Tuned In, TV Blog, Television Reviews, James Poniewozik, TIME

Another Thing I'm Not Watching Tonight...

...is The Sarah Silverman Program, because I've already seen it. You should, though, and I want to hear what you think, because as I wrote (and have heard), it's a polarizing show. But mostly because I'd love to see what the Venn diagram of Comedy Central watchers + time.com readers is.

JPTV: What I'm Watching Tonight--And Not

Tonight Tuned In hopscotches the NBC Must-See Comedy lineup: The Office and 30 Rock si, Scrubs no, My Name Is Earl... mmmmmmaybe. To fill the gaps I may watch another episode or two of the very promising midseason Andy Richter sitcom NBC sent. Ugly Betty goes into the TiVo freezer for later, as does Letterman's 25th anniversary on-air. (I'm an old, tired man.)

What I won't be watching is E.R. Nor did I watch last week. Nor--and I realize I probably should be embarrassed as a professional TV critic but am not--have I watched the show for a good couple of years. E.R. has been on since 1994, has been coasting since, oh, somewhere around the end of the Clooney era. I know what it is; I get it; I'm not interested. There are probably no further ways someone can get a gun into the O.R. nor further stunt-casting coups--Paris Hilton, Helen Mirren, the exhumed corpse of Lionel Barrymore--that can re-interest me.

TV criticism is a merciless business, there are only so many hours in the day, and there comes a point when I decide that, say, Crossing Jordan is just not going to get any better, and it and I must part ways. E.R., likewise, is on my personal Stephen Colbert "dead to me" list. Anyone care to make the case for it?

"It had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires"

OK, let's take a hypothetical. You've just devoted the resources of a major city to shutting down roads and rails in order to keep the people of your good metropolis safe from a plague of homemade lite brites, one that somehow managed to infest nine other cities without mass panic. Do you (a) swallow hard, blush and hope the embarrassment quietly fades away or (b) double down, throw the cuffs on somebody and hope it won't make you look even more foolish?

For the good leaders of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the answer is (b). CNN.com is reporting that authorities have arrested two twentysomething men, including a "freelance video artist," for hanging circuit boards with lights depicting Mooninites for a guerrilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

[Update: By the way--and we at time.com have been guilty of this too in our headlines--it's probably about time the media retire the word "hoax" to refer to this incident. "Hoax" implies that the Adult Swim marketers intended for the light-up thingies to be mistaken for bombs and frighten people, whereas it's becoming quite clear that their mistake was--what's the nice way of saying this?--overestimating the intelligence of the homeland-security apparatus. Never mind, I guess there isn't a nice way of saying it.]

To review, here's who the British have caught lately. And here's who we have caught.

God. Bless. America.

It's Worse Than We Thought

First they took Boston. Now they're attacking our bars.

All you armchair quarterbacks who said the Homeland Security budget should be focused on trivia like securing ex-Soviet nuke material, atomic-power plants and major urban subway systems--you're not laughing now, are you?

Is He Having a Laugh? Is He Having a Laugh?

OK, let's be clear about this. I love Ricky Gervais. Hell, everybody loves Ricky Gervais. Funny podcast. The Office, a modern classic. He even helped us believe Ben Stiller is a credible kids' movie star when not playing a cartoon zoo animal. I am not worthy, I am not worthy, etc., etc.

But--and tell me if it's just me here--is there not something a smidge self-serving about the second season of Extras? Namely: the storyline in which Gervais' less-successful alter ego, Andy, has to prostitute his vision of writing an intelligent, realistic workplace comedy, turning it into a lowbrow gagfest with funny wigs, slapstick and catchphrases? Let's repeat that: an intelligent, realistic workplace comedy. Ring any bells?

Look, we get the point. The Office was sui generis, and yes, it would have been a shame if some BBC idiots had watered it down into a lowest-common-denominator yukfest. (Kudos to Gervais, by the way, for reminding Americans that, in fact, Britain produces plenty of sitcoms as stupid as ours.) But they didn't. And yes, keeping one's creative integrity in the marketplace is tough. Do we really need a six-episode arc to make that point? What is this, Studio 60 on the Thames?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just picking on my betters because it's no longer any fun to kick Aaron Sorkin while he's down. And seriously, Extras is far, far better--more surprising, more willing to challenge its audience and characters--than Sorkin's sancticomedy. But I hope that in his next go-around, whatever it is, Gervais turns his brilliance to something other than another showbiz-on-showbiz show. Orlando Bloom will still be able to find work, trust me.

About Tuned In

Tuned In

James Poniewozik is TIME's TV and media critic, but he lets guys like Joe Klein pretend that they write about the important stuff. He also writes the Culture Complex column about pop culture and society. Tuned In is his blog about TV, Web video, and whatever they play on those little beepy thingies the kids carry nowadays. He is not sure why you're still reading this blurb. It's a little longwinded, isn't it? Yes, he thought so. He apologizes.

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