Another season, another reason...

With premiere week just about coming to a close, I think I can say that as I am now without HBO, the new season is going to seriously suck. Granted, I haven't seen the season premiere of the West Wing, but even with an exciting and actually undecided election on the way, I'm inclined to believe that the show should start winding down. Mind you, I am an official West Wing addict. I have every season that has been published to DVD, have watched every episode (except two) when they originally aired, and even purchased a DVR just in case I wasn't able to watch the show when it came on. Yet, as addicted as I am, and while I'm impressed with the show's ability to stay interesting with the defection of Tommy Schlame and Aaron Sorkin, I'm starting to think it's about time to call President Bartlett a lame duck and pass along the reigns of power to someone else. (Not to mention, with everything that's going on in the real world, what drama could the West Wing create that we haven't seen already: A war, a sagging economy, a terrorist leader on the prowl, presidential approval ratings that are going down quicker than some sorority girls I know, two simultaneous Supreme Court vacancies (yeah, yeah, O'Conner's staying on the Court until she has a replacement) including one created by the death of the Chief Justice, and not one, but two killer hurricanes in less than a month. Even with the finest mushrooms in all the land Sorkin couldn't have come up with that story line.)

NBC seems to have not only stuck with what it thinks worked, but tried to double up on the idea. Not only did NBC bring back Donny Trump's Apprentice, but it started a series for Martha Stewart's Apprentice too. I have to admit, Trump's Apprentice seems to bring back the sass of the first two seasons. The contestants are interesting, diverse and impressive. DT is in full snake-strike "you're fired" mode and sponsors have gotten in line to get their product placement on the show.

Martha's show, on the other hand, is weak. Really weak. While I could only stomach 2/3 of the program, I can say I saw enough to know I saw too much. First of all, Martha had the chutzpah to actually claim that she went to jail for her business. Now, I'm no expert on her case, but I'm pretty sure that she went to jail for lying to the federal government. So, unless she's claiming that she lied to the government to protect her business, rather than attempting to keep the profits from the possible insider/swing trading she likely engaged in, she's either a profound idiot or completely full of crap. And what was up with house arrest? I mean, is it actually some type of punishment when you have house arrest and you live in what she's got?

Rather than having two trusted business advisors, Martha has one advisor and her daughter. I mean, seriously, what does Martha's daughter know about the cutthroat world of business? How many times has she been concerned that Martha is going to fire her? And it's not like the girl is even a decent judge. While Martha a/k/a "Pushover" is wavering, her daughter spits out a "golly gee wilikers, this sure is a tough decision." The other advisor, who is the only person with any balls on the entire show (although like every male on the show, I have doubts that he will ever use them for more than really bad decoration) retorts back with, "I don't think so. This one is easy." He then proceeds to tell Martha what to do, which she follows to the letter. Yeah, this is exactly the business acumen that I look up to. But then again, I think anyone who looks up to this mass media marketing criminal seriously needs to reexamine their priorities.

However, the firing (if you can even call it that) was the worst part by far. Rather than Trump's aggressive, deliberate, and determined "You're fired." Martha goes into a discussion with her prospective firee that sounds like she's breaking up with him: "I just don't think you fit in [apparently conformity is a good thing at Martha Stewart Living]. I don't think this is going to work out." I thought she was going to finish with, "It's not you, it's me." Then she stands up, walks around the table, and shakes the firee's hand before sending him out the door. I was hoping I'd hear her yell, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!" But I guess that wouldn't be "Martha." Of course, if Martha were a man when she was sent to prison, she'd have bigger ass-protection concerns.

Well, as if this whole dragged out firing scene wasn't lame enough, Martha then returns to her seat and (I shit you not) pulls out a piece of Martha Stewart Living letterhead and writes the firee a handwritten note to console him on his departure. Am I the only person who sees the irony in this? I mean, where, oh where, could Martha have gotten the habit of writing people handwritten letters? In fact, I'm sure she still has the Danbury Federal Correction Institute letterhead.

So, yes, the Apprentice: Martha Stewart is lame. Incredibly lame. The only value to the show would be to watch it with a lot of alcohol and drink every time you see Martha's house arrest ankle bracelet disguised by wardrobe. After all, she was still on house arrest during the filming of the show.

However, what agitates me the most about new crap like The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (other than that I wasted 38 minutes of my life watching part of it) is that innovative, unique, well-written shows that just have not found their audience are given the ax, while reality crap is left on the air. One example is Jack and Bobby which was on WB last season.

Jack and Bobby, created by Tommy Schlame, one of the great minds behind the West Wing, was about two brothers, one of whom would eventually become President of the United States. In essence, the show was a cross between the West Wing and Dawson's Creek. The show was well-written, excellently acted, and brilliantly cast. It dealt with teenage angst and serious contemporary issues. One of the most unique parts of the show was that you knew the beginning and the end, but discovered a piece of the line between the two in every episode.

In a moment of the "profound brilliance" for which television executives are known, some idiot at WB decided it would be smart to run a show that would appeal to West Wing fans against the West Wing. Well, unless people have a two-channel DVR, you can imagine what happened. That's right, West Wing fans wouldn't defect, even in a sub-par season. However, rather than try the show in a better time slot for a second season, WB just pulled the plug, taking an excellent show and throwing it on the scrap heap.

Of course, with the programming choices that WB considers worthwhile, I couldn't help but write to the company. That letter stated:

To whom it may concern:

I write to express my profound disappointment with your decision not to renew Jack and Bobby for another season. The show, one of the best written and most innovative since The West Wing was, quite simply, brilliant. Yet, despite it's superb concept, writing, and acting, you ran it against another political show with incredibly loyal watchers and, when those people didn't leave, you just dropped the show.

What is perhaps most disappointing is that you remain to run garbage like "Charmed" and "Reba" while canceling quality programming like "Jack and Bobby." In the future, when you have a fantastic television program, please give it a chance.


As evidence of my point, Seinfeld originally had dismal ratings in its first times slot, but NBC saw promise in the show, moved it to Thursday at 9 and it flourished into the most successful series of all time (possibly with the exception of MASH).

So a new season has begun. Unfortunately, it looks like it has begun with disappointment. At least we still have PBS...until the Corporation for Public Broadcasting goes under the knife.

Update: I have not heard back from WB regarding my letter. Shocker.

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