15 September 2006

Fun with the New York Times: The TV Listings

I usually read the New York Times online, but when I pick up the snail edition, I cannot help myself--after reading the front page and the editorial section--I go straight to the TV program grid, which offers all the delicious televisual treats the culture industry has planned for us this evening in thrillingly microscopic detail. I say "thrillingly" because, for me the best part of the program grid, with its overwhelming array of channels--a grid that stretches across, that consumes, an entire page of the newspaper--is that so little space remains to actually describe the program appearing in each shallow rectangle. I'd love to meet the person in charge of writing these telegraphic, almost haiku-like, sketches because, when the words aren't truncated almost to the point of unintelligibility, our writer includes a sardonic opinion in what is surely intended to be a straight-up program guide. It makes me wonder if the Times is writing for a perceived "hip" audience, or if this is the work of a precocious mind desperately fending off boredom. Plus, all the capsule bits are written by my favorite author, Anonymous.

Enough of that exposition. Let's take a look at yesterday's paper.

The first main rectangle of network and local channels offers the most descriptive and therefore, usually, the least interesting examples:

7:30pm, ch 2, CBS
Entertain Tonight
"C.S.I.: NY"
[This is fun, only because space requirements tighten "Entertainment Tonight" into "Entertain Tonight," which I'm certain is only wishful thinking. I especially admire the punctuation-happy quotation marks, periods between C, S, & I, and, of course, the colon. (Keep an eye out for hyphens.)]

8pm, ch 2, CBS
Survivor: Cook Islands
Based on ethnicity, contestants divide into four tribes.
[Yawn.]

8pm, ch 7, ABC
Grey's Anatomy
The interns care for a family involved in a car accident.
[This is where the theme of a show comes into direct conflict with (or maybe the direct realization of) a given episode's specific story. I mean, except for the "family' part, doesn't this sort of thing happen every week on a show set in a hospital? When space is even less available, these can be shortened into: "Doctors care for accident victims." Or even better: "Doctors work in hospital." Will the excitement never stop?]

In our next two examples, from an NYC local channel, we get consecutive descriptions that sound alarmingly like, well, like the same show.

8pm, ch 9, WWOR
Desire
Fate intervenes in love affairs.

9pm, ch 9, WWOR
Fashion House
Surprises in love.

While I have no idea what "Fashion House" could be about (is it an import from Japan?), if we do a little rearranging, it becomes clear that perhaps all TV really is interchangeable:

Desire
Surprises in love.

Fashion House
Fate intervenes in love affairs.

Or maybe we could just make them one fabulous 2-hour program:

Fashion House Desire
Love surprised when Fate intervenes in affairs.

NEXT WEEK on Fashion House Desire!
Tensions build when Love borrows Fate's designer shoes.

It is in the Cable listings that our intrepid writer really shows her stuff. Extra points for creativity and critical opinion when the star list crowds out the story.

6:30pm, ENC
Elf (2003)
Will Ferrell, James Caan.
Joyful.
[Bitchy irony or heartfelt admission? You decide.]

8pm, ENC
Out of Sight (1998)
George Clooney.
Escaped convict and federal marshal, via Soderbergh. Sultry, steamy charmer.
[So much with so little. Or is it so little with so much? We get the director and the opinion, but as for plot: "Escaped convict and federal marshal." What on earth could that mean? The possibilities are... endless?]

8pm, FLIX
Better Off Dead (1985)
John Cusack.
Lovesick teenager. Surreal romantic comedy.
[You have to admire Anonymous' ability to distill the essence of a film, even Better Off Dead. Protagonist + Genre = Um... lame description for readers who won't watch it anyway?]

9:30pm, FLIX
Fearless Fighters (1973)
Chang Ching, Chen Lieh [Oh my god! I LOVE them!!]
Martial artlessness.
[Snap! Snap! Oh, no you di'n't! (Oh, yes. You did. Oh, Anonymous....)]

6:30pm, HBO2
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Robert Redford [Oh my god! I LOVE him!]
Sleek, strained, with absurd ending.
[Here, the snobbery of our author overrides any attempt to submit a cogent, or even a coherent, plot. And where's Woody? Where's Demi?? How about "Million Dollar Adultery. Strained."? See? I could do this job! I could write the TV Listings for the New York Times! See? See?]

10pm, SHO2
The Hazing (2004)
Brad Dourif, Philip Andrew [What-the?]
Lacks class.
[(slapping thigh, wiping tears from eyes) Oh, stop, Anonymous! Stop!]

6:30, AMC
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Dirk Bogarde
Pounding, graphic WWII drama.
[I don't know about you, but it sounds like, well, it sounds like porn. I'm renting it tomorrow.]

8pm, AMC
Enemy of the State (1998)
Will Smith, Gene Hackman
Victim of assassination cover-up. High-tech turn-on. [Yay! Double hyphens! Double whammy!]
[With AMC, Anonymous clearly turns to thoughts of love, or at least becomes a bit over-heated. What are the odds of seeing descriptions of back to back films that use "pounding," "graphic," and "turn on," I ask you?]

Dirty little Anonymous continues the sexual subtext with our next AMC film:

10:30pm, AMC
Narc (2002)
Ray Liotta, Jason Patric.
Guilt-ridden cop [hyphens!] with nowhere to turn. Grimy and entertaining.
[Cop with nowhere to turn? This is an alleged plot? You'd be better off with--oh, who cares! The spectacle of seeing "grimy" and "entertaining" together at last in the same sentence is excitement enough.

I leave you with a quick listing of some of the everyday tresures (and I mean every day), because I think the beauty of Anonymous' work truly only shines when robbed of context.

Color of money downtown. Brilliantly constructed, with feet of clay.
[Gives with one hand, takes away with the other.]

Half-baked and faintly ridiculous.
[But only faintly. Do you smell that too? This is Cruel Intentions, by the way.]

Women and Baseball, back when. Immensely enjoyable.

And my favorite:

American scrambles through demon-filled mystical world and falls in love with goddess. Wildly uneven.
[Oh. My. God. Where do I sign, bitch? I assume the "American" part is very, very important to the plot. I mean, right? It at least gives you a visual feel...?]

3 comments:

Demosthenes said...

History Channel Promo
Bald greek man in wig. A must see.

Fern said...

I can't wait to see that hot bald man! What will they say about him in the Times, I wonder?

Demosthenes said...

They will be lining up at the Gene Machine to mate with him for sure!