Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: TV

Geeky and Cool

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If you would see the family “caricature” drawn years ago on a vacation in Cape Cod, still hanging on my mother’s wall of family shame, you might say, “Boy, Neil, you must have been a geeky teenager!”  Looking at myself back then, I would say you were probably be right.  Yet, I would still have the problem of identity that I was discussing yesterday on my blog.  Was I really a geek?  How do I give you, the reader, a fuller picture of reality?  Or even more importantly, how do I see myself honestly without spending thousands of dollars in therapy?

Despite my goofy caricature, I did not walk around at the time thinking, “I am a geek.”  I went around thinking I was smart.  I was shy with girls, but at the same time, I knew my time was coming.   Basically, I was a neurotic mess, but sexy in my own mind.

Movies and TV shows rarely portray nerds and geeks realistically.  A few years a go, I wrote a post about the TV reality show “Beauty and the Geek.”  In this show, a male geek is teamed with a beauty queen so they can “learn” from each other and win the competition against other teams.  As expected, the beauties meet the unsocialized guys with the broken glasses and unzippered pants and go “yuch,” while the geeks drool over the perfect blond cheerleaders.

Eh, I never bought it.   If these guys were really geeks, they would be comparing knowledge of Battlestar Gallactica triva, not wasting their time on these dopey women.   Some of these women were so dumb, picked that way for entertainment value, that I couldn’t understand why these guys would be remotely interested in them.  Yeah, yeah, men care about the boobs, but as a certified geek, I know that we also have high standards.   We fantasized about the hot girl in high school, but she was also the one running for class president!   No nerd or geek ever wanted to go out with a cheerleader!  We made fun of you.  Pop culture is so one dimensional, thinking that “hot blondes with boobs” trumps all, that the geeky writers who work on these shows forget their OWN experiences as geeky high school students.  Maybe the geeky writers are so desperate to portray themselves as the nice guy underdogs, that they forget that nerds and geeks can be assholes, too, mocking the pretty girl who doesn’t know the name of the vice president.

My high school was a NYC public school, vastly different than the suburban schools you see most movies.  As in any school, there were cool kids, but I don’t recall it being extremely clear-cut who was “in” and who was “out.”  There were athletes, there were druggies, there were criminals-in-training, there were math geniuses.  The “coolness” was segmented, which is probably too complicated to deal with a true to life movie script.  It is the same way that people say that “blogging is like high school.”   Of course it is — if you just hang out with the mommybloggers or the daddybloggers or the BlogHer bloggers, or the African-American bloggers, etc.   Outside of each niche and the set in stone hierarchy, no one might even know you exist.  I know when I was working on the yearbook in high school, I felt like I ran the school.  So did those working on the school newspaper.  So did those on the basketball team.

We all want to be the sun in our own universe.   When I worked on a TV show, every niche of the production team believe himself the true creative force.  The network executives who bought the show considered it their own.  The writers felt that the words were based out of personal experience.  The actors ignored the writers and acted like the dialogue flew out of their mouths through osmosis.  The advertisers saw the show as a vehicle to sell their products.

The mind is powerful, and distorts reality, usually putting yourself in the starring role.  So, yes, I was geeky back then, as can be seen in that caricature, but despite what anyone might have thought at the time, I considered myself quite cool, even if I was still trying to figure out how to ask a girl out on a date, something that has never quite been resolved.

The question remains:  what is the real reality — how I view myself now, how you might view me, or how I actually viewed myself at the time?

Dancing with the Stars – Live!

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“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” — dancer and choreographer Martha Graham

“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”  — writer Ray Bradbury

Sophia and I showed up at CBS Television City, where, ironically, they shoot ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”   It was the final dance-off of the season, and we were excited to see the show live.   The two of us were decked out in our finest clothes, as if we were going to a reception for Queen Elizabeth.   An email explicitly told us to “dress up” as if it were an elegant affair.  There were others waiting to get in, dressed in the same manner — glamorous and beautiful. 

Then reality struck us in the face like a bead flung off Mel B’s sequined dress.  This was not a fancy event.  We were not a paying audience.  We were going to see the taping of a TV show, which means being treated like sheep. 

First up — figuring out which line you are on. 

There was the line for the “celebrities” like the Spice Girls and Ryan from All My Children (yes, Danny, we saw him!).   They went in first.

There was another line for VIPs, mostly agent-looking dudes. 

There was the pseudo-VIP line.  These were the assistants to the agent-looking dudes. 

There was the I-know-someone-but-someone-not-very-important line.  This is where you would stand if your former roommate’s sister is now the makeup person on the show. 

There was a “priority” line for those who didn’t get in last time, and were given a special pass this time, putting them on a line one step before the total nobodies with tickets.  You see, the networks, like Southwest Airlines, overbook — even if you have a ticket — and then leave those unlucky enough standing on the street with a “priority ticket,” and walking back to the bus stop in their dresses and suits with dashed dreams of sitting next to Donny Osmond. 

Everyone, except the Spice Girls, waited… and waited.   A college-age production assistant with a clipboard, humorlessly checked our tickets.  A homeless guy wandered along the line, looking for cans of soda left behind by ticket-holders. 

Hey, ABC — why not send a warm-up guy OUTSIDE and entertain us why we wait forever?   It took almost three hours from arrival to getting inside the studio.  Think about how they do things at Disneyland!  Sure you moved us from spot to spot like you do at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but where’s the music?  The fun?  The audience was half asleep by the time we took our seats (crammed in so you can hardly move. I’ve never seen such tiny chairs.)

Most of the public guests were women, and Sophia thought since I was a man, this would help us get a better seat, especially since I was looking good in my blue suit.  She pushed me to be at the outside of the line, so the show ushers would notice me and put us in a visible spot.  On TV, it looks as if the audience is filled with distinguished-looking men.  In reality, the audience was 3/4 women, mostly drooling over Maxim.  Some of these fans are fanatics.  These are women who remember every single judge’s score since season one.

Sophia and I actually got decent seats in the second-tier VIP section, but later we realized that it is probably better to be in the balcony with the average Joes.    The camera was constantly blocking our view.  We were also on the wrong side of the stage.  Later, when we came home, we searched for ourselves on the screen, and all we can find was a one second shot of the back of my head.  We didn’t even bother to call my mother to tell her. 

The real star of the show is — the editing.   Everything is low-key on the set.   The excitement only begins when the warm-up guy jumps up and down, giving us the Pavlovian sign to stand and cheer as if Jesus had just walked in.   The minute it was commercial time, all became silent.  Then, boom — screams of ecstasy!  No wonder so many women in Los Angeles fake their orgasms. They must all work on TV shows, and get in the habit of showing false enthusiasm. 

We cheered, we stood, we booed — everything on cue.   Why did we give everyone a standing ovation, even the bad routines?  Because we were told to!  Why did we boo the judges when they made some intelligent, but constructive comment?  I didn’t boo once.  How impolite!  And why does the audience have to be the toadies for the dancers?  

Tom Bergeron looked pretty sullen and unfriendly during the commercial breaks, and only smiled and became witty when the camera turned on.

Finally, I had enough.  I stood up and spoke my mind.

“Hey, Tom!  What is this with all the fake frivolity?  It’s so much more fun on TV.  Here you all look bored!”

“Yes.  That’s TV.   Boring to make.  At least this a better gig than that dumb “America’s Favorite Videos.”  And  since we’re shooting at CBS, we’re closer to the Farmer’s Market.   I love those donuts at Bob’s.”

“And wait a minute.  Who’s writing this show anyway?  Don’t tell me that Bruno is coming up with those witty comments by himself?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.  We are “ad-libbing” everything during the Writer’s Strike.  Why?  Are you a writer?”

“Well, actually I am.” I said.

“Hmmm… because I really could use someone to help me ad-libbing tonight’s lame jokes.”

“Well, I would, but I don’t want to be a scab.”

“Well, I couldn’t pay you union scale, but I could introduce you to Cheryl Burke.”

“Cheryl Burke, the hottest dancer on the show?  Call me scab.  You got a deal!”

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Well, of course that never happened, but thinking about it kept me amused while waiting in line.

On the way home, Sophia and I stopped at the 99 cent only store to pick up some batteries.  I wish we had taken pictures.  It must have looked funny as we walked down the aisles of cheap detergent in our best clothing.   When we went to pay, the checkout girl gave us the once over, and asked us if we are coming back from “our prom.”  That was the best part of the night.

We’re Dancing with the Stars

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Sophia got us the hottest tickets in town — today’s taping of the finale of “Dancing With the Stars.”  We need to dress up, first, because they make you, and second, because we notice that only the good-looking people get the seats next to Donny Osmond.    I’m still deciding between wearing a suit or going barechested with suspenders, like Maxim Chmerkovskiy.   Either way, keep your eye out for a banner that reads “Go Marie” on one side, and “2007 Blogger Chrismahanukwanzaakah Holiday Concert — December 10th, on the other.”  Hey, they’re always plugging ABC’s shows, why not me?  You notice that “The Bachelor” just happens to be in the audience the week before the show’s finale? 

Look for us in the audience.

Why I Was Rejected From Project Runway

Assignment:  make a “slinky” evening dress for a top New York fashion model.

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(I apologize for the cheap fashion-industry joke, La Coquette)

Television Season — Out!

Desperate Housewives, 24, Lost, and American Idol all ended this week, so my network television-viewing season is over.  Maybe I’ll now read more books or actually go outside. 

My report card:

Desperate Housewives:

It was inevitable that actor Roger Bart (Bree’s pharmacist friend) signed on as next season’s villain.   That will make for some interesting twists.  On the whole, Desperate Housewives was a fresh show that was somewhat over-rated.  I think it received media attention because the media likes shows about pretty women, especially when the shows have sexy titles.   The negative:  all of the characters were one-dimensional and there was an uneven mix of comedy, drama, and mystery wrapped in a phony suburban setting.  The positive:  It was a fun twist on the soap opera genre that will become better as the characters develop.  Teri Hatcher was also pretty adorable as Susan.  I liked her daughter, too.

Score:   A –

24

24 has been my favorite show for the last four seasons, but I must admit, it lost its focus this year.  One of the problems was that Jack Bauer was less interesting than half of the other characters, including Chloe, Edgar, Tony, Michelle, David Palmer, Novick, and even President Logan.  It’s nice that Kiefer Sutherland is so generous with his co-stars (especially when he is an executive producer), but he was upstaged in every episode.   His relationship with Audrey was fairly blah.  I hate to say this, but I missed his hapless daughter, Kim.

The Dina and Behrooz story was clearly the coolest subplot, but they were dropped in the middle of the story for the evil Mahrwan, a more traditional villain.  How many fans were waiting to find out that Dina wasn’t dead, but was the mastermind of the entire plot?  And Behrooz — what finally happened to him?  Luckily, I learned from Entertainment Weekly that the producers filmed a scene where Behrooz learned of his mother’s death,  but the scene was edited out.  Why?

Score:   B +

American Idol

This is my guilty pleasure.  Unfortunately, this was the dullest season yet, even though the singers were better than usual.  I think the format is getting a little tired.  None of the singers really stood out as a superstar.  Even Bo.   Vonzell had the best voice.  Constantine and Nadia were the most fun.   Carrie was too cutesy for me.  Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Fantasia all had a spark that no one had this year.  Even the "bad" singers weren’t as humorous as in the past.  Most annoying were the stock responses by the judges, with Randy’s "dawg," Paula’s smile, and Simon’s sarcasm.  The only one I liked better this year was Ryan Seacrest, who at least has fun hosting every week.  That said, the final episode was a lot of fun.  Carrie’s win was a surprise, and I enjoyed the idols singing with their "idols." 

Score:  B

Lost

Lost was the year’s biggest surprise.  The concept sounded incredibly stupid, sort of a dramatic Gilligan’s Island, but it was totally engrossing and mysterious throughout the year.  Watch it in reruns if you haven’t seen it.

Score:   A

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