tv land, 2010

Once upon a time sitcoms ruled the airwaves. There were the good, the bad, and the really greaaattt! My favorites will always remain “I Love Lucy,” “All In the Family,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and the early black and white episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” These are like comfort food for the soul, conjuring up memories of a simpler time when family life was very important. I enjoyed watching others with some regularity as well, like “Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Danny Thomas Show,” “Father Knows Best,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Barney Miller” and “Sanford and Son.” Growing up my daughter had her favorites as well, among them, “The Bill Cosby Show.” 

What was appealing for my daughter and me was the laughter the sitcoms evoked. For half an hour we lost ourselves in others’ foibles, while enjoying the family dynamics acted out on the small screen. Time flew by, leaving us eagerly awaiting the next installment. As we drifted off to do other things, echoes of laughter could still be heard as we remembered some mishap, or hilarious “punch line.” Sitcoms left us feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Fast forward to the present, and TV land’s domination by reality shows. I balked when Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson wanted to play husband and wife in my living room. Nuh, uh. I don’t think so. Other shows piqued my curiosity but never held my attention, like “Wife Swap,” and “Super Nanny.” I was never a fan of “Kate and John Plus Eight,” and I’m still not interested in watching her carry on without him. Though I’m glad she is; he’s  such a loser. What finally “sucked” me into watching Reality TV was “The Bachelor.”

I don’t think I watched with the thought that I’d be hooked, but one, gorgeous hunk surrounded by a bevy of beauties was intriguing. It was inconceivable that 25 women would lay bare their souls, and bodies, for millions of viewers to see, and pass judgement. I never thought of them as desperate, although some let it be known that they were. A few said they were on the show to marry the bachelor because their biological clocks were ticking away, and time was running out. Wow! Talk about honesty in front of millions of strangers. Whenever I asked my daughter if she’d audition for the show, her eyes would bulge in disbelief, “I’d never go in front of a TV audience to compete for some guy. Those women are crazy! I can’t believe they’d do such a thing.”

I’m not as faithful a fan of “The Bachelor” as I once was. The network lost me when they began substituting it with “The Bachelorette.” I didn’t find the  shenanigans of the men in the house, as much fun as that of the women. How they can behave like divas and catty “b—s” on national TV is beyond my comprehension. But with so much competition, “Bachelor” is just one of many shows that I view sporadically.

Among the many reality shows that I’ve glimpsed, some more than others,  are “Laguna Beach,” and “The Hills,” depicting the life of spoiled, rich kids. The exception was “The City’s” Whitney, who became a successful fashion designer in NYC. Celebrities whose lives I’ve watched with curious disbelief are Atlanta’s Kimora, the self- crowned “Queen of Fabulosity,” and Beverly Hills’ Kim Kardashian with her menagerie of family members, including former Olympic champion, step-father, Bruce Jenner. My daughter actually reminded me that the first reality show I probably watched was Tyra Bank’s “America’s Next Top Model.” I’ve not seen it in ages, so I guess I’d forgotten about it. What I do remember, however, is disliking that the candidates’ vulnerabilities were exploited by the show for its own benefit, and Tyra’s fashionista presence. I found both unappealing by the time I stopped tuning in to watch.

Then there were “The Housewives of…” Orange County, NYC, New Jersey, Atlanta, D.C., and soon to be aired, Beverly Hills. I watched the first in the series, the O.C. housewives, because I wanted to see how the “other half-lives.” It was difficult to believe that there were such shallow women whose lives revolved around money, and all it could buy. Underlying all the other Housewive series is the same dollar worship. Of course, some of the women are more tolerable than others. Bethenny Frankl-Hopy of NYC being one of my favorites. She is self-deprecating, realizing that the show should be viewed with more than a “grain of salt.” I must admit to still watching the “Housewives” from time to time, and I can’t wait to see how much sillier the Beverly Hills group will be.

Currently I’m a fan of “Say Yes to the Dress,” the New York version. The show is taped in Kleigsfeld, “the” bridal shop patronized by many brides-to-be. The warm, friendly staff remind me of the years I worked in the “Big Apple.” Those who have not worked, and perhaps lived, in Manhattan haven’t experienced the unique charm of New Yorkers. They can be brusque, but they also have “big hearts,” especially for those whom they befriend. So watching the bridal staff do their utmost to marry a bride with the perfect wedding gown is gratifying, even to me, an observer.

HGTV is my reset channel. I’m always up for one of its home sale or designer shows, “Get It Sold,” “Property Virgins,” “Divine Design,” “My First House,” “Color Splash,” and, of course, “House Hunters,” and “House Hunters International.” It’s so much fun to see the “befores” and the “afters.” It’s equally entertaining to guess which of 3 properties house buyers will purchase. And several of the show hosts are like old friends, Sabrina Soto, Sandra Rinomato, Janice Olsen, and David Bromstad. I know their voices, and can picture their faces with my eyes closed.

I’m not such a fan of the reality competitions like “American Idol,” and  “Dancing With The Stars.” While I may drop in to watch “America’s Got Talent,” it’s not often enough to say I’m a devotee. When “So You Think You can Dance” first aired, I watched because my daughter was tapped to be one of its first contestants. The British judge, Nigel, and a couple of others associated with the show, sat in on a company ballet class where my daughter use to dance. She was singled out, along with others, to try out for the show. But my daughter declined because she was already under contract, and didn’t relish the thought of a television competition. In some of the early shows, she did recognize contestants with whom she had danced in various summer programs, like Danny Tidwell, and Neal (blonde guy, forgot his last name).

These days reality shows dominate TV viewing. I enjoy some, and loathe some. But not even those I favor gives me the same pleasurable feelings, as did the sitcoms of bygone days. If only “I Love Lucy” could have gone on forever.         

for the good old days, huge hugs…hugmamma.

crooner michael grimm, no gimmicks

I don’t usually watch America’s Got Talent, but the latest captured my attention “hook, line and sinker!” How judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, maintain focus throughout endless, mind-numbing days of auditions, is beyond me. Earning fabulous salaries and world-wide attention, must convince them to stay put. Not even a million bucks could spare me falling asleep, eyes wide open, or resting my head wearily on crossed arms, loud snores competing with the performers on stage. So I applaud the judges for their stamina.

The 4 acts making it into the finals were each worthy of being selected. Doubts about such variety shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Dance Your Ass Off, and America’s Got Talent, are appeased when I witness phenomenal talent that might otherwise go unnoticed. In this case, all 4 will reap the rewards of discovery, Defying Gravity for its uniqueness and inventiveness; Prince Poppycock, for his self-deprecating, over-the-top, ready-made Las Vegas act; and angelic Jackie Ivancko for a voice which belies her 10 years, and the wisdom of an old soul. Michael Grimm, the grand prize winner, walked away with $1 million, and a 1 year Las Vegas contract.

The final moments in any awards ceremony are usually pensive, especially for the contestants. The face-off between the America’s Got Talent finalists, were no less stomach churning. I kept telling my daughter that Grimm, given his humility, probably expected Ivancko to win. Between both, her voice was “other-worldly.” In each of the shows leading up to the finale, it was heartwarming to witness Grimm quietly speak with Ivancko, a sweet-faced child.  It seemed obvious that he understood and appreciated her huge talent. So when the show’s host, Nick Cannon, announced Grimm as the winner, his stunned look wasn’t a surprise, but it brought tears to my eyes.

Grimm entered the competition as a long shot, a young man from Memphis wanting to buy his grandparents a new home since their’s was destroyed in Katrina. Each time he made it through another round, he expressed amazement and gratitude for making it thus far. His demeanor was calm, quiet, shy, humble. Dressed simply in dark gray, casual jacket, shirt, jeans, very small hoop earrings, a trademark fedora pulled low, sporting dirty-blonde hair with blue eyes, Grimm was the epitomy of a heart throb. Looking like a cross between James Dean and Michael Bolton,  Grimm sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” his “ace-in-the-hole.” Bolton’s number worked for him a long time ago, and it worked its magic once again, for Grimm. He was catapulted to stardom, and as they say, his life will never be the same.

Yesterday as I was typing away at my keyboard, I overheard a news reporter give a “thumbs down” to Michael Grimm’s win, in favor of Defying Gravity because of its innovative, gimmick-laden, Las Vegas appeal. This act will probably make it to “Sin City” on its own merits, that’s how good it was. Execution of the performers wasn’t always in sync, so it didn’t look professional. But they will surely perfect the act with more practice, a luxury not afforded them in the  time constraints of the show. The reporter complained that Grimm and Ivancko belonged on  American Idol, saying “They’re just singers!” But actually, that’s what appealed to me.

Viewers chose 2 singers for the final competition. I agree with the pundits’ speculation that a 10-year-old headlining a Las Vegas show, probably didn’t appeal to the masses. Show host Cannon, when interviewed afterwards, opined that Grimm had indeed won the theatre audience, who was all abuzz after his sensational performance. As judge Osbourne summarized earlier in the contest, he consistently “stepped it up,” each time he took the stage. What I found charming was that Grimm’s humility never took a back seat to his obvious talent, and growing showmanship. Minutes after being declared the winner, he bent down, scooped Ivancko into his arms, gave her a peck, and spoke what could only have been comforting words, while looking deeply into her bright blue eyes. My daughter and I agreed that Ivancko most likely developed a crush on the handsome, soulful crooner.

Michael Grimm, a singer with no special effects, belting out ballads in the style of other great artists before him, Sinatra, Elvis, Bouble. Sometimes simple is better than wild and glitzy, that’s what the voters felt, and that’s what I felt.

grimm and ivancko, buying their CDs for sure…hugmamma.