If you do something once around this time of year, then do it again 12 months later, does it qualify as a holiday tradition?
Last November, spurred on by the warm rush of sentiment Thanksgiving typically inspires and a tighter-than-usual publication deadline I dropped my patented Mr. Crankypants attitude to compose a list of things for which a guy who gets paid to watch television should be thankful. (Granted, anybody who can manage to pick up a check just for sitting on his ass in front of a TV should be grateful for that alone, but I digress.)
The exercise proved so exhilarating, I decided to do it again. Because as much as we all rail against "reality" shows and bitch about the infomercial wasteland, this truly is an incredible little box we have plugged into our homes. It parades the entire world in front of our eyes in real time, no less makes us all connected through shared emotional moments, keeps us up-to-date on every nanosecond of Anna Nicole's personal life and convinces us that Katie Couric can't possibly make it as a network anchor.
Then, just when you think television is as good as it can get, along comes HD! To think I used to dismiss hi-def as a cheap parlor trick to extort more money from consumers until I spent the majority of the summer watching one. Holy Moley! It's amazing. It's the mirrors.
Hope I'm around long enough to see what wonders the next generation of technology will bring. Until then, here's my present-day list of a few favorite tele-things:
TV20: It's now called "MyTV," though for the most part, you can have it. But our stalwart indie station was lucky and prescient enough to carry free over-the-air Tigers games in this most magical of Detroit baseball summers. Word is the Tigers now want more money for 2007 broadcast rights because the team performed so well. God, Mr. I, please don't screw this up.
Frank Turner: For giving me so much fodder to write about this year and reminding us that man cannot serve God and the 6 o'clock news.
Heroes: The kind of original, remarkable series that makes NBC look like it actually knows what it's doing. It's great to see a strong Asian character (Masi Oka) in a positive role, and any show that needs to save a cheerleader for the world to survive can't possibly be bad.
Vincent D'Onofrio: How this guy isn't nominated for an Emmy every year astonishes me. He may be the hardest-working man in show business: Producers had to bring back Chris Noth as Det. Mike Logan to split episodes with D'Onofrio, since so much of Law & Order: Criminal Intent has revolved around him. But his Det. Bobby Goren may be the most complex and fascinating character on network TV.
Charlie Rose: Best straight interview series on TV today. But wouldn't you think a guy pulling down his kind of cheese could afford cufflinks and a comb?
Marla Drutz: The coolest and most powerful woman in Detroit television that you probably don't know. She's responsible for virtually every entertainment program you watch on Channel 7, and much of what I know about the medium was learned years ago by sitting on the other side of her desk.
Dancing With the Stars: To me, this show explains why there is so much dreck on TV: If network bigdomes knew which series would be national sensations, don't you think they'd only program those shows? Who could have possibly predicted that a replacement series featuring has-been stars and retired jocks ballroom dancing would become a breakout phenomenon? Or that Jerry Springer could be so charming?
The way Carmen Harlan says "tonight": I've always found it incredibly sexy. And no, I haven't any idea why.
Deadwood: What a fucking great show! Those motherfuckers probably offer the most realistic portrayal of the Old West television has ever dared to display. But they sure say "fuck" a lot, don't they?
George Blaha: Oh, happy day! With our venerated voice of the Pistons now doing double duty on Fox SportsNet as well as TV20, there's twice as much "Count that baby, and a foul!" to enjoy. And really, who would you rather hear calling a Pistons game on a winter's night? Blaha is like comfort food for the ears. (Yet Fred McLeod, we will miss you; Cleveland's gain is our loss, sir.)
Leno: I find myself savoring each Tonight Show I'm up late enough to see lately, as if I know the series is on some sort of death watch. People said the same thing when Jay replaced Johnny, and 2009 is still a long way off, but something tells me that smartass redhead Conan will be a massive disappointment when he assumes the throne as king of late-night.
Lee Thomas: For his wit, panache ... and courage.
Robbie Timmons' blue eyes.
People who compare key moments of their real lives to a Seinfeld episode: I've never quite understood why these folks find their own lives so relatively uninteresting. But every time I hear someone say, "Hey, this is just like the time when George ..." I'm strangely fascinated.
You: If you aren't reading these columns, the Metro Times shifts its editorial budget toward a pottery critic. Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving.Jim McFarlin is media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com