The Reader's Eye on Television

Isaac Leedom pissed on my VCR. Isaac wasn't technically my friend, he was my brother's, so I hold no responsibility for the incident. My dad contends to this day he's never had a VCR that worked correctly: the curse of Isaac Leedom.

As was usual for the summer weekends, we all went out drinking one Saturday night. It was a big, hairy party down on a blockaded bridge. The bridge had been closed because of stress fractures, but there we were, about 30 people in ten different cars. We walked along in groups and tried to see the cracks. One of us would lean out over the guardrail while two or three others would hold his feet and belt. We found a flashlight in the glovebox of a Dodge Charger and employed it against the consummate darkness. We refilled our dreams from a keg -- boasting about our plans for success once we got out of school. With the threat of the law coming for our raucous fray, we defeated the night and drove home all fouled up to be damned.

We each had a remedy for our swimming drunkenness: Mike went right to bed to sleep through it, Isaac and I made sandwiches and sat down to watch whatever was on after Saturday Night Live. Dad must've come out and killed the TV because I woke up a few hours later, sitting straight up in the La-Z-Boy with a blanket over me and a spilt beer in my lap. When I hissed, "Son of a bitch!" Isaac uncovered himself and got up off the couch. I set the half-empty beer on an end table and started pawing at my wet lap and chair. I noticed Isaac milling about in front of the television stand and said, "I spilled a beer. Oh well. No big deal. I'll clean it up in the morning," but there was no response from him.

"If you want to watch TV you have to push that big button on the bottom," I told Isaac. He still didn't say anything, but in the amber-brown light of the morning I could see him fussing with something in front of the set. When I asked, "Isaac, what are you doing?" I heard a sound like a cup of water pouring out and saw all the lights on our VCR slowly illuminate. Play, Record, Stop, 3 through 13, all steadily brightened from nothing, then to dim, then to full beam -- and, that noise of water.

"Isaac, what the hell are you doing?" still no answer, so I got up and approached him to try to solve the mystery. That's when I saw the lazy arc of liquid between him and our VHS recorder. "Well, whatever. You're drunk. I'm going to bed."

Thirteen years later I ran into Isaac in a bar downtown. The next day, while having breakfast with my dad, I mentioned our chance meeting and he immediately yelled, "That son of a bitch still owes me a VCR!"


Thursday, January 20 Bring It On (2000)

WB 5, 8:00 p.m.

Oh, you're joking, the cheerleading movie? Isn't it embarrassing enough that our culture produced this the first time? Now, we're lucky enough to have it regurgitated back to us, edited for content, and cut with commercials. Yippee! If Eskimos have 40-something words for "snow," shouldn't we have several hundred words for "mindless crap"?

WWE SmackDown!

UPN 13, 8:00 p.m.

Bobby is a good ol' boy from Arkansas. He loves Peterbilt trucks, beer, and crystal meth. Someday he'll get out of high school and get his big-rig license. On nights when no one is around he finds a trusty old tin box he's kept for months outside of the yard and down by the road. From it he extracts a blonde wig, panties, and bra that were lifted from his neighbors' clotheslines -- carefully chosen for size and color. On those hot nights when he knows his parents will be at the bar until dawn, he plays dress-up in front of the full-length, gold-spattered mirror in their room. On the nights he knows they'll stay home, the tin box sits in the dewdropped weeds, and he watches wrestling until he falls asleep on the couch and dreams of giant oily men.

Dirty Little Secret (1998)

LIFETIME 38, 7:00 p.m.

Wall of Secrets (2003)

LIFETIME 38, 9:00 p.m.

Shhh...it's secret night on Lifetime. Oh, what fun. Secrets! Playing on women's intuitive curiosity, Lifetime's programming revolves around a shrouded, mysterious world -- clandestine affairs, confidential adoptions, closets cluttered by skeletons. This fabricated intrigue is guilty cake sneaked out of the fridge and eaten in the dark by suburban housewives who know better, but promise to run it off on the treadmill. And you thought drugs were ruining America.

Friday, January 21 The Ashlee Simpson Show

MTV 30, 7:00 p.m.

Good lord. I didn't know she had her own show too. I had the sublime fortune to witness her performance during the Orange Bowl halftime. If you missed this you will eventually see it again. Ten years from now on one of those shows that address critical moments in popular culture, after the Beatles play Ed Sullivan, and Nirvana releases Nevermind, they'll roll footage of Ashlee Simpson being booed mercilessly at this event: the day the crowd refused to lick the dirty Jolly Rancher of pop music.


ESPN2 28, 5:00 p.m.

I recently started a Thai kickboxing class. We pair off and one guy practices punching and kicking the other through these heavy pads. Usually, 15 minutes into it I'm sitting in a folding steel chair, covered in sweat and holding my side. I can actually feel my spleen squeeze out its last red blood cell to keep up with my panting oxygen demand. I have to wave off the naturally athletic college kids I spar with and between breaths explain my condition: "-- puff puff -- Old! -- puff puff -- Fat!"

Saturday, January 22 Rocky IV (1985)

TNT 34, 4:30 p.m.

I am an emotional trainwreck when I watch Rocky movies: my bloodstream is flooded with testosterone and adrenaline. After I change the channel I'll put my gloves on and punch the nearest face. If my roommates aren't home, I'll have to wait until a random person walks by and then I'll run out of the apartment and nail them in the beak. If I don't get it out of my system, I'll burn our building down or screw the cat or something equally unacceptable.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

PBS 11, 9:00 p.m.

To even start out at the ground level of critical movie watching, this is required viewing. Shamefully, I have to admit that I have yet to see it. Every time I walk past it at the video store I think, you have to watch this! I never do.

Monday, January 24 Fear Factor

NBC 7, 8:00 p.m.

I fear being homeless, dying alone, or letting my love of comic books turn me into "one of them" -- you know who I mean. Sucking the juice out of a bull's intestines and then drinking the spit-up never occured to me as something to be afraid of. The stupidity of this program, its contestants, and its host is the most frightening thing of all.

Tuesday, January 25 Hannity & Colmes

FNC 37, 6:00 p.m.

Last time I watched this, the guests were debating about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a headline rolled by on the scroll, "Mexican Oil Monopoly Pemex Spills 5000 Barrels of Crude Oil into Gulf of Mexico." On and on the experts debated drilling into the ANWR, and one very conservative guest was actually claiming that this could be beneficial to caribou in the area. No one brought up spills, not even the spill that had just happened that day in Mexico. The irony was killing me and I yelled, "Look down! Look at the little red letters about chest level and read them!" I don't know if it's because the lettering would be backwards to them or if they just couldn't hear me.

Wednesday, January 26 The Simple Life: Interns

FOX 6, 9:00 p.m.

I'll bet there's a Motel 6 heiress out there somewhere who just fucking hates Paris Hilton. I imagine her to be a dark, brooding type. She probably prefers writing poetry in her room to glamming it up on the New York club scene. On nights when she's really pissed she puts on black lipstick and shoves needles through a Paris doll. Whenever paparazzi hound the Hiltons on the red carpet, she screams, "SHEEP! FUCKING SHEEP!" at her TV set

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