Vast Wasteland

see also: Piven, JeremyIt’s counter-intuitive, but having a TiVo encourages a healthier relationship with the television box. You’re always hearing from TiVotees who go on about how they watch less TV than they did before they got one, but now I’ve got proof. Over the past month I’ve been subjected to more TV at my parents’ house and on airplanes and in hotel rooms than I’ve watched in the past four years.

The first thing that becomes obvious is that so much of TV is absolute crap. There’s a whole section of my TiVo subscription list that I always thought of as guilty pleasures, but now I can watch completely guilt-free. Because now I’ve seen what’s out there, and it’s worse. And what’s worse, I’ve been having to see it Clockwork Orange-style, unable to turn the channel but still instinctively reaching for the rewind, fast-forward and skip buttons like some kind of a phantom limb.

Or worse, stuck on a plane with a huge projection of Jeremy Piven all up in my face for an hour during turbulence.

Jeremy Piven’s Journey of a Lifetime
Also known as Jeremy Piven is an Enormous Douche. I’ve got no idea how something this loathsome made it to the normally-innocuous Travel Channel; I’m guessing there weren’t enough sexxxy spring break girls in it to make the cut for E! The premise is that inexplicably well-known supporting actor Piven makes a spiritual pilgrimage to India with a camera crew and a book about yoga he picked up while in LA.

One of the remarkable things about this show is that it manages to make egomaniac Anthony Bourdain seem low-key and selfless. Hell, he makes Richard Gere seem well-adjusted. We get shot after shot of Mr. Piven doing yoga here, talking to a swami there, feeling visibly moved by the plight of a child over there before being driven back to his luxury spa here. The key theme isn’t so much “India” or “East Asia” but “get this guy on-screen as much as possible.” It’s not filmed like a travel documentary but a campaign ad. Although I’m not sure what office he could be running for other than Arch-Douche of Doucheland.

And all the while he keeps bowing and saying “Namaste” in that insufferably pompous nasal whine. I like to think that the typical shooting schedule for the “documentary” consisted of 10 minutes getting footage of him shouting “look at me” during some deeply significant ceremony, followed by 20 minutes of the camera crew just beating him repeatedly.

I’m sure she’s a fine actress and all, but Emily Deschanel has that weird Cro-Magnon thing going on. I’m just sayin’. It was surprising, is all, because Zooey’s hot.

But the show is stone dumb, even for Fox. Read the character names and descriptions on that Wikipedia site, for starters: “Temperance Brennan” and “Seeley Booth” are your heroes. Take that petri dish of stupidity and add the desire to one-up CSI at every level, and you end up with forensic pathologists at the Smithsonian who have holographic technology straight out of Aeon Flux.

Plus it has a message: the one I saw was about a murdered prostitute addicted to plastic surgery and Dr. Temperance Brennan lamenting about people so convinced they’re ugly that they willingly give up their individuality. Which is a good, albeit preachy, point, although the whole time she was talking I couldn’t stop staring at her protruding brow ridge.

The Closer
This one isn’t so bad, actually; it’s your typical old-school hour-long crime show. I just wish somebody would give Emmy Award Nominee Kyra Sedgwick a dialect coach. One of the things about her character (who’s pretty much completely unlikable and annoying) is that she’s supposed to be from Atlanta. Nobody from Atlanta talks like that, not even on “Designing Women.”

Grey’s Anatomy
I only caught a few minutes of this one, and I don’t get it. I keep hearing about what a huge hit it is, and I guess I assumed it was a show about a hospital. From what I could tell it’s a show about self-obsessed average-looking women who wanted to have sex with equally average-looking guys. Maybe it’s got some subtleties I just didn’t pick up on.

Kenneth Copeland’s Believer’s Voice of Victory
I’ve seen three sermons/infomercials by this guy, and the recurring theme of each wasn’t so much faith and belief or even Christianity, but “Praise Jesus I’ve got so much money.” He talks about his boats and his planes and his big houses and his big cars and how all of us could have as much money as he does if we just have faith. And tax-exempt status, I’m assuming.

There are plenty of televangelists out there a lot more toxic — as far as I’m aware, Kenneth Copeland hasn’t blamed 9/11 on the liberals or said “nyah, nyah” to a stroke victim. I was just surprised by the rhetoric of the Copelands, having grown up watching Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker (yes, really) reveling in their wealth and excess and seeing how that whole thing played out.