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TV Eye

TV Eyeku

By Belinda Acosta, July 12, 2002, Screens

It's my job to watch TV so you don't have to. But I've never felt the burden of this job before now. Has summer television ever been any worse? I'm simply frazzle-eyed with boredom.

I'm not sure when this mood kicked in, but I suspect it was somewhere around the time I saw a promo for a new show, 60 Seconds to Fame (which looks suspiciously like the old Gong Show). It could have been when I happened upon yet another of those abominable food-eating challenges on Fear Factor. Reruns and cheesy TV movies would be bad enough, but all the low-rent reality programming flooding the airwaves has worn thin.

It's frightening that in a time when the world is in such a precarious state, when broadcast and cable news sources are narrowly focused and the public stubbornly seeks shelter in a red, white, and blue security blanket, that what's on the air is so detached from reality. Are reality programs TV's version of all those Busby Berkeley musical extravaganzas during wartime, or the dance marathons and pole sitting demonstrations during the Depression? (A few months ago, magician David Blaine performed a similar stunt, standing atop of a pillar for 48 hours, falling into a mattress of cardboard boxes. The leap was broadcast live before an adoring public.)

Reality programming like Fox's American Idol are pulling in viewers, meaning more of the same is on the way -- along with more patriotic fare this fall. Just wait and see.

I'm tapped out on new things to say on the subject, so I've decided to present, with a fair amount of disdain, my tribute to reality TV in six haikus for you. Just remember: Really bad TV deserves really bad haiku.

Haiku to Looking for Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska
Women hunt for mates
In snowy Alaskan lodge
Please! Pass the remote.

Haiku to American Idol
Simon's tongue whips them
But pop wannabes still croon:
Is fame that precious?

Haiku to American Idol II
Ta-me-ka proved it
Who said talent was needed
To get on TV?

Haiku to American Idol III
Simon makes girls cry
Didn't he see what happened
To Anne Robinson?

Haiku to Dog Eat Dog
Contestants spin, float,
Fall, whip, and plot for rewards.
Who let this dog out?

Haiku to Summer TV
Reality sucks
But hark! Only eight days till
Sex and the City!

Worth Watching?

Based on the story of Bill Porter, Door to Door is the new biopic starring William H. Macy about a door-to-door salesman born with cerebral palsy. Although obligatory time is spent showing how Porter overcame his condition to become a successful salesman, friend, and hero to those he comes in contact with, a more important part of the movie shows how Porter survived changing times, particularly when the Internet threatened to make him obsolete. The downside: If you can swallow Macy made up to look like a young man or the fact that Helen Mirren is old enough to be his mother, you can get through the rest of the film just fine. The upside: strong performances from Macy, Mirren, and Kathy Bates as a lonely woman who becomes one of Porter's longtime customers. The script (co-written by Macy) eschews sentimentality for good, old-fashioned storytelling. Door to Door premieres on July 14, 7pm, on TNT. Encores on July 14, July 17, July 20, and July 28. Check listings for airtimes.

"Better than some" would be the verdict on Worst-Case Scenario, which is based on the popular Worst-Case Scenario books by Josh Piven and David Borgenicht. The series is broken into fast-paced segments featuring real people facing real challenges, or stunt people eagerly showing the best way to take a fall down a mountain or jump off a building. (Tip: When jumping from a three-story building, don't pick a dumpster filled with debris that could impale you.) Face-off challenges pit two people against each other in a timed, survival-of-the-fittest challenge. (Tip: Batteries and steel wool will start a fire.) The upside: Gear Girl (stuntwoman Danielle Burgio). She demonstrates all the gadgetry you didn't know you needed, like the Gekkonaut -- a set of super-suction cups that allow the user to crawl (like geckos) down the side of buildings. The downside: Periodic returns to the Worst-Case Scenario "Institute" is painfully corny. Worst-Case Scenario airs Wednesdays, 8pm, on TBS.

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