James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Trans-fascism, the top 5, and the middle-brow

This was apparently a repeat episode, but I just saw it. The King of the Hill episode that ran tonight on Fox, in which Hank battles Arlen City Hall when it bans trans-fats, deserves an award for the promotion of individual freedom on television. It shows the snobbery of "cosmopolitan" health fascists, the hypocrisy on the City Council, the corruption of police, the ignorance of those who trust the government, the unintended consequences of the law (even people who obey it still get fat), and the unintended consequences of breaking even an unjust law; if you are successful in breaking the law for principled reasons, you'll be supplanted by unscrupulous people who will break the law only for profit.

Apparently, the name of the episode is "Trans-fascism," and it's from season 12, episode 11. When King of the Hill debuted, I thought it was solid but thought that, based on the setting, it couldn't run for more than 1 1/2 seasons. And it's true that I haven't watched it very often. But, like South Park, every time I do watch, I am impressed.

A lot of the reason I don't watch either show very often is because I don't think it's good to get into the habit of watching a lot of tv shows on a regular basis. The one show I'm most interested in watching when it debuts is Lost, and even with Lost I rarely watch the repeats. I'd rather do other things. But even though I try to avoid "appointment viewing," I still have my favorites. And I'd have to say that The Simpsons is my #1 favorite show of all time, based on the strength of Seasons 3-6. But now in its 19th season, I wouldn't think of setting aside time for it. There are, however, five shows I would at least think about setting aside time for.

1. Lost: It doesn't matter so much how "good" it is anymore, I just want to find out what's going on, and what's going to happen next.
2. 30 Rock: Initially, I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be to live sketch comedy shows what Larry Sanders was to late night talk shows. It isn't, but what it sacrifices in "realism" it makes up for in laughs.
3. NCIS: This is a "crime drama" and the plots are about murders and other crimes, but the characters and dialog provide first-rate comedy. I heard a rumor that one of the regulars was going to be killed off at the end of this season and that's depressing; on the other hand the hints provided in episodes so far suggests that it is a minor character, not one of the "team" that provides the show its comic genius.
4. Family Guy: For me (and for most viewers, I'm guessing) this show works because of Brian, Stewie, the flashbacks, and the celebrity satirizations. Otherwise, it's just a vulgar version of The Simpsons with teenage kids. I still kind of wish it aired late-night instead of prime time, but man, when it's funny, nothing's funnier.
5. Scrubs: Pre-dates both House and Grey's Anatomy, and has mocked both shows for stealing characters and situations. I'd rather watch a sit-com about young doctors than a drama about young doctors, thank you very much. Although I do like House. Grey's Anatomy is nothing but late-night Skinemax with a better script and without the nudity. Scrubs, on the other hand, is a live-action cartoon set in a hospital.

All five of my favorite shows are solidly middle-brow.

What do I mean by middle-brow? That depends on whether you know what high-brow and low-brow means. The following definition-by-example should be clear, and you don't even have to pay for basic cable to understand it. Here it is: if you have no money, but you do have a tv and nothing else to do, what will you watch? If you're:

- High-brow, you watch Great Performances on PBS
- Middle-brow, you watch House
- Low-brow, you watch The Bachelor

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