“Vast Wasteland” QUESTION

My niece will be on TV next week, on a show I would otherwise not watch.

There must be a law: for articles about television in non-entertainment publications, at least fifty percent must indicate that “All (or most) TV is crap” or some equivalent. And almost inevitably, it will 1) note that it was also called that a long time ago, but 2) fail to indicate just who said it. For the record, it was Newton Minnow, head of the FCC, in 1961, who called television a “vast wasteland.” It’s an interesting read.

I was just listening to Springsteen’s 57 Channels and Nothing On. But even in the vast wasteland of summer programming, I did watch a couple of things:

The Closer – liberated somewhat from the formula of the first two seasons, it’s been infused by the fact that Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is up for Chief of the LAPD against her mentor Chief Pope (JK Simmons).

Aftermath with William Shatner. The concept is to take an event that was once prominent in the news and revisit it, which I think is inherently worthwhile. I actually missed the first episode of this, an interview with Lee Malvo, the young DC sniper, when it was on A&E a few weeks ago. But I’ve seen the rest on Biography, or BIO, as it’s now called.

Bernie Goetz was the subway vigilante who shot four young men in 1984, and was a hero to many; I think Shatner subtlely showed Goetz’s self-justification of his actions to be perhaps a bit sociopathic. Shatner was a sympathetic interviewer to three of the DC sniper victims, and to Jessica Lynch, who he called brave for outing the military’s PR campaign re: her actions in Iraq. I must say that my least favorite episode was his with Mary Kay Letourneau and her now-husband Vili Fualaau, who she started sleeping with when he was 13, and she was his former teacher; Shatner wanted more licentious details of the love story. But the best episode thus far was the most recent one, about the bizarre shootout in Ruby Ridge, ID, between federal authorities and the Randy Weaver family; Sara Weaver, Randy’s daughter, talks about the death of her brother, and her mother being shot dead before her in wrenching detail.

The last episode will be about the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and will feature David Kaczynski, now head of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who I have heard speak a few times, who had to turn in his brother to authorities. This will air Monday, September 6 at 10 pm EDT on BIO, followed by a repeat of the Ruby Ridge episode.

There will be one other program I will watch this week, and unfortunately, it’s Wipeout. It’s an obstacle course show designed for people to fail, and for the audience to laugh at the annoying running commentary of the instant replay disasters; I’ve seen it for ten minutes and REALLY hate it. But I’m told that my niece Rebecca and her husband Rico will appear on this show Tuesday, September 7 at 8 pm EDT, and family wins out.

So what television did YOU watch this summer?

And what new shows will you watch this fall? I’ve vaguely interested in the Hawaii 5-0 reboot, though a TV Guide article comparing this iteration of Steve McGarrett to Jack Bauer of 24 was discomforting. There’s a new legal show called The Whole Truth with Maura Tierney that I might check out. Anything else I OUGHT to try?

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