The highs and lows of a TV week

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher
In the past week, I witnessed some riveting TV like the exchange between HBO's Bill Maher on his Friday night program between himself and Former White House Chief Strategist Steven K. Bannon. Watch the clip below. Most have seen Bannon on scores of shows since he has been in the political spotlight these past three or so years, but this discussion is quite unique. Love him or hate him, Bannon knows his stuff. The biggest surprises I got after viewing this segment is that 1) Bannon feels that the president will be impeached if the Democratic Party gains the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and 2) That Bannon himself doesn't take much credit for President Donald J. Trump's 2016 election success.

Before the Maher HBO program, I spent. err, wasted a few hours viewing some bad TV. Indeed, one could say that it's a matter of taste, but I cannot help it, there is a lot junk out there sprinkled with a lot of good material. I tend to be choosy with what I view, but this week, I was curious about some shows that I haven't seen in a while and some newer ones. For starters, I used to love Modern Family. It could just be me, but the show has become a parody of itself. It's tired and needs to find a conclusion quite soon. I'm just irritated with all the characters. This show has gone on well past its expiration date. 

I even go back to the Roseanne re-boot which I liked at first with maybe episodes one through three, but it got old fast. Aside from Roseanne's own shenanigans, the re-boot ultimately became just another old-style network sitcom with canned laughter. If one wishes to see a decent network sitcom with genuine laughter, look no further than Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family and Bob Newhart. I think things went off the rails with many sitcoms starting in the late 1980s and forward. Later, Seinfeld and the first few seasons of Friends were decent, but I don't think things could compare to those ultimate All in the Family episodes where one could tell the audience was genuinely laughing. The live audience concept worked well with other shows like Cheers and yes, perhaps when Gary K. Marshall introduced The Odd Couple and Happy Days to live audiences after they did a season or two without one and supplied lame laugh tracks. Speaking of laugh tracks, they to this day -- basically ruin MASH. I only wish that entire series could be re-mastered sans laugh track. Then again, why try to make that series look realistic when, for many episodes, they created outdoor sets for the indoors. One must admit how stupid those sets look today. What makes MASH, the TV series good, is the writing, directing, acting and film editing. 

I go back to the present. Today, we are treated with a barrage of garbage. Even though the dialog on Modern Family has become annoying, it's even more banal with American Housewife and the ridiculous Murphy Brown re-boot. I honestly don't have enough space to explain how unbelievably bad these show have become, I'm throwing 'Murphy' in with American Housewife. They are both not only terrible, but simply insulting. The problem is, executives and their corporate drones must sit around thinking that people will find this stuff to be quite funny and provocative. It's just not. Because we are now living in the age of Donald J. Trump, a bunch of suits must have thought that this is a fantastic opportunity to see how Murphy would react to the new culture. The result is that the re-boot seems forced. Nothing feels natural and that's in the ideas and dialog. Plus, the producers are just trying to score political points instead of producing genuine laughter. Trust me, the show is beyond awful. CBS needs to let that one run its course and never return. 

I also gave Single Parents a chance and was also unimpressed. It's a cute concept, but again, the dialog and character development are shallow. I'm getting the feeling with the decline of Modern Family and The Goldbergs, ABC-TV's Wednesdays are going to be a challenge. 

Maybe it's all a matter of taste, but so many sitcoms are just plain terrible. I wasted hours watching Happy Days (while using a TV tray), Laverne and Shirley and Three's Company. So, I have experience at watching these sitcoms and the one thing I learned is that I'll never get that time back in my life. I only feel sorry for those who wasted time viewing Mr. Belvedere, Full House and later, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond. All of them had their moments and I know people will say that Brad Garrett and Peter Boyle were geniuses on 'Raymond,' but these sitcoms all seem to be cultural eye candy, products with very little to no value. 

Of course, there is a lot of excellent TV with so many outlets in existence from HBO, Showtime to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. That's all for another blog post, but I found Manifest to be quite interesting and A Million Little Things, which by ratings has gotten off to a slow start. Again, the suits at the old-style networks are desperate. They're re-booting series that they think will work with new audiences which is a signal that they are out of ideas. 


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