Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Smart" TV?

So, checking through the schedule grid, I saw the latest reality offering from Fox.

"Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (Fox, 9:30 p.m.) hits the air tonight, with host Jeff Foxworthy probing the minds of adult Americans to see how much knowledge they have compared to the average fifth grader. (I'm guessing not a lot).

"Fifth Grader" has the benefit of debuting after "American Idol," giving it the best lead-in a show could ask for, ratings-wise.

I could use this space to rail against Fox and the reality programming unleashed on the American public by Mike Darnell over the years, but why waste my breath? No doubt "Fifth Grader" will get big numbers tonight because of "AI," and Fox will instantly proclaim it "the newest hit of the fall season!"

Even though I'm not an "AI" fan, I can at least understand the compulsion among the people who follow it, and it has launched the careers of many singers. I'm not really sure of what value shows like "Fifth Grader" give us, but people will watch what they watch.

VOTE ON YOUR FAVORITE COP OR FIREMAN: Speaking of Fox reality shows, one of the most enduring has been "America's Most Wanted," which at least has some use to society in that it has helped track down hundreds of criminals over the years. The show is launching a contest on its Web site, amw.com, where you can vote for the first-response worker you think is the best at his or her job in the "AMW All-Star Contest."

The winner will be presented with a $10,000 check by host John Walsh at the NASCAR Nextel Cup Challenge at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Nominations run through the beginning of April, and voting by the public begins after that.

MONDAY RECAP: I was in a bad mood yesterday, but last night's installments of "How I Met Your Mother" and "Heroes" helped alleviate it.

"HIMYM" continues to hit the comic high notes every week, and may be my second-favorite sitcom on network TV right now (after "The Office"), thanks to the fun the writers are having with the characters right now. Any time a show's dialogue works its way into the public consciousness ("slap bets," "Suit up!"), you know it's something special.

"Heroes" came through with yet another strong effort, this time giving the backstory of HRG (and, in doing so, the backstory of Claude as well). While answering some questions, it raised others, such as how Hiro's father is connected to everything. It's been fun watching this show continue to evolve.

Now that people have gotten to see the premiere of "The Black Donnellys," I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the show. I was underwhelmed by it all, especially considering the talent of creators Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, but there was enough there in the pilot to make me give it another chance next week.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: As "American Idol" continues to dominate the night by whittling down its semifinalists, the other networks have backed off the original episodes to some extent on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Still, CBS will original episodes of "NCIS" at 8 p.m., followed by "The Unit" at 9 p.m. On the CW, "Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars" are both new, as are the dual "Law & Orders" on NBC.

The best bet of the night might be "Frontline" (PBS, 10 p.m.), which examines traditional media versus new media. Hopefully, it will give some insight as to why my industry has shot itself in the collective foot over the past decade and how newspapers have gotten screwed over by Wall Street analysts.


Zodin2008 said...

Well, since I have always heard that the average education level of every American is at a 5th grade reading level, I am guessing that is how Fox came up with this concept. I also think the 5th Graders have a real shot.

(Unless say they were going against either the casts of any "Star Trek" series or any Aaron Sorkin show, which by far are the smartest group of adult actors in Hollywood.)

Sorry you were in a bad mood, I am sure a weak outing from "24" didn't help. Last night was a down episode; considering how down across the board 24, Prison Break, Battlestar Galactica and Lost are, I was thrilled with last night's "Heroes" episode providing another memorable image of Claire dying and coming back to life.

I think her character wins the award for the 2 most memorable scenes in a TV season...being sliced open in a morgue and completely burned alive only to reform.

And "Mother" continues to remain most excellent. Was there any doubt the character of Marshall would be driving a Fiero?

Phillip Ramati said...

The images of Claire dying have far and away been the best special effects/makeup on TV this season, and I'm wondering if the writers are going to get more and more creative in killing Claire off in order to see how much they challenge the makeup department!

PB continues to deteriorate - how they will get a third season out of this show is ridiculous - but I thought Sunday's BSG was one of the best of the season.

BSG is at its best when it looks at issues involving today's world and provides a commentary in the series, yet spins the issue based on the plot of the show. They did it last season with abortion, and they did it again last week with labor and class. (They could have done it a few weeks ago with religion, but dropped the ball there).

But this was the best Heroes of the season, IMO, and it will be interesting to see if Parkman joins HRG.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about you, but 5th grade was a long time ago. So just because a kid just studied a chapter in his text book, and I happen to not have had that chapter in say 25 years, does not mean the kid is smarter than I. Maybe a little more refreshed....for expample, I can't remember all the layers of soil. I guess it's just a way to make us Americans look that much more dumb.

Zodin2008 said...

I thought BSG was better then the previous weeks, but one of the best? Are you high? It doesn't even come close to the Fall episodes. I miss the Cylons vs. the Humans.

But let's look at the problems with last week's BSG.

1) Adama acting Hitler-like by threatening unreasonably to kill Callie just because the Chief wanted reasonable working conditions?

2) Roslin acting equally insane and then 40 minutes into the episode, she completely switches her position?

3) Baltar, the most hated human alive, all of a sudden has become a folk hero to the working class in a short time in prison because he wrote something?

4) The Chief or anyone that's not commander level just being able to walk in and visit Baltar?

5) There's a near venomous showdown between Roslin/Adama and the Chief and his supporters and by the end of the hour, it's all neatly wrapped up and the girl who works for the chief suddenly gets a promotion???

Look, you sat here and ripped on "24" with all its problems (and last night was not strong) but when it's a show you like, you whitewash massive script, character and pacing problems?

Phillip, you are a good writer but you need to be able to call out shows you love and defend, as you would call out a show you hate like "24". Just my 2 cents.

Jonathan said...

I think the main problem with "24" is that it's coming off its two best seasons which provided some of the most engaging television in quite awhile. So, it's taken a bit of a downturn, but it's still one of the more entertaining hours of television right now. "24" has always been about entertainment over reality, and sometimes mindless fun is just what the doctor ordered.

I, too, have no idea how you get a third season out of "Prison Break," but I will give it credit for righting the ship a little bit the past few weeks. They're actually tying in a lot of the escapees stories and getting the focus back on the brothers' Burroughs and the conspiracy. It's still nowhere near as good as it was the first season, but it's some of the best episodes they've done since the excellent season premiere.

Phillip Ramati said...

No update for today's blog, guys. I'll be back tomorrow.

Zod, no need to get personal in your attacks. I enjoyed Sunday's episode a lot because it illustrated the problems of living on the fleet in those circumstances - the good of the individual vs. the good of the fleet.

Jonathan, yes, they can explore the conspiracy further, but there have been so many false starts and stops when they've been doing that (going to all the trouble of finding Steadmen, and then killing him off, having Veronica do all that work and killing her off, etc.) that it's gotten very repetitive. I pretty much knew instantly when they played the recording for the real lawyer that he was going to say something that would prevent them from clearing themselves. After a while, it becomes trite.