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Fall 2000: "Cursed"

Cursed isn't just a bad show. It's an actively unpleasant experience, something like taking the most annoying guy on an average city bus, and living inside his life for a half hour.

Steven Weber stars as Jack, the guy who gets -- that's right! -- cursed. It turns out that being cursed means that lots of horrible things happen to Jack, like getting demoted, and losing his car keys.

I didn't understand, when I first heard the show's premise, just how poorly this would play out on the screen. For every bad thing that happens to him, Jack has to tell each of the other people on the show how horrible his life is. This might be funny if the things that happened to him were funny to hear about, but it's not inherently funny to watch Steven Weber talking about how he almost got fired until he started crying and managed to just get a humiliating demotion.

To be fair, he does get beat up by a clown at one point, but it's not played in a funny way. I realize that doesn't sound possible, but I'm pretty sure you could put the Marx Brothers, the Keystone Kops, Jim Carrey, and W.C. Fields in this show and they'd be less funny than the 1998 Congressional Record as read by, um, I don't know. Someone who's not very funny, I guess. Sorry, I'm not up for coming up with clever metaphors after spending a half our with my mouth gaping open while I stared at the pointlessness that NBC has seen fit to label as a "comedy." Perhaps I can soothe my troubled mind by finding refuge in a plot synopsis.

It seems that Jack, after breaking up with his girlfriend for the fifth time, is going out on a blind date with a woman of Greek ancestry. This woman talks nonstop through their date, which would have had the phrase "from hell" attached to it a few years ago. At the end of the blind date, Jack tells her he doesn't want a second date, and she curses him. This comes out of the blue, as Jack is being quite reasonable, and she didn't seem particularly magical up until that point. But it turns out she had a Gypsy grandmother and got taught the mystical arts of providing thin premises for short-lived sitcoms.

Aside from deeply plumbing Jack's miserable and distinctly unamusing life, Cursed follows Jack's attempts to woo back his shrill harridan of an ex-girlfriend. Melissa, played by Amy Pietz, is a mean, uninteresting jerk. There is not a single moment when she seems remotely like someone I would want to date, or even allow in my house. This is probably because her job on the show is to listen to Jack complain, tell him she doesn't care, and then refuse to go out with him.

It's amazing how unpleasant the people in Cursed are. By ten minutes in, I was screaming at my television for the bad people to shut up and go away. For a show to have a Moonlighting or early-Cheers vibe of "will-they-or-won't-they", it's important that the audience want the two romantic leads to be together. In this case, I didn't have any great objection to their getting together, as long as they did it somewhere where it didn't have any chance of getting on my television by accident.

Perhaps you're wondering if there's anyone else on the show. I'd hoped to spare you the terrible knowledge, dear reader, until you were a little older: Chris Elliott is back on television. And while it makes sense that Chris Elliott would be a zany sidekick, I don't understand how a loving God could allow him to be nude on national television. Oh, and there's some guy at Jack's work, but he barely has a running gag to his name. A name which, naturally, I forget. If only I could scrub my memory clean of the sight of Chris Elliott swanning about nekkid.

Oh well, nothing equals comedy like a depressed guy complaining about having been fired, right?

Now that I've made my opinion clear on the show, let's turn to NBCi's "Cursed Club." Someone at NBC has heard their nutty teenage kids talking about this "Internet" thing, and now nothing will do but the network must have a ready-made "online community." There's not much yet, since the show has barely started, but it's already got a horrifying cross-section of Chris Elliott fans lamenting the loss of Get a Life, Steven Weber fans lamenting the loss of Wings, and Amy Pietz fans lamenting the loss of Caroline in the City. And naturally, all this lamenting makes for one exciting "community." Finally, the opposing camps of Get a Life fans and Wings fans have come together to find common ground.

Somehow, I suspect that when Cursed dies its deservingly painful death, there won't be people lamenting it in the years to come.


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