Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Brothers and Sisters, let us continue to read from the book of the Lamentations of Telviticus. Previously in the The Tuna News, we learned that there is an order and harmony to the many cable channels. When this balance is upset, nature becomes enraged; milk spoils and dinosaurs roam the earth once more. Much of the blame needs to be heaped on the Corporate Cable Conglomerate who move channels around with a reckless abandon. However, a wee bit of finger pointing must be aimed at the Cable Channels themselves. Case in point: A&E.

First of all, I must say up front, I like A&E. "Arts and Entertainment" is a good thing. Especially for someone in the arts. It used to be that 8pm was Biography hour, nearly without fail. And I would return to A&E every night at 11pm for Law and Order. Play a quick round of "bet the body" (will it be in the apartment, park, office or alley?), snooze for a bit and wake up for the last 15 minutes. Heaven.

A&E's first strike was ditching Law and Order and replacing it with Third Watch. Bad call, people. Now, I appreciate the fact that TNT has picked up the slack on Law and Order but I miss that 11pm showing. It worked. It fit. It was like watching the news ("Ripped from the headlines!!") without watching the news. It was news, but not really.

A&E's second strike is their slide down the slippery slope of programming. On the one hand, they still have shows like Biography and Breakfast with the Arts. But this is now coupled with such classics as The Michael Jackson Case, Meet the Royals (with super groovy host Davy Jones!) and Makeover Mamas. "Feng you!" They shout, as the Shui weeps sadly in the corner.

And now to join the ranks, A&E has added its own reality TV show House of Dreams. The premise? A bunch of people build a house from scratch, one person is eliminated each week, so in the end, only one person wins the house. It's Big Brother with more nails and less peanut butter. The problem (not that you've asked, but I'm going to tell you anyway) is that A&E just didn't commit to the full banality that reality TV requires, so the show seemed to flounder -- unsure of which direction it should take.

Problem: Not enough house building.
If you're going to do a show about building the house -- then let me see more building of the house. Let me learn something about how you lay cement blocks, and why these idiots had to rip out half of a wall because they didn't do it right the first time. I have more interest in the process and less interest in seeing the perky, petite LA Real-Estate Agent lifted on the shoulders of the hunky boys as the voice-over tells me "she's a real leader."

Problem: Not enough scheming.
The way they set up this show, the two nominees for elimination are picked by sheer dumb luck. Everybody draws a key to open a door. All work but two, and these two saps are up for nomination. So there is no pre-nomination scheming or plotting. All deal making had to wait until after the key ceremony, and then there wasn't much time. Filming consisted of people standing around talking to each other while a guitar strummed peacefully in the background. People, you just cannot scheme properly with a guitar.

Problem: No cool place to share your secret thoughts.
Big Brother has a diary room. Survivor has little secluded island places. House of Dreams has a canoe. You heard me. A canoe. A diary canoe. A secret cone of silence canoe. If you're going to go with the canoe, then do some hyping: In a canoe, nobody can hear you scheme...

Problem: No mime.
I'm sorry, but after last summer, I think a mime adds a certain kitschy touch to any show. Mime could mime hammering, sawing or holding up a wall against a strong wind. It would be awesome. It would be mime-a-licious. (Hey! Maybe the Shrub could use a mime in the State of the Union speech. He could search for weapons of mass destruction...)

Really, though, what A&E needs to do is stick to what they do best. Be the smart channel. Be the artsy-fartsy channel. There are some of us (lots of us, even) who like that. Leave moronic TV to the networks, because heaven knows, they've got enough morons to go around.
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