TV’s Greatest Dumpster Fires

I find myself way outside of the mainstream in my current televisions gorging. I’m on the Mad Men express but we’ve tackled that pretty thoroughly. Other than that I don’t watch any of the endless bounty of the high brow televisions. I do love delving deep in my cable package for the awesome and awful. Shows I watch not because they are all that good – but because they strike my particular fancy. They may even be terrible. I find such shows like these odd TV rubix cubes. I can’t figure them out – they are frustrating, yet I find myself coming back. One such show was cancelled. The bastards who took it away from me shall be on my enemies list along with the girl who “tried” to “teach” me improv in Grade 11. Or for our American readers, 11th grade. The show is Texas Hardtails, on The Speed Channel. The Speed Channel itself is only broadcast in Australia and Canada due to regulations that prevent us from getting Fox Sports 1. So Fox beams this to us. It’s a channel devoted to race car and the surrounding lifestyle. So obviously, they need a sitcom. It’s more of an unscripted sitcom. Or improvised like Curb Your Enthusiasm or…really I don’t know what is going on with this dumpster fire of show. But have you ever turned away from a dumpster fire? It’s about a business that is one part bar – one part motorcycle dealership/body shop. It’s a family business and everybody plays themselves – so its reality show, presented as a sitcom. The main character “Rick” is a hippie who owns the company as a crusty old man. The crux of the show is trite sitcom tropes from the building inspector coming in unannounced, to having plan Grandma’s surprise party, to betting the business in a poker game. The “jokes” are very jokey. It’s the tone that I became enamored. They are almost doing the show with the knowledge that they should not be on TV doing this type of show. While it is never said, I get the vibe to be – hey cast of New Girl do a show about motorcycle repair, your motorcycle show would be way worse than our sitcom.

Rick pops up again in my other program that I dislike yet enjoy. The Food Network’s Mystery Diners is a show that tries to find bad employees of restaurants with undercover spies and hidden cameras. I contend that this show is clearly fake. I suppose just like catching bartenders and servers putting their hands in the till is bad TV. These workers go through elaborate capers and schemes to bilk their bosses. They run back room card gambling parlours, outlaw sheep cheese tastings, frozen hash brown bait and switches. Each climaxes with an overly maudlin shouting match when the hidden camera footage is revealed. I think I watched 3 hours of this show during an Easter marathon. I was quite proud of myself when caught how this show might not be on the up and up. On two separate episodes there was some shtick involving a reserved sign. And it was the exact same sign. Not a standard pre-made reserved sign but a nice fancy handwritten calligraphy one. I just lost it in my penthouse apartment at 1:30 on Easter Monday. A-ha! The production staff just reached into their bag of props and whipped out the reserve sign. It is impossible that the New Jersey Pizzeria and the California Wine bistro would have the same penmanship. Maybe they are trying to be like wrestling and the show being real isn’t the point, but rather just the show for the show’s sake. Rick’s episode at his establishment was based on a waitress and mechanic running a scheme to sell bootleg auto parts to customers. The situations are phony but it appears that the restaurants are all real so once Rick’s show was canned he still wanted to be on TV. Yet, could only be on TV in this strange world of the enhanced reality show.

That is a part of my obsession with these types of shows. The people who circulate within these shows. In days of yore it was like Willie Tyler and Lester would be everywhere. Match Game, Super Dave, Merv Griffin, a wacky guest spot on Night Court. In the same vein I love following virtual nobodies in their journey around the dial. You have to watch a lot of TV to make this worthwhile but I have time and an erratic sleeping pattern. Johnny from Survivor shows up on Total Nonstop Action on Fox Sports Net. Mike the Mizfit flutters from Silent Library to Road Rules to the ABC family holiday offering, Christmas Bounty. And it goes on and on and never really ends. I find myself doing a lot of this meandering hate watching. Partly out of my odd misanthropic attitude to watch garbage. Also, to steal jokes. If anybody has seen every episode of the Spike TV sitcom Factory and recall bits from it, good on you because then you know where it comes from when I say things like “2 in the Sheila – 1 in the Van Gundy”. There is a true comfort in the uncomfortable act of hate watching.

Raphael Saray is a blogger and unmarried house husband. He dedicates this entry to Ron Wright, of East Tennessee. Ron pretended to be crippled and liked when 19-year-old Yankee girls would push him around in his unnecessary wheel chair.

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