My dream TV show

We asked some of the most creative minds we could think of to imagine their fantasy program. The result? Boxing bloopers! Funny straight men! Zombies! And much, much more.

Published August 24, 2006 12:32PM (EDT)

John Darnielle is the lead singer of the Mountain Goats, whose new album, "Get Lonely," comes out this week.

The problem with designing an ideal TV show is that there already was one, and it was called "The New Zoo Revue," but a cold and uncaring world allowed its time to pass. Someday God will kill us all for this, and you won't be able to say I didn't tell you so, because I just now did, but in the meantime here are the shows that might actually persuade my household to get cable again:

1. This Week in Boxing featuring Sebastian Bach

Boxing is the most under-represented sport on television, especially seeing as it is better than all the other sports; lame reality-TV boxing shows do not count as boxing any more than mashed-up aspirins count as cocaine. Sebastian Bach is one of those once-famous metal dudes who flaunt their manic tendencies a little too much when they're on-camera, but he's also a pretty bright guy who'd do a killer blow-by-blow if he could just stay focused. This show will broadcast three boxing matches by ranked fighters once a week, in prime time. I get misty thinking about it.

2. This Week in Boxing History with your host Sarah Dougher

I don't think Sarah actually cares about boxing, but she's a classicist and a good one at that, which means she could bring a focused historical approach to the commentary she'll give on this show's completely rad library of rare old boxing films. At the end of the show each week, Dougher will sit in with a musical guest, and they'll play a song written especially for that episode: "Blues in A for Louis Firpo," say, by Morrissey & Marr, together again at last, unable to resist the allure of penning an ode to the Wild Bull of the Pampas.

3. International Boxing Scene starring Khaosai Galaxy

OK, most non-boxing people have never even heard of Khaosai Galaxy, and he may or may not speak English, but in my imaginary television universe, Americans are not too obstinate to enjoy a subtitled show. Galaxy, a super-flyweight and the greatest Thai boxer of all time, retired as champion in 1991 with a stunning record of 49-1. Unlike some other camera hogs I could name, he never attempted a comeback. IBSSKG will report on boxing scenes not covered by Sebastian Bach's show: Egypt, Uganda, that whole Russian thing that's been exporting bruisers for a decade now. Network execs: I will personally donate money and whatever muscle I might have to make this show happen. You have my number.

4. Home Boxing Bloopers with Bob Saget and Yog-Sothoth

People send in footage of their baby knocking out the neighbor kid or something. I haven't got this one entirely doped out yet. The main thing is that it's really violent, and is hosted by Bob Saget and one of H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones. Much give-and-go comedy in the commentary as Saget resists being sucked through the Gate between the Now and the Absolute. Greatly loved by stoners and conspiracy theorists.

5. This Week in Boxers (rotating host).

This is just a news broadcast, probably on PBS: in-depth reports on the situation in Central America, that sort of thing. Hosted, in his underpants, by whichever reigning champion in any weight class happens to be available and needs the money. Anybody who doesn't feel in his heart that this is the show to save public broadcasting needs to learn to take the long view. The donations will start rolling in the minute people see Nikolai Valuev lifting his gigantic paw to indicate Guatemala on a globe. Trust me.

Phil Rosenthal was creator/executive producer of "Everybody Loves Raymond." His book, "You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom," comes out Oct. 23 (Viking).

Fade in:

An old-age home in the middle of Manhattan. There is no one under the age of 75 here. There is no one under the age of 60 working here. There are no young or pretty people anywhere to be seen. If there's a delivery man from outside, he's older than anyone in the home. The most beautiful girl onstage is Bella, an overweight 80-year-old with a bad eye and a walker.

Bella is currently talking to Max, another 80-year-old, as they eat lunch at the communal dining table.

Bella: Max, close your mouth when you eat, it's disgusting.

Max: (mouthful of food) What are you talking? I saw Bush the other day. You want to see a pig, there you go, with the chewing and the cursing. I think he called the Lebanese the word for poop. How does that help?

Bella: And this is the one representing us to the world. Uch, such an idiot. Marion! My egg salad has shells!

Marion, a black attendant, 68, sits behind Bella, reading People magazine.

Marion: It's damn egg salad. There's gonna be shells. If it was chicken salad, you could bitch. Look at Britney Spears running around all fat and naked, spillin' her baby on the sidewalk like a 50 cent cone.

Max: Britney Spears is what's wrong with America. She should be locked in a room with Bush. She can watch him talk and he can listen to her sing. (singing) "Oy, I did it again!" Throw in the girl from the hotel while you're at it, that stupid hoor.

Bella: The whole country is going to hell. We've been taken over by crooks and cheats and we deserve it. They rape us and we bend over so they can rape us the other way.

Marion: It's right here (pointing to article in People), global warming.

Max: I don't care about that as long as I have the air conditioner.

Bella: Close your mouth!

Max: (showing her food in mouth) I'm the president!

Bella:You say it like that's a big job. He's a puppet! A wooden head puppet! The other one runs the show. That Dick. Him and his dirty oil buddies -- they stole two elections, they start a war to make themselves money, the whole world sees it and where are we? We got our heads up our behinds and they'll kill us all, the greedy morons. Look at the size of this shell -- what is this, ostrich egg salad?

Marion:(reading) No gay weddings in New York.

Max: Tell that to Myron upstairs. He keeps practicing his walk in the aisle.

Myron: (sitting next to Max) I'm right here, you senile bastard. I'm not a gay!

Max: Then why are you always behind me?

Marion: There's nothing wrong with gay.

Max: I'm just sick of hearing about it all the time. There's other things to talk about. Every time I turn on anything ... gay.

Bella: I hear that Rumsfeld is gay.

Myron: I'm not surprised.

Marion: Him and Cheney?

Max: Probably. That's why they need the war and everything else ... see, we're machos ... look at our big things.

Myron: I heard he shot that guy in the face because he was going to tell.

Marion: No, that was just stupidity. Not gayness.

Max: Could be both.

Myron: Who do I have to sleep with to get a Jello over here?

Max: Stop looking at me, Rumsfeld!

Bella: Close your mouth when you chew! The country's gone to hell.

Jill Soloway was co-executive producer on "Six Feet Under"and wrote a book, "Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants."

"Stumblin' Thru"

My dream show would be a situality -- an hourlong program, divided into two delightful segments like "Law and Order," except my franchise is Sitcom and Reality. The first half is called "Stumblin' Thru!" It's about a woman a lot like me trying to juggle life, love, a kid and the parent association at a Jewish day school in Los Angeles. Lisa Edelstein stars as me because she's way underused as the finger-pointing buzz kill on "House," and plus she'll make me seem really skinny. The Jill on the show will be able to eat all the gelato she wants, take no Pilates, and still look like Lisa Edelstein.

The second half-hour is called "Stumblin' Thru! HEY! HOW'D THEY DO THAT?!" It's a reality show about exactly how we created the first half-hour, where you'll see fat me as fat me. My relationship will be sad and frightening instead of adorable and fishy outta watery; my child will be seen ever so clearly as the victim of a boundariless Jewess who tries to consume him on a daily basis, and you'll see me in the ladies room taking two ativan and drinking a Red Stripe before the parent association meeting.

This should all get real boring so, three episodes in, Lisa Edelstein as me will undergo a Nervous Breakthrough, and move to a rural chunk of land to start her own society, where the only men allowed are blue-collar workers fixing things or servicing the women. Episode 4 will have Lisa handing out fliers announcing her LET IT GRO (sic) program, urging women to go on strike against waxing salons and stop torturing their sad, cold vaginas with Brazilian designs. We will be able to say "sad, cold vaginas" on television because by this time we will be a big hit and, like James L. Brooks does with "The Simpsons," I will simply say to the network: NO NOTES! (My middle initial is L, so I don't know what's stopped me until now.)

By Episode 6, most of the women will have let their full '70s bushes grow in, but in Episode 7, some women open up a bootleg waxing salon. These women and the women who like being waxed will move to an adjoining parcel of land and war will ensue, proving that it's not just men who start wars, it's humans. By this time Lisa Edelstein will have long quit so I'll be played by Adrienne Barbeau, which is better anyway.

Oh, and in the "HEY! HOW'D THEY DO THAT?!" half, I won't be worrying about bush waxing as I will be very, very high at all times on the marijuana I grow on the island I'm the boss of so it's completely legal. I will have let my hair go gray and my breasts will finally get to drag behind me, as they've been wishing to lately. Oh, and I will have also copyrighted and sold my Situality concept (if you're thinking of stealing, DON'T!) so I will be very, very wealthy and it won't matter that I'm a complete mess.

Greg Gutfeld is an American writer living in London. Former editor of Men's Health, Stuff and Maxim UK, you can visit him at


"We're here, we're dead, get used to it."

This series focuses on the aftermath of a worldwide zombie uprising of 2007, triggered by a sexually transmitted virus that renders its victim physically dead, but still conscious and fully capable of carrying on "living." The key difference: They have no pulse, they smell, and without formaldehyde, they decompose.

"Afterlife" chronicles the various hardships of the "Post-livers," as well as the touching relationships that develop among them and individuals who are still among the living.

The characters include a staunch right-wing politician, Zachary Haims, who wants to corral the "zombie trash" into a separate state (a small one like Vermont). Little does he know that his son, Brendan, is dating a beautiful 18-year-old zombie named Tess. (She should be played by a girl who resembles Mia Kirshner, in the "Exotica" era.) Josh is a 24-year-old undead activist who tries to work within the system, while his undead stepbrother, Len, prefers to do things more radically. Rejecting the politically correct "post-life" description, he calls himself a zombie, and belongs to the radical organization ROMERO. It doesn't stand for anything -- it's simply named after their patron saint, George Romero. The director, meanwhile, finds himself a target of abuse from other undead organizations, and ends up moving to Grenada, where he lives in a constant state of fear.

The ROMERO organization believes that the only way to attain political power is to unleash forces of dread to unnerve the living population. That means reinforcing the stereotypes of zombies depicted in the hundreds of zombie movies made in the latter half of the 20th century. Josh, however, is anti-dread, and wants to educate the populace through humorous street theater and upbeat leaflets. He has recently lost his job as a waiter.

One elderly zombie grandmother named Rosie possesses the fire and spunk that gets her into regular trouble, including the time she refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a fat, living businessman. She spends her time educating children on the stereotypes attached to the post-livers: that they are cannibalistic, that they are lazy, or worse, that they are really alive but simply "acting dead to get free stuff like welfare."

Rosie speaks truth to power and, through her rallies, reminds everyone how the undead came about: a virus that overrides the central nervous system, causing organ failure, and removing all vital signs. (The virus continues to live and work within the body and can only be transmitted sexually, through birth, sharing needles or bodily fluids.) Rosie always dispenses condoms at the end of her talks, endorsing the practice of safe sex wherever she goes. She is all about empowerment. She has 11 cats and is grateful to be undead because it means she can spend more time with her "children." Being undead has also cured her of her incontinence.

Dr. Tom Plank is the main protagonist, a crusading M.D. who understands the zombie plight (he diagnosed the first cases of zombification) but who also finds himself caught in between his desire to do good and a desire to protect his family.

Fighting against segregation between the alive and post-alive in public school, he finds his children fielding threats from less tolerant members of the community. A constitutional ruling in favor of the undead passes, a victory for the young but post-life Thurland Mansley, who will later return to the Supreme Court as the nation's first post-life justice. Many people thought he got there because he was dead. Or undead.

The rights victory is a bittersweet one, as schools become blocked by angry gangs of living parents intent on keeping the undead from entering the classrooms. It comes to a bloody head when Ronald Stevens' bloody head is found in a river. A 14-year-old boy and post-liver was seen dancing with a living girl at a local bar, and beheaded -- the only way one can actually terminate someone who is already dead.

Three men are arrested for the murder, but acquitted by an all-living jury, who could not agree whether you could kill something that might already be dead.

Later six post-life students are blocked from entering a school on the orders of the governor of Idaho. Federal troops are sent in to protect the students. They are spit on and called "zombie lovers."

Rosie leads a sit-in at a segregated movie theater. Although they are refused sodas and popcorn, she and her undead friends are forced to sit in the back, triggering similar protests all over America. Sit-ins sweep across the land, as other public facilities slowly dismantle their bigoted systems. The entire catalog of zombie movies is bought by the newly undead David Geffen. He has them incinerated.

Violence erupts as the first undead student enrolls at the University of Mississippi. Troops are sent in. Zombie rights activist Len is arrested for flinging part of his face at an officer. His brother Josh is also arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests. There he writes his "Dead Letter" speech, which argues that the undead have the same rights as the living. If the undead could cry, they would.

During the protests, fire hoses are turned on undead demonstrators, creating a massive health hazard. Police dogs drink from the water, and turn into the first undead animal rights group. The undead canines, strangely enough, become wildly popular, because they no longer urinate or defecate. Madonna has three.

A field secretary for undead group POST-LIFE is beheaded outside his home. Len and Josh are united in finding his killer, who they believe to be "life supremacist" Ben White. Josh delivers his "dead letter" speech at a march on Washington, and nearly 100,000 of the undead show up. This causes the president to sign the "Post Life Act of 2024," the most sweeping undead rights legislation ever, banning discrimination "based on pulse," and gives the federal government powers to enforce it.

Josh is beheaded days later. This leads to a cataclysmic march led by Len. Marchers become violent, and the media is there to cover it in all its glorious dismemberment.

Next season: A cure is discovered. But do the patients want it? The following set of episodes focuses on a central dilemma that divides even the undead: whether or not something that is considered a lifestyle should actually be cured.

Mike Albo is a writer and performer whose most recent novel, "The Underminer: The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life," written with Virginia Heffernan, came out last year.

"Lavender Face Is Dead" Or "Wipe Off the Lavender Face (Or something like that?)"

Since the '70s, when I became cognizant enough to watch TV, there have been two general types of gay guys in comedy. One is the witty queen, played by a gay man, like the Great Forefathers of gay humor such as Paul Lynde or Rip Taylor, the lovable Queer Eye Guys, the hilarious Jack from Will & Grace (Oh wait  that actor is supposed to be straight, right?).

The other is the witty queen portrayed by straight comedians, or, rather, ostensibly straight comedians, putting on sissy voices and waving their wrists around. I think of Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier, "In Living Colour's" classic "Men on Film" sketches and Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sans and various other members of the "SNL" cast sending up the gayish retail world in their parody of the Jeffrey boutique in the Meatpacking District. But there are tons of other examples. Usually it's just a stand-up guy trying to make a point about how hard it is to buy clothes or some bitchy waiter he confronted and he will suddenly lisp and swish.

Sure, it was funny, I guess, in, like, the '90s.

I suppose what made it funny was the leap the audience had to make -- seeing these full-blooded heterosexual men using their God-given comedic gifts and expertly transforming themselves into a stereotype of a gay man. I guess you would call it Lavender Face.

Well, what if it was the other way around? I am dying for a TV show where my gay comic comrades and I get to nail straight guys. Through comedy, I mean. Lately in my solo shows, and with my friends John Roberts, Sandra Bauleo, Michele Brilliant and Gina Vetro in our sketch comedy group Pupu Platter, we have had a killer time putting on Straight Face -- acting like stereotypical straight guys with all their swagger and confidence and khakis. We pretend to be stern ratings-hungry newscasters or self-loving, eyebrow-plucked C-list TV stars like Chad Michael Murray, or we put on shapeless baseball jerseys and just scream about sports like baboons. Straight men are so damn funny!

TV would allow for the costuming and detail that I can only dream of -- I could pretend I am in a harness on "Road Rules vs. Real World" and chew on worms while I apologize to my girlfriend for date raping her at Beach Week, or do an impersonation of annoyingly perfect actors like Brandon Routh or Hugh Jackman denying rumors that they are gay while wearing tight sexy tops and package-enhanced jeans, with their arms around their blond, depilated girlfriends who have celery stalk bodies and hard, round boobs like rugby balls.

I think it's time to spin the Lazy Susan of comedy the other direction: gay guys doing impersonations of straight guys reveals a whole new spectrum of satire and the world is thirsty for it.

It's fun and funny for an audience to watch a self-identified gay guy act like a straight guy jackass stereotype. For instance, this week at our Pupu Platter show we're planning to make fun of Mel Gibson, of course. There certainly is a farm of material out there.

Tomorrow: James Frey, Mark Cuban, Meghan Daum, Rich Cohen, Aaron Shure, Salon's own Heather Havrilesky and, yes, more Greg Gutfeld!

By Salon Staff

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