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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Plugged In

Wednesday
October 26, 2005

If you've been watching The Amazing Race: Family Edition on CBS, you've been privy to one of the more unusual variations of the show. With so many people involved, the storytelling aspects have been especially tough for the producers. But, as is usual for the program, the casting was done very well, with some of the families sporting members with very outrageous personalities (i.e. the mom/son from the Paolo family), which helps to keep things interesting.

Perhaps it was due to travel costs, but until this week the show hadn't even left the United States. In some ways that was a nice variation on what the show had attempted in its previous incarnations, though I was ready as a viewer to see the families start dealing with situations and conditions outside of the United States (which is often half the fun of the show.)

In many ways, it was surreal to see the show travel through New Orleans last week. It was wonderful to see the city in its pre-Hurricane Katrina form, but at the same time it was a bit sad, thinking of how it is now. Between that and the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in late 2004 (months after the last Amazing Race went through there), I wonder if the show may have a bit of a jinx attached to it now.

One family on the show that I can't stand is the Weaver family. Preachy, obnoxious and annoying: there's a trifecta for you. The mom from that family would've been perfect for Big Brother 6 to go along with the many other cast members from that show who I couldn't stand.

NBC has an excellent comedy block on Tuesday nights head-to-head with The Amazing Race in My Name Is Earl and The Office. Thank goodness for my DVR. My Name Is Earl is one of those very simple shows that avoid trying to do too much. Unlike 95% of the comedies on TV today, it makes me laugh, and it doesn't insult my intelligence along the way. Granted, it's not a deep show by any means, but it's a comedy that you can watch and enjoy. It's worth hunting down and checking out when you can.

Lost continues to be an outstanding show. I've been raving about Lost since last year, and it's the best show on television right now, in my opinion. It's just one of those shows where you absolutely can't wait to see what will happen next. The attention to detail is incredible, the character depth is outstanding, and they seem to end each episode leaving me wanting more. It's hard to beat that.

I've been watching both incarnations of The Apprentice; the Donald Trump version is superior, in my estimation, but the Martha Stewart show is still good enough to tune in for, especially since I've vested enough time watching up to this point. I get *really* annoyed with the name Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia -- what does Omnimedia mean, anyway? As it is, the name needs to be abbreviated. M-Slo might not work, but something shorter might be better. I sometimes wonder if the long name factor was a negative to AOL/Time-Warner. Pick a name and go with it! Charles Koppelman, the guy with the cigar (who, oddly enough, never lights the damn thing), seems at times to be more with it than Martha does. Plus you never know when Martha will drop references to serving time in federal prison. That's always nice for prospective employees to hear on their supposed job interview.

Incidentally, I had many laughs doing a Google search for "Martha Stewart Apprentice cigar" (not in quotes for the search) and reading the various entries online about it. Apparently Charles' cigar is not a fan favorite in the online/blogging world. MSNBC might've put it best: "Charles Koppelman, obviously a powerful guy, has mostly devoted his screen time to cigar fondling..." Ha!

One show that continues to be hilarious, irreverent, and yet quite topical is South Park. The parody it did of the way that politicians (and many Americans) were more concerned with finger-pointing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina than actually helping people (with the Beaver Dam flooding of Beaverton episode) was spot-on perfect. Of course, just like with Beavis & Butt-head, the social commentary gets overlooked in favor of the crass side of the show. That's contemporary American society for you, so blind that it can't even see when it is being mocked.

Notice in the last paragraph that I used the phrase "in the wake of" -- there are certain people in the TV news biz who told me a few years back that that particular phrase was never used in everyday life. Oh really? I wrote it without even thinking of that, but in re-reading the paragraph, it struck me as notable.

There are some shows, like the daytime Millionaire show, that I simply don't have time to watch. I love the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire concept, and it translates perfectly to the lower-budget syndicated TV fare when they cast people (as opposed to having the phone-in contest to bring in the best and brightest from around the country), as the likelihood of actually having big winners decreases as a result. But there comes a point where you have to say ENOUGH! and draw the line as far as what you record and what you don't...


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