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Opinion

Midst overabundance of reality television, some programs still stand out

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October 25, 2007

People, television is in trouble. I suspect it’s been in trouble since Survivor started more than a decade ago. We have more than 30 channels on campus, and every once in awhile, I like to flip through them like a normal American to see what’s on. It’s usually nothing. Normal TV channels are stuffed to the brim with horrifically poor programming. On top of obnoxious and invasive commercials blaring brand-names and mascots, we’re forced to witness some truly horrible creations like “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team 2,” “My Super Sweet Sixteen” and MTV’s “Next.” Now I could use this article to rant about all the shows that I loathe, but I want to be a little more constructive than that. Instead, I’ll focus on the few TV shows that I love, in the hope that maybe others can learn to love them as I do. Maybe together we can save TV. I know, it is an altogether too ambitious plan, but I like it nonetheless.

I will start with my favorite TV show: a British import from the early 2000s called “Spaced.” “Spaced” is two seasons of clever comedy that originally aired on Britain’s Channel 4. You might recognize the creators of the show from the feature films Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007): director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. If you liked the humor in Shaun and Fuzz, then you’ll cherish “Spaced.” This show combines highly cinematic moments, the goofiness of a sitcom and frequent, devastating pop culture references; the final product is brilliant.

I suspect that I’ll have plenty of fellow fans agreeing with me on my next favorite show: “The Office” on NBC. This is one program that has succeeded despite the fact that it flies in the face of current trends. This show is basically a remake of another U.K. classic by the same name. Steve Carrell plays Michael Scott, an awkward and uncomfortable man bent on being friends with everyone. The supporting characters are what really make this show. Since “The Office” is a current program scheduled on NBC’s Thursday lineup, I encourage everyone to catch a few episodes.

Another program to check out is “Arrested Development.” This quirky and intelligent comedy aired on Fox a few years back but was killed off due to low ratings, despite the fact that it won six Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy. “Arrested Development” is a show that runs on recurring jokes and complex character interactions that rack up laughs like nothing else. The best part about this show is probably Michael Cera. For those of you who enjoyed him in this summer’s “Superbad,” I definitely recommend you check out “Arrested Development” on DVD.

The last show I’ll write about is one that I’m obsessing over in recent weeks. Thankfully, my girlfriend likes the show as much as I do! “Stella” aired a few years ago on Comedy Central and was canceled after one season because no one watched it. This is a sad and frequent result of putting a show on the air that doesn’t appeal directly to the mainstream. Anyway, “Stella” is a joint creation of three comedians: Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain. “Stella” is so off-the-wall and plain weird that it escapes simple description. The nonsense plots follow Michael, Michael and David on all sorts of adventures. Cause-and-effect logic is thrown out the window as the plot changes by the second. If you’re in the mood for something different, check out “Stella.”

Though the creative worth of today’s television may be decreasing, there are still plenty of gold nuggets to discover. And if you’re as sick of MTV reality shows as I am, you’ll thank yourself for checking out “Spaced,” “The Office,” “Arrested Development” and “Stella.” These comedic goldmines will make you think twice the next time you channel-surf.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.