Pop Culture

Test Pattern: My super spoiled brat

My super spoiled brat

write a lot about TV, and that includes reality TV. As anyone does who's even peripherally involved with television, I get a lot of random hate mail that's aimed not really at me (I hope), but at the shows that people hate. A lot of people hate reality TV, and thus I get a lot of "When will it go away?" mail.

Some of the mail I get is so vehemently angry that it's obvious people are looking for a scapegoat, so they blame reality TV for the downfall of society. I also think that while some reality TV is indeed embarrassing, so is some scripted TV. And some reality shows are entertaining or even (gasp) educational.

I get sick of reading how every last problem in our society can be blamed (according to some folks) on a television trend. Rock music has been demonized for years, movies have been demonized, and I just don't care to be invited to the first burning of the reality-show DVDs, thank you.

That said, I recently saw a couple of episodes of a reality show that almost had me running for the matches myself. It's MTV's and it's just awful.

I remember turning 16. It wasn't that long ago. I had a party, had friends over, we rode horses, we played pinball, we stayed up late. It sounds like I grew up in Mayberry when I state it here, but I swear I lived in a major metropolitan area. I'm sure there was also a lot of talk about boys and teachers and blah blah blah.

That's not the kind of party MTV 16-year-olds have. First, they have parents who have ungodly amounts of money. Second, they have parents who think waving money over their kids (in one scene, a dad literally takes a wad of cash and waves it at his daughter to get his attention) equals raising them.

On one episode, the girl's father owned some Florida nightclubs, so he had her party at one of them. He also booked singer Ciara to sing at it (double-dipping somewhat by also booking Ciara to sing at one of his clubs, apparently). His daughter was upset because the air conditioning in their limo stopped working and she had to ride to her party in -- gasp -- an Acura. In an earlier scene, he gave her $100 cash to give a friend for that friend's birthday (because shopping for, or worse yet, making a present, would show too much thought, apparently) but his daughter skimmed $40 of that $100 for herself, in full view of the cameras. Her party cost $203,000, but MTV's Web site says "her father says that he would do it all again."

Now this party took place before Hurricane Katrina, but let's stop and think for a moment what $203,000 could do to help hurricane relief. It would pay the salaries of numerous out-of-work people who've lost everything, or the salaries of relief workers already stretched thin. It would buy one or more homes, depending on the city. It would replace cars, furniture, clothes. It would feed the hungry, help rebuild that which has been flooded or torn to pieces.

Seeing MTV touting the huge amounts wasted on these ridiculous parties makes me think of the famous line from the McCarthy hearings, the lines that slowly helped people open their eyes. "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Ceremonial setting of the TiVo

It's the first Monday after Labor Day, which may not be a holiday, but is the traditional date for the ceremonial Setting of the TiVo (or the VCR, if that's your preference).

The Fall TV season is just about to swing into gear (see our previews of here, here), and as a TV editor, I've got to get my electronic helpers all set up to assist me in doing my job. Because sometimes I do receive advance tapes or DVDs of upcoming shows, but oftentimes I'm just watching TV shows on their appointed nights with the rest of the country. Note that this is network TV only, though I of course do watch my share of cable programming.

Here's the so you can follow along. And remember, if it seems like I'm watching a freakish amount of TV, it really is my job. Or at least that's what I'm gonna say.

MONDAY: The only show I'm TiVoing here is "Prison Break." The drama hit #6 in the Nielsens last week, but it earned an unfair advantage from being the first new show out of the gate. We'll see if it can hold those ratings, but still, the complicated story of Michael Scofield trying to break himself and his supposedly unjustly condemned brother out of prison has caught my interest for now.

TUESDAY: I confess, more Tuesdays than not, I'll probably be watching the weight watchers on reality show "The Biggest Loser." It's that rare reality show where the people actually look like regular folks, and they're less nasty to each other and more concerned about making themselves look and feel better.

WEDNESDAY: Here's where TiVo comes in very handy (good thing I have more than one). I can't resist checking out how Martha Stewart does Trump one better on "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." But it runs at the same time as my true reality guilty pleasure, "America's Next Top Model" (fortunately, if I miss "Top Model" on Wednesdays, UPN is smartly rerunning it the following Tuesday). My husband wants me to get into "Veronica Mars," and from everything I've seen, it's a smartly written second-season show. It'll go on the secondary TiVo list, but it can't beat out "Lost" for my time. I'm intrigued to find out how the plane-crash drama deals with all the back in May.

THURSDAY: For my job, I'm required to watch the original-recipe "Apprentice," with Donald Trump, as well as "Survivor: Guatemala." No, really. But there are a lot of shows I'll be TiVoing and dropping in on throughout the season, just less regularly. I figure I'll tune in to "Alias" early on, to see what Michael Vaughn's real story is, as well as how the show deals with star Jennifer Garner's pregnancy. And there are two intriguing new shows on Thursdays. The best (only) comedy of the new lineup, in my opinion, is "Everybody Hates Chris." It's kind of a "Wonder Years" takeoff based on Chris Rock's Brooklyn childhood, with Rock himself providing hilarious narration. And I've been sucked into new drama "Reunion," the story of what 20 years have done to a group of high-school friends who reunite at the funeral of one of them who has been murdered. I don't watch mega-hit "CSI," but instead rely on my co-worker, Paige, to fill me in on the latest twists and turns there.

FRIDAY: Even a TV editor doesn't have to watch TV on Friday, and the networks accommodate by putting absolutely nothing on I'd like to see.

SATURDAY: Ditto, with the possible exception of an occasional juicy episode of "48 Hours Mystery," which can sit on the TiVo until needed.

SUNDAY: I watch "Desperate Housewives" half for work, half for me. (I still think of Eva Longoria as Isabella from "The Young and the Restless," by the way.) And I watch "The Simpsons" purely for me, because it's still quotable, after all these years. This Catholic-school grad is still chuckling over a line from the episode where Bart and Homer convert to Catholicism. Marge charges into Bart's Catholic school to yank him out, and he says "Mom, this is the CATHOLIC church. Chicks have no authority here!