Sunday, August 30, 2009

Death Be Not Proud

With the start of my third and final year of law school last week, my usual Sunday night feeling of overwhelming melancholy about the start of a new work week have been replaced by my usual Sunday night feeling of overwhelming melancholy about the start of a new school week. On the whole I guess it's a slightly lesser degree of grief, but still grief never the less.

In fact, my impending work week grief follows quite predictably along the famous five stages of grief model which describes the gradual process by which most people supposedly come to terms with tragedy and traumatic loss. Well for me, few things are more tragic and traumatic than the loss of my weekend freedom. I usually wake up Sundays mornings content and happy about another full day of carefree leisure with the upcoming work week being almost an inconceivable theoretical abstract (1. Denial). As the day gives way to the afternoon hours and as I start to becomes aware of the reality of tomorrow being Monday, I begin to resent the fact that the weekend is over just as it started (2. Anger). As the afternoon begins to wane, and I realize I'm hopelessly behind on my work, I begin to think that if only I had an extra day or two I'd be on top of my shit (3. Bargaining). The sun begins to go down and I realize, I'm just dinner, a night's sleep, and change away from Monday and all I can do is helplessly sulk (4. Depression). As the evening comes I end up catching "Til' Death" on Fox (5. Acceptance).

It's not like it's appointment television for me or anything. In fact, between its numerous time slot shuffles and hiatuses, it's actually kind of a challenge for any dedicated fan (there must be some, right?) to actually keep appointments. Most of the time I randomly catch about less than half the show. However, despite my total lack of interest in actually following the show, few Sundays at home have ever gone by over the last three or so years (with the major exception of the football season where everything gets preempted) where I didn't catch some amount of "'Til Death".

In a way, it sort of makes perfect sense that I would eventually associate the show with the sad acceptance of the awful and terrible. It couldn't have been a show I enjoyed because that would have just kept me at the first stage of denial by giving me a temporary reprieve from my harsh reality. My emotional progress towards the eventual peace of acceptance would have been shunted. It couldn't have been a show that was so terrible that it would have locked me into the depths of a harrowing depression stage. It had to have been a show that was just barely awful enough to remind me of my fate, but not so much as to make me downright inconsolably despondent.

With "'Til Death" I get that subtle terribleness. It's sort of like a real life version of "The Lockhorns" except it's not over the top or mean enough to make it interesting. When Brad Garrett (who helped perfect the art of the mediocre sitcom) makes a wacky expression or cracks some punchline about married life that was too dated for vaudeville or gets henpecked by his bossy sitcom wife, I don't laugh but I know there's a joke. The show is almost watchable solely as a fascinating case study on the bare minimum of creativity and sub par ratings a sitcom can have while still being constantly renewed (4th season debuting in October). Despite having shown all the signs of a terminally ill show, from introducing and then changing the daughter, to half of the main cast essentially leaving for the third season, to a shameless parade of B list guest stars (Nick Bakay, Margaret Cho, Will Sasso anyone?), it has maintained an uncanny cockroach like ability to stay on the air. You can sit and watch and deeply wonder what magic element does this show have that other similarly mediocre but failed sitcoms like "Carpoolers" or "Back to You" didn't. With the venerable "According to Jim" finally signing off the air in June (after 8 seasons and 182 episodes!), "'Til Death" now wears the heavy crown of being the worst multiple season sitcom on TV.

Thus this show has managed to become the very symbol of the acceptance of my eventual Monday morning fate. It is that uncanny combination of a complete lack of excellence with an amazing degree of endurance and staying power that has made "'Til Death" such a dependable source of melancholy in my life. And with any luck it'll continue to help me come to grips with unhappiness for many seasons to come.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That was Jeopardy!

In case you haven't heard, I've been on a few game shows back in the day. While my success varied from show to show from sweeping victories to traumatic choke jobs, overall they were all great experiences. I enjoyed the traveling, the hotel rooms, meeting/alienating other contestants from all over the country, the catered grub in the green room, the nervous competition on camera, the always friendly makeup ladies, and of course the occasional quick buck.

Aside from the fond experiences, the money, and the snagged hotel stationary; the one other parting gift I got from my weird game show odyssey was a set of never fail ice-breaking personal anecdotes. No matter what sort of social situation I'm in I find that if I can get out the personal fact that I was on a few game shows, it always manages to get the other person engaged and interested. So many of my recent job interviews over the summer began with curious inquiries and enthusiastic follows up questions about the "multiple game show contestant" blurb I put in my personal interests section. While the interview usually goes south when it comes to my job experience and academic performance, for the beginning it's all wide eyed wonder about meeting Alex Trebek or winning a quarter million dollars. When I went backpacking for a month through Costa Rica the summer after my last show, conversations about my game show appearances were usually a key part of friendly conversations struck up with other foreign traveling strangers from hostel to hostel. Hell, a good quarter of my Facebook friends are still random folks who found me after watching me on TV. For most people outside of my closest friends and family, for better or for worse, these game shows go a long way in defining me.

While the WSOPC was my single crowning achievement, almost everyone who has asked about my game show past always wants to know about Jeopardy. In fact, more often then not people have no idea what the WSOPC was (a fact that's sadly even more true today). I guess it's not all that surprising though since Jeopardy really is the most well known, longest running, holy grail of trivia game shows. I even have to admit, aside from the money, a loss on Jeopardy felt like a far more esteemed feat than a win on VH1. In addition, while the WSPOC was a group effort with my two friends and I, my Jeopardy appearance was a singular feat among my group of friends. It gave me a special bit of pride to have been on that podium next to Alex with the framed picture to prove it.

So when I recently got a call from my friend that she had been selected to compete on Jeopardy, I was surprised to find my personal reaction turned out to be more a complicated mix of bittersweet melancholy than usual congratulatory happiness. I should have been happy for her, she was a good friend and as a longtime, die hard, Jeopardy fan (who was actually responsible for getting me to take the online test back in the day), there wasn't anyone I knew that was more deserving of a chance to be on the show. However, I couldn't muster what logically should have been the feeling of happiness for her. All I could think about was the sad end of my once solitary distinction as the Jeopardy guy among our friends.

Which brings me back to the above pictured 1972 Miami Dolphins. For those who don't follow football, the 1972 Dolphins have their own solitary distinction as the only NFL team to have an undefeated regular season and to win the Super Bowl. They're also kind of a bunch of obnoxious assholes. The surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins have this insufferable tradition of coming together and drinking champagne every year when the final undefeated team loses their first game and thus ensuring them another year of solitary residency in "Perfectville". It's sort of a dick move to be actively rooting against an undefeated team and garishly celebrating something that happened nearly 40 years ago. I've always been against the 1972 Dolphins and their annoying tradition, even going as far as to root for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII to complete their perfect season and finally put an end to their decades long arrogance. However, today I started to understand, albeit in only a small sense, the motivation for the 1972 Dolphins' yearly ritual. A pretty distinction is a petty distinction but it's still one's own petty distinction.

Having a record or distinction and having someone else come along and match or even surpass it is a complicated feeling. It's not exactly envy or jealously because you already have what they have, it's just an indescribable combination of sullen psedo-selfishness. You can be as gracious and as magnanimous as anyone, but I think it's only natural to sort of feel a sad sense of loss when something you've accomplished is overtaken; whether it be a game show appearance, or perfect season, or a high score on Gameboy Tetris. So maybe avoiding that feeling is something worth celebrating or actively rooting for. You can try to write it off by thinking that in the grand scheme of things none of these distinctions even matter, but that's just straight up rationalization. Yes outside of the incredibly narrow universe of my circle of friends, being the only contestant on Jeopardy won't matter a lick and to someone who doesn't follow any football, the surviving 1972 Dolphins just look like a bunch of wrinkled Florida retirees; but I live in the universe of my circle of friends and the Dolphins live in the universe of football fans. No matter what perspective you give it, it is still important to yourself.

So do I think the 1972 Dolphins are justified in breaking out the champagne? No. Would I actively root for my friend to crash and burn on her first appearance and not even make it to Final Jeopardy? No. Will I learn to be completely happy about all this? No. Am I still proud of her? Yes.

Well, at least with the cancellation of the WSOPC, I won't have to worry about losing that particular distinction.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lock(horn)ed and Loaded

Well it took a few days and quite a bit of reckless time traveling, but I've finally managed to fully update Victor Sells Out's sister blog "Lockhorns vs. Lockhorns". Unlike this blog with its relaxed lead time and spotty updating, the daily requirements of "Lockhorns" makes it quite a harsh mistress to satisfy. Everyone's free to go back and catch up on the past two weeks (but remember to pace yourself, there's only so much spiteful vitriol one can take in one sitting).

So was it worth all the irreparable damage to the space time continuum to get the Lockhorns back on track?

Well, is Loretta's cooking inedible?

As for this blog, have faith. The upcoming school year should open up plenty of time for me to slack and theory.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Picture This!

Long time NY Lottery commercial spokesman Ralph Buckley; whose name and picture, for someone that is so well known and recognizable to anyone who watches television in the New York/New Jersey area, was unusually difficult to locate online (although there was no shortage of articles and glamor shots of fellow NY Lotto fixture Yolanda Vega)

has always reminded me of...

Legendary Duke Men's Basketball Coach, gold medal winning US National Team coach, and walking typo Mike Kryzewski.

I wonder which of the two have been responsible for more unlikely millionaires?

I Have a History of Losing My Shirt

Can you guess how many more weeks of summer work I have left, now? Cue, the obscenely obvious answer!

Was there ever any doubt? McG at the height of his powers.

I promise I'll start doing some real substantive (well, substantive by my standards) posts after I shake this full time nuisance.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Get Your Ass to Work!

Can you guess how many more weeks of summer work I have left?

You know, after Arnold meets up with Kuato, kills Cohagen and his army of murderous goons, activates the alien oxygen generator, saves the mutants, and ushers in a new era of freedom and prosperity on Mars; he should really see someone about that defective fat lady mask. The mask's inability to handle simple phrases outside of "two weeks" really made things a lot more difficult then it should have been for Arnold. One expects a certain level of quality and reliability when it comes to exploding, animatronic heads.