Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Addiction, Run's House, and Woody Allen

wAm I a TV addict? Maybe. There are few shows I absolutely have to watch, but I always watch something between the hours of 8 pm and 10 pm. I know that often the "something" is just wasting time, but it's a time for brain-mellowing that has become part of my routine. And yet I complain about not having enough reading time. So I'm going to institute a "No TV Night" into my weekly schedule. I had a friend who successfully pulled this off for several years. It's my turn to give it a shot.

* * *

Now that I've made that commitment, I've given myself permission to rant about yet another terrible TV show that I stumbled upon. Nobody forced me to watch this, of course, but I've already explained how I'm much more productive on the cardio machines at the gym when there's something to grab my attention on the tv I'm plugged into. My local gym recently took VH1 off their rotation, for some unfathomable reason. On weekday mornings, this means that there is one fewer station playing music videos, and on weekends, well, it's flat-out annoying, since MTV usually is airing repeats of mediocre reality shows. (Is there any other type of MTV reality show, any more?) It's usually something like "My Sweet 16" - or whatever that ode to regrettable parenting is called. Seriously, how could anyone think that spending $500K on your teenager's birthday party is a smart or responsible thing to do?

Ah, but last weekend I discovered another wonderful example of questionable parenting. The culprits this time were the parents of "Run's House", the reality show about a former rapper turned minister, and his family. In the episode I saw, dad (I think he calls himself "Rev" and so will I) was annoyed because one of his young sons was repeatedly late in getting ready for church, making the rest of the family late. The child, 9 or 10 years old, protests that it's because he doesn't have enough to wear. Rev doubts this, and goes through the kid's closet pulling out suit after suit, dress shirt after dress shirt. The kid still argues that if he had more, he'd be able to get dressed in time. So Rev makes a bargain: I'll take you shopping for more suits if you promise that you won't be late for church any more.

Okay, reeks a bit of bribery. Positive reinforcement would require the boy (he has some odd nickname like "Dodo" that I can't remember) to first be on time for a few Sundays, and then get rewarded with a shopping trip. But that's not Rev's way. Interestingly, another son learns of the deal and begins to protest, pointing out the holes in the logic behind it. He also insists that if little brother gets to go shopping, shouldn't they all? According to him, the younger already has "five furs, four million suits, eight million dress shirts." (I paraphrased a bit, but he did use millions in his exaggeration. And the lil' dude does have at least one fur - a short puffy jacket that he prances around in over his designer suit. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) The episode then takes us to the following Sunday, when the family is once again sitting around in the living room, waiting for the little brother to come down so they can leave for church. Guess that didn't work, Rev!

Meanwhile, we have another scene where the mother is making an ice cream sundae for another son (or maybe the same one who pointed out his brother's million suits?) It's a big bowl and she describes the chocolate sauce and gummy bears she's piling on, promising him this is the best ice cream sundae ever. Trouble is, the kid doesn't like ice cream. Hates it. He starts to gag when Mom places the bowl in front of him. "Just one bite," she pleads. He grimaces, tight-lipped, shaking his head. "C'mon," she begs. This goes on for awhile until she manages to wedge a spoonful into his mouth and he runs from the room, ostensibly to the bathroom where we hear him retching. "You're the only kid in the world who doesn't like ice cream, "she says.

I'm not making this up. Now, maybe I missed an earlier scene where a physician alerted the family to the boy's need to increase the dairy intake in his diet, but even so - ice cream with chocolate sauce, gummy bears, and god knows what else? There are healthier dairy options. Don't most parents try to get their kids to moderate their intake of sweets? Is it something to worry about if a kid just doesn't like something that's really not all that good for him anyway? Would she put that much effort into getting him to eat fresh fruit or some low-fat protein? One of the episode's themes was that the mother was upset because the Rev kept nagging her about her eating habits. He finally promises to lay off ("I realize when I'm telling you you're eating too much, I'm really telling myself") but the ice cream-hating son is smart enough to see the parallel between this family disagreement and his own situation. "You told Dad it's your body, well this is mine," he says, as he refuses the ice cream.

* * *

I still don't quite understand the Heidi Klum bit, but I think I know why I had the rest of that dream from the other night: I fell asleep to "Annie Hall." You're probably thinking that it's not exactly nightmare material? Au contraire. In the early scenes, the young Alvie Singer is explaining to a counselor his mother's dragged him to why he's so depressed: he's just read that the universe is expanding, which means that it can break apart, which means that we're all doomed. Exactly the kind of thing I can't think too much about, or I get freaked out. I live in Woody Allen's existential nightmare.


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