posted: Feb. 28, 2006  |  Feedback

My take on the Winter Olympics hasn't changed from four years ago. Back in the '70s and '80s, we watched because there wasn't anything else to do. Now? There's tons of stuff to do. Why would anyone watch tape-delayed sports programming in this day and age? I'm surprised the ratings were as good as they were. Imagine if March Madness games were tape-delayed by eight hours and you knew the results? Would you watch? Of course not.

(And by the way, the only thing worse than watching the Olympics is reading columns about why we shouldn't be watching the Olympics. Yawn. So I'm stopping here.)

But speaking of TV … what a TV extravaganza Monday night! The Sports Gal and I plowed through nearly 330 consecutive minutes of quality tube. A quick recap:

"Deal or No Deal" (8 p.m., NBC)
Maybe the best dumb-yet-riveting show in the history of television, and that's saying something. The premise: Models keep opening numbered suitcases with hidden money figures in them, and the goal is to keep opening suitcases until there's only one suitcase left with a whopping figure inside (like $750,000) over a tiny figure (like $40). And while you're opening the cases, you have family members giving you advice, as well as host Howie Mandel (unbelievable) offering you a deal for a lesser amount of money to walk away. It's like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," only for people with an IQ under 75.

Of course, we were riveted. (At one point, the Sports Gal even said, "Why am I nervous right now? It makes no sense.") Remember my "Would you turn the channel?" test for NBA players competing in a half-court shot contest during All-Star Weekend? For whatever reason, this idiotic show passes the "Would you turn the channel?" test. It's hypnotically moronic. I can't believe that the game show genre has deteriorated to the point that (A) this passes for a good show, and (B) I can't wait for the next episode tonight. Shoot me.

"24" (9 p.m., Fox)

Every good TV show is entitled to an off year from time to time. Fine. But there've been some inexcusable mistakes in this current season, starting with the teenager trailing Jack to the helicopter (really, a 16-year-old kid would be able to follow the great Jack Bauer without him noticing?) … That same kid just randomly noticing that terrorists were emptying out of a van at LAX and urging his mom to stop the car so he could warn Jack (come on) … President Palmer being assassinated in the morning, then Fox News dropping that as its lead story within four hours to concentrate on the riveting U.S.-Russia treaty (really, an assassination wouldn't carry the day?) … The current president acting so spineless and wishy-washy, it's simply impossible to believe he could have risen to any position above assistant manager at Carl's Jr. … Jack ending up with cracked ribs in one of the earlier episodes, then never mentioning them again … Sean Astin's completely improbable stint as the head of CTU (the worst casting job they ever did) … Jack returning from the dead and everyone at CTU acting like he just came back from a vacation (and where the hell are the Chinese, by the way?) … And the president's chief of staff getting involved in a confusing "We have to release nerve gas to terrorists so patriotism will improve or something" plot that ended up with him pulling a Vince Foster.

Everything has just seemed too far-fetched -- and this was the same show that once had Jack's daughter nearly mauled by a cougar, so that's saying something. Plus, aren't they just repeating stuff by now? How many times can CTU have a mole? How many times can somebody at CTU order Jack to come back to the office, followed by him knocking a co-worker unconscious and going out on his own? Five? Ten? Fifteen? And why aren't they sticking to the minute-by-minute approach anymore? For instance, last night Jack got tasered by the dude from "Robocop" and it was like they fast-forwarded three minutes -- suddenly, Jack was waking up from being unconscious and Robocop (who looks like he went to Jerry Jones' plastic surgeon over the summer) was holding a gun on him. Have we just abandoned the real-time gimmick here?

(Note: All of that said, wild horses couldn't drag me away from the TV for the two-hour extravaganza next Monday. Now that's a great TV show -- even during a C-minus season, it's still mandatory viewing. Which reminds me: When I was in Houston, we walked right by Tony Almeida while he was tearing into a hot dog before the All-Star Game. First of all, he's about 5-foot-6 -- he makes Kiefer Sutherland look like Stromile Swift. Second of all, I had to fight off the urge to scream in the Jack Bauer voice, "DROP THE HOT DOG, TONY! DROP THE HOT DOG! DROP IT RIGHT NOW! DO AS I SAY!" See, this is why the J-Bug needed to be in Houston -- he absolutely would have done the Jack Bauer voice and scared Tony into dropping the hot dog. Maybe I can work this into my next ESPN contract: "The J-Bug has to travel with me on every road trip.")


"The Gauntlet" (10 p.m., MTV)
I'll just say this: Beth refusing to battle Anessa in "Beach Brawl" could end up being the most disappointing TV moment of the year. If they had offered that battle on pay-per-view for $29.95, I would have ordered it. By the way, it's always fun when someone who once appeared in Playboy and has made multiple appearances on reality-TV shows plays the "I don't want to demean myself" card. That kills me. I love this show!

"How I Met Your Mother" (8:30 p.m., CBS)
We watched this on TiVo right after "The Gauntlet." I already covered this show in the "Take One for the Team" section of the mailbag two weeks ago, but wanted to add one thing: Neil Patrick Harris' comeback on this show has to rank among the most improbable show-business comebacks of all time. He carries this show. It's astounding. I always thought Zack from "Saved by the Bell" joining "NYPD Blue" could never be topped, but this tops it. Did you ever think in a million years that Doogie Howser could carry a watchable sitcom?

"The Bachelor" (9 p.m., ABC)
The season finale, via TiVo. As I mentioned before, I loved the contrast between the two finalists: "Cute, happy, functional, baggage-free, average-breasted and not even remotely sexy" versus "mysterious, crazy, dysfunctional, baggage-saddled, big-breasted and smoldering with sex at all times." No wonder Travis used the word "amazing" 437 times last night. It was an amazing decision to make. The Sports Gal and I were rooting for him to choose Sarah (the cute/happy chick), if only because we wanted to see Moana's meltdown in the limo afterwards, as well as the Us Weekly story six weeks from now in which Travis reveals he and Sarah broke up because "we realized we were much better off as friends," followed by him moving to L.A. and rolling through every D-list celebrity in Hollywood.

So what happened? He dumped Moana, leading to a limo breakdown that was even better than expected. The only thing missing was Moana's head doing 360s while she screamed obscenities in Latin. Reader Andrew Martin even compared Moana's meltdown to Ron Burgundy's "I'm in a glass case of emotion" meltdown in "Anchorman," wondering why she didn't start screaming, "That mean man! He punted Baxter!" In fact, she was so crushed that they're not even running one of those "After the Rose" shows next Monday because they're probably afraid she'll murder everyone in the studio.

I love this show. But not as much as …

"Flavor of Love" (VH1, 12:30 a.m.)
We TiVo'd this one on Sunday and broke it open late Monday night, almost like cracking open a special bottle of port. And you know what? I can't even write anything about this show. I refuse. It's too fantastic. It's too delightful. It's too spectacular. It's a once-in-a-decade television achievement. If they pay-per-viewed the final two shows, I would pony up $300 to see them. Maybe even $500.

(Actually, forget I mentioned this -- wouldn't want to give VH1 any ideas.)

February 2006