Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ALSO: BRING BACK TURN-ON. I'm on one of my TV sabbaticals, but ABC's new comedy shows have been advertising in the subways, and on the internet too. And that's all the negative reenforcement I need.

In Hank, Kelsey Grammer stretches, plays a pompous ass. He was rich, now he's poor; he and his hate-filled family move to Virginia. ("He's out as CEO and over his head as DAD!") In Modern Family, there's a gay couple; a May-December couple (actually more of a Cinco de Mayo-Halloween couple) played by Al Bundy and a young, tranquilized Charo; and a non-descript couple. All have kids and hi-jinks. Speaking of non-descript, Patricia Heaton returns to the comedy rat-race in The Middle. I can't tell what it's supposed to be about except the humorous joylessness of parenthood. And Cougar Town is about how attractive actresses like Courteney Cox can't get dates because they're old and live on the set of Desperate Housewives.

I can solve these problems with a little re-imagineering. Heed me, ABC programming executives:

Frasier Crane, Country Psychiatrist. Weary of Seattle, Dr. Frasier Crane moves to the hinterlands, and though the simple folk of Oatmeal, Nebraska are wary at first, Crane establishes himself in the pilot by winning the trust of Soapy, a long-retired tinker with Gabby Hayes whiskers and an omnipresent jug with three x's on it. Soapy at first "don't rightly cotton to no head-shrinker," but starts hanging around Crane's "therapy barn" to snack on "them fancy crackers and cheeses" Crane keeps handy. ("Say, Doc, you're right -- thet Chatoo La Feet do go better with them fancy cheeses than mah corn!") Eventually Soapy tearfully confesses a dark secret ("An' then mah pappy, he commences to take mah draws down... I done was mo-lested!") He agrees to become Crane's first patient, paying for his sessions by whittling him some sconces.

Post-Modern Family. Two years in the future, the characters in Modern Family are all separated and living in a cheaper part of whatever town they were supposed to be living in. They are all hardcore alcoholics, including the children and except for the gay guys, one of whom has a meth lab and supplies the other, maintaining a self-hating post-relationship inspired by Shut Up, Little Man! The non-descript guy now runs a trailer park and trades rent for sex with the Latina chick. And Al Bundy is reunited with Peg, Bud, and Kelly.

Experimentville. This will be the easiest transition of the bunch and improve ratings dramatically as Courteney and the gals figure out that arcane dating rituals have no place in their lives and just start getting it on every which way, enabled by an alternative therapist who has sex with everybody. When the endless stream of implied adventuresome sex becomes numbing, we can liven it up with custody battles and jealous gas-station attendants.

I have no idea what to do with The Middle except maybe give it over to Heaton's anti-abortion politics, which should afford it some much-needed focus.

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