I Like to Watch

Emmy nominations, "Jeopardy" dominations and "Amazing Race" abominations. Plus: On "Six Feet Under," God discovers that torturing David is at least good for a laugh.

Published July 19, 2004 10:34PM (EDT)

Pat my back and call me Emmy
The Emmy nominations were announced last Thursday. God, I hate awards and awarding awarders who award them. Do you really want to hear about the Emmys?

All right, but only for a second. Fox's "Arrested Development" was nominated for comedy series, which sure would've made Fox feel guilty if it had canceled the show prematurely. John Ritter was nominated for lead actor in a comedy series for the three episodes of "8 Simple Rules" he appeared in before he died last year, which sure made God feel guilty for snatching Ritter off the face of the earth prematurely. HBO was nominated for almost everything except "Six Feet Under," which wasn't eligible because it didn't air early enough to be included in the nominations, which sucks.

It also sucks that "Deadwood" wasn't nominated for drama series, nor was Ian McShane nominated for lead actor in a drama series. I guess we'll just have to wait for the Salon TV Awards, which are far more trustworthy, since I'll have some say in them.

One more thing, though: NBC's "Last Comic Standing" does not remotely deserve a nomination for reality-competition program. UPN's "America's Next Top Model" does. No, I'm not kidding. No, I'm really not kidding.

Amazing race, how sweet the sound
CBS CEO Les Moonves wasn't kidding last year when he announced that there might not be another season of "The Amazing Race" (Tuesdays at 10 p.m.), thanks to crappy ratings for the show. He also wasn't kidding back in 2000 when he said that Julie Chen (who is actually a robot, according to reliable sources) was doing a totally awesome job as the host of "Big Brother." But I'm sure there's an explanation for it -- everything in the known universe can be explained, whether through the miracle of science or the miracle of gossip columns.

Thankfully, a fifth season of "The Amazing Race" is airing right now, and if you know what's good for you, you'll start watching it immediately. Last week, not only did the scary demon twins have to walk a tangle of stubborn dogs through the streets of Buenos Aires, but longtime couple Donny and Alison imploded before our very eyes.

Donny: You are an embarrassment.

Alison: F--- you! You're a loser.

Sadly, the couple went from first to last place and was eliminated at the end of the show. Once they had some time to reflect on their experience, though, they were a little more philosophical about what they'd learned.

Alison: Donny and I haven't had the healthiest relationship ever. It's been rough.

Donny: Dealing with Alison was the hardest part of the race for me. On the race, like, I hated her. I can't believe I'm here with her. I'd rather change partners than be with her. So this race has really taught me to redefine my love for Alison.

Redefine it as hate, in other words?

You have to adore a show that teaches long-term couples to find that core of hate beneath layer upon layer of niceties and hand-holding and rented movies and play dates with their other long-term-couple friends. Why enter into months of grueling therapy when all it takes to find out the truth is a little high-pressure travel?

Weapons of mass distraction for 200
Speaking of high pressure, Ken Jennings continues his winning streak on "Jeopardy" against all odds. And after raking in over $1 million on 33 consecutive episodes of the show and declaring airline food "an American art form," how can you not love the guy? Sure, he looks a little like Sam the Eagle and he does belt his pants a bit too high ... But he absolutely crushes the competition, week after week. On the episode I saw, he was visibly shaken by not having earned more than double the money of his nearest challenger when it got close to the end, since it meant he would be vulnerable during the Final Jeopardy round.

Plus, he and Alex Trebek are becoming really close buddies! When the show ends and everyone stands on the stage together, Alex and Ken chat happily while the other two contestants pick stuff out from under their fingernails. I'm not sure Alex has that many friends. It would be nice if the other contestants could keep losing, at least until he and Ken have a chance to branch over into the realm of backyard barbecues, bowling and the occasional game of "Trivial Pursuit."

Bedtime for Joe Schmo
Can you believe that Ingrid figured out that "Joe Schmo 2" was a hoax? I think the major mistake was the absurdity of the fake reality show, "Last Chance for Love," that she was supposed to be a participant in. The first season's fake show clearly didn't take itself seriously, what with all of the bikinis and the licking chocolate off hot girls and such. On top of that, this year's gaggle of fake contestants were straight from central casting, whereas last year's were a little bit more average-looking.

Most disappointing of all, though, was the reaction Ingrid had when they admitted that the show was fake. Instead of being emotional, or even excited about getting paid $100,000 for becoming one of the actors on the show, she just looked a little bit annoyed. Come on, Ingrid! If you're so damn smart, you should know that the kids at home need a bigger reaction than that. Jeez.

Luckily, the new girl isn't one of the sharpest knives in the drawer, but unluckily, she's also not nearly as interesting as Ingrid. Paired with Tim (the other "Schmo" duped by the show) and his bland parade of incredulous looks and double takes, the rest of the season seems destined to be pretty disappointing.

Six feet low and sinking
So let's turn, instead, to the least disappointing show on earth, "Six Feet Under" (Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO). "Six Feet Under" is a dark show, yes indeed, but this week, someone might have accidentally set the Alan Ball toaster on "Very Dark."

Sure, as Sunday's episode began, it was business as usual. Just another idyllic day for the Fisher family -- Claire is ruthlessly insulted by her art instructor and classmates, Brenda is ruthlessly insulted by her sociopathic mother, George continues to be a priggish stiff, Frederico continues to exemplify the horrors of male passivity by catering to the whims of one very bad, very slutty mommy, and Nate once again declares life on earth "oppressive" and "totally overrated" and "sooo not worth living," then runs weeping to his room as his indifferent baby looks on.

But before you know it, this charming scene was interrupted, and the average, everyday, pretty damn depressing mood gave way to a violently, freakishly gloomy abyss. After a slightly needy call to Keith, the sweetly gullible David picks up a hitchhiker, and most naturally all hell breaks loose.

"Don't pick that guy up!" we all screamed at him -- charitable of us, when you consider that we actually encouraged Lisa to go swimming in the hope that she'd drown. But David didn't listen! I mean, we love David, we want to have, like, a million of his babies. But the big dummy was obviously feeling a little insecure and lonely after talking to the suddenly breezy, jet-setting, straight-playing Keith as he rode around in a tricked-out bus with other fabulous hot people, so David picked up an obvious psycho, then proceeded to ignore all warning signs and do absolutely everything to ensure his own premature death.

With David in a nail-bitingly bad situation, ne'er did we return to our regular story, sort of like when Adriana and Tony almost kissed on "The Sopranos" this year (an episode that was nominated for an Emmy, which we don't care about, but still), and of course, this had the effect of making the second half of the show torturous and disturbing and incredibly claustrophobic, lingering as we did with the frustratingly helpless David and his new freakish criminal friend. Still, I sort of enjoyed it all in a sick way. I don't need to tell you I'm a masochist -- I'm a TV critic, for chrissakes -- but it was mesmerizing to see David in such a complexly, horrifyingly bad spot. Michael C. Hall's performance was fantastic, of course, his face fluttering with fragility and rage and worry like ripples in a reflecting pool.

The message, of course, is that just when you trip and fall and scrape your knees up real good, that's when life really gets a thrill out of kicking your pretty teeth in. Look no further than Nate for evidence of this very harsh "Six Feet Under" rule of thumb. Yes, he's as sullen and sulky as an angry teenager, but can you blame him? Dead daddy, unbearable job, sex addict girlfriend, brain ailment, near-death experience, passive-aggressive wife, premature death of passive-aggressive wife... What's in his corner? Cute baby? Nice floppy head of hair? Free rent in delightful Craftsman dwelling?

David, though, doesn't mind his unbearable job, and he and Keith now have the most mature, healthy relationship in the entire dysfunctional circus. So what did he do to deserve a joy ride to hell, followed by several swift kicks to the gut? He got a little whiny to his boyfriend. Is that so wrong? Isn't vulnerability an important cornerstone to intimacy? Why must Ball and his busting associates crush young David with aforementioned cornerstone? Have they no decency?

Well, clearly, all of this is meant to make David even more pathetic, just in time for Keith to start letting all that cruising around with teen idols and their meaty henchmen get to his head.

Still, I love "Six Feet Under," darkness and all. I want to have, like, a million of its babies. One of my less masochistic associates expressed dismay over the horrors of last night's episode, declaring it "difficult" and "not fun at all." To him I said:

"Navigating in this twisted slag-heap of a world is difficult and not fun at all, you naive little buttercup! Wake up and smell the Very Dark human toast burning all around you! Smell it! Stand up, and smell the burning flesh of the common man as the modern world goes up in flames!

"And while you're up, grab me a soda from the fridge. With a glass of ice. Crushed. And a straw."

By Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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