Everything We Know We Learned From Television

Critic Tim Goodman takes on Osama Bin Laden death coverage, the Royal Wedding, the Office Finale and more
Photo by Hugo Burnand

·     Hey, anything happen while we were away on vacation? Whuck?

·     Let’s go to the tote board: Osama Bin Laden is killed, there was a royal wedding, Steve Carell left The Office and President Obama made fun of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Oh, and Justified had its season finale. What, Charlie Sheen was too busy to light a homeless person on fire?

·     The point here could be that TV critics shouldn’t take vacations. (It’s always kind of a busman’s holiday anyway. What are we going to do – read?) Or maybe the TV gods don’t believe in giving time off to people who watch television for a living. There might be some logic in that.

·     The Bin Laden news qualifies as one of those surreal moments when you can’t believe what you’re seeing on television. It just came so far from out of nowhere that context was lacking from cable television’s very surprised talking heads. In fact, the breaking news sat out there for a long time as a strange declarative sentence: “Osama Bin Laden Is Dead.” No doubt that, as a nation, many people sat there stunned, watching Wolf Blitzer try to explain the situation.

·     After the reality sunk in, of course, the news reaffirmed that television is not just our nation’s shared cultural experience, but it’s also an indispensable storytelling outlet for hard news. Yes, Twitter was way out in front as usual, but there’s always a need for pictures (even if, in this case, the picture was CNN’s John King, who initially looked like he was pulled from a coma to go on the air).

·     Yes, if you’re wondering, the vacation – aka “work stoppage” – was over then. Plenty of time to see the story unfold.

·     As for the royal wedding, well – wait, what country are we in? Oh, right. The one that ran away from the monarchy only to become besotted by the tattered tabloid elements of it hundreds of years later. Come on, people. Even if they are our cousins, it doesn’t mean we have to go all soft about their lame class system.

·     Actually, maybe there wasn’t much to miss anyway. Spending hours in front of the television watching the royal wedding and listening to fawning nonsense would have been a distant second to having a piece of bamboo jammed through our penis.

·     As for Carell’s departure from The Office, well, that wasn’t exactly a state secret right? And, unfortunately, the series didn’t end with him. Meaning our country gets another kind of second act in the pending return of an already creatively wobbly series, which kind of makes you wish Fitzgerald was right all those years ago.

·      By the way, you can look for how The Office and Justified fared in The Power Rankings!, which will be out shortly.

·     In the meantime, and in all seriousness, Charlie Sheen is still alive, right?

·     So we have this really great idea for a singing competition show and…what? There’s how many?

·     Memo to Paul Reiser: Was your show rushed on the air? Sure. Could there have been better promotion? Yes. But here’s the hard truth you didn’t tell Jay Leno when you bitched about your show getting canceled: It wasn’t funny. And nobody watched. Beyond those extremely large stumbling blocks, it seems that NBC gave you the show as a sort of favor. You know, for all those good years way back when on Mad About You. So, exit gracefully. You’ve got the money. There are worse things than being pretty famous from 1992 to ’99.

·     The Katie Couric Experiment at CBS is over. All told, it was kind of like After M*A*S*H.

·     The CW, with nothing better to do, announced that it was renewing five shows. To which the world said out loud: “There are five shows on the CW?”

·     It’s actually too easy and no longer any fun to pick on The CW. Mostly because no matter what anyone says, it stubbornly won’t go away. It’s like Charlie Sheen that way. Only with more curves and a much shorter skirt.

·     All My Children and One Life to Live are ending incredibly long runs. The respective casts will finally be let outside their fake rooms and into the sunshine. They will all fall to the ground over-dramatically and weep. They will do crossword puzzles and go grocery shopping and sleep until noon. There will be no twists or surprises in their lives and they will all die of boredom on obscure bocce ball courts in Glendale and Pasadena. The end.


·     There are 139 cooking shows. Why can’t there be, what, seven or eight singing competition shows? Honestly, we have a really great idea. It’s a hidden camera series following blind piano players who sing the blues in dingy bars with neon martini signs outside. Winners will get a bunch of $20 bills stuffed into their fish bowls and an opening gig for either Tom Waits or Dr. John. Who wouldn’t watch that?

·     Breaking: TBS announces third unwatchable Tyler Perry series.

·     Kara DioGuardi apparently says in her new book that she was not – repeat, not – fired from American Idol. While it might be easy to say “whatever” to that nonsense, isn’t the bigger issue here that she wrote a book? That people are supposed to buy?

·     Katie Couric says that she wants a job that allows her to do “multi-dimensional storytelling.” Apparently all that major national and international stuff on CBS News was too simple for her. The Middle East situation? Bo-ring. War? Dime a dozen. In any case, we wish her well in whatever new venue we won’t be watching her in.

·     You may have missed this, but when it was announced that Boston Rob was going to have his own show on the History Channel, God threw up in his mouth.

·     In other news, the History Channel has erased all traces of history from its programming. “It was hecka hard to get rid of the 873 Hitler specials we had,” said a senior History Channel executive, who was a former intern at MTV. “There was like, tons of stuff on wars and stuff. I said to my peeps at the staff meeting: ‘Einstein and the Wright Brothers can suck it, yo.’ Everybody went crazy. I gotta thank my dad for giving me those names. I wrote ‘em on my hand.”

·     Breaking: PBS still on the air.

·     Madelyn Pugh Davis, one of the great driving forces behind I Love Lucy died at age 90. She was old school when there was no school. She helped write 39 episodes a season and nailed it pretty much every time. She was a pioneer. And Lord, they could have used her on The Paul Reiser Show.

·     Bethenny Frankel reportedly has earned $120 million for being a reality star. Don’t tell that to God – the Pepto hasn’t set in yet.

·     For some reason that escapes us, Weeds is coming back. Would that it were a comedy again.

·     Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN is, like The CW before it, still turning the lights on every day. It’s just so damned cute.

·     The High Fives: 1. Game of Thrones getting picked up for a second season. 2. That atmospheric slowness of The Killing. 3. Archer. 4.  Justified. 5. Coming up with a singing competitions series we’d actually watch. Even though we haven’t.  It’s the hope that counts.

Emailt Tim.Goodman@THR.com 
Twitter: @BastardMachine