Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Tonight, the latest venture in so-called reality programming hits the air with "Celebrity Duets" (8 p.m., Fox), co-created by "American Idol" host Simon Cowell.

Tune in, and you get two hours of Lea Thompson, Lucy Lawless, wrestling star Chris Jericho and others sing duets with the likes of Clint Black, Belinda Carlisle, Randy Travis, Gladys Knight and Macy Gray. Macon's own Little Richard will serve as one of the judges. Supposedly, all of the celebrities recruited can actually sing.

I'm one of the few people apparently who doesn't watch "Idol." I admit to flipping over to it during commercials when they are having the tryouts, just to amuse myself with a bit of schadenfreude. Last season, I actually caught eventual winner Taylor Hicks' tryout. I remember thinking at the time that no one who dances like "Seinfeld's" Elaine Benes could actually win the thing, but apparantly, America wanted to vote for someone who moves like a constipated-man-hit-by-a-taser rather than the lovely Katharine McPhee. ("Idol" fans, take note: McPhee is among the front-runners for the lead role in the movie version of "Wonder Woman.")

In case you wonder what Telegraph staffers do with their lives, I can guarantee that most of my co-workers will probably be skipping "Duets" because they will be catching the latest installment of "Big Brother" (9 p.m., CBS). They talk about nothing else. Incessantly.

Perhaps none of the reality shows puzzles me as much as "Big Brother," in which all they seem to do is sit around and talk. There are a few contrived contests here and there, but really, what's the point? At least on "Survivor," you get to see the contestants starve to death over a few weeks. In the European versions of "Big Brother," you actually get to the more R-rated activities among the housemates, so I get that. Not so with the U.S. version, which strikes me as rather pointless.

The reality stuff is only going to get worse. I got a press release from NBC Monday which announced a deal with Ashton Kutcher's production company to produce "The Real Life Wedding Crashers," in which actors will "crash" real life weddings. It won't be all fun and games, though. According to the release, "The pranksters are expected to do more than liven up the stress and drama common to many weddings. They also intend to occasionally bring families together in emotional moments." Just when you think NBC has finally gotten its act together with arguably the best new fall lineup of anyone, they remind you why they've been languishing in overall mediocrity.

This isn't meant to trash all reality TV. I enjoy "The Amazing Race" on CBS and even "The Apprentice," and one of the best of them all was "Spy," produced by the BBC. (You can catch reruns of "Spy" right now late Sunday nights on PBS.) But for every "Amazing Race" or "Idol" that is produced, there are three "Big Brothers" out there on the airwaves causing unemployment among the real writers in Hollywood.

TUESDAY'S BEST BET: Like you even have to ask. "Rescue Me" (10 p.m., FX) wraps up its season with pretty much every member of TV's best ensemble cast facing life-changing dilemmas. A brief rundown:

--Tommy (Denis Leary) must decide between his pregnant ex-wife Janet (Andrea Roth), who may be carrying his or his late brother's unborn child, and nutty Sheila (Callie Thorne), who just bought herself and Tommy a giant house in which to retire.
--The chief (Jack McGee) is trying to recover from a Viagra-induced heart attack.
--Sean (Steven Pasquale) just married Tommy's psychotic sister Maggie (Tatum O'Neal).
--Mike (Mike Lombardi) is trying to work out his sexual orientation. He seems to have settled on being bi-sexual, having gotten the numbers of both a brother and sister at a bar last week. Good for him!
--Kenny (John Scurti) is contemplating retiring to a life of fishing and moving in with a really hot, soon-to-be-ex nun. Tommy's monologue two weeks ago admonishing Kenny for dating a "bride of Christ" alone should get Leary the Emmy next year.
--Franco (Daniel Sunjata) is wondering whether his relationship with a photographer is meant to be when both of them notice her rather unfortunate resemblence to his daughter.

I'm honestly depressed right now that this is the last episode of "Rescue Me" for 2006. Coupled with the impending arrival of more reality shows like "Real Life Wedding Crashers," well, that just makes my week complete.


Zodin2008 said...

I agree with you about the ending of the Rescue Me season. It's completely a downer.

What I find most ironic is that the 2 best shows on Cable, The Shield & Rescue Me, only give us fans 12-13 episodes a year and then torture us with a 39 week wait for the next batch of episodes. This must be what they do to folks at Guatanamo.

On the flipside, USA gives us double cable runs of the mediocre Monk and Psych...2 euns each year totaling around 20-24 episodes. Monk used to be great and has really fallen on mediocre times. Psych has been so-so from the getgo. USA's best series, The 4400, also only does 12-13 a year. I guess the really best shows do leave us wanting more.

Phillip, if there's a saving grace it's that we are only about a month away from the return of Veronica Mars, Lost & Battlestar Galactica. We are just a few weeks away from potentially great new series like Studio 60 and The Nine.

There is a silver lining here.

Phillip Ramati said...

I keep saying various scenes in "Rescue Me" is the best scene of the year, but the scene where the guys stop by the 9/11 memorial really was.