In television’s ‘Golden Age,’ still plenty of reason to turn away - The Buffalo News
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In television’s ‘Golden Age,’ still plenty of reason to turn away

Alan Sepinwall is the name of one of the more inventive younger TV critics in America. His website is called “What’s Alan Watching?”

I’m taking a cue from Sepinwall and doing a column that could be called “What’s Jeff Avoiding (as Assiduously As Humanly Possible)?” I encourage all readers and TV watchers to do likewise and make their own such lists. It’s a much better way than many, I think, to add free opinion to the channels of public discourse that others are happy to clog with pointless free-form contempt and oafish Internet resentment.

It all started with my somewhat less-than-sage and profound deliberations on whether or not I was going to personally boycott “Dancing With the Stars” over the peremptory replacement of Brooke Burke Charvet with former “DWTS” contestant Erin Andrews, who, to her eternal credit, remained calm, cool and collected at the end of the NFC championship game while Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman barked rabidly into her microphone like a Doberman on midnight watch duty.

As I write this, I still haven’t worked out this momentous matter of couch potato ethics to my complete satisfaction.

I have, however, confidently worked out nine shows I am devoutly not watching:

1. “Lindsay.” Or Oprah Winfrey presents Linday Lohan’s TV parody of “reality” as a desperate ploy to get attention for her OWN network. Lohan could discuss, in Updikean detail, her relations with every man on her now-famous “been there, done that” list and I still wouldn’t watch. For whatever it’s worth, it’s my theory that the professional separation of Oprah from her producer and BFF Gayle King necessitated by King’s “CBS Morning News” gig has created a good deal of OWN’s startup troubles. My guess is that King was far more important to the earth-moving success of Oprah Inc. all those years than most people knew.

2. “Resurrection.” Let me get this straight: a TV show where children die. Thirty years later, they arrive at the front door. I’m always in favor of Frances Fisher getting a job, but I say it’s time to bring back that old TV series idea, the Anthology Series, so that all the good actors who need work can each get a few weeks a year to be seen again.

3. “Believe.” In which best director Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón reveals what he’s prepared to do to land a weekly TV series on a regular night. Not even the sight of Delroy Lindo in the most flamboyant raven-colored clerical regalia in recent TV history (the hat was way cool) was enough to keep me watching the pilot episode. What is now apparent is that the networks are wasting far too much money and far too many resources on supernatural hoo-ha. Well, at least they are for me. What with “Cosmos,” “The Good Wife,” “The Mentalist” and the new “Crisis,” now holding the fort quite nicely on Sunday nights, the evening is more than full enough. (The third episode of “Crisis,” by the way, two Sundays from now will be directed by our old friend, Buffalo-raised film and TV director Frederick King Keller.)

4. “Survivor.” Once upon a time, it was the Cadillac of Reality TV shows – just as once upon a time Cadillac was the Cadillac of automobiles. It’s now more like the used Dodge Ram pickup truck of reality shows. I gave up when they kept on recycling past survivalists in “all-star” versions to try to keep things fresh. In the current edition, they actually had tribes devoted to brains, brawn and beauty – a bad high school cafeteria understanding of the social universe if ever there was one. My “Survivor” habit is now irretrievably over. Tell Richard Hatch and Susan Hawk the news.

5. “American Idol.” I must confess, there was something potentially immortal in video history about Harry Connick Jr. patiently explaining to Jennifer Lopez the pentatonic scale, only to be told in return “you know too much.” And the always mockable Ryan Seacrest’s contribution to the show remains one of the more underrated bulwarks in all of television. But I have as little interest in the contestants as I do everyone on “The Voice.”

6. “The Walking Dead.” Never got the zombie habit. Yes, I know that Sunday’s episode exploded social media enthusiasms. I’ll try to get around to it someday and figure out what I’ve been missing. Honest. (See the postscript.)

7. “Dallas.” Still more resurrection of the walking dead. Not for me, thanks. With J.R. gone forever, the thrill is gone.

8. “Shark Tank.” “The Apprentice,” “The Bachelor,” and every “Housewife” in every city up to and including Vladivostok. How can some of us try to hold our heads high in the world as we claim to be living in a new Golden Age of TV when all this bazoo remains on TV? The answer, I suppose, is that you need a lot of lesser metals and alloys to reveal how much different gold really is. It’s like an adjustment on TV programming’s “contrast” knob.

9. “Intelligence.” I checked out when it became completely clear that the title was used the way spies do, not psychologists, teachers or critics.

Instead of a No. 10, let me expand No. 6 and present a guilt-trip list of TV shows I didn’t watch as avidly as some smart people told me I should have. I promise to do better as soon as I possibly can with “Girls,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Mad Men” along with “The Walking Dead.”

To paraphrase an immortal line from poet and critic Randall Jarrell, you can’t go around talking up a new “Golden Age” without paying a lot more attention to everything that smart people claim is very yellow.


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