Dalton Ross on DVD impulse-buying
The Seven Samurai. An epic of…uh, epic proportions. With apologies to Ran and Rashomon, I consider it to be Akira Kurosawa’s crowning achievement. Which explains why it was one of the first DVDs I ever purchased back in 1998. After all, any true movie buff would be exposed without this in their collection. So I bought it. And watched it. And it has been sitting on the shelf ever since. Because, let’s be honest: For all of the film’s greatness, it’s not exactly every day you can carve out a comfortable 207 minutes to rewatch a subtitled import. At least the movie has company. Plenty of company. My DVD closet — yes, I have an entire closet — is filled with one-watch wonders I simply, absolutely, positively, had to buy yet now just sit there. It drives my wife bananas. ”Why do you need all this crap?” she asks me periodically (usually after she has opened the closet door and had a stack of B-grade ’70s sci-fi films crash down on her head).
I’m finally starting to think she has a point. Back when I was a kid, you never bought a movie on VHS. Every tape was, like, $89.99, so you rented it, and if for some reason you wanted to rewatch it, you just rented it again. But DVDs changed all that. Suddenly, movies were cheap — dirt cheap. For 20 bucks (and often less) you could own the film forever. ”How cool is that?” we all asked ourselves as we stocked up on titles we didn’t need — and, in many cases, didn’t even really want. Why? Because we could! I remember going out and buying junk like Rollerball. Rollerball! I just thought it would be cool to own Rollerball, so I bought it. Too bad I forgot how much it sucks. (At least I refrained from picking up the remake.) Before I knew it, I had accumulated a pretty impressive library of movies both highbrow (Le Trou, The Seventh Seal) and lowbrow (Strange Brew, Can’t Stop the Music, and the caveman classic EEGAH).
The problem is, when you’re an entertainment junkie, there are always new movies and new television shows to watch, so time to go back and review the old ones is severely limited. (Seriously, am I ever gonna crack The Abyss: Special Edition again? Do I really have 171 minutes to give up, especially when it means sitting through that super-lame alternate ending?) So I feel it is time for me to re-examine the buying-versus-renting debate. With Netflix and the like, renting is easier than ever, but I still have trouble resisting the urge to buy, buy, buy. It’s just the collector geek inside of me.
Obviously, because of my line of work, I also receive a lot of freebies, and while I’m not about to sound like a big jerk complaining about it, it does pose a problem when I don’t immediately discard or give away most of what I receive. Just yesterday, for example, I received a Facts of Life: The Complete Season Three DVD set. I held it in my hand, thought about it, and said to myself, ”Hey, you never know. Edna Garrett’s kinda funny.” And then I put it in my shelving unit. It’s The Facts of Life! Why would I keep this? When would I have time to even watch it? And what exactly makes season 3 such a keeper? (I don’t even think this is the one where Tootie almost became a hooker.) Here are a few of the other titles that have been sitting on my shelf for at least a year and stand next to no chance of ever being viewed: Demon Seed, Captain & Tennille: The Ultimate Collection, Red Eye, and something called The Witch Who Came From the Sea.
I know I’m not alone here. I know many of you have DVDs in your collection that you look at and think, ”Why the hell did I buy this?” What we need is some sort of support group. I’ve shared some of my embarrassing titles. So now it’s your turn. Please write in and nominate your most embarrassing DVD purchase. Who knows? The person who submits the worst one may just find themselves on the receiving end of a little Captain & Tennille. All I ask is that you don’t send it back.
OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
You can’t stop the Coreys — you can only hope to contain them. That’s right, the costars of License to Drive, Dream a Little Dream, Lost Boys, Last Resort, Blown Away, and a bunch of other forgettable films are back, as Corey Haim and Corey Feldman are going to be starring in their own new reality TV show for A&E, titled The Coreys: Return of the Lost Boys. The last time I saw Haim, he was high as hell, stumbling through an E! True Hollywood Story interview. And the last time I saw Feldman was up close and personal, when I went to do a story on the first Surreal Life season, and he was driving everyone in both the house and production cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs. And yet here they are, ready to cash in yet again on their train wreck of a past. You know what? Good for them. Now, I don’t know if this will be half as genius as Haim’s extraordinary 1989 Me, Myself and I video dream date, but it can’t help but promise a few jaw-dropping moments along the way. Who knows — I may even have to buy it on DVD. Rent! I mean rent!
Spike Feresten is the latest person to try his hand at hosting a late-night talk show, with his less-than-creatively-titled entry, Talk Show With Spike Feresten. Which brings us to this week’s List: The Top Five Worst Late-Night Talk Shows.
1) The Chevy Chase Show (1993)
You’re not likely to find a bigger Chevy fan than me. Not only do I worship at the altar of Caddyshack and Vacation, but I even find swill like Cops and Robbersons amusing to a degree. But even I couldn’t take this 1993 Fox disaster. So uncomfortable. So unfunny. And yet, every time I look at The Chevy Chase Show clock on my wall (a gift from EW’s Ken Tucker), I manage to laugh, so I guess the program was good for something after all.
2) The Magic Hour (1998)
The only reason this isn’t No. 1 is that Chevy is a professional comedian. He was supposed to be funny. Magic was a freakin’ basketball player, so the expectations were much smaller. And he didn’t even come close to meeting those. The nadir occurred when he allowed Howard Stern (who had been bashing him on air for weeks) to hijack his program and have people fart on cue into microphones.
3) Into the Night With Rick Dees (1990)
Did the guy responsible for ”Disco Duck” really deserve his own talk show? The only time I ever watched this, some dude who replaced Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street was on. And no, it wasn’t Grieco.
4) The Pat Sajak Show (1989)
Sajak seems like a decent guy. And he does a decent job as host of Wheel of Fortune. But CBS’ attempts to turn him into Letterman were downright painful.
5) Thicke of the Night (1983)
Before he went all Dr. Seaver on us, Alan Thicke hosted this last-night talk/sketch show. The main problem was a lack of decent guests, basically because The Tonight Show played hardball, refusing to book guests that appeared with Thicke. Whatever. The whole thing still can’t be as embarrassing as starring on a show with a character named ”Boner.”
I was right. Faux philosophical TV narration is evil! How do I know? Because you wrote in telling me, and we all know that Glutton readers are the smartest people out there, riiiiiiiiiight? But what’s up with you all trying to get your grubby little mitts on all my cheesy office toys?
I think I hit my limit on television narration with Desperate Housewives. The woman was dead, and narrating the story, even into season 2, was redundant and just plain annoying. I always feel like the audience is being treated like we are stupid and can’t figure out a simple plot. — Katyna Smith
Having a dead woman talk about the circumstances of her own death was a stretch as it is, but you figured when that case was solved that she would have moved on. But noooooooo, instead Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) had to hang around and try to explain why we were watching an entire season about a woman who locked people in her basement. Bad on two counts.
I enjoyed your rant against unnecessary narration, but I have another trend that has taken over in the last few years: slow, sappy songs at the end of a TV episode. It seemed to all start with the Enya song at the end of the episode of Third Watch where Bobby died. Now it seems no matter what I watch (and I watch a lot) the episode must end with a reflective ballad. What do you think about this? Am I the only one bothered by TV shows telling me what to feel through a song? — Barb Myers
Barb, I actually wrote about this unfortunate trend in the magazine over a year ago when Rescue Me was ending every single episode this way. I hate it. Why? Because it is lazy as hell, trying to telegraph emotions through music because the writers or actors are not strong enough to do it on their own. Even worse, sometimes they even reuse the same stupid song. I can count at least three or four shows that used Jeff Buckley’s version of ”Hallelujah” while characters moped around feeling sorry for themselves. Johnny Cash’s take on ”Hurt” is another one that has been in heavy rotation. Maybe we need to create our own montage of people turning the channel to make this madness stop.
I think that the only truly good example of TV narration was in Arrested Development, because it added to the jokes and the set-ups, and in the finale afforded Ron Howard the chance to say ”sea-man” (sort of). Plus, the show acknowledged the use of a narrator as a device and mocked itself on several occasions. P.S. Where can I buy a Mr. T Chia Head? Or may I just have yours? — Sarah Underhill
Excellent point about Arrested Development, Sarah. The ones like that and Scrubs that tend to take themselves less seriously tend to not be on the offensive side. Although Arrested did get a little too cutesy near the end with theirs, becoming self-referential almost to a distraction. Oh, and as for the Mr. T Chia Head? Send me your address and I’ll see what I can do.
I must have the Vanilla Ice bubble gum. Name your price. — Jennifer Anderson
Jennifer, you are obviously high if you think I’m going to part with my Vanilla Ice bubble gum collection. In fact, let me quote from the Iceman’s pot-smoking anthem ”Roll ‘Em Up”: ”Light the hooty mac, so we can start the party/ You know I smoke good stuff, so go and get the bong/ Gong-diddlee bong, once again you know it’s on — huh/ You feel it, you feel it, you want it, you want it/ Roll it, roll it, lick it — now hit it.” Now realize, I have no idea whatsoever what that means, but then again it comes from a man that in the same song also claims that ”I need some herbs and spices/ So I can feel nices.” Yes, that’s right — he just rhymed ”spices” with ”nices.” Speaking of getting high…
I’m going to run for president on the ”Willie Nelson Can Do Whatever He Wants” ticket. The man is an American icon, and these are in increasingly short supply. Moreover, he’s 73 years old, and really, he looks damned good for his age. There’s probably something to this pot-smoking. — Mac
First off, Mac, I hope you enjoy being the only man along with four women to be selected for this week’s Reader Mail. Now you know how I felt going to Sarah Lawrence for four years. But you’re on to something here. Often I look at people like the fellas in Aerosmith and wonder to myself, How the hell can they look so good after all the drugs they have done? Is heroin the new Botox? Of course, one gander at Keith Richards sort of blows that theory to bits. In any event, I agree that Willie should be able to do whatever the hell he wants…as long as it doesn’t involve starring in any more Dukes of Hazzard movies.
Well, not unlike REO Speedwagon, it is time for me to fly, but where do you stand on the DVD buying-versus-renting debate? What’s your most embarrassing DVD purchase? And what other lame late-night talk show deserved to make The List? Shoot an e-mail over to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. Captain, Tennille, and I await your word.