I Like to Watch

Jack treasures the sacredness of life on "24"! Kyra cherishes the divinity of dog life on "Showdog Moms & Dads." Plus: The godless whores of ABC's "Eyes."


Heather Havrilesky
April 5, 2005 4:00AM (UTC)

La vie est precieuse!
Life is a precious thing, my little meat puppets. No one can or should deny the sanctity of life. Yet, there are those who do, those who are indifferent to life! There are those who dare to say, "Life? Pshaw. Life's no big deal!" There are those who feel that life is expendable, beside the point, nay, even overrated.

Now, I don't know you all that well. I know that you're made of meat, that's about it. Yet I'm betting that, while you don't make mistakes all that often, when you do err, you tend to err on the side of life.

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Sadly for us -- the special, chosen few who treasure life and recognize its supreme, sanctified sanctity -- there are armies of darkness afoot. Filthy, fallen men, red-fanged and ravenous! They don't just cherish death, they're half in love with it! They're as giddy as a meat puppet on a string over death! They want to have, like, a million of death's babies!

Leaving on a death plane
Take that impostor terrorist guy posing as a military man on "24," the one who just killed an Air Force captain and is now posing as him to steal a warplane. That guy has no respect for life whatsoever! Let me refresh your memory with this little snippet of dialogue from last week's show, between the impostor guy and a military mechanic who says there's something wrong and they need a replacement part for the plane he wants to snag:

Impostor: Did you make your report to the chief mechanical officer?

Military mechanic guy: I'm just about to head over there right now, Captain. And then I'm gonna head up to Ventura for a little R 'n' R!

Impostor: Sounds great! Don't let me hold you up.

Military mechanic guy turns to go, impostor shoots him in the back.

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Oof. But then, what do you expect from a guy who's so clearly head over heels in love with death? This guy's gonna be humming songs about infanticide and euthanasia all the way to wherever he's going in that warplane, presumably to end tens of millions of innocent lives.

Meanwhile, back at CTU, Michelle Dessler, who embraces the sanctity of life with every cell of her being, is marching around looking very somber. Luckily, though, she's wearing a tighter-fitting blazer than she did last year. Without any hot teenagers in distress around -- and Behrooz is one sorry substitute for even Heavy Bangs CTU Kim -- the titillations are tough to come by.

Thankfully, Michelle and Tony "Tiny" Almeida love/hate each other now. One can only assume that Tiny has a little crush on death, what with his drinking problem and his appetite for wayward whores and his serious problems with authority, a telltale trait among the godless. You see, without any rigid, antiquated strictures dictating his behavior, your average meat puppet tends to wander into the realm of quick fixes, like drinking beer and watching soccer all day, instead of dutifully panicking over the latest terrorist threat or holding candlelight vigils for life itself like a good citizen.

Like many of those without a Lord and Savior to call their own, Tony is quick-tempered and ill-mannered and rarely manages even a reasonably close shave. Even though Michelle is the boss of Tony, Tony can't accept it. Tony's all "That wouldn't be wise!" but Michelle's all "We're doing it my way!" Ooo, burn!

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We suspect, on the other hand, that Jack has mad respect for life (yo) and probably even believes in God, at least every now and then when he's handcuffed in an abandoned warehouse or riding in a small plane packed with nuclear explosives or being manhandled by swarthy lovers of death.

How else would Jack make it through the tough times, without some shred of belief? His is not a job for the existentialist. Last week, when Jack was captured yet again, we could see that he was full of fire for life and believed, with all his heart, that life would prevail. Was he shivering and shrieking? Hell no! He was sassing back to those dark-complected heathens. "For all the hatred that you have for this country, you don't understand it very well!" Oh, face! Take that, you dusky romancers of death and dying!

Luckily, the tawny death troopers didn't chain Jack to the wall very securely, because he rigged up a way for CTU to find that den of red-fanged death weasels faster than you can say the password to the main server at CTU -- which is CIS15A, by the way.

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Next week, we find out how the impostor terrorist guy plans to go anywhere in a stolen warplane without being discovered and blown to smithereens by our armed forces, who adore life almost as much as they adore freedom (which is still on the march, just FYI). Jack's sassy attitude was all well and good, but a B-2 bomber is really the ultimate nanny nanny boo boo, wouldn't you say?

Dog is my savior
Of course you would. I just thank the good Lord that I was born in a country that values life and defends life's sanctity with its multibillion-dollar killing machines. I'm also extremely pleased that I live in a country where dog life is treasured just as much as -- if not more than -- human life. Because as we all know, dogs are much more special than people.

No one recognizes this more than the parade of pesky oddballs on Bravo's "Showdog Moms & Dads" (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), whose lives revolve around special dog meals and elaborate dog outfits and long car trips to dog shows. Basically, "Showdog Moms & Dads" is a real-life version of Christopher Guest's timeless classic "Best in Show" -- only, since the people in Bravo's show are real, it's a little less funny and a little more depressing.

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In fact, before you tune in, you might want a little warning: While right now you feel comfortable with the groveling, pandering, slobbering and general-purpose obsequious fawning you do over your dog, this show could change all of that.

Take a gander at Brandon and Ryan, for example, disturbed daddies who call their little dogs "fashion gurus," dressing them in little capes and feather boas that are admittedly delightful, albeit slightly sick. Or, spend some time with George and Connie, who treat their whippets like children and bust their asses to rack up points at these rinky-dink little dog shows for reasons completely lost on me. Or, check out Kyra and her pretty dog Chalcy, who perform a routine together that involves hula hoops and cartwheels, an act so sophisticated that it sort of reminds me of the kind of quality entertainment you see at elementary school talent shows. Don't miss the second episode, when they perform their show at a kids' birthday party, and Chalcy's so tired she's phoning it in.

Sadly enough, I've grown quite fond of Kyra and Chalcy just two episodes into the season. Chalcy really supports Kyra -- more, I think, than her cynical, snickering husband does -- and they really do seem to have a great time together. I mean it. Plus, when Chalcy gets hurt? It's just like an episode of "ER" except with a dog where the raving, bullet-riddled homeless guy usually goes.

Yes, "Showdog Moms & Dads" hits a little too close to home for comfort. While we could chuckle heartily as the depraved parents on "Showbiz Moms & Dads" screwed up their children, I think we can all agree that screwing up a little dog's self-esteem is no laughing matter. And, while we wouldn't dream of making our kid traipse across a stage at age 3 singing "God Bless America," we might just purchase a rhinestone-studded collar for our pooch. In fact, we might've purchased one several months ago.

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While we're on the subject, though, let me just make one thing clear: While all self-respecting, single women in their 30s fear becoming crazy cat ladies, i.e., women who live in filthy yet charmingly cluttered houses where everything is covered in a fine layer of downy soft cat hair, they should really fear becoming crazy dog ladies instead. Crazy dog ladies live in filthy houses that are not remotely charming, and their floors are not only covered with floaty bunches of dog hair, but also crowded with ripped-up corpses of stuffed animals, which crazy dog ladies refer to, tellingly, as "babies."

Crazy cat ladies, although filthy, are very proud. Crazy dog ladies have no pride, no shame, no dignity and no self-respect. In fact, without any rigid, antiquated strictures dictating their behavior, crazy dog ladies are free to wander into the realm of quick fixes, like eating In-N-Out burgers on the bed (one for doggie, one for crazy lady) while whiling away their days watching TiVoed two-hour episodes of "The Amazing Race," instead of becoming dutifully hysterical over the latest attack against God by the devil's handmaidens.

Boxed in
Not that I know anything about that. And speaking of subjects I know nothing about, a big thanks to all of you boxers who wrote to answer my questions, inspired by "The Contender," about what's so enjoyable about getting your lights knocked out in the ring. My favorite response came from Amy Pollien, who offers this summary of the joys of boxing:

I boxed for eight years. I didn't mean to, and I can't say I really got "hooked" on it -- it was demanding and exhausting and occasionally painful and/or scary. In all that time hanging around the club I never heard about a "boxing high" the way runners crave the exhilaration of excess lactic acid, and nobody ever said they loved the sport. Only one or two of my club compatriots were ever going to see a payday, so we weren't in it to support our mothers either.

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It was real, though. You saw yourself as you really behave; a coward or a stand-up soul, slow on your feet or fast with the strategic decision, hard hitting or the type that flinches easily -- no way to hide your true self and a view straight through to the same level in your opponent. You really knew yourself during a match and you were closer to the person you fought than you were to your husband (unless, of course, your husband belonged to the same club. My husband and I never paired up for a match, but it was a little scary watching him fight). Watching Ali and Tyson on film, I'm struck by their ability to accept that level of reality in themselves, and to use that clear view to demolish their opponents. If you try to fake it in the ring, you're dead. You are too busy fending off the unpleasant things you see in yourself to bob and weave, too embarrassed to get off that jab, hampered by your image while the other guy sees right through you.

People who aren't genius boxers parrot what their trainers tell them, just like people who are genius soldiers can be told that they're dying for their country. The genius knows that he's only doing it to expose his soul, something no sane person does without the most extreme sort of persuasion. And, contrary to what some old men think, we can't be permanently at war -- hence, boxing.

Well put, Amy. But I'm still a little confused about where boxers fit on the old "Cherish Life/Cherish Death" dichotomy. First you implied that boxers are flirting with death, which would suggest that they're half in love with death. But then you mentioned that genius boxers are a little like genius soldiers, who will die for their countries without hesitation -- and we all know that our freedom fighters love and embrace life. Plus, Sly Stallone has obviously retained his human dignity in all its fullness -- not to mention, thanks to certain medical technologies, his wide brown eyes and girlish figure. That must mean that boxers cherish life. Hurray for boxers! Down with the rest of you foul refrigerator monkeys and lily-livered free-range chickens!

Private eyes, they're watching you
And speaking of wide brown eyes and a girlish figure, who wouldn't fall for the daring pretty boys of ABC's new detective drama "Eyes" (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)? Before you write off this shiny, sexy thing as just another "Las Vegas" without the casinos, take note, because this one's a little more nuanced than it seems at first glance. To begin with, one of the lead characters, Chris (Rick Worthy), is gay -- not gay in that "Look at me, I'm gay!" way, but gay in that "I just happen to be gay" way that's so rare on television these days. Yes, he did have a breakdown a while ago, we learn, and was for some time "a psychological demilitarized zone," whatever that means. But he's likable and sincere, willing to help an ex-boyfriend who's being harassed by gay bashers even though the firm can't really afford to do pro bono work.

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In fact, the "Eyes" pilot does exactly what a pilot is meant to do: It demonstrates the exact nature and flavor of each of the main characters without getting too awkward or on-the-nose about it. Thus we learn rather quickly that Chris is a loyal guy while most of his co-workers are godless whores who would sell each other out in a heartbeat. Ah, yes. Godless whores always make for such good television.

Harlan Judd (Tim Daly), the bossman, is heroically crafty, witty and maybe just a little prone to violence. Jeff (Eric Mabius), one of the P.I.s, is having an affair with the firm's surveillance technician, Trish (Natalie Zea), who's also the wife of Jeff's good friend and co-worker. Best of all, the firm's lawyer, Leslie, is played by Laura Leighton -- that's right -- scheming Sydney from "Melrose Place"!

The stories can seem a little snappy and superficial, not surprising since executive producer John McNamara is the man responsible for "Fastlane." But how can you resist a show with lines like this one, delivered sotto voce by Trish as parting words to her creepy, soulless lover, Jeff: "One thing I'll say, you're the only person I have ever met who has more contempt for me than I have for myself. It's over."

Yeah! I love a little self-hatred with my godless whoring! Still, "Eyes" could be just another tightly edited, well-polished pilot that's soon to be followed by a bunch of mediocre episodes. Even so, it's worth checking out: The writing is really sharp, the characters are interesting, the stories move at a pretty fast clip, and the pilot ended with a serious bang -- the death of someone who appeared to be a major character. That should please the pro-death demons out there, anyway.

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In summary
If you're not for life, you're against it. You either join the march of freedom and the forces of life and celebrate human dignity, in all its fullness, or you embrace death and dying and live out the balance of your days as an empty, vile whore with little to cling to but bad TV, cheap beer and a dog whose self-esteem you crushed years ago.

Either way, though, be sure to tune in for (or TiVo) "The Staircase," an eight-part series about the murder trial of Michael Peterson, playing at 8 p.m. on Monday nights in April on the Sundance Channel. Doesn't sound like your cup of tea? Think again. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Next week: The fresh horrors of "Project Greenlight," and those corrupt, death-loving cops on "The Shield"!


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.

MORE FROM Heather Havrilesky

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