I Like to Watch

And the suckling sea donkey shall lie down with the post-apocalyptic vigilante! God brings forth a bounty of TV oddities, from "Transamerican Love Story" to "Paradise Hotel 2" to "Jericho."

Published February 10, 2008 12:50PM (EST)

God wants you to watch more TV. He mentioned this to me while we were drawing Jesus' face on a bunch of flour tortillas that he plans to serve at a Catholic retreat in New Mexico next weekend. "It bums me out that so many of my flock think they should be working for nonprofit organizations or volunteering for political campaigns. Half of them haven't even noticed that 'Paradise Hotel' is back! Why would they squander my most precious gifts this way?"

"I don't have the answer to that one, Allah, Yahweh ... Which do you prefer these days?"

"Don't start with me today. I'm not in the mood. Why would I have made humans in my own wishy-washy, dissatisfied image if I didn't want them to wander around the house in circles, then melt some cheese on top of something and eat it while watching 'Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew'"? God frowned and tugged at his robes as if they were unbearably scratchy.

"I hear you, Almighty Father, but you have to remember that most people are just as full of self-loathing as you are, so when they find themselves enjoying the simple pleasures of, say, an apocalyptic serial drama or a transgender dating show, they think there must be something wrong with them."

"Guilt was a serious blunder on my part. I thought it would keep people from raping each other's wives and killing each other with their bare hands, but instead it just gave them anxiety disorders and substance abuse problems." I nodded along without really listening -- sometimes God is just so wound up in his own little dramas.

"I blame myself, frankly. I coddled Shakespeare and Hemingway and those boys because I wanted to encourage them to write their little books and plays, but now it's like the world thinks it's not fun to watch hot sluts get drunk and bag on each other. Meanwhile, Willy himself loves that shit -- we're doing 'Paradise Hotel 2' night every Monday and 'Big Brother' night every Tuesday ..."

"Honestly, I think a lot of people are more concerned with the election, the recession, this brutal war we're waging in Iraq ..."

"Oh, stop it. You're such a downer these days. Hey, look at this one!" God held up the tortilla he was working on. "Doesn't that look like a tear in his eye? This one'll wind up in a glass shrine somewhere, mark my words!"

All televised creations, great and small
While I sometimes share your ambivalence toward the small screen during these trying times, Our Heavenly Creator insists that I point out some of the perky new TV shows that are sprouting up here and there. I don't really trust God's guidance in the matter, but I'm not about to piss him off, lest he taketh away the precious gift of this job and replace it with a real job laying asphalt or harvesting corn or providing phone support to disgruntled AT&T customers nationwide.

So here's a rundown of a few curiosities sprouting up on your TV dial. Thou shalt stop kvetching about global warming for a second and enjoy God's limitless bounty. (God's words, not mine.)

"How to Look Good Naked" 9 p.m. Fridays on Lifetime
God hath blessed plucky reality-show host Carson Kressley with the gift of spontaneous humor and endless good cheer, and he wants to share his little gay sunbeam with the whole wide world. The former "Queer Eye" personality is the ringleader of this highly unusual makeover show, which focuses more on attitude than looks, encouraging each female subject to feel confident and happy with herself just the way she is. That's right, instead of setting each lady up with plastic surgeons and personal trainers, Carson plasters a giant photo of his female guest in just a bra and panties on the side of a building, then shows his guest the footage of men and women on the street, complimenting her assets. Yes, it's very odd, but this warm, fuzzy show feels like a much-needed antidote to the absurdly unrealistic messages that the fashion and movie industries give women about their bodies. Carson is both heartfelt and as funny as ever as the host, and watching each woman come to a newfound confidence and comfort with herself is pretty irresistible.

"Make Me a Supermodel" 10 p.m. Thursdays on Bravo
With all of this self-acceptance and flab tolerance floating around, the good Lord knows we're going to need some superfit young hotties to traipse around half-naked and remind us that we're fat and ugly all over again. Bravo's "Make Me a Supermodel" heeds the call, picking up where tyrannical Tyra and her increasingly insipid band of airheads left off a few years ago. Unlike "America's Next Top Model," which has grown more fluffy and cloying every season, "Make Me a Supermodel" features photo shoots that are both authentic and somewhat torturous -- you know, like the "ANTM" photo shoots of yore? The contestants on "MMAS" are both male and female, and include some seriously weird characters, from Ben, the prison guard who flirts openly with his gay roommate, Ronnie, to Perry, the consummate pro with an alarmingly sharp sense of humor. Spend a few minutes in Perry's company, and suddenly all of your supportive self-talk will fly out the window. ("I want meat Chiclets and a sparkling wit, too! Waaa!")

"Welcome to the Captain" 8 p.m. Mondays on CBS
Ever wonder what happens when an insecure, bland-looking slacker moves into a kooky apartment building with an assortment of kooky Hollywood types? No? Well, kookiness ensues! God only knows why CBS picked up this disastrously stupid pilot -- actually, this one's a total mystery even to God. In the first episode, our drippy lead, Josh (Fran Kranz), courts a hot babe who gives him acupuncture, only she's not very good at it! Bahaha! Then Josh finds out the babe has a boyfriend, so he sleeps with the older vixen (Raquel Welch) on the first floor. Assuming that Josh "nailed" a younger woman, his friend Marty (Chris Klein) gushes, "I am psyched, man! ... Do you know how much Wilmer Valderrama spent on condoms last year? $8,300, and it's all tax deductible!" Yeah, this one is about as smart and subtle as a bag full of MC Hammers.

"Big Gay Sketch Show" 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Logo
Even though the skits on this show are long-winded and absurdly silly, they make me laugh, from the bit called "Super Liza" in which Liza Minnelli gets wasted, then saves gays from criminals, to a skit that revolves entirely around a bunch of gay men gazing at a UPS guy named Naldo who wears tiny short shorts and groans as he lifts each box. Personally, I can't resist this show, not only for its gay-themed tomfoolery and inside jokes but for the general low-production-value dorkiness of the whole thing. When a skit show is sort of amateurish and bizarre, that either makes it painful or makes it a little funnier than it would be otherwise. In the case of "Big Gay Sketch Show," the silly, rambling nature of the sketches makes it all the more lovable and weird. If you love big gays and sketch shows, this is your lucky day.

"The L Word" 9 p.m. Sundays on Showtime
I am love-hating the fifth season of "The L Word," and I'm guessing all you loyal fan-detractors of this show know exactly what I mean. We were off to a saucy start with Helena (Rachel Shelley) falling in love with her tough-thug bunkmate in prison and Bette (Jennifer Beals) getting thrown into an icy cold lake by Jodi's (Marlee Matlin) boundary-less hippie-frat-boy pal. But the kicker came when Tina (Laurel Holloman) and Bette finally made out after longing to be together for what feels like decades. Meanwhile, where the hell is their kid? Those two seem to have 15 hours a day of day care. Oh, but the best decision of all was transforming ostentatious writer Jenny (Mia Kirshner) from Serious Pain in the Ass to Cartoonishly Bitchy Freak Show overnight. If it weren't for the plodding "Don't ask, don't tell" Iraqi-soldier-girlfriend story line, I'd think that "The L Word" had finally cast off all of its "Very Special Television Event" pretensions to serve up the big, absurd stories and girly soft porn that were always its true calling.

"Transamerican Love Story" 10 p.m. Mondays on Logo
Next we come to what must be the first dating show for the transgender community. Created by the winning oddballs at World of Wonder, "Transamerican Love Story" (premieres 10 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11) introduces us to Calpernia Addams, a high-profile transgender activist who's looking for the man of her dreams. Her suitors are a varied lot: Gay men who date men and transgender women, men who date women and transgender women, men who only date transgender women, a man who defines himself as straight and has never dated a transgender woman but who's open to new experiences, and a transgender man. There are no easy labels here, which is really the point, and the show's producers (thankfully) resist the urge to throw in big, manipulative Fox-style surprises. While some of the men get freaked out by each other, Calpernia is likable and accepting and takes the whole crazy assortment of characters in stride.

"Jericho" 10 p.m. Tuesdays on CBS
Although it concerns a global crisis of epic proportions, this apocalyptic yarn sometimes feels about as high stakes as a down-home feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. That didn't stop loyal fans of "Jericho" from loudly decrying its removal from the schedule, expressing their discontent by sending CBS a mind-blowing 40,000 pounds of peanuts. Their odd little campaign worked, and the show returns to the TV lineup this week (premieres 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12). As we rejoin the scrappy forces of that small Kansas town, Jake (Skeet Ulrich) is missing his dad and hungry for revenge against the sadists of New Bern. The brand-new military bossman Beck (Esai Morales) insists that the two towns put their battles behind them, and (somewhat comically) begins recruiting a staff, while Robert (Lennie James) tries to get to the bottom of the "September attacks." (Um, couldn't we choose another month, assholes?) The real highlight here is enough literal, clunky dialogue to keep our longing for "24" at bay indefinitely. "What are they hiding?" Robert asks an old CIA buddy, who answers with a growl, "Whatever it is, they wiped two countries off the map to cover it up!" Wow, blowing away two countries, just to keep a secret? That must be some secret, huh? Why does this show always feel like it's written for 10-year-old boys?

"Paradise Hotel 2" 8 p.m. Mondays on Fox Reality
Yes, I've prayed countless times that our merciful Lord in heaven would one day bring the sweet suckling sea donkeys of Drunk Asshole Hotel back to me, and he's finally given in to my nagging requests. True, there's no Toni and no Keith, but in his eternal benevolence he hath brought unto his people a brand-new herd of courageously loose boozehounds and hopelessly inebriated slut muffins, one of whom proclaims, "I'm pretty much at the pro-level of partying." Later, she writhes around in bed alone, mumbling "I just wanna have sex." We're off to a good start, but how can we be sure that we'll get the debased debauchery and angry outbursts to which we're entitled? So much is uncertain in this world! Let's all pray together, shall we? Dear Lord, let them titter and seethe and sway just like the first inhabitants of paradise did before them, and ply them with fruity tropical cocktails and make them lie down in their beds together and then regret it later, and grant them the steadfast determination to do anything and everything to stay in paradise forever and ever, amen.

"Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" 10 p.m. Thursdays on VH1
Now if you think rehab isn't nearly as fun as tossing back shots and making out with hairless strangers, you've never been in rehab with Dr. Drew before. In fact, last week Daniel Baldwin decided that Dr. Drew's rehab program was a threat to his sobriety ... wait, was it the program that threatened his sobriety, or the presence of hot girls at a group cookout, jumping into the swimming pool in their see-through white T-shirts? Baldwin sat by the pool grimacing in pain as they frolicked, then he ran to his room to call his wife and tell her everything. Being four months pregnant, she promptly went ballistic, which led to Baldwin's sudden departure. He told the camera, "This is becoming detrimental to my sobriety." In the next episode, though, we learn that Baldwin sent pictures of himself and flirtatious notes to fellow Celebrity Rehabber and porn star Mary Carey. Yes, this show is all about informing young Americans about the healthy, safe environments provided by substance abuse recovery programs.

There you have it, nine new and returning shows that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God shines his light down on all the little lambs in his flock, whether they're celebrities struggling with addiction, suckling sea donkeys in paradise, post-apocalyptic vigilantes or just bland-looking Hollywood slackers. So go forth and relish these precious televised oddities that God hath created for you. Our Lord in all his mercy hopes that ye pathetic mortals might relax, eat a chili cheeseburger, and enjoy yourselves for once in your pathetically short lives.

Next week: Can old-timers "Survivor" and "Big Brother" keep things fresh and exciting much longer?

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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I Like To Watch Television