For hard rock, heated debate, child-care tips, and latex puppetry, 2006 was a banner year in television. Who says the culture’s going to the dogs?
BUSH VERSUS LAUER: Future generations will barely believe it.
1 Supergroup | VH1 | An inspired variation on VH1’s Celebreality concept in which the vulgar and paranoid condition of 21st-century celebrity is treated as a metaphor for the soul of modern man, Supergroup was a winner from start to finish. Notorious rock types (Ted Nugent, Sebastian “Skid Row” Bach, etc.) were confined in a Vegas mansion and forced to play music together. Egos boomed, hairdryers howled, in-house chefs had their feelings hurt, and a secret history of heavy metal was enacted. Glorious.
2 Keeping Score | PBS | In the crowning episode of this excellent series, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas explored the oh-so-metal pagan and folkloric roots of Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps, whose premiere — May 29, 1913, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, under Pierre Monteux — goaded its Parisian ballet audience to howl for the composer’s blood (as well as that of the choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky). It would seem that the Entombed-style downstrokes of the “Augures printanières” section and the proto-doom-metal trudge of “Rondes printanières” were too much for even the most hardcore of top-hatted headbangers to handle.
3 Bush versus Lauer on the Today Show | NBC | Quizzed in the Oval Office by an unexpectedly robust Matt Lauer, the commander-in-chief splintered into several of his most dangerous personalities: Cornered Mammal, Sly Geezer, Sword of God, Short-Circuiting Jock. As the talk turned to his torture policy, Bush began squaring up to his interlocutor, poking and patting him, moving into Zinedine Zidane headbutt range, six inches shorter but ready to have a go. Lauer, eyes dilated with anxiety, respectfully but doggedly pursued his questions. Future generations will barely believe it.
4 Hitchens versus the World on Real Time with Bill Maher | HBO | If you want a quick brew-up of lordly rhetoric and simmering pub violence, no one does it better than Brit journalist/pundit Christopher Hitchens, last defender of the Iraq War. “Your audience is frivolous,” he told Bill Maher, after the latter had lobbed a couple of lazy Bush jokes into the crowd. “They will apparently laugh at anything.” “Boo! Hiss!” went the audience, a softcore mob. “Fuck you!” went Hitchens, looking pleased, and giving them not the ubiquitous finger but the severer and more scornful British V-sign.
5 Mr. Meaty | Nickelodeon | “All God’s creatures/Fresh off the grill!/So come on down to Mr. Meaty/Where friends meet to eat/Meat!” With some of the most spongily expressive puppets since The Muppet Show, Nickelodeon’s new corporate satire/kids’ show is a real treasure. At fast-food outlet Mr. Meaty, as lumps of charred product tumble from the Mr. Meaty Food Faucet, Jos and his co-worker Parker battle tapeworms, cannibalistic hippies, and a wedgie-giving genie called Wedgelor. A joy for young and old alike.