One of the most anticipated annual television events of the year unfolded in the United States over the weekend. Akin to the Doctor Who Christmas Special in the UK, it is practically a national holiday, drawing together people from all walks of life, creeds, and backgrounds for a few unifying hours. Transplants to the United States often express deep puzzlement and a feeling of alienation as the full flower of US patriotism arises on a Sunday afternoon in January, the heady smells of mom and apple pie in the air, flags snapping to attention in the breeze.
It’s hard to say exactly when I figured out Whitney. I’d been dreading it since this summer, when I heard that Whitney Cummings — a spectacularly hacky stand-up who trades in tired “women are different from men” jokes, plus “edgy” sex — was getting her own sitcom. My dread level rose when Cummings took to the Internets to defend it. She announced that it was “basically about balls and sex and that sort of dumbness,” and that “all we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling [sic] about how [sic] the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion.” So, you know. Witty stuff. Then there were the promos — endless shots of Cummings leaning forward, mouth agape; kissy faces at the camera; “jokes” like “The Silent Treatment: Punishment Or Reward?” — and the certainty that Whitney was, indeed, going to be awful. But it wasn’t until the pilot episode, and the rape joke — the revelation that, on this show about the quirks of a long-term relationship, one of the “quirks” included Whitney’s lovable-doofus boyfriend having possibly raped her on their anniversary while she was passed out on sleeping pills — that I finally got it. Whitney is the Outsourced of gender.
Auteur television producer Shonda Rhimes is probably most famous for her work on Grey’s Anatomy, a primetime medical drama that debuted in the 2005 midseason, followed by spinoff Private Practice. As a high profile Black woman working in Hollywood, Rhimes has broken down a number of barriers and stereotypes in her work, from her approach to casting to her depiction of relationships. She’s also got the medical drama down pat, and recently added a third show, Off the Map, to her roster. It’s Grey’s reprised, except set in an exotic locale; more snakes and fewer coffee carts.
Rhimes’ latest, vaguely set ‘somewhere in South America,’ features a team of doctors working at a rural clinic to provide basic medical services to the population. The cast is heavily stocked with WASPs, complete with tragic backgrounds, and a handful of people of colour who mainly seem to populate the set to give the show more authenticity; we are not provided with information about their lives or backgrounds.
A lot of my intellectual friends (the sort of people who, with a dignified cough, announce that they do not “indulge in mass media entertainment,” and other, less extreme types) repeatedly ask me why on earth is it that I watch “Lost.”
They talk to me like one would talk to an otherwise normal girl who, for some unfathomable reason, decided to date the biggest loser in one’s zipcode – complete with police record, regular stint in mom’s basement, and the miasma of unwashed socks.
“Why, Natalia? Why do you put yourself through that?” *deep sigh* “If you need help you know where to find me.”
I’m not one of those people who’ll threaten to chain you to the couch, tape your eyes open, and force you to watch every single episode while humming “Shambala” and cackling maniacally. If you don’t like “Lost,” you’re free to tell me that you think it sucks (or, as one esteemed blogger put it, that it’s better to “take a large amount of peyote and watch Gilligan’s Island” instead).
I’m all for television democracy, because, let’s face it, I never liked “Seinfeld,” I don’t watch “The Wire,” and “The Sopranos” just succeeded in making me feel that the world is a horrible place (perhaps rightfully so).
However, I do feel compelled to explain why is it that I love “Lost.” Now that the fourth season is upon us, the doubters have come out like zombies after dark:
“Three more seasons of that crap?” “It doesn’t even make sense!”
Well, you’re right, it doesn’t. But that’s not the point. Continue reading