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Two Summer TV Ideas

As the television season staggers to an end, you may find yourself with nothing good to watch. It's going to be three or four years before The Sopranos comes back to wrap everything up, and even the shows like The Apprentice are closing down for the summer.

Naturally, you're going to need to lower your television standards a little. Oh, I suppose you could also read a book, go outside, or learn to play the flute. But that might be going a little overboard. Besides, I've already got a couple of lowered-television-standards suggestions lined up, and I'm not prepared to give flute-playing tips. So we're going to have to assume that you want to keep watching television even though nothing particularly good is on.


Aw, man. This VH-1 show is just great (remember, we're lowering our standards here; something that ranks as "a mild diversion" in February is "brilliant" in June). The idea the producers had was that a handful of random rock stars would be brought together in a house for a couple of weeks, without knowing which other people were going to be in the band, and they'd record an album. Almost immediately, the plan broke down, and by episode 2, SuperGroup is already an example of what happens to a reality show when the subjects don't play along.

Here's the cast: Lead singer Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row and, lately, Gilmore Girls), rhythm guitarist Scott Ian (the guy from Anthrax with that long, skinny, pharaoh-beard), bassist Evan Seinfeld (the tattooed guy from Biohazard who played Jaz Hoyt on Oz), drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and currently touring as the drummer for Foreigner for some reason), and lead guitarist Ted Nugent (Ted Nugent).

The problem here is that your average reality show likes to make the cast jump through dopey hoops, like when the people on The Surreal Life have to go work at a diner or something. And these people are rock stars, which means they are both rich enough not to care and rebellious enough to dig in their heels. So when a costumer shows up and tries to get the band to dress in crazy futuristic outfits, Scott Ian just laughs at her. And Ted Nugent, when presented with publicists, behaves almost exactly how you would expect him to. (I think the problem there is that Ted Nugent understands how ridiculous it is to still be "Ted Nugent" in 2006, and he's decided to live it up. You can see that in more detail on his own reality show, which involves just as much hunting as you think it does.)

The band is in the house for twelve days, at the end of which they are supposed to have written one song (the expectations apparently got scaled down from "a whole album" pretty dramatically) and then perform a concert. We're only a couple of episodes in, so you've got plenty of time to see guys with tattoos yell at each other and abuse their personal chef (a young lady named "Danushka", who I believe has been on both The Bachelor and Fear Factor: Model Edition, so she should have known what she was getting into).

The part that's surprising to me is just how seriously (some of) the band takes their assignment. Mixed in with the publicist-abusing are really interesting scenes of Evan Seinfeld and Sebastian Bach writing lyrics and messing around on ProTools and generally acting like professional musicians.

Oh! Also, it's fun to see what the band members demanded in their contracts; for example, in every episode, Evan Seinfeld gets several minutes to talk about his wife, Tera Patrick, and their porn company.

Last Comic Standing

Okay, remember the terrible show about the stand-up comics? The one that got cancelled partway through the third season because no one was watching it? It's back! Hooray!

The audition episode was my favorite, because I love terrible, unfunny comedy. But they've whittled it down to the professional comics, so it's going to be more consistent from here on out. The only problem (and this is a problem it had in previous seasons too) is that several of the professional comedians seem a little more high-profile than they should be. I mean, Bil Dwyer is funny, but he's already had a television show: he was one of the hosts of BattleBots! Shouldn't they be restricting it to people I don't recognize?

Judging from the first two and a half seasons, Last Comic Standing will be good fun for another two or three episodes, which will be almost totally devoted to stand-up comedy. After that, it morphs into one of those "a bunch of people in a house" reality shows, where people get on each other's nerves (as well as on the nerves of me, the home viewer) while one comic gets sent home each week. It's a little more fun than most Real World-type shows, though, because the housemates will have been chosen on the basis of "being funny" rather than "having prominent cheekbones and a drinking problem" or "having a sheltered upbringing which will play nicely against her new activist lesbian roommate".


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