For a split second, it seemed like a wacky idea for a television column: What if I was to actually participate in National TV Turnoff Week during April 23-29? Seven whole days, joining the “millions of people around the world who will rediscover that life can be more rewarding, interesting and fun without TV,” as the self-appointed TV Turnoff Network (formerly TV-Free America) tells me. Nothing but reading, gardening, riding bikes, balancing my checkbook after ordering a $30 membership from www.TV-Turnoff.org, and who knows what else? Maybe I could even join in on the more committed “Cold Turkey Turnoff,” which runs from April 23 to July 15! No TV for 12 glorious weeks! What a life-enhancing experience it will be!
Then I put down the crack pipe and came to my senses—these lunatics had nearly sucked me into their godless commie cult! Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It’s been three days since my last Access Hollywood …
Going without television is just not an option for me, but not merely because of this highly lucrative TV column and its dozens of fans. The very existence of some TV shows, I’m convinced, depends upon my continued viewership. Whether or not I’m really the only one watching them or just the lone voice who’ll admit to it is irrelevant. These programs need me even more than I need them, and no semi-organized group of fanatics is going to browbeat me into pulling the plug. Go calibrate your solar panels and leave us alone, you dirty hippies.
Why else does Son of the Beach (FX, Tuesdays, 11 p.m.) continue to air if not for my own pleasure? Sure, the numbers show the Howard Stern-produced comedy to be the biggest thing on the FX cable net (which ain’t sayin’ much—how many 90210 reruns are there, anyway?). But I’m the only person I know who openly recognizes the over-the-top-under-the-bottom Baywatch satire’s snappily dense gags-per-seconds scripting and unerring attention to detail. For sheer funny, SOB makes Airplane! look like Requiem For a Dream, but writer and star Tim Stack’s bonehead genius elicits zero props from the snooty TV-critic intelligentsia. Not here, buddy—stay tuned for Tube Town’s exclusive interview with Son of the Beach costar Jaime Bergman, the former West Jordanite and Playboy Playmate whose dumb-blonde comic skills rival those of most actresses working in “real” sitcoms.
And can we talk about 18 Wheels of Justice (TNN, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.)? Of course not, because I’m the only one who watches it. Male model Lucky Vanous is federal agent Chance Bowman, undercover in the witness protection program and fighting crime across this great country’s highways and byways with his teched-up Kenworth “super truck,” kinda like Knight Rider meets Convoy. Yes, we’re all asking ourselves, How can this not be the greatest show in basic-cable history? Add the occasional B-list country music star and G. Gordon Liddy as Chance’s evil mob nemesis, and you’ve got … hell, who cares what you’ve got? Despite leaden pacing that’s slower than an uphill rig with the jake-brake on, 18 Wheels is downright inspired—and shot on a budget of about 38 bucks (not counting costar Billy Dee Williams’ contractual Colt 45 amenities). Why anyone would even suggest a national TV turnoff with a gripping action-drama like this available is beyond me.
WOW: Women of Wrestling (Syndicated; KPNZ 24, Thursdays, 9 p.m. and Sundays, 8 p.m.) is another tube gem that fails to spark any water-cooler chatter ’round my office. (Keep in mind, water-cooler chatter at City Weekly usually begins with “When are we going to dump that stupid TV column? … Oh, hi Bill—how long have you been standing there?”)
WOW, one of the only TV wrestling shows left not owned by Vince McMahon’s WWF—it airs locally after WWF Smackdown and the XFL, ironically—is also the most gyno-centric and multicultural, which makes it at least as socially relevant as anything on Oxygen. Female grapplers like Latina Caliente, Asians Jade and Lotus, Polynesian Paradise, Guatemalan Jungle Grrl, Iranian Farah and others face off against all-Americans like L.A.’s Disciplinarian, Nebraska’s Farmer’s Daughter, Texas’ Charlie Davidson, New York’s Jacklyn Hyde, Nevada (State Prison’s) Caged Heat and more in bouncily brutal matches every week. It’s a veritable Rainbow Coalition, with a more demographically pleasing soft-porn/soft-violence angle.
Knuckle under to the TV Turnoff Nazis and chance missing mega-mulleted Selina Majors take on 200-pound biker chick Thug in another hysterical WOW steel-cage match? I think not. Culture is far too important to me.