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Monday, April 27, 2015

Random TV Thoughts


At the White House Correspondents Association Dinner over the weekend, Obama killed (again) with his standup routine -- particularly with the help of Keegan-Michael  Key as Luther, the president's anger translator, a reliably funny bit from "Key and Peele." What made the routine work was Obama's timing and his rising anger as he discussed climate change deniers, eventually getting too mad even for Luther. Very clever concept by his writers, perfectly executed.

Cecily Strong of "Saturday Night Live" had the unenviable closing spot after Obama. Unfortunately, she couldn't deliver with her litany of Seth Meyers-like material a la "Weekend Update." Every joke followed the same vocal pattern -- the setup in her regular voice, then the punchline in a slightly higher voice, as if to say, "this is the funny part, people!" But just like when she did "Update," the humor was seriously lacking. Proof again that being a good sketch comedian does not make you a good stand-up comic. I wish the WHCA had the balls to book Will Durst, who has long been one of the best political comedians in the USA. He would set a new standard by which all other performers at that dinner are measured.

My wife and I have watched every episode of "The Amazing Race" and are still baffled every time a couple on the show can't drive a stick shift in a foreign country. You'd think that before going on the show, teams would have watched all the previous seasons and seen that this is an obstacle the producers always put on the show -- giving everyone manual transmission vehicles to get from one destination to another. Knowing that, and having sufficient warning before the race begins, at least one person on each team should have practiced driving a stick before heading for the starting line. Even though I drove a manual in the 70s and 80s, I know I'd still need a refresher course before I went on a race for a million dollars.

The same is true of contestants on "Survivor" who don't know how to swim. For years, each season of the show has placed the tribes on beaches and included multiple water-related challenges. If you can't swim, you're automatically handicapping yourself, so why not learn before going?

Speaking of "Survivor," the biggest problem with this season is that there isn't one likable contestant. In fact, some of them are downright rude and obnoxious to each other that it seems they've forgotten the importance of the social game in an attempt to win. After all, the people you've voted off are the ones who will decide who gets the million, so berating them about having no friends or picking at their emotional scabs (as Will did last week with Shirin) or essentially challenging another player to a fight (Rodney vs. Mike) seems more than a little counter-productive. Ever since Russel Hantz, Jeff Probst and his producing colleagues have picked increasing numbers of loudmouth bullies and irritating people for the show in the belief they make for better television -- if you're a quiet thinker on "Survivor," you don't get much airtime -- but there's got to be a limit on how much psychological abuse one player can heap on another.