Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com has become my favorite TV critic. She's fun to read and she generally has her own take on the vast wasteland that stretches unendingly before us. I'm introducing her here with two of her reviews from this morning. Another reason I like her is that I usually agree with her. She's dead on in both of these reviews. For me anyway. I don't know why I got so hooked on Orange County Bimbos last year but I did. But ten minutes into this year's opening segment I realized these women are selfish airheads who bitch about how tough their lives are while blowing through money like Michael Jackson. Maybe I was hypnotized by their gigantic fake boobs, as Heather points out.
Ladies and gentlemen....Heather Havrilesky
A bubblin' crude:
If there's one thing more formidable than dirty-minded female robots, it's dirty-minded female comedians. Sarah Silverman has always taken great pleasure in this fact, peppering her routines with jokes that are sure to make even the heartiest, most resilient, most outrageously un-p.c. jerk among us cringe ever so slightly:
"I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl."
"I don't care if you think I'm a racist, I just want you to think that I'm thin."
"A couple nights ago, I was licking jelly off my boyfriend's penis. And I thought, 'Oh, my God. I'm turning into my mother.'"
Silverman may not have shiny silver man-titties, but she does have enormous balls. She's fearless, cranky and merciless, with a taste for the absurd. What's not to like? That girl should get herself a comedy show!
Unfortunately, Comedy Central's "The Sarah Silverman Program" (10:30 p.m. Thursdays) has all of the charms of a joke with an audible fart as the punch line. In fact, in one scene, Silverman and her friends are out to brunch, and each friend takes a turn farting audibly. When it's Silverman's turn, she soils herself instead of farting, then breaks into a melancholy ballad about pooping instead of farting, and we cut to a music video starring Silverman in a flowing white dress, gesturing dramatically on the beach like a lovelorn Alanis Morissette.
Sounds great, right? And it should be, but it's not. This confuses me. After all, I applaud almost everything that Silverman stands for: I like that, instead of accepting her fate playing benign, kinda-funny kinda-hot roles on sitcoms, she insists on writing comedy that's absurd and offensive and seriously crude. That's not the sort of thing that women in Hollywood attempt to do very often.
Nonetheless, it's not funny enough. Furthermore, I find Silverman's character on the show grating and unlikable. Even though her character is supposed to be lazy and self-involved and pathetic, even though I quite obviously relate to this lazy, self-involved, pathetic character, I still find her unbearably cutesy and grating. You know how Chris Elliott of "Get a Life" had a certain flair that told you that, even though he was a total loser, he secretly thought he was a little bit adorable anyway? Well, Silverman has that same coy smile, but in her case, it seems to detract from the laughs instead of adding to them. She's a little too happy with herself, too peppy, too chirpily harsh.
Silverman's character could take a few pointers from Tina Fey on "30 Rock" (You're watching it now, right?): an awkward, vaguely pathetic character who manages not to be unbearably smug and cloying in a way that makes you want to punch her in the face. With all of the potential here -- the fantasy sequences, the extreme weirdness, the desire to offend -- Silverman should manage to make us laugh more often. I'm going to give this one a 3 on the Bad Sitcom Pain Scale.
Plant me in your penthouse:
So there. I just assigned a number to someone else's creation, something that another human being put lots of time and energy into, and that makes me far lazier and more pathetic than any character Silverman could dream up.
But at least I'm not as lame as any of those "Real Housewives of Orange County" (10 p.m. Tuesdays on Bravo), which is why I watch the show in the first place. People who need bad people are the loneliest people in the world, you see.
"Real Housewives" is the purest example of the Bad People genre of reality TV that I can think of. It's all about rubbernecking the worst sorts of behaviors and traits: Laziness, vanity, greed, egocentrism, teaching your children that money is the most important thing in the world, teaching your horse that it's perfectly normal, and not incredibly embarrassing, for a horse to wear hot-pink leg warmers.
Of course it makes sense that when Hollywood went hunting for obnoxious yet telegenic freaks, they didn't have to search very far. Orange County is home to mutants of all stripes, from a rich array of surgically modified, neurotic housewives to a vast and colorful range of fine examples from the whoring sea donkey species. As it turns out, Orange County is the natural habitat for a thrillingly demonstrative variety of freaks who are more than willing to strut and swagger and show off their brightly colored plumage and their repetitive mating cries for the camera's benefit.
Since it would be an injustice if our impressions of Orange County remained represented mainly by the fickle teens of MTV's "Laguna Beach," Bravo's reality narrative allows us to look beyond the enormous fake tits and the botox injections and the ugly clothes that these housewives embrace, in order to see what these very real human beings are like on the inside: Namely, they're obsessed with spending money or contemplating the money they have to spend or showing off the stuff that they've bought with their money or imagining how much money other people have and are currently spending.
In this way "The Real Housewives of Orange County" is something of a paean to consumer culture. It's also a sweet little love letter to motherhood -- crappy motherhood, more specifically. When real estate agent Jeana isn't talking about how much commission she'll make when she sells a $15 million mansion, she's informing her daughter that she'd really like to sell one of the family dogs on eBay. The daughter is horrified and disgusted, but Jeana doesn't mind. In fact, she seems to move about her life in a constant state of distraction, while her kids alternately roughhouse, act out and try to comfort each other, since their mom can't seem to manage it.
When Lauri, a tall blonde who looks like she's been surgically altered to resemble Heather Locklear, talks about her divorce and how it affected her three kids, all she mentions is how devastating it must've been for them to live in a small apartment. Thank god those days are over, because Lauri just met another rich guy, and he's so very successful and he's such a good guy, and did she mention how rich he was? It seems that the males of the Orange County species are more than happy to pay for their wives' extravagant lifestyles as long as they look as much like a Barbie as humanly possible. Lauri's life is going great again! Well, except for the small matter of her son having assaulted a teacher at school (the boy is currently living in a state-run boarding school), which Lauri glosses over in conversations on the beach with her friends.
And then there's Jo, the whoring sea donkey of the group. Jo doesn't seem to have a career or a life of any kind, but she does have a chumpy boyfriend who pays for everything while she dresses up in lingerie and goes to parties at the Playboy mansion without him. These days, Jo is so, like, over her boyfriend, but then she kinda wonders who's going to buy her, like, food if she breaks up with him.
Yes, "Real Housewives" is full of soulless, distasteful people who will disappoint and disgust you and most important, make you feel much better about your own disturbingly shallow existence. Which is nice, because when you smile at how shallow and focused on quick fixes and immediate gratification other people are, the world smiles back at you, then reminds you that there's blueberry pie in the fridge with your name on it.
Next week: What do white rappers, Broadway hopefuls and interior designers have in common?