We watch... so you don't have to.

Get Me to the Church on Time

Last weekend I attended the wedding of a friend of mine. The ceremony was held in a lovely church with a breathtaking view of the surrounding woods. The bride looked stunning in her dress, the groom dashing in his tuxedo. Even the normally fashion-challenged bridesmaid dresses were smashing. After the ceremony -- which was just long enough to be reverent and traditional but not so long that guests began dropping like flies -- we sat down to a fantastic seven course banquet. In short, a picture-perfect evening. If you had to sit down and plan a wedding right to the millisecond, then this one went off without a hitch.

And I have never been more disappointed in all my life.

You see, I am a child of television. TV has been a teacher, a surrogate parent, a drinking buddy, and yes, even a friend. When no one else was there for me, I could always count on TV to be there, with a smile, a kind word and reruns of "C.P.O. Sharkey." TV has brought special people into my life -- Arthur Fonzarelli, Jack Tripper, Boss Hogg, Starsky and Hutch and, yes, even Alf. Oh, there have been dark times in my relationship with TV -- I don't think either of us would pretend we were particularly close during those two weeks that "E.A.R.T.H. Force" aired. But the tough times have only made our love stronger. And TV never demands that I have to think and reason and contemplate things like those damn books and poems.

Most importantly, though, TV has taught me things -- seminal lessons that my parents, my school teachers, my clergyman have neglected to impart on me. Important precepts such as cars can jump over gaps in freeways, bridges, even naturally occurring canyons -- particularly if the car has a neat name like "KITT" or "Viper" or "The General Lee." Or the unquestioned tenet that a group of seven total strangers who are stranded on an uncharted desert isle will become fast friends rather than plot one another's untimely demise. Television has taught me all of this... and they are teachings I have readily accepted as gospel.

But if TV has taught me nothing me else -- well, other than that dropping a giant anvil on top of a cat will result in no permanent damage -- it has taught me that the sacrament of marriage is fraught with peril. In real life, one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. But in the world of TV, most nuptials don't even get out of the starting gate.

In the past two years, we have witnessed Nurse Hathaway from "E.R.", Caroline from "Caroline in the City" and Paige from "Ellen" neé "These Friends of Mine" leave their hapless would-be spouses at the altar. Paige added insult to her pitiful swain's injury by dumping him only after having sex with one of the wedding guests... and I don't think we need Miss Manners to tell us that sort of behavior is right out for a potential blushing bride.

The entire premise for the show "Suddenly Susan" is launched when the eponymous heroine leaves her lug of a fiancee at the altar to go work for a magazine run by Judd Nelson and mug for the camera with her unfunny co-workers. If this is any indication of what happens when someone is left at the altar, then it is a practice we should discourage at all human costs.

The results are not any less calamitous when both bride and groom are able to make it to the church on time and the doors of the sanctuary are barred to prevent anyone from fleeing. On "Homicide," a hastily arranged marriage ends with one of the guests going into labor at the reception. On "Lois & Clark," Dean Cain's marriage to the yummy Teri Hatcher is revealed to be a sham when the one time Princeton football standout discovers his bride is actually a frog-eating clone. And on "Friends," a wedding ceremony is conducted by Newt Gingrich's sister, the muppet-like Candace Gingrich... though on second thought, it may well have been Bill Gates.

Frog-eating clones? Guests who go into labor? Lesbian half-sisters of chubby politicians serving as justices of the peace? This is no way to conduct a wedding, Bucky. Unless, of course, you're sinister TV executive Warren Littlefield and the ceremony is being billed as "The Wackiest Wedding of the Year." In which case, you would be a twit.

What can you say about television's views on the institution of marriage when the most normal, calamity-free wedding of the past few years occur on "Melrose Place?" You can say, "Fuck you, Institution of Marriage! Here are some crappy bath towels for my wedding present. Now point me in the direction of the open bar."

Tragically, my own wedding experiences do not include any such instances of madcap hilarity, particularly the part involving the open bar. Of the five weddings I've been to in the last three or so years, no one has fallen into the wedding cake (like in "The Brady Bunch"), none of the brides have been crushed by stray wagon wheels (like in "Bonanza") and none of the grooms have been tricked into marrying the bride's older sister by the father of the bride who then forces the groom to labor for another seven years before he's allowed to wed the younger daughter (like in Genesis, Chapter 29, verses 22 through 27). No one from the bridal party has been stuck in traffic. No one has spoken now or forever held their piece when prompted by the minister. It's been dull, dull, dull.

At one of the weddings I've been to, the groom stumbled while trying to recite his vows, and for one brief, shining moment all of us entertained the thought that he was about to inadvertently wed his best man instead... but no such luck. And at another wedding, the bride's crazy Uncle Sid cornered me for 30 minutes pestering me with brain-teasers and puns.

"How far does the hour hand on a clock move in a minute?" Sid demanded.

"I... I don't know," I sputtered, hoping he would be satisfied and move on to other prey.

No such luck. "Why does a golfer always wear two pairs of pants?"

"Get away from me, Old Man," I screamed, as I dove under a table where I spent the better part of the reception whimpering to my God for deliverance.

Crazy relatives seem to go hand in hand with weddings. At my sister's nuptials, while others fatted themselves on roast beef and swilled domestic beer, I was dispatched to Insane Relative detail, simply because my date stood me up. So I spent the entire evening making sure crazy Aunt Rita didn't leap up on the head table and start throwing dinner rolls at the assembled guess -- I spent the evening doing that and plotting everlasting revenge against my sister, of course. (And apparently, I was darn efficient at my Crazy Aunt wrangling duties. At the very next wedding, Aunt Rita locked herself in a Lincoln Continental and refused to come out until someone brought her a cup of punch. Let this be a lesson to us all.)

I think the above parable demonstrates an important point and is not merely a useless -- if somewhat amusing -- digression from the topic at hand. Crazy Uncle Sid and Batty Aunt Rita are all very amusing with their brain-teasers and their dinner rolls and their Lincoln Continentals... but this is hardly the side-splitting hilarity promised to me by the cruel bitch goddess television.

All right, you're probably thinking, Michaels has a good point, if a slightly unbalanced way of arguing it. Television lied to him, it short-changed him, it cheated him. It tempted him with nutty, zany, madcap weddings and then after he took the bait hook-line-and-sinker, Television foisted weddings teeming of normalcy, of convention, of downright un-looniness upon poor, misguided Michaels.

But surely, you're probably continuing to think because you have trouble thinking in short, pithy sentences, surely Television hasn't lied to Michaels about everything.

To which I retort, then how's about Thanksgiving?

This being the holiday season, the vast American populace was recently treated to a spate of Thanksgiving-themed television programs in which our heroes sit down to give thanks for nature's rich bounty only to find that through a series of hilarious plot twists, they find themselves right smack dab in the midst of THE WACKIEST THANKSGIVING EVER(tm)!

To wit:

  • On a recent episode of "Frasier," the entire Crane household sits down for dinner, but after Lilith and Frasier make one humorous attempt after another to get their son into a prestigious private school, they find themselves having THE WACKIEST THANKSGIVING EVER!

  • On an equally recent episode of "Suddenly Susan," Susan and her unfunny co-workers sit down for dinner, but after the oven breaks down and repairman Rodney Dangerfield dies, they find themselves neck-deep in THE WACKIEST THANKSGIVING EVER!

  • On a not-so-recent but still relatively fresh episode of "The Single Guy," the titular single guy in question and his unfunny friends sit down for dinner with the Monkees' Davey Jones, but then a bunch of wacky things happen and yadda yadda yadda. You'll have to take my word on this... my life has yet to become so empty that I'll spend half an hour watching the exploits of Jonathan Silverman.

But I think you see what I'm getting at here: Take a beloved bunch of TV characters, or at least whatever Jonathan Silverman, Brooke Shields and their respective unfunny brood are, throw in a couple of plot twists, some madcap antics, mix well and thirty minutes later, presto -- It's the wackiest Thanksgiving ever.

Only it isn't. I've been alive for 24 Thanksgiving now, and I have yet to attend one Thanksgiving dinner that registers so much as a blip on the wackiness scale. The closest I've come would be Thanksgiving about 10 years ago, when we went over to friends of my parents for dinner, and the friends decided to spurn the traditional meal of turkey for hearty servings of ham instead.

Unexpected? Sure. Untraditional? Oh yeah. But wacky? No. Not one scrap or tittle of wackiness to be found here. Just ham. Lots of ham.

So the Cruel Fates have cheated me out of a zany Thanksgiving. They've deprived me of my screwy wedding. Now they expect me to take this hearty helping of disappointment and scorn and ask for seconds.

Well, nothing doing, Cruel Fates! In fact, hear this now as my sacred pledge, my vow, my blood oath with you, the reader at home. If I should ever be lucky enough to find a woman who will wed me, I swear that my nuptials will set a new record for zaniness. Crazy relatives at the ceremony? Hell, Aunt Rita and Uncle Sid will be part of the wedding party. We'll have people speaking now or forever holding their piece. Even the minister will beg us not to wed. Nothing short of half-a-dozen fatalities will ensue at the wedding. And afterward, we'll all sit down to a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

How's that for full circle?

But until then, I've learned that the once-sweet lips of TV spew nothing but lies. And from this day forward, I will no longer believe the lies, the deceits, the yarns that TV spins. Except, of course, for the stuff I see on "Hard Copy." Because that's first-rate journalism, damnit.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *