Living Out Loud: : I've Been Busy

Watching Television

Here I am on deadline and don't know what the hell to write about. The last several days have flown by and I haven't put any thought into this column whatsoever.

Please understand. I've been busy — watching television.

Well, not really television, but TV shows my 22-year-old son has downloaded and put on my computer. I'm going to blame him for my lack of creativity over the past several days.

We had a discussion awhile back about network television and how I don't watch it anymore, because there's nothing good on to watch. After Seinfeld completed its run, I decided to stop sitting down and turning on the old tube. It's been a few years now since I made that decision and I don't feel like I'm missing very much.

Look, I'll tune in to HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, because it's political and smart; and I'll sample Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, because they're funny and don't take themselves all that seriously.

But regular network shows? Forget about it. It's a wasteland.

I don't care who survives on Survivor. American Idol is a bore. I don't know why those Desperate Housewives are desperate and couldn't care less about what the initials C.S.I. stand for. In many ways, I consider all television a time waster; and at my age, I don't have it to waste. When I told my son this, I think he felt challenged to prove me wrong.

Knowing I always liked Julie Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld, my son downloaded some episodes of The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The plot — if there is one — is something about how old Christine's husband dumped her for a younger girlfriend also named Christine but how the ex-couple still gets along fairly well, partly because of their cute, adorable son.

Old Christine's brother lives with her and seems to get the best lines. Dreyfus is likable in the show, but it's pretty contrived, often weak and seldom funny. It proves my point that there's nothing good on network television anymore. I had to watch all 13 shows to be absolutely sure about it.

When I expressed disappointment to my son about Dreyfus's new sitcom, he downloaded something called My Name is Earl. It's about this never-do-good guy who wins $100,000 in the lottery and decides to right all the wrongs he's done in his life. He made up a list of all the bad deeds and each week tries to correct a wrong so he can cross it off.

The guy who plays Earl, Jason Lee, is pretty funny, and so is the guy who plays his younger brother. I have to admit I have a crush on the girl who plays Catalina, the motel maid. But the actress who plays Earl's ex-wife, Joy, gets on my nerves; and the trailer-trash humor this sitcom evolves around starts to run thin after awhile. I arrived at this decision and informed my son after watching all 24 shows back to back.

Not yet willing to admit defeat, my son pulled an ace out of his sleeve. He downloaded on my computer Arrested Development, a sitcom about how Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is forced to keep his large, dysfunctional family together after his father is arrested for shifty business practices at the family-owned conglomerate. Their assets are frozen and his eccentric family has to recreate lifestyles that fit to their new financial status.

The show is brilliant, original and quite funny. It's also quick and just as smart as Seinfeld, especially in the early years. I found myself loving and cheering on this horrible, nasty family. I watched seasons one and two — 40 episodes — again, back to back.

But I still haven't been proven wrong about how there's nothing good on network television. Turns out FOX, the network that believed in and carried the show, kept losing money because the risk-taking comedy couldn't find an audience. During season three, FOX gave up. Arresting Development got cancelled.

So, my son, the ball's in your court again. Give me something else to watch that I actually like and that can find an audience on network television. Come on, I double-dog dare you.

On second thought, I don't. In fact, please forget about the dare. For the past several days, I feel watching all these shows have taken me away from my normal life. I don't feel good about it.

I think all television makes you lazy. It was too damn easy to just sit there and watch sitcoms than to be doing something constructive. I got this great book on my desk that I haven't started to read yet, and the novel I'm writing was put on hold — all because I've been sitting on my ass doing basically nothing. It's a little depressing and the reason why this column is about television this week. How godawful is that?

Whatever. Screw it. I made the word count this week and I'll be happy with that. I'll give myself a pat on the back, maybe even a reward of some kind.

I've still got season three of Arrested Development to watch.



Larry Gross' book, "Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories," is in bookstores now or can be ordered through Amazon.com.

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