DATE: 2/27/2004 11:57:00 AM
Adventures in Cable TV
After doing our usual smoking and loitering (and eating--both of us falling of the Low-Carb Wagon, I might add) at Uno's in Burlington last night, Kellie and I headed to my house, where loitering is unfortunately nonsmoking, but, happily, free. There, we assumed our usual positions in the living room and turned on the TV.
Which is about when I remembered that the Bartman ball was scheduled to be destroyed at 8:30 EST, and that its destruction was to be broadcast live on MSNBC.
I looked up at the clock. It was 8:13 EST.
And so the night's adventure began.
We flipped to MSNBC (a channel I otherwise make it a habit to avoid) and were greeted with the night's first Moment of Zen: The COUNTDOWN TO DESTRUCTION. I have to hand it to MSNBC on this one: when they do something, they definitely don't fuck around. You'd have thought we were about to blow up Osama bin Laden's hiding place the way they were bringing in experts, "going live to the scene" and speculating about possible uses for the "moosh" that would be left over.
Yeah, you heard me. The moosh.
So we waited, and we viewed emailed suggestions as to how best to dispose of "the moosh" (my favorite: feed it to a goat, then let the goat "fertilize" Wrigley Field's outfield grass). Next we heard from experts--the guys from Mythbusters--on how the destruction would play out.
And I don't know which is sadder--that they had the guys from Mythbusters on as "experts" or that both turned out to be completely wrong.
The one guy, the one of them who always wears a beret and glasses, actually theorized that a pipe bomb would be used.
The reality turned out that the ball, hooked up like Frankenstein in a fiberglass capsule, was weakened from the outside with some type of electrical current, and then blown up from the inside via a blasting mechanism stuck where the sun don't shine.
Which is probably where the MSNBC anchor's head was stuck. Because quite possibly more frightening than the display of total randomness and collective lunacy that was Blowing up the Ball was the fact that MSNBC followed the Pre-Destruction Countdown and Live Coverage of the Event with Post-Destruction Analysis.
Meanwhile, the only sane person in all of this seemed to be Chicago Tribune Deputy Managing Editor James Warren, and, tellingly, he did not appear at all happy to be there.
Really, I feel for the folks at MSNBC. They're struggling to compete in an already saturated market--24-hour cable news--against two fairly heavily entrenched counterparts in FOXNews and CNN. Along the way, they seem to serve as little more than the frequent target of ridicule by The Daily Show. In fact, so inept are they that they may be a substitute for the Daily Show, albeit inadvertently. Someone should just put them out of their misery.
But, of course, life goes on, and next on our journey through the sublimely ridiculous was Most Extreme Elimination Challenge on Spike TV.
I'm not going to even get into the whole concept of Spike TV, the so-called "First Network for Men." Frankly, I'm not even bothered by this from a feminist standpoint--if I were a man I'd be pretty insulted by their programming as well. It seems to consist mainly of reruns of Real TV and COPS.
But back to Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. This was a very new experience for me.
The show uses footage from a Japanese game show called Takeshi's Castle, but two miscellaneous American nitwits do voice-over commentary. Takeshi's Castle, as far as I can tell, is a show in which the most idiotic people in Japan compete in various physical challenges designed by people who are either even stupider than the contestants or unfathomably sadistic. I'm not terribly sure what they're competing for, either. Perhaps the public humiliation is a reward in itself.
For example, a typical game consists of several contestants in slippery shoes attempting to paint a picture with a huge paintbrush on a large canvas. Problem: the canvas itself is greased and rests at a 45-degree angle. Two things that look only loosely human, one of which is wearing a huge red wig, stand at the top and spray down the contestants with hoses. Extreme wipeouts ensue.
Essentially, it's like Double Dare, only people get hurt. Or like Jackass, but more pathetic. And with the commentary, there's a little Mystery Science Theater 3000 thrown in there for good measure. And it's all more fun than a runaway retard at the Special Olympics (I can say something that politically incorrect, see, because I don't work for Clear Channel).
By far my favorite event on Most Extreme Elimination Challenge was a peculiar footrace that happened at the start of the show. It was basically your average footrace, only it was across a quagmire of mud. Oh, and there were walls in the way. But the walls had holes in them. There were six holes in each wall. One was sealed with easily rippable paper.
And five of them were sealed with plywood.
Are you getting the picture here? Basically picture a horde of Japanese people in bright red hockey helmets scrambling through a football field's worth of mud, and occasionally stopping to bounce comically off of plywood walls.
Then one of them will find the paper-covered hole, and they'll all tumble through into the mud on the other side, and then they'll scramble up again, and repeat as necessary.
As if this wasn't enough to cause your brain to melt, the commentary added just enough to push it totally over the edge from just bizarre to completely hilarious. It mainly accomplished this, on this particular event, by calling the play by play with all the fervor of a Depression-era radio host reporting on the photo finish of a Seabiscuit race, and by christening the strange sport Glory Hole. The coup de grace then came with this little gem at the end, which crystallized the entire picture into a moment I'll never forget:
Announcer 1: Wait, is that guy crying?
Announcer 2: What the hell!?!?!?!? There's no crying in Glory Hole!!!!
Good times, good times.
"Well, anyway," Kellie said as she was leaving a short time after witnessing MXC (coincidence?), "I'll see you tomorrow.
"We'll probably end up at Uno's again, talking about where we went wrong with our lives."