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A sucker for TV dramas... that suck

Why the Glutton stays glued to TV dramas long past their freshness date. Plus: his obsession (the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan) and yours (Darth Vader’s hygiene), and five one-of-a-kind twin-bills

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A sucker for TV dramas… that suck

There are generally three types of TV viewers: the type who like to check in and out with episodes in which all loose ends are neatly wrapped up in an hour or less, the type who like big sprawling stories that go on for seasons, and the type who watch Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll…but we don’t need to concern ourselves with that last group right now. I fall squarely into the second category. I like questions wrapped in enigmas wrapped in flashbacks wrapped in elaborate Internet tie-ins. I’m a serialized-drama man through and through, and I hate myself for it.

You see, for every show like The Shield, which has managed to stay vibrant and exciting for an extended period of time, there are a handful of other, significantly weaker programs that I can’t bring myself to cut the cord on. Once I become invested in the story, I’m trapped. One could call them golden handcuffs, but there’s been nothing golden about The L Word since season 1, and yet I find myself still watching this ridiculous exercise filled with people I don’t even particularly like anymore (Jenny Schecter — most annoying TV character ever?). I can assure you I’m not just sticking around for the hot lesbian sex scenes, either, because there are plenty of other, less steamy programs that cast a similar spell on me. And I’m not the only one. For example, take 24…please! Everyone I know seems to be disappointed by this season, starting with the nonsensical-twist-to-end-all-nonsensical-24-twists of having last year’s evil mastermind all of a sudden be Jack Bauer’s brother. But guess what? Everyone I know is still watching! Why? Are we worried Bauer is gonna show up and torture us for abandoning CTU with the fate of the world at stake? 24 is at least somewhat understandable in that it has been so good for so long, we’re almost obliged to give it an extended benefit of the doubt. But I manage to somehow also get sucked into serialized shows that stink from the start. I’m the clown still dying to know what would’ve happened on Invasion. I’m the dork who went and sought out unaired Kidnapped episodes online. And I curse myself for even knowing who Taylor Townsend is. (If you do as well, feel free to pull a Ryan Atwood and go join a fight club as penance.)

As much as I love all the drawn-out mysteries and soap-opera shenanigans, there’s something I crave even more — closure. These two seemingly conflicting principles are what keep my sorry ass sitting in front of the TV set week after week, and it’s why it doesn’t matter how many bad flashbacks involving Bai Ling Lost trots out, or how many lame evil twins show up on Heroes, or how many scintillating conversations Ugly Betty has with her father about his HMO coverage — I’m already locked in, because I’m a sucker and need to know how it ends.

Life would be so much easier if I could rid myself of my must-see-TV addictions and instead be entertained by a crime-scene investigator dramatically removing his sunglasses approximately 13 times a minute, or anything with the name Dick Wolf in the credits. Those are much kinder, simpler pleasures — ones that do not require flowcharts to keep track of all the characters, or headphones to make sure I don’t hear co-workers revealing juicy plot points before I have had a chance to get through all the unwatched episodes accumulating on my overstuffed DVR. Damn you, serialized TV dramas and your ambitious, sweeping narratives! This is one TV addict who is ready to fight back…right after I find out who the hell dropped all those bombs on Jericho. Those bastards must pay!

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK

Bought a ticket to see the Pogues last week. Was all psyched to get my Irish on and see them rock the Roseland Ballroom. My wife — who as a Kelly always gets her Irish on — even came into the city to join me and another couple. Over dinner we joked about singer Shane MacGowan and his ”unpredictable” ways. Anyone who’s seen the documentary If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowen Story is well aware the man enjoys the more-than-occasional beverage. Well, turns out the joke was on us, because when we walked over to the concert, we found out that it had been cancelled because MacGowan had hurt his leg, allegedly due to an onstage mishap at a Boston concert. Apparently he played his next show (which I couldn’t attend) in a wheelchair with a drink on a table at his side, which was, by most accounts, pretty bizarre. Shane’s bad-boy ways used to be mildly amusing, but now it’s just kinda sad. Here’s hoping one day he finds the strength to get himself in shape. The guy is a true talent, and those old Pogues records are worth obsessing over.

THE FIVE

Presenting the Five Most Ridiculous Examples of One Actor Playing Twin Characters:

1. Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Impact
Twice the Van Dammage means you get to see Jean-Claude actually head-butt himself.

2. Jackie Chan in Twin Dragons To the director who came up with the plan to have two Jackie Chans bathing together, I say…bravo.

3. Elvis Presley in Kissin’ Cousins
Okay, he plays cousins instead of twins, but check out the King going blond! (His natural color, incidentally.)

4. Jean-Claude Van Damme in Maximum Risk
A concept so nice he had to do it twice. In this case, Jean-Claude avenges his own death.

5. James Spader in Jack’s Back
James Spader has been killed and the prime suspect is…James Spader! Please kill me for watching.

READER MAIL

You would think with the final episodes of the Sopranos about to drop, people would want to discuss my strategy for infiltrating the final scene. But nooooooooo, instead most people wanted to present their theories as to last week’s reader-mail question regarding how Darth Vader wipes his bottom. Which is what makes Glutton readers the best readers in the world! On to the mailbag…

Dalton, don’t do it! Don’t even try to infiltrate Holsten’s for the filming of the last scene of the last episode of The Sopranos. Spoiler-free is the way to be! In fact, I kinda wish I didn’t even know that the whole story is going to get wrapped up in an ice-cream parlor. But I won’t hold that against you. Further down in your column, you and a reader discuss the thrill of experiencing the “Luke, I am your father” bombshell in the movie theater. Let the Sopranos series finale be another thrilling moment like that. — Nancy Russo

I don’t like to complain about my job, because my job is pretty cool and I’m lucky to have it. (Plus, my boss may be reading this.) But one thing that does occasionally bum me out is being exposed to future plot points. I actually hate spoilers and do everything in my power to try to sidestep them, but they are often unavoidable when you are working on a story about a particular show. I agree, Nancy, spoiler-free is the way to be. But you have to admit, getting to be there for the filming of the final Sopranos scene would be pretty bitchin’.

Dalton: It’s pretty obvious how Darth Vader goes number two in the Star Wars universe. He has one of those trapdoor pants bottoms (a la Dennis the Menace pajamas) that just unhinge and flop down. But don’t ask how he showers. Jeez. That guy must reek! — Andrew

But does he have any flesh even left to clean? I mean, the dude looked pretty charred after his battle with Obi-Wan. But you’re right — he may have to change his name to the Dark Lord of the Stink.

I think the egg-like thing that opened when Darth Vader put his helmet back on [in The Empire Strikes Back] is actually his crapper. I mean, it was white, he had his helmet off so he could see if he needed to wipe some more, and there was a strange whooshing sound when it opened up and his helmet was put back on his head. I think that was the flush. Of course, since we’ve never seen DV actually eat anything, maybe he doesn’t need to wipe at all. — Scott Morrissey

I think you’re on to something here, Scott. Remember how disgusted the Imperial officer looked when he walked in on Vader taking care of his ”business”? It appeared to be some sort of meditation chamber, and we all know people often do their best meditating in the bathroom.

Well I’m lucky enough to have one American Idol contestant who drives me bonkers and floats my boat. I don’t want to like Chris R., but I do. The whole Brian Austin Green look-a-like thing creeps me out and his voice is like a whiney teenage Justin Timberlake, but when he comes on screen I have to watch. And automatically I am entertained. — Natalie A.

Natalie, calling out the Notorious B.A.G! We’re big Brian Austin Green fans here, especially when he fancied himself a white rapper/DJ. Personally, I am simultaneously entertained and depressed every time Sanjaya takes the stage. Last week’s perm job was a classic.

How can you rip on The Experts, probably one of the best movies ever exploring the dynamics of the US vs. Soviet Cold War mentality?? And that awesome dance sequence where Kelly Preston’s character seduces Travolta’s in order to control him as a KGB operative?? It sounds even better on paper! As a loyal column reader, I am surprised, as you seem a fan of cheesy ’80s movies. As for the other Travolta movies you mention, I cannot disagree, they were steaming piles of doo. — Laurie Anderson

There was a time back in the ’90s when The Experts seemed to be running on a constant loop on cable TV. Even sadder is the amount of times I sat down to watch the damn thing. Than again, how could I not?!? John Travolta sporting an incredible mullet and dancing to house music? I am so in. But it just drives my point home: No many how many ridiculous outfits (Staying Alive), hairstyles (Battlefield Earth), or movies (The Punisher) you put John Travolta in, he always finds a way to bounce back.

Speaking of bouncing back, I’ll be bouncing back two weeks from today with a new column (I’ll be busy traveling next week). Do you dig or despise serial dramas? Which Jean-Claude-as-twins film holds up better? And what to make of poor Shane MacGowan? Send in your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com or just fill out the handy-dandy form below, and I’ll see ya in two weeks!