Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Chef of the Future!

I may not have mentioned this before: I have a deep, abiding love for The Onion's A.V. Club. I always loved their movie reviews and music reviews, but this site is a daily must read for me for their TV section. Not to overstate the case, but it is the bomb-diggity. And then some. Their daily recaps/reviews of current shows, like Lost, 24 and House are some of the most insightful and smart writing about television going on today. I used to be a fan of Television Without Pity, but what the folks at the A.V. Club are doing is miles ahead of snarky comments and nicknames. Though they do have their fair share of snarky comments and nicknames. So everybody wins!

Just go read this. This essay says more about television, commerce and where they intersect than most articles in legacy media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Plus it's about one of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite TV shows. Ever.

When I was a kid, The Honeymooners was on every night on WPIX at 11 p.m., for an hour. It was a nightly ritual for me to stay up late and watch. Not to mention that, beforeThe Twilight Zone marathon was an annual New Year's Day tradition, there was a Honeymooners marathon. I was basically raised by Jackie Gleason with the stars Art Carney, Joyce Randolph and Audrey Meadows.

A friend of mine, in a facebook comment, noted the near total lack of working class people from television right now. I watched a little of Parenthood yesterday and was really struck by it. I honestly can't think of a single, prime-time television show on broadcast or basic cable about the lives of working class people, black or white. It's shocking to me.

Noel's got some issues with Jackie Gleason's portrayal of the "working man" and he's got a good point, but, when I was 8 years old, in my mother's row house in Brooklyn, staying up way past my bedtime to watch Ralph and Norton try any scheme to get ahead, it was a vision of the world I could identify with in a way that I couldn't identify with Dynasty or Dallas or whatever other prime time soap was on. Being able to watch The Honeymooners a few hours after Good Times or What's Happening reminded me that the same struggle was still happening. Ralph Kramden becomes Archie Bunker. But who's Archie become? Neil Patrick Harris? Steve Carell? Somewhere the line got broken.

Anyway. I loved reading the essay and I'm liking forward to the rest of the series.


George Hunka said...

Denis Leary's Rescue Me is a fine series about the working class which is now in its seventh season on FX.

99 said...

Good point, George. And there is It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, too.

George Hunka said...

But your larger point is well-taken, J. When I was growing up, the Norman Lear shows -- All in the Family, Good Times -- were very popular, even dealing with issues of racial integration and class mobility with The Jeffersons. (The professional classes were amply represented by the MTM shows like those of Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart.) Later, Taxi and Cheers provided a mixture of working class and middle class characters. Nowadays, the working and lower classes are represented if at all on the margins of crime shows. A sad case.

99 said...

It really just crept up on me. I watch a lot of TV, but I've slowly moved away from the evening dramas, in favor of the cop shows and sci fi, which tends to show a cross-section of society. Though even that's fading fast. The soon-to-be (I'm betting) late and somewhat lamented Heroes did a good job in the first couple of seasons, but all of their working and middle-class characters faded away (or were killed off).

I've often wondered what a reverse O.C. or 90210 would be like: rich kid loses his money and has to attend public school across the tracks. Maybe less pretty kids to look at, but more intriguing drama.

joshcon80 said...

Norman Lear is my idol! He made "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman!"

Anyway, I've noticed the same thing. HBO had one season of a sitcom called Lucky Louie, a Louis CK vehicle, but it didn't make the cut. God, I miss Roseanne constantly. The Connor household is almost an exact mirror of how I grew up.

Nikole Beckwith and I are working on a pilot about broke Brooklyn-ites dealing with poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and depression. It's a comedy, natch.

George Hunka said...

By the way, in re "Chef of the Future," I have only one question:

Can it core a apple?

99 said...

The real question is can it make vetavitavegamin?

And, Josh, I'd watch that show. I don't know anyone who's seen that new HBO show about makin' it (but not like that), though I hear it's not great.

Maybe the need for fantasy is stronger than we hope...

silent nic@knight said...

Their slogan is of course right. "It's Not TV. It's HBO." So this is outside the parameter you set here, but HBO is doing many interesting things with narrative and character development that television cannot do, haven’t even tried to do. The season of The Wire that centered on the public schools was what you were imagining with a reverse 90210.