Dalton Ross on annoying TV narration
We here at EW have spoken and written at length about several of the new trends of the fall TV season. We’ve discussed the seemingly never-ending supply of conspiracy or serialized mystery programs. We’ve talked about the weirdness of NBC debuting two new programs (Studio 60 and 30 Rock) detailing the behind-the-scenes action at a sketch-comedy show. But there is another trend that showed up in several debut episodes that has yet to be explored, and that trend is unfortunate inclusion of random faux-philosophical narration. It usually crops up right at the beginning or the end of a program. Either way, it’s pretty damn cheesy. Let’s break down a few of the examples.
At the start of the episode, we see Milo Ventimiglia standing on the edge of a tall building, seemingly ready to jump off to test some sort of possible superpower. Apparently operating under the assumption that this scene isn’t quite derivative enough, the producers then add the sage-sounding voice of one of the other characters, who offers up the following speech:
”Where does it come from — this quest? This need to solve life’s mysteries when the simplest of questions can never be answered? Why are we here? What is the sum? Why do we dream? Perhaps we’d be better off not looking at all. Not yearning. That’s not human nature. Not the human heart. That is not why we are here.”
This fortune-cookie philosophy is a classic example of saying a lot that says nothing at all. We are presented with many questions — none of which are actually answered. You know why? Because there are no answers! ”Why are we here? Why do we dream?” Are you serious? That’s the kind of crap my 3-year-old daughter asks me, right before and after ”Can I get my hair cut like Dora the Explorer?” (The answers, by the way are: I haven’t a clue, absolutely not, and why don’t you go to sleep and find out for yourself.)
MEN IN TREES
Relationship guru/author Anne Heche has just decided to make a go of it in a small Alaskan town filled with men who look like the Brawny paper towel guy. As Heche rides her bike through town — eventually culminating in her tossing her unused wedding gown off a cliff — we see a montage of lots of people looking lonely and hear the following speech coming out of nowhere:
”The truest thing I know about relationships is that sometimes we don’t know anything at all. You can’t always get the one you want, and sometimes the one you get may not be the right one at all. But if you have hope, the universe has a funny way of showing you exactly what you need. The challenge is to let yourself be alone until the right one shows up. But you can’t hide either. Heartbreak sucks, but not having heartbreak sucks more. The answers aren’t in a lecture or a book, but maybe if you get yourself happy you’ll find the right one. I believe this, because against all odds, I am still an optimist. That’s the thing about love — if it were that easy, everyone would have it.”
This actually isn’t so bad. Personally, I could do without anyone ever talking about the universe having a funny way of doing anything, and I’ll take no heartbreak over heartbreak any day, but at least the speech fits with what her character does, which is write cheesy drivel about finding your mate through finding yourself. (Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so awful. Maybe I should start writing a self-help manifesto.) Also, at the end of the thing, we see Heche sitting in front of a radio station microphone, so presumably she is talking to someone after all, rather than to herself. Or to us. Both of which are equally annoying.
Anyone who has the current issue of Entertainment Weekly knows how I feel about this show (scroll down), but it pretty much is illustrated by this simply terrible narration that starts the show:
”In New York City, they say you walk by the person you’re gonna marry on the street three times before you ever meet them. The person next to you on the subway could be your soul mate. Anywhere you look, a stranger might leave you sudden inspiration. Every window is a view into another life. An untold story. A friend you’ve never met. A lover. A mentor. A rival. Some are on top of the world and plan on staying there. Some are on rock bottom, desperate for a second chance. On any street, any corner, you might find someone trying to clean up their act, riding lady luck for as long as she lasts. And some are gonna go through life with reckless abandon, hoping it doesn’t catch up with them. All these people living lives on top of each other. And of them — anyone at any time — could be the one that changes your life…forever.”
So many problems here. First off, who are ”they”? I’m sick of hearing what ”they say” when we have no freakin’ clue who ”they” are. In fact, when you say ”they say,” you pretty much are giving yourself license to make up any amount of B.S. that you want. And if anyone calls you on it, you just shrug your shoulders and reply, ”Well, that’s what they say.” ”Who?” ”You know, they.” Not only does this entire spiel pretend to be all deep and philosophical without actually saying anything except that you may meet someone in someplace at sometime in your life and think they’re pretty cool, but its awfulness is also magnified when you actually see the images that are matched up with it. For instance, when that line about ”On any street, any corner, you might find someone trying to clean up their act, riding lady luck for as long as she lasts” hits, what you see is — and I’m not making this up — a street sweeper passing by someone on a corner reading a horse-racing betting paper. Get it? Clean up your act with the street sweeper. Riding lady luck with the horse-racing bets. And hell, he’s even standing right on the corner! Can you get any more literal than that? You know what else ”they say”? That this show sucks.
OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
Willie Nelson was busted on his tour bus for pot the other day. What’s remarkable about this is that Willie Nelson is not busted for pot…every day! I mean, this is a dude who once smoked weed on top of the White House. A dude who once got an EW writer (not me, by the way) high as hell during an interview. A dude who is basically a poster boy for cannabis. Personally, if I were a cop looking to hit a quota, I would just follow Willie’s tour bus around everywhere and hit him up hourly. And you know the best part of the whole thing? That Willie is just gonna keep on smoking. The man is dedicated, people! Now someone go get the guy a bag of Cheetos.
I moved offices recently, which was totally frightening because it meant I had to address the mountains of crap that had accumulated all over the place and decide what to pack and what to ditch. Hence, this week’s list — The Top 5 Most Ridiculous Items Found in My Office:
1) Vanilla Ice bubble gum collection
The silky-smooth honky rapper strikes 12 super-dope poses on the cover of a dozen packs of gum housed in cassette-tape-type containers. I bought these in a Minneapolis thrift store for 50 cents a pop, making six dollars I will never get back.
2) Chia Mr. T
The concept is actually pretty genius: a Chia Pet that grows a Mohawk on top of Mr. T’s head. But why I have two of them is anyone’s guess. They sit lodged next to my four Mr. T dolls — again, not sure why I need four — one of which spouts inspirational nuggets like ”Always listen to your parents,” ”Study hard in school,” and ”Murdock, you crazy!” Okay, not so much with the last one.
3) Sisqó doll
When this was put out at EW’s holiday charity auction a few years ago, I knew it had to be mine. For one thing, the 12” doll of the ”Thong Song” hitmaker is sporting some truly impressive bling. For another, it comes with what looks to be a mini-CD as well as a trading card in which the artist is pointing to his skull as if he knows something that we don’t — like perhaps that his career was 9 minutes down with 6 to go. One interesting side note: On the box, it says that the doll is ”For Ages Over 3,” because Lord knows what kind of mischief a 2-year-old could get into with a Sisqó doll. (And yes, I keep it in the box.)
4) Promotional Bobbleheads
I don’t even like bobbleheads, so why do I have so many? And so many completely random ones: Xena? Evel Knievel? Donald Trump? Vic Mackey from The Shield? Somebody stop me!
5) David Hasselhoff promo cassette
I have no idea where this came from. I don’t even know which album of his it is. I do know, however, that it contains some pretty hilarious song titles, such as ”Till the Last Teardrop Falls,” ”Miracle of Love,” ”Current of Love” (I smell a trend here), ”A Star Looks Down Tonight,” and ”Dance Dance D’Amour.” America may have talent, but I’m guessing that it ain’t on this tape.
A lot of people wrote in both sympathetic and steamed in response to last week’s debate about rebuying Star Wars on home video for the 3,000th time. People were also shocked over what did not make my list of The Top Five Bands Named After Places, with Kansas and Chicago garnering the most nominations. Read on…
Darth Lucas turned to the Dark Side years ago with the way he’s been unfairly sucking money from the fans, among other things. And he’s not the only one: New Line is doing the same thing with its latest release of the LOTR movies. I’m telling you, rip-off schemes like these multiple special-edition DVDs of the same film really make me want to turn to piracy to get my movies instead. The greedy bastards totally deserve it. — Laura Calloway
You know, I railed on Lucas pretty hard, but you’re right, Laura — this is an industry-wide concern. I’m not necessarily opposed to multiple editions of the same title being released. What I am opposed to is fans being purposefully kept out of the loop so they can’t make educated buying decisions.
So, Dalton, you say you hate yourself for buying the latest Star Wars DVDs? As Yoda might say, ”And well you should! Hmm!” Those responsible for putting out multiple editions of the same movies — Lucas isn’t the only offender — won’t stop until fans simply say, ”Enough is enough!” I’d really like to see this re-release fizzle on the sales charts so that Lucas and the rest get the message. Isn’t it cheaper just to hit the ”skip” button when Greedo and Han shoot together, or when Jabba shows up at Mos Eisley? Then you can have the films at least mostly as you remember them from the theater, with the added plus of the digital enhancements that actually don’t detract from the movie. — Mike Poteet
Interesting point, Mike. Except you forgot one thing: I’m a geek. Geeks waste money in geeky ways that cannot be easily explained or justified.
The thing with the new Star Wars release for me is that the ”new-super-duper-extra-shiny-jumbo-mega-special-supercalifragilisticexpealidocious-last-one-we-really-promise-edition” that is rumored to be coming out next year is just that: RUMORED! What if I don’t buy these ones, and then the Internet turns out to be wrong? And I miss my chance to own these particular discs??? And they are never offered on eBay or anything? And my children get picked on in school because they never owned the 2006 set? And they have low self-esteem and never get into good colleges and end up living at home forever? I think I need to go lie down. Excuse me. — Michelle Fournier
As a parent, I feel your pain, Michelle. What it all comes down to, basically, is one simple question: Can your children live in a world without ”Yub Yub”? I’ve heard such a place exists. I’ve even observed from a safe distance. And I don’t care to go there ever again.
Did I actually read that you liked Asia’s ”Heat of the Moment”? The guitar solo in that song is the aural equivalent of Elaine’s dance on Seinfeld. Worst Song Ever! — Gary Reed
Oh, Gary, I never meant to be so bad to you. One thing I said that I would never do. One look from you and I would fall from grace, and that would wipe this smile right from my face.
Now I can’t say that I am a fan since all of their music sounds the same to me, but the laziest-ass band name in the world has got to be Chicago. In the first place, they’re all FROM Chicago. And Chicago is the third-largest city in the U.S., so it’s not like Chicago (the city) needed the props or the shout-out to make itself well known or draw attention to its interestingness. If you have to be lazy and name your band after a place, pick something obscure and funky-sounding. Then you’ll have the ability to act all pretentious and avant-garde while insisting that you’re just some nice, hard-working boys from Chicago. Secondly, it’s a well-known fact that the band is so lazy they couldn’t even give their albums interesting name —, they just tacked a Roman numeral on the end. At least Star Wars used the awesome power of the Roman numeral in conjunction with an episode name. How’s that for full circle? — Jennifer Langdon
Jennifer, I am a man who will fight for your honor — sorry, I really have to stop quoting songs from the bands people keep writing in about, and yes, I realize that is from a Peter Cetera solo project and not Chicago proper, but it’s close enough — because surely lots of Chicago fans will now write in condemning you to hell for your blasphemy. But you bring up some solid points here. Naming your band after your own city — while displaying an impressive amount of civic pride — is pretty damn lazy. Okay, now we’re both going to rock-geek hell. I’ll bring the salsa, you score the chips. And Willie Nelson… well, he’ll know how to get the party started.
How do you feel about TV narration? Should Willie just put down the pipe? And would you have read this column had you known it was written by someone who actively sought out the purchase of a 12” Sisqó doll? Let me know by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week.