Friday, August 08, 2003

A Show About Nothing...But It's a Good Nothing

Everyone knows there's a lot of junk on TV, especially in the summer. Between things like Survivor VI: The South Pole and Who Wants to Marry My Escaped Convict Grandmother?, the pickings are rather slim, and I often only turn on the TV for the same reasons I would the radio: news and sports.

But this summer, I discovered a little diamond in the rough: The Brendan Leonard Show (ABC Family, 4:30 pm Central--hey, I'm in Texas, so I'll use my time zone; let the East Coasters do the math for once). Now ABC Family could easily be considered a "kids' channel," and I know I'm not part of this show's target demographic, but I nonetheless find it a lot funnier than most stuff on TV today.

The basic premise is this: Brendan is a college student from the Chicago suburb of Winnetka (a place I actually lived for a short time before kindergarten) who got his own cable access show when he was 15 (he says on the website that he got it just by asking for it, but having a network news correspondent for a father gave him the know-how to actually pull it off). He and his gang of friends are pretty much just being themselves on the show, doing stunts and gags and things a lot of people wish they could do but don't have the guts to try. (When I first read about the show, it sounded like it might be kind of a "Jackass Jr.", but these guys are way more wholesome than that cast, and I don't think you'll be seeing them on a police blotter anytime soon.)

On one episode, they recreated the Tour de France using tricycles and Big Wheels; on another, they donned white dress shirts and ties and then went around town in two teams seeing who could get the muddiest; the whole scene climaxed with them slopping through the pricey gift shop where Brendan's mother is employed. She's appropriately horrified, of course, and shoos them out the door rather quickly. (Incidentally, the show is very much a family affair, with Mom being Mom, an older brother and brother-in-law on the production team and Brendan's two older sisters totally bewildered by the fact that their lazy little brother actually has a national TV show. Dad is prohibited by his contract--he's with a different network--from actually being on the show, but I'm certain he's a major technical advisor.)

They've also taken little catch-phrases we all use and tried to see if they're really true (Can you have your cake and eat it too? Is the grass really greener on the other side?). Each show spotlights a "Band of the Day," which is generally a local or indie act, handpicked by Brendan; the bands must be salivating at the thought of getting exposure on this scale.

I can't put my finger on exactly why I like the show so much; in many ways, it's a show-about-nothing a la Seinfeld, but maybe that's what makes it refreshing. It never claims to be high art. The guys in the cast are generally quite funny, and there are more hits than misses. Maybe there's a little bit of the vicarious-experience thing going on when they actually do the crazy things that a lot of people only think about all the time.

There is a tie-in here to our subject of the week: One of the things you can do on the website is send Brendan an idea for a stunt. I wish it had hit me sooner, but there's an obvious one: the 2BC! Like most college students, the cast members eat everything in sight (except Brendan, who's the picky one). There are several Chipotle locations near Winnetka, so I sent the idea in to the site. The only thing is, the guys go to college all over the country, so there probably aren't many filming days left this summer. However, if they get renewed for a second season, maybe this could be part of it...and if they wanted, they could even use the second part of my idea: Come down to Texas and pit their guys against mine in a sort of 2BC-off. I'll post again if he actually replies...

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