CKL's HotSheet
What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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September 28, 2001

Like I Said, Crap.

So far, the new TV shows for this season are pretty disappointing. But we knew they would be.

Wolf Lake was positively somnolent. Go watch An American Werewolf in London instead.

Surprisingly, The Amazing Race was not lame -- in fact, it's been fairly engaging so far.

More below on two other shows.

#

I watched the pilot for Crossing Jordan this week. Here's my biggest complaint (and there are many): at one point, a black male character declares, "I don't date white women." And nobody blinks.

This is a prime time show (10:00 PM) on a major network (NBC). Can someone explain to me how this dialogue, and the accompanying lack of outrage, is an acceptable or responsible depiction? The line was uttered in jest, but even so, could you imagine a white male (or female) character being allowed to say "I don't date black women (or men)" under any circumstances?

I can only think of two attitudes that would have allowed this to slip by the censors:

  1. It's okay for black people to make fun of white people, but not the other way around. Bullshit. That's a malicious and sophistic double standard. If you want to allow anybody to ridicule anyone, then everybody should be able to ridicule everyone, regardless of race or minority status.

  2. It's only okay for people to date within their own ethnic group. Okay, what century are we living in? How fucking reactionary can you be? Sure, some people still believe this, but it's certainly not something that should be encouraged.

If you can possibly think of any tolerable reason for this appalling display of racism, please let me know.

#

I also saw the pilot for Enterprise, the new Star Trek series, and I have to say: oh boy.

Okay, now that I've gotten the obligatory Quantum Leap joke out of the way -- and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should stop reading right now -- I want to make one thing very clear: Enterprise is not Star Trek. The producers took great care to leave "Star Trek" out of the series name, which is probably a good thing. That should make it easier for all the rabid Trekkers to declare it "non-canon" or, at the very least, not take it too seriously.

From what I've seen, I wouldn't call it abhorrent, but it's not very good, either. My issue is this: where's the Big Idea in Enterprise? Where's the awe and wonder? Where's the science fiction, for crying out loud? The pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation was crappy, but at least it had some genuine conviction. Enterprise, on the other hand, appears to be just another outer-space action clunker.

On the gripping hand, despite the producers' repeated and wholehearted assertions in the media that they're totally reinventing Star Trek, they're still using the same storytelling formula. Sure, the characters are more "human" (read: annoying), and the technology's been dialed back, but most other things remain the same. Or worse. This attempt at reinventing Trek appears to consist primarily of amping up the gratuitous sex and violence, having characters say "ass" and "bitch," and using a Diane Warren soft-pop theme song.

Enterprise tries to be a little bit country, a little bit a rock 'n' roll, and ends up being neither fish nor fowl. It's got too much Trek baggage to be its own show, but it's not high-minded enough to really be Trek. In 1979, advertising for Star Trek: The Motion Picture used this tagline: "The human adventure is just beginning." That, to me, embodies the essence of Star Trek, and Enterprise didn't have it.

Say what you want about Voyager (the most recent and arguably least substantial Trek series) -- at least it made honest attempts to address higher morality. Some of the issues may have been stale or oversimplified, but the mission was there, and there were occasional flashes of brilliance. It's a grand tradition, I daresay. The original Star Trek was at first deemed "too cerebral" by NBC, but Gene Roddenberry found a way to get his message through. Now, 35 years later, Enterprise has broken with tradition and gone for a lobotomy. No thinking or discussion required here, kids -- just buy the toys, okay?

I'll watch Enterprise, but my original low expectations have sunk even lower. At least Scott Bakula is still entertaining.


CKL

 

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