Monday, August 28, 2006

Low culture

the boys i mean are not refined: 08.27.2006, 3 a.m.

I. The William Shatner roast is a pale shadow of the Pam Anderson roast

Last year's Comedy Central roast of Pam Anderson was one of the only times I laughed hard at stand-up comics. It had the kind of effect that I think The Aristocrats wanted but couldn't quite reach. As edited, the roast had perfect momentum and its own kind of logic. The jokes were intertwined, and the comics and B-level celebrities (Adam Corolla, Andy Dick, Bea Arthur, Jimmy Kimmel, Dennis Rodman) became characters in a story. The brutality and ruthlessness of the jokes were inspirational. Courtney Love stumbled and swaggered and swore her way through the 90-minute broadcast, the unintentional highlight coming when, at the end, she nearly tripped off a dais and had to grab onto Pam for vertical support.

The next installment was bound to be shaky in comparison, but Comedy Central's roast of William Shatner is especially weak. I don't think that he's a bad choice of a target, but going from jokes about sex tapes to jokes about Star Trek is a big demotion. Instead of Kimmel, the broadcast featured the overly reverential Jason Alexander. The best jokes were at Andy Dick's expense. ("Andy Dick's sole mission in life is to give AIDS back to the monkeys.")

II. Only Midwestern nursing home patients and high-school dropouts vote for the Emmys.

I don't care much about the Emmy Awards, but a few observations are in order. I had the broadcast on while I was going about my usual Sunday night routine (napping; flipping through magazines; dreading work) and remember being surprised at the nominees and winners. A few months ago I posted a lengthy riff about how frustratingly good TV is becoming. The Emmy voters don't share my taste.
  • The Office is a nice little show, but compared to the British original it is a flea on the ass of an elephant. That's not the fault of its actors or writers. The show is not bad and I enjoy it, much the way I enjoy watered-down whiskey. But the American show could only be award-worthy if you repress and purge all memories of the British series. And not nearly in the same class as Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • I fucking love 24 but Kiefer Sutherland may well be this generation's William Shatner. He's a solid presence with his own kind of charisma, but I've never been impressed with his chops. I wonder whether a lot of people found Six Feet Under too intense to watch and follow, which is the only explanation I can find for not giving this award to Peter Krause.
  • Also, some lady I've never heard of from a Law and Order spinoff I've never heard of won an award instead of Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under. That must be one goddamn tremendous Law and Order spin-off.
  • I like his character, but Jeremy Piven is goddamn annoying.
  • With Arrested Development going off the air and Sons & Daughters not renewed by ABC, TV comedy is in bad shape.
  • An entire list of winners and nominees is available here, and it's effing weird.
III. The Secret of My Success celebrates being an ass. And also, auntfucking

Like Back to the Future, this Michael J. Fox vehicle was heavily screened in my parents' household when I was growing up. Michael J. Fox was the universal role model, I guess, and his 1980s trilogy -- Teen Wolf, Back to the Future, and The Secret of My Success -- was cheerful escapism.

It's been a few years. The movie is showing this month on the HBO channels. What I remembered was an unremarkable movie about an earnest small-town boy who finds success amid Wall Street phonies. This was not an accurate memory.

It is, instead, the story of an arrogant, demeaning weasel who lies to everyone around him, belittles his coworkers, flirts with sexual harrassment, fucks his aunt, and kisses up to the right people in order to exact revenge against an uncle who hired him. In its half-assed way, this movie glamorizes everything that Oliver Stone's Wall Street excoriated that same year.

It's not just lousy in the way that all bad '80s movies of this ilk are lousy, but also premised on insanely bad ideas. In scene after scene, it builds a horrible, illogical momentum, not just corny but wrong in almost every way a movie can be wrong. If you worked with Michael J. Fox's Brantley, he would be the most hated guy in your office.

He's an ass and an ass-kisser. He talks to people like they're retards. He has to be the center of attention in every meeting. He thinks that he stands against corporate conformity but he lusts after its trappings. He insists that he's going to make it on his own, but the movie's ultimate triumph is possible only through auntfucking and personal connections. It is a prozac-spiked loveletter to the rat race.

Also, a women's studies class could spend a week on Helen Slater's big-glasses-wearing, boss-humping, Michael J. Fox-humping, office-snooping, self-righteous, victimized, harrassed, poorly acted heroine.

The movie is a shocking lesson in wrongness. On some quiet Sunday, it might get a kind of live-blogging treatment.

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