It’s difficult to say which aspect of FX’s “Todd TV” is most annoying. Is it the fact that it’s essentially just an elaborate weekly infomercial for T-Mobile cellular (described in press material as the show’s “Official Wireless Carrier”)? Or could it be that the star of this quasi-reality mess -- slacker extraordinaire Todd Santos -- is so inherently unlikable?
Either way, anyone who commits to spending an hour of his or her life during the next six weeks with this contrived cacophony of cluelessness could suffer from many of the same inertia issues as the featured player. It may not quite be the end of civilization as we know it, but we can surely see it from here.
The idea, adapted by Endemol USA from its Dutch series “Master Plan,” surrounds the mock interactive notion that the viewing audience can help turn around the life of a 30-year-old beach bum who has heretofore done nothing with himself. The cameras follow Santos, who waits tables near his modest Hermosa Beach apartment. Originally from Massachusetts, he has dreams of becoming a songwriter or something. In the meantime, he busies himself as an aimless jerk -- the kind who lounges in bed until the crack of noon, sports shaggy hair and a three-day growth and carries a generally misogynistic view of the opposite sex.
Can America possibly improve this man before it’s too late? The early indications aren’t encouraging. Todd is lazy, self-centered and occasionally even mean. So he’s signed a “contract” with hipster host George Gray to agree to 24/7 camera surveillance and a promise allowing the nation to decide his immediate future. We watch his life over the preceding week and then get to vote at the end of each hour on altogether manufactured life issues.
Give exec producers John de Mol and Tom Forman credit for this much: They didn’t choose their subject because he’s particularly serious about anything. In the first 15 minutes, Santos supplies a pair of suitably flip observations: “If you can trust anyone, it would be reality television”; and, of his relationships with women, “I’m not ready to commit, because committing is a ... commitment.” So true.
Apparently, the concept from the get-go involves breaking down Santos’ will and forcing him to hit bottom. This is unfortunately a bit redundant since he’s already pretty much there when the video cameras arrive. They make him quit his job as a waiter and take one as a paperboy delivering the Daily Breeze by bicycle. Music producer Don Was drops by to help our hero write and record the show’s theme song, since this is evidently what paperboys do. And at key junctures in the opener, Todd’s product-placement T-Mobile phone gives that distinctive da-da-da-da-da ring tone. Hey, what’s Catherine Zeta-Jones got that Todd Santos don’t? (Let’s not even go there.)
The conclusion finds America being asked to vote on a pair of questions: Should Santos allow his mother or his therapist to move in with him? (He must commit to one.) The other: Should he take a job delivering singing telegrams or as a gofer for Bret Michaels, frontman for the band Poison?
If Todd doesn’t obey the feedback, he reportedly won’t receive the $5,000 a week he’s being promised by the producers. But here’s one vote for putting us out of our misery by yanking this misfire before it devolves into an even greater embarrassment.