June 30, 2008

Cult Shows Top EW’s ‘New Classics’ Lists ; The TV List Was the Dweebiest By Far.

By Jeff Simon

Here's their Top 10. Try to guess the category.

1. "The Simpsons." 2. "The Sopranos." 3. "Seinfeld." 4. "The X- Files." 5. "Sex and the City." 6. "Survivor." 7. "The Cosby Show." 8. "Lost." 9. "Friends." 10. "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."

And the category is . . .

How about 10 Favorite TV Shows That Prove You're A Secret Dweeb? Or 3 Unquestioned Smashes and 7 Cult TV Shows That Became Hits? Or maybe 10 Subjects to Bring Up If You Want to Empty a Room of All But the Biggest Fans?

But no. What they are, according to Entertainment Weekly's June 27 and July 4 double issue ("Our 1,000th Issue" blares the cover, thereby disguising the fact that double issues give their staffs some time off) is the Top 10 "New Classics" of the past 25 years. Or, as they were introduced to us, "The most brilliant new outrageous, inspiring, addictive, hilarious, life-changing classics in movies, TV, music, books and more of the last 25 years."

We don't have time or space to go into the other lists (No. 1 album of the past quarter century is Prince's "Purple Rain;" No. 1 movie is "Pulp Fiction") but suffice it to say I thought the TV list was the dweebiest by far. When you've got "The X-Files" coming in for a landing on Runway 4 and "Lost" -- "Lost" for pity's sake -- making it to No. 8, you are up to your clavicles in the kind of cult idols that academics have long called cult "signifiers."

If we're honest, we'll all admit that we love lists because we know they're a game anyone can play -- your Grandma in Dubuque, your butcher, your therapist and your sister Sue. If you've got an unusually wicked sense of humor, you might even figure out a way to get them all to play the game together.

We recently had those inexhaustible list-makers at the American Film Institute give us an evening of CBS television devoted to a list of Top 10 lists in different movie categories, a kind of subdivision of taxonomy that could have been carried to many levels beyond that for some time into complete madness (how about "Western Movies in Which Jokes Are Actually Made About Rape: Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter," James Coburn's "Waterhole No. 3," etc.).

My all-time favorite compilation of lists since Irving Wallace's family put everyone into the list business remains "Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists" (Vintage, 217 pages, $12.95 paper) in which the editors of McSweeney's magazine gave us the ne plus ultra of list absurdities from their pages.

For instance: Dan Kennedy's list of Failed TV Game Show Pilots including "Cock Fight,""The $50,000 Blood Test" and "No Cigarettes Till After Five." And Jonathan Shipley's list of "Jobs Mickey Goldmill Got Fired From Before Becoming Rocky Balboa's Beloved Coach:""Docent at the Museum of Natural History ('you ever fought a dinosaur, kid?')" and, my personal favorite, "Wake-up Caller at Holiday Inn ('Get up, you son of a bitch. Cause Mickey loves you.' ")

It goes without saying, of course, those are fanciful, though Shipley's list was based on actual ridiculous lines from "Rocky" movies, that genuinely classic anthology of ridiculousness, American style.

Meanwhile, back at Entertainment Weekly and its socially confused squadron of crazed TV cultists, here are some other things you'll find in their Top 100 New Classics: "South Park" at No. 12, "Freaks and Geeks" at No. 13, ahead of "The Daily Show" at No. 14 and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at No. 15. David Letterman's "Late Night" doesn't show up until No. 30 and by then we've already seen "Arrested Development" at No. 16, "Beverly Hills 90210" at No. 20, MTV's "The Real World" at No. 22 and "The Larry Sanders Show" at No. 28.

"The West Wing" -- get this -- doesn't show up until No. 23, "NYPD Blue" until No. 37, "Homicide" until No. 46 and "Deadwood" until No. 87, which is 43 slots behind "Jeopardy" and 49 slots behind "Beavis and Butt-head," who are chuckling "heh-heh-heh" through their teeth at No. 38.

Study the shamelessly infantilized and twerpy list of 100 New Classics of TV, as Entertainment Weekly would have it, and you might come to the conclusion that the list itself, if actually taken seriously, would be No. 1 on the following lists:

Probable Reasons Why George Bush Was Elected President in 2000.

Possible Reasons Why No One Good Will Ever Be Elected To Office Again If America Remains a Democratic Republic.

Explanations of Why People Are Working More and Watching TV Less.

And, of course, Stuff You Really Have to Consider Important to Get a Job at Entertainment Weekly.

e-mail: [email protected]

Originally published by ARTS EDITOR.

(c) 2008 Buffalo News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.