Favorite Waste of Time
Beam Me Up, Scotty, I Finally Get It
By: Randy Harward
Okay, so maybe I don't really get Star Trek now. Maybe I just found a way to enjoy it in my own way. I remember being mildly to passionately pissed when a Trek rerun or three would take up valuable broadcast time on the local UHF station (what, no Muppet Show? No Sunday afternoon horror film? Well, I never). It always seemed cheap, even stupid, with Shatner's wooden acting and the plots that just seemed weird, not fascinating. But as I've proven in this column over the past few months, I'm a glutton for punishment, so long as abuse goes both ways. Bring me your shitty B-flicks, your repurposed plots and characters and series. I will, thanks to an ingrained, inherited laziness, be happy to view it from my comfy couch.
Which brings me to the complete first season of Star Trek on DVD (Paramount Home Video). It could be, that since last I viewed an episode of the original series, that I have learned to appreciate cheapness, unintentional kitsch. Or it could be that my friend hooked me up with some serious shizz, which has been known to make me appreciate...immensely...late-night showings of The 700 Club. But I've suddenly found a fondness for Star Trek, such that it feels like I've added to my life in some way (like when I actually started eating ribs or mushrooms or onions, despite an irrational lifelong abstinence) instead of wasted it in a couple of dozen 48-minute increments. And I was just a little sad, and a little regretful of my past harsh words for Trekkies, when the last episode played. Godspeed the complete second season.
As much as I corrected an errant part of my childhood with Star Trek, I recaptured and reassessed another part by viewing the first seasons of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley (both Paramount). Happy Days, that one is a timeless classic, even though there is such a difference between the first season (and maybe the second, but I'm not that big a fan) and the last I don't know how many. You just can't deny characters like The Fonz, Richie Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph Malph, and the way they actually made you feel like a part of their happy days. Laverne and Shirley, though--that's another story.
I can remember really liking it at first, probably because the Fonz was part of it, or because Lenny and Squiggy were great comic relief (and even Carmine, the Big Ragu, was alright) among the estrogenic odd couple of Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney. I learned to lust after Shirley...just a little, especially when she gets into the then-racy one-piece bathing suit to jump out of a cake in the second episode...and make my own version of Laverne's milk-and-Pepsi drink (I used Ramblin' root beer). But it wasn't really that funny. It's especially less so now. But you know--Laverne, who used to seem like a total pooch against the virginal Shirley, is actually turning me on now. And that at least explains why the Fonz went for her instead. Too bad she didn't age too well, eh?
So then there's Boohbah (Paramount/PBS Kids). Not much you can say about this children's show except if it looks and talks like a Teletubby, it's a Teletubby. Except when it looks like a purple, pulsating breast. Then, it's Boohbah. Kids seem to like it, though, but probably in the same way a Shasta Cola does in a Coke-less pinch.
One good thing about kids' programming, though, is you can always enhance the viewing experience with certain things. And in that state of mind, Boohbah kicks booty. So do the two new Strawberry Shortcake DVDs (Fox), which really sent me back. I remember when my sister had all the dolls and I used to huff them, both to catch a whiff of whatever fruity scent applied. I swear, while watching these at half-past two a.m., I could smell 'em again. But that, and the fact that one of the DVDs is about Ice Cream Island, really set me back on the ol' diet-n-exercise regimen. Altered state + hallucinatory scents + a plot involving ice cream + a freshly stocked cereal cupboard = utter failure.
Now we segue from an innocuous cartoon to South Park: Passion of the Jew (Comedy Central/Paramount). There's a show that just keeps getting better, eh? Just when you think it can't get any more rude, or cross any more boundaries, or piss off more people in more directions, they do. But one thing they seem to be perpetually hung up on is religion. Of course, so am I, and it's great to see all faiths get skewered. As you can probably guess, both Christianity and Judaism get the treatment on this three-episode DVD, which plays with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, eviscerates the Christian rock epidemic, and cornholes the Catholic priest sex scandal. There is a glaring omission, though: where's the Mormon episode? Wasn't that in the same season? Or at least recent enough for inclusion?
Continuing on the animation tip, it makes one positively tumescent to see that Bill Plympton's fucked-up animated film The Tune (New Video) is finally on DVD. I rented this on VHS so many times, I was probably 75% responsible for the progressive deterioration of the copy belonging to our local art house/video rental store. It's that amazing (if you know Plympton, you understand the beautiful madness of his art) and that funny. And humor helped a lot with the final two DVDs of this column.
I'm a sucker for a good documentary, and Docurama sent a few doozies my way.
Jupiter's Wife is the story of a homeless woman who once drove a handsome cab in New York City, and seemed to have promise light years beyond that, but still wound up living in Central Park with a pack of dogs. It Was a Wonderful Life is the story of several once-successful women who, due to unfortunate circumstances (deadbeat ex-husbands, illness) or simply being a woman in a male-dominated society, become homeless. Both films are decidedly fascinating, but equally as depressing. And it's some of the best time I spent on the couch in ages.
Rather than getting baked and eating cereal and trying to grasp the profundity, in not the actual entertainment value of Star Trek (this, as some sort of fucked-up reward for my daily breadwinning and contributions to society, such that they are), I felt moved to do something to help people who have it worse than I do. I don't mean to sound magnanimous...I'm not. I'm just happy as hell to have realized that just being alive and having the means to stay that way, somewhat comfortably, with the ability to watch hour upon hour of television, is to actually have it pretty good. And not feeling like complaining about one's existence is golden.
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