had any number of faves, usually drama shows instead of comedies or kid-specific offerings. These days, I don’t have a lot of time for TV watching for pleasure (as opposed to TVWriter™ business), but my wife and I are in the habit of settling into bed fairly early and watching for an hour or two on a flat screen that’s way too big for our bedroom. In a way, its mere existence within the room makes every show we see on it bring back childhood memories. As in they all end up feeling terrifying to one degree or the other.
Last week, however, we realized that right now, in the so-called Golden Age of Television, we were having a problem filling our hour or two a night without resorting to watching missed episodes of old favorites. Seems that over the past few months we’ve jettisoned a ton of current shows, many of which we’d watched for years…and some of which we were trying out and finding…well lame.
For almost all those shows, it’s the writing “what done them in.” Shark-jumping writing for some. Idiotic writing for most. Immature, unrealistic, and just plain incompetent writing for all.
So, in my never-ending effort to raise the bar for both TV writing and TV programming in general, here it is – Larry Brody’s List of TV Shows for Writers to Not Write Like No Matter How Strong the Temptation Seems (and I think you probably should save your sanity by not even watching them either):
11 22 63
I made it through 10 minutes of the first episode. Quit then because although I think Steven King is a wonderful novelist and am a huge fan of The Stand, this script seemed to demonstrate nothing but contempt for the intelligence of anyone who would watch it.
After a long hiatus, Bones is back, but without Mr. and Mrs. B. It wasn’t anything we saw in the returning episodes that drove us away. It was, rather, the fact that even though we’ve DVR’d two episodes we just can’t make ourselves get interested enough to turn either of ’em on. Last night I finally deleted the show from the queue. As a wise man once almost said, “It’s dead to me.” Elapsed watching time this year: 0 mins.
Gwen and I actually watched several episodes this season all the way through. Then came the Castle-Beckett pseudo-separation and its fictional reason, which boiled down to “In order to save you I must inflict the worst pain on you that a loved one can…when all I really should do in this situation is sit down and tell you what’s what.” Like Bones, Castle too went on a hiatus, and when it came back we were so excited that we just did the delete thing without even blinking.
I know there haven’t been any new Doctor Who episodes this year, but while deleting Bones and Castle we saw that we had all of last season saved on our DVR and ready to go. My wife took one look at the list of episodes, grabbed the remote from my hand, and with a hearty, “Exterminate! Exterminate!” she deleted the entirety of what once was my favorite current show. I didn’t even think of objecting. Some people should never, ever be allowed to be showrunners, no matter how good they are at the writing thing. Steven Moffat OBE (hey, that’s what Wikipedia calls him), is an outstanding example of this simple bit of wisdom.
Houdini & Doyle
The Brodys watch a lot of UK TV, and the premise of this series appealed to us so we gave it a try. Lasted through four episodes, believe it or not, before calling it a day. Strangely, it wasn’t the writing that made me nuts whenever I watched Houdini & Doyle, even though it was nothing more than average. No, what caused me to pull the plug on this baby was the casting. Two likable but totally boring actors who in the past have brought exactly nothing to any part they’ve played (even those that were cleverly written) starred in roles suited to neither one. The producers of this series owe a huge apology to the spirits of both Houdini and Doyle.
For awhile I was mesmerized by this show’s weird ability to make computer crime – or cures for crime – into action-packed all-running, all-jumping, all-flying, no-standing-still except to deliver a quip or a punchline episodes that would leave the most well-conditioned athletes in the world breathless. This year, as the stories got more and more over the top and the characterization thinner and thinner, the spell broke, and “Exterminate!” fever got the better of me.
You’re the Worst
Okay, actually, I’m still watching this one because I want to see how they deal with the clinical depression of one of the leads of this so-called comedy. But, holy Siggy Freud, these characters are absolutely the meanest human beings I’ve ever fallen in love with. Except for – yeah, you know what’s coming – that one particular ex-wife I had who….
12 Monkeys/The Expanse/Time Traveling Bong/You, Me and the Apocalypse/Wynonna Earp
I’m lumping these five shows together because I literally didn’t get past a combined time of five minutes of watching them. The inanity of their opening titles and the first 30 seconds of each of their opening scenes caused me to break out in boils, hives, and frogs – plague signs that even I know to observe. These babies are gone, gone, gone, and I’m doing my best to forget them as well.
Till next time, when I’ll tell you what I’ve been liking,
Larry Brody is the boss at TVWriter™ and has written and produced way more episodes of television than he probably should have. You can find out more about him HERE