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 TV Bites with Neena Louise

It's Really Summer
by Neena Louise

It's the depth of summer and, thus, the depth of what the networks tout as the "Summer Season" of television. Read: a rash of reality series they threw together so people would have something besides reruns to watch. Last year, I was delighted to hear the networks were finally getting a clue and developing a true summer season. Hopes were quickly dashed when I realized it was all reality programming. This year, with the plethora of talent shows, I'm generally bored and - the horror - often prefer to watch reruns.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the network Reality Season offerings (in alphabetical order):

America's Got Talent
I was all prepared to hate this as just one more stupid talent show. To my surprise, I found it most entertaining, despite my dislike of host Regis Philbin. Probably because this is a "no holds barred" competition with no restrictions on age, performance, or, well, anything really. Though I'm getting pretty bored with the requisite "rude British judge" on every frigging reality show, the sometimes-weird, sometimes-stupid and often-brilliant acts make it worth watching. Bottom line: Very entertaining.

Big Brother All Stars
Former Big Brother contestants return to the house to scheme, backstab and preen. In other words: more of the same witless jigglefest crap. And, hey America, you picked 'em (what's wrong with you?). Bottom line: Find a nice test pattern to watch instead.

Fear Factor
Having gone MIA for much of the season, gross-out fans are finally rewarded. After the generally dull "all stars" edition, a "family edition" made its appearance. It was entertaining until they skipped an entire task (giving only highlights of the unseen task) and went to the final. I stopped watching. Note to all networks: "All-Star" editions and "Family Editions" SUCK. Bottom line: Only if there's nothing else on.

Hell's Kitchen
Hopeful chefs stand and say "yes, chef" like automatons, as host Gordon Ramsay shrieks obscenities, throws things around and generally acts like a petulant toddler. The first season was mildly amusing, but Ramsay's over-the-top performances are looking more and more scripted and, consequently, more and more stupid. Furthermore, I don't care what the payoff is, I wouldn't let anyone call me a "fat ass donkey" or "stupid fucking idiot" - never mind on national television. Bottom line: If you can stand all the temper tantrums, it has some worthy moments.

Last Comic Standing
Stand-up comics compete to become, well, the last coming standing. Though, procedurally, pretty much a carbon copy of the last two seasons, the talent is better, the people are more diversified, and (best of all) host Jay Mohr has mercifully been replaced by Anthony Clark. Bottom line: Great if you like stand-up comedy; mildly diverting if you don't.

Master of Champions
Supposed "champions" of things like bike-riding and karate, compete to become the "Master of Champions" and add a tacky trophy to the "wall of champions". The competitions themselves are pretty self-explanatory, yet hosts Lisa Dergan-Podsednik and Chris Leary (who?) seem compelled to do a running commentary (sample: "Oh, no, he stumbled. Ohhhh, he stumbled again"...because, of course, we couldn't see that for ourselves). The judges (a figure skater, a baseball player and a skier...sounds like the start of a joke, doesn't it?) make learned comments (sample: "Well, you stumbled") as the audience picks the "champion". Bottom line: Chinese Water Torture is preferable.

Rockstar Supernova
Another band looking for another singer. More singers compete. More gushing and/or nasty judgments. More singers are eliminated. Yawn. Bottom line: Only if you're really, really bored.

So You Think You Can Dance
Young dancers perform to become "America's favorite dancer" (as is repeated a half-dozen times each episode). Last season, I lost interest about halfway through the finals. This season, I haven't lost interest, but am becoming so irritated, I'm not sure if I'll make it to the final episode. First there's the annoying host, ditzy Cat Deely, with her low-class-sounding accent. Then there's judge Mary Murphy with her loud, witchy laugh at inappropriate times and even louder and witchier shrieks at even more inappropriate times. Furthermore, on one of the "two hour specials", the first 40 minutes were taken up by audition rehashes and weird dances done by people I've never heard of, as host Deely kept saying "the competition will start after the break". Four breaks later, it finally started. Bottom line: If you like dance, can stand all the "filler", can mute Murphy and tolerate Deely, go for it.

The One
A little American Idol, a little Big Brother, a little Dr. Phil, and a whole lot of name-dropping. This abomination lasted an entire 20 minutes before I couldn't stand the off-key singing (rewarded by gushing reviews by the judges) and the off-stage whining, and I turned to Dog the Bounty Hunter instead (you know it's bad when...). Yeah, "The One": "The One Not to Bother Watching This Summer". Bottom line: Almost offensive in its lack of entertainment value.

Treasure Hunters
A substandard rip-off of The Amazing Race, Treasure Hunters pits teams of four against each other as they scour the U.S. for clues that will eventually lead to the "treasure" (though there's no mention of what, exactly, that is). The contestants are generally quite generic, host Laird Macintosh (who?) repeats the same instructions over and over and over again, and we get to see a whole lot of U.S. tourist attractions, giving rise to shivers of horror as suppressed memories of childhood trauma surface. NBC should've learned their lesson: The Amazing Race tried something similar with their horrific "Family Edition" and it totally tanked. This piece of crap is even worse (though I did not think that possible). Bottom line: The Weather Channel is more entertaining.

If the networks are going to brag incessantly about a summer season, I wish they'd make a true summer season, not just throw together a bunch of stupid reality and talent shows and call it a television season. Why not air failed pilots like they once did? Or have a "classic TV" night with shows from decades gone by? Or have speciality nights like "One Show Wonders" or "Most Controversial Sitcom Episodes"? Or run fall pilot episodes, making us eager for them? Or, well, something that takes some imagination! I guess that's asking too far much from networks that think we're all mentally-challenged and will be perfectly satisfied with the increasingly-stupid reality fare.

We would love to know what you think, sound off on the TV message boards and let us know what you think!


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