Upstairs, meet Downstairs
Published: January 4, 2012
The trap doors, along with the flashing lights, pounding music, and roaring audience, can’t disguise the fact that this is just another trivia show with ho-hum questions: “This fast-food chain uses a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.”
If Who’s Still Standing? doesn’t catch on, you just know that NBC will open a trap door under the programming executive who thought it up. WAAAaaa…!
Shipping Wars (8pm Tuesday, A&E)
A&E has a gift for turning unpromising subjects into entertaining reality series. Against all odds, Storage Wars makes you care about people buying and selling junk. And now comes Shipping Wars, which creates high drama out of truckers who bid against each other to transport objects across the country.
How exciting could it be to haul something a few hundred miles? Start with the laptop bidding process, in which the truckers agonize over how low they can go and still make money. Add in a deadline, unforeseen problems, stupefying misjudgments, and gnarly personalities and you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
I can’t wait to see what A&E makes us care about next. A show about rival housepainters — i.e., watching paint dry — would be a worthy challenge.
Celebrity Wife Swap (8pm Tuesday, ABC)
On Monday nights, ABC’s The Bachelor tries to make the institution of marriage sound romantic and charming. On Tuesday nights, the network’s Celebrity Wife Swap shows how icky and perverse it can be, at least when the likes of Dee Snider, Ted Haggard, Flavor Flav, and Gary Busey are involved. These marginal celebrities agree to swap wives for a week so that, according to ABC, “couples can rediscover why they love each other and decided to get together in the first place.”
Read: They need money and attention, badly.
American Experience (9pm Tuesday, PBS)
TV loves to retell the story of Billy the Kid and, to be honest, I love hearing it every time. The American Experience version features revealing commentary, tasteful reenactments, and the one existing photo of the young outlaw, staring defiantly at posterity.
Why do we glorify this ruthless murderer and thief? Let’s go through it again: 1) His underdog rebellion against the Old West’s corrupt legal and business establishment; 2) His youthful quest for a family and a father figure he could trust; and 3) His feats of derring-do, including those miraculous jailbreaks.
And let’s not underestimate the nickname. If I had the nerve to call myself Dean the Kid, I bet I’d be remembered as the most colorful TV critic of them all.