By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
These have truly been depressing days. Bad enough that the past few weeks of summer television hasn’t given us anything to rave about. But not even the bad stuff was inspiring – there was nothing that brought out the sweet, bileful taste of anger.
So thank you, Fox, for bringing Glee back into my life.
Like the Tea Party protests its’ parent network supported, this show is an astroturf “grassroots phenomenon” – not just a rip-off of both every other high school comedy you’ve ever seen but every recent musical Disney and Nickelodeon have shoved down our throats, but the new pet cause of a fanbase that can’t wait for Randy, Ryan and Simon to drive your parent’s pop hits further into the ground.
The series’ rise to prominence is especially disturbing when its’ characters of color make Long Duk Dong look nuanced. Mercedes (Amber Riley) is not small, calls co-protagonist Finn (Cory Monteith) “white boy” and “Justin Timberlake” compares herself to Beyonce – what the hell is wrong with Kelly Rowland? – and sings Aretha at her audition. Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is Asian, Hollywood “gothy” and … well, that’s about it. At least she has hope for development in the future. And Principal Figgins is a relentless cheapskate, which I normally wouldn’t worry about except for the role being played by Iqbal Theba, who was born in Pakistan. But hey, at least Figgins isn’t driving a cab.
I really don’t want to be this skeptical, but when every character on the show is a damn caricature, and presumptive “hero” Will (Matthew Morrison) is an irresponsible manipulative wuss (he cons Finn into joining the team; he’s willing to leave his job without having another one lined up, despite his being a father-to-be), that’s the kind of reaction this show inspires – if you can’t root for your protagonist, you can’t trust your characters.
The musical selections are almost as played-out as the character types. The first episode’s finale, set to Don’t Stop Believin’, was bad enough in that it sacrificed what could have been good underdog stories about these kids learning to be a real choir for the sake of iTunes. But what really chops my hide is what’s to come: renditions of “Gold Digger” and “Push It” where Finn appears to get “funky.” You have been warned. And I’m rooting for Jane Lynch and the Jocks.
Man, that felt great. Let’s see, what else has been on?
* Bollywood Hero could’ve been fun, if it had really been about Chris Kattan, rather than “Chris Kattan.” Instead of CK honestly making a go of it in the Indian film market, though, we get a fish-out-of-water comedy about a B-lister in the sun. Bollywood is positioned as the Other Industry, and though Neha Dhupia, Pooja Kapur and Ali Fazal acquit themselves best (Rachna Shah, alas, gets turned into a “spiritual being”), this mini-series was surprisingly mundane for something shown on IFC.
* I don’t know what The T.O. Show was supposed to be, but it ended up being
unintentional (?) comedy gold. From Terrell Owens’ introduction every episode (“the most unstoppable force in football”? HAHAHAHAHAHA!) to the premise (How to re-humble a historically unfocused locker-room cancer? Move to L.A.!) to the “surprises” (Ex-girlfriend #whatever shows up at the wedding? No Way!), this show proves Owens would be better off competing with Mario Lopez than Larry Fitzgerald. At least in a dressing room mirror T.O. can see someone he loves every day. But, not ’til this season’s done – I drafted him for my fantasy football team. Go 4-points-per-reception stat-padding!
* Dating In The Dark offered a cringe-worthy moment in its’ fourth episode, when two POC contestants, Amit and Misty, reacted unfavorably to each other: Amit seemed to have a “Wow, you’re black!” moment, but in the end, his lack of height was too much for Misty to overcome. Interesting stat: apparently the women did more rejecting than the men by a wide margin.
* Now, here’s some good news: The Comic’s Comic reports that Tehran native Nasim Pedrad, a UCLA grad and member of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe, has been named to the cast of Saturday Night Live. Whether that means good characters for her remains to be seen. And, as you might have seen advertised on TV, George Lopez has his own talk show on TBS, debuting Nov. 9. As someone who’s watched the rise of Jimmy Fallon in horror, I can’t help but wonder if Lopez’s show will serve as a litmus test for future POC late-night hosts.
* And one final note for fans of the Roundtable: Heroes returns Sept. 21. That sound you hear is the sharpening of snark.