I’m watching Action on DVD, the short-lived 1999 series from FOX starring Jay Mohr as a slimeball film producer named Peter Dragon who has no redeeming qualities except his affection for Illeana Douglas’s hooker. The first episode starts with a reference that’s not as dated as it would have been a month ago.
An agent tries to sell Dragon on a mystery client, a big star who had some legal problems. Like being accused of a double murder.
Dragon: You’re pitching me OJ Simpson.
Agent. Yes I am. Pete, little children in Calcutta know his face.
Dragon: Yes, they know to run away from it.
Agent: The name is more recognizable than Tom Hanks.
Dragon: OK, you know what, but to be fair, Tom Hanks refuses to go that extra mile and hack his wife to death.
One of the show’s running jokes is how unappreciated is the beleaguered writer of Dragon’s next film (“a cross between Dr. Doolittle and Apocalypse Now“).
“If writing’s hard, how come Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have Oscars?”
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill him.” “I think you get fined by the Writers Guild. [Pause] But it’s only $2,500.”
There are some recognizable writers in the credits, like Jim Vallely of Arrested Development and Will Forte of SNL. I think we might have a clue why they chose TV over film.
I’ve had better luck with TV over film myself lately. I saw a preview screening of Bobby last week, and I’m not sure I got the point. I mean, I get that it was a microcosm of what was going on at the time, but I’m not sure why I was supposed to care about most of those characters, and little held them together except they were in the hotel the day Robert Kennedy was shot. One review I read yesterday said it was like The Love Boat done by Robert Altman, which seems pretty apt to me. It wasn’t terrible, but a disappointment anyway. It also forced me to confront the fact that I really like the unskanky Lindsay Lohan who shows up onscreen.
Yesterday I saw Borat, because it’s what all the cool kids are doing, but I pretty much hated it. There were times when I was laughing so hard that you might swear I couldn’t possibly have hated it, but most of the time I wanted to hide under my seat. Except for that part where he tries to say hello to the weatherman on air. And when he tries to unpack in the elevator. And when he incites the rodeo people to disturbing levels of bloodthirstiness and racism. And …
It reminded me of Letterman sending Rupert Gee out with his camera glasses to ridicule himself and others, except cruder and ruder. Funny in small doses, but mostly just uncomfortable and I wanted him to get to the stupid pet tricks.
It also reminded me – though not in subject matter – of this little short I saw on DotComedy recently. That’s NBC Universal’s attempt to launch their own YouTube, with clips of their own shows, things made specifically for the site, and viewer-created videos. It’s kind of lame so far, but there are clips of stand-ups, like Paula Poundstone doing a routine after she was busted for drunk driving with her foster kids in the car, and I’m waiting for the vintage Letterman they’ve promised.
Anyway, there’s one short, called Equal Opportunity, that basically repeats one joke over and over until it becomes funnier (for me, at least) through repetition, and it has an odd payoff at the end, too. It’s people in an office break room talking to each other strictly through hugely offensive gender, racial, or gay stereotypes. DotComedy doesn’t have the ability to embed yet, but the short is here. If you’re going to watch – and remember I warned you it’s purposely offensive – watch the credits, too.
My point is, like Borat, it does make me slightly uneasy that some people don’t seem to get the satire. There’s one comment on that short: “This is the best, I wished we would all be honest like that the world would be so much happier!” Maybe that person is joking. But I bet there’s people walking out of Borat thinking their racist and xenophobic views have just been validated. That’s their stupidity more than Sacha Baron Cohen’s responsibility, but it still made me uncomfortable to hear some of the “yeah!”s in the theatre coming at what seemed like the wrong time to me.
Of course, that’s not really why I mostly hated the movie. It just wasn’t my taste, and I kind of figured that going in, but I thought I might be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I don’t like being right.