You are what you watch.

TV, Movies, Web, Books, and other extraneous things, and why some are worth your time and money - mostly

Friday, June 17, 2005

HBO or the Comeback sucks and Pornucopia doesn't

I spent the last hour and 1 half watching the HBO, which is nearing it's decline, I think. See all their good shows (Sex & the City, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos) are on their way out. They still have Deadwood (I admit I fell out of touch this season), but carnival is overwrought and stupidly esoteric (You can almost hear the writers going "dude, so then, the fetus moves! Did I just blow your mind or what?" then reaching for the bong), and the comeback, which I saw for the first time tonight, well it was just pathetic.
Pathetic is really the perfect word for the Comeback, Lisa Kudrow's new psuedoreality show. Her character is remarkably pathetic in every scene, to her constant humiliation. I've never liked humiliation comedy, it always makes me cringe instead of laugh. But normal humiliation comedies are bearable. Take your average Ben Stiller movie. Act one establishes Ben is a nebbishy neurotic Jew in love with the perfect shiksa girlfriend, in act two, most of the movie, he blunders through every sort of humiliation (bodily fluids, lighting things on fire, etc) for the payoff in act 3 when he finally gets, or keeps, the girl. So it's manageable and kind of funny. But Lisa Kudrow's character, Valerie Cherish, is just pathetic. She's an airheaded, washed up narcissist who knows she's washed up and knows everyone knows she's washed up. While Stiller humiliates himself to win the shiksa goddess, Valerie has no payoff, either way it's bad. For example, in the pilot, she tries out for the pilot of a sitcom and gets the sitcom. As a viewer, there was no real emotional investment in her trials at hasbeendom, I didn't even feel sorry for her, I just wished she'd do something meaningful. And in the end, with the big tension about whether or not her show will get picked up, there's no good outcome. Either her show doesn't get picked up and she's still depressed and washed up, or it does get picked up, and she plays the humiliating role of Aunt Sassy (exactly what it sounds like). Either way she loses
While most HBO shows feature rich inner emotional lives, Valerie is an empty character. I already called her narcissistic, and the shows awkward conceit of being a what appear to be "scenes from the cutting room floor" of a reality show only highlight her self involvement. She completely ignores her husband and walks all over everyone else, without ever forming any sort of relationship with them.
There was also not a single funny joke in the whole show. Enough said.

On the other hand, Pornucopia, part of HBO's its-not-porn-it's-a-documentary-I-swear series, Real Sex, was actually kind of fun. While it's main goal is clearly pornographic rather than educational, it's still a fascinating look at porn. Unlike Cherish who's boring and narcissistic, the porn people portrayed on the show, which deals solely with the glitzier upper levels of porn, are reasonably down to earth, and the main characters, Jenna Haze and I cannot remember or find on Google the name of the other girl, are both interesting to observe, especially in what they don't say. They both act like everything's just great in the porn industry, but whenever they get uncomfortable they both resort to a very telling highpitched giggle to avoid the subject. For a straight man the show must be titillating, but for a gay man like me, Pornucopia's 75% lesbian scenes and 24% straight scenes can be viewed objectively as entertainment.

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