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September 19, 2006 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-19

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The new culture of trash-talking TV

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"Stare at me long enough and I start to blend in."
CBS goes young,
steals no viewers

By Mark Schultz
Daily Arts Writer
The characters of "Smith" are, to
be frank, a bunch of assholes. They
deceive their
loved ones,
taser inno- Smith
cent bystand- Tuesdays at
ers and steal 10 p.m.
expensive CBS
paintings, all
in the name
of their profession. Such are the
demanding, high-profile lives of
professional thieves. And with
"Ocean's Eleven" and its sequel
such big hits, it's inevitable that
CBS would try to steal some of the
audience for a poor man's version
with Ray Liotta ("Narc") standing
in for George Clooney.
"Smith" banks on the idea that
explosions, fighting and car chases
translate well to the small screen,
which might be a fair assumption.
After all, viewers' TV rooms are
morphing into home theaters and

the threshold on TV material con-
tinues to rise steadily. The margin
of difference between Hollywood
and television is constantly nar-
rowing, and "Smith," a TV show
with big-budget special effects,
could be a successful product of
the increasing technological unity
between film and television.
But many critics dislike these
shows - and these movies - for
the same reason audiences seem
to like them. The dialogue is rou-
tine, the music is an unrelenting
pulse and, in the case of "Smith;'
the concept of thieves trying to lead
normal, everyday lives takes away
the one thing that made them inter-
esting in the first place. "Ocean's
Eleven" worked because it gave
the audience a titillating two-hour
peek, but "Smith" is on every week.
Writers will soon learn there are
only so many valuables to steal and
banks to rob. Thrills and chases
might be everywhere, but the lack
of substance serves the show poorly
- Liotta in a ski mask might hide
his aging grimace, but not the
show's inanity.

By Bernie Nguyen
Managing Arts Editor
There are a lot of things out there pro-
claiming we're a godless society - that our
greatest pleasure lies in watching celebrities
and politicians get ripped apart, and that we
derive some fundamental pleasure from
watching Nancy Grace, whose helmet hair
is perfectly suited to the barbarian-like way
she clobbers viewers with her own brand of
justice. I think there might be a religious
sect somewhere in the heartland counting
down the days until the apocalypse, and
who can blame them? Tsunamis, hurricanes,
floods and the only thing we care about is
whether or not that really hot chick in the
bikini will stab her best friend in the back
for a wad of cash.
TV culture is quickly degenerating into a
culture of offense. Instead of art, comedy and
substance, we've got shows on every network
encouraging couples to cheat on each other.
We've basically sold our grandmothers up the
river for the chance to swing from a vine and
eat chocolate naked on television. And it's
even better when we can turn it into a race
war. We surely aren't discriminatory enough
in real life - let's make reality television the
new hotspot for latent tension between ethnic
groups. Let's watch the white people publicly
confess their desire for those Hispanics to
lose out. Awesome.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for entertain-
ment, and there are shows on television that
do just that without degrading their eager
participants. "American Idol," for one. I'm
not really a fan, but from what I see, it's like
a karaoke competition on national television.
And people love it. Reality television doesn't
have to prey on the slick underbelly of moral-
ity to be successful. Sure, Simon Cowell is
cutting. But he's honest, and mean judges
aren't a new invention. People don't watch

American Idol for Simon. They aren't look-
ing for cruelty.
To some extent, reality TV is, in fact, real.
We've always cheated, betrayed and lied to
our friends and neighbors since we first start-
ed walking upright. But never before have we
so celebrated that fact. We're not ashamed of
our faults anymore - we're proud of them.
And we're damn proud that we've found a
way to turn a profit on them.
But after all, television is what people want
to watch. No one would make shows like
"Temptation Island" if there wasn't already a
gaggle of vacant-eyed viewers waiting to be
tempted by the vicarious meanness of thong-
clad yuppies. And these bachelors, so slick
and perfectly groomed, testing out women by
the dozens based on nothing more than a first
impression and sending them home while the
spurned females weep into their confessional
cameras about love, so soon lost. What love?
Is this what we really think is romance? Are
the promiscuous co-eds of "Real World" the
role-models of today's middle-schoolers?
It's not about being prudish. It's about
recognizing that there are things that can't
be personal anymore because television has
pushed every sacred subject out the window
and dressed it in pasties.
It's spread to informational television, too.
Instead of journalism, we have people like
Grace and her crass "personality." All we
hear her say is what the police do wrong, who
was guilty. There's simply no way that she's
wrong.
Except often she is. And when she's wrong,
she messes up big time. Claims that Grace
drove a woman to suicide are beginning to
tinge the edges of her show more than a little
crimson. After an interview with Grace, dur-
ing which the television prosecutor grilled her
for information concerning her whereabouts
and activities at the time of her son's disap-
pearance, Melinda Duckett, whose two-year-

Courtesy of NBC
The latest look in fall knitwear.
old is still missing, killed herself.
The controversy surrounding the case
comes from all sides. Did she kill herself out
of guilt? Was it because she felt that her case
was hopeless? Or was she simply "bashed," as
her relatives claim?
In the end, it doesn't really matter. What's
sad is that even afterward, CNN still felt the
compulsion to shock, and ran the interview
anyway. What's sad is that the Schiavos and
Ramseys of the world will almost certainly
feel the aftereffects from the fact that their
personal lives became another piece of sen-
sational news. And why not? If we can watch
a family of slightly obese, Juicy-wearing
Oklahomans choke down dung beetles for a
chance at $1,000, it's really not a far stretch to
believe that we'll sell our own personal trag-
edies, formerly the stuff of plays and poetry,
if someone offers us the right price.
Just make sure you negotiate. If Richard
Hatch can get a million dollars by walking
around naked on a beach, you should at least
get that much for your dignity.

Catch the Wave: Poetry bus to stop in A2

By Andrew Sargus Klein
Associate Arts Editor
In accordance with the Residential College's
devotion to poetry, The Wave Books Poetry Bus
Tour will stop tonight at 7 p.m. in East Quad-
rangle's Residential College Auditorium, one the
bus's 50 stops in as many days. The Rolling Stones
don't even tour this hard.
No, this is not the bus your parents wish they
were on - you know, the one with Ken Keasey,
fresh batches of LSD and an "NYC or Bust"
manifesto.
Simply put, this tour is about poetry.

Founded in 2005 and based in Seattle, Wave
Books' website describes its mission as "dedi-
cated to publishing the
best in American poetry
by new and established The Wave
authors." Books
The tour's website, Poetry Bus
www.poetrybus.com,hosts Tonight at 7 p.m.
an ongoing blog. Visitors Free
can enjoy pictures of the
contributing poets in vari- Atast Quadrale
ous locations along with
anecdotes and general observations.
Although the tour hosts several poets pub-
lished under the Wave Books banner, its goal
is not solely to promote its own - most of the

tour's poets are not with Wave Books. Tonight's
readers include the RC's own Ken Mikolowski,
the heart and soul behind the recently rejuve-
nated Alternative Press.
When speaking to The Believer, a literary
magazine, Wave Books's editor and tour orga-
nizer Joshua Beckman said, "The bus tour is
attempting to create an environment in which
poets from over a huge geographical area have
meaningful engagement - not only through
reading and listening, but collaborating."
Admission is free. Unabashedly proclaimed
on the website as "the biggest literary event of
2006 and the most ambitious poetry tour ever
attempted," it isn't possible to understate this
event's importance.

1

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