Friday, February 15, 2008


I can fully explain my tastes but I can't account for them.

For example, I've been itching to confess my current tv guilty pleasure. It's not American Gladiators (I tried to watch, I don't get it). It's not Lost—that's not a guilty pleasure. My guilty pleasure is Las Vegas.

I could say that I started watching Las Vegas because it immediately follows one of the best scripted dramas on tv and one of my favorite shows of all time, Friday Night Lights, but that would be a lie.

Truth is, I don't know why I started watching Las Vegas. I didn't even like it very much way back when but I find that I look forward to the show with something akin to enthusiasm. Bizarre. In fact, now that Tom Selleck has replaced James Caan as the paternal figure, I like it much more. (Of those two, I'd pick Caan every time as the better actor—maybe that was the problem? No one does cheese as well as Selleck, though he brings some gravitas to silly roles these days (see: Friends).) I was never a big Magnum P.I. fan, though I watched it a little, so it surprises me to find Selleck appealing.

I have many reason not to like Las Vegas. First, it's set in Las Vegas, in a casino, and I hate both of those things. Second, all the women look like supermodels (so do most of the men), which is unrealistic and anti-feminist (though a subplot recently had a guy break off his engagement because his fiancée got too skinny). Third, the plots are paper thin and the character development is minimal.

So, why do I like it? Maybe because it's so easy to watch. No thinking required. It's like candy, pretty, empty candy. This season, the show is at its goofiest. The remaining cast of characters has melded into a little dysfunctional family. (Three major characters are gone, replaced by two new ones and a third promoted from within the ranks.) I consistently like that: family values shows about unlikely families.

Make no mistake, even though none of the characters are related, this show is about a family. With the departure of James Caan and his wife (Cheryl Ladd) the only actual blood family was lost. The daughter remains. She is knocked up by, but not married to, the leading male character. (They had casual sex many seasons ago and, after many twists and turns, have ended up in "real love.") Two other characters get married by accident—but guess what!—they really love each other and stay married. Add one misanthropic "I'd rather be single" female character and Tom Selleck, mostly benignly, watching over them all and it's a perfect little group of mismatched characters who do their best to take care of each other. The question should be, how can I not like this show?

Maybe completely tossing reality out the window is why it works for me. Seriously, there is no way this motley, beautiful, crew could actually run a casino. But the show is fundamentally good-natured, which endears it to me. Dark things happen, but rarely (jettisoning a good chunk of the previous cast has cured that), and everything gets resolved in a happy, loving way. No, it's not a good show, but I will probably keep watching it.

What I can't quite reconcile with my liking of Las Vegas (and ability to write at length about it) is my excitement about seeing Smiles of a Summer Night this weekend and my disappointment at having to miss one of the more obscure Bergman's playing immediately prior.

I'm a mass of contradictions—but interesting ones, I hope.

Grateful for: varied tastes.

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