Tuesday, May 8, 2007

So bad it's good.

Having just written about performances that may be too good, I can't neglect mentioning how much I love things that are really bad. The fact is I've probably listened to my virtual singer croon "Hey, Jude" at least ten times in the past few days, and he's at it again right now. (Sadly the midi file on which it's based doesn't do all 19 repetitions of the closeout chorus, but I'd stay with it if it did.) When virtual Paul makes that stunning 2-octave arpeggiated ascent ("better, better, better, better, better, better, AHHHH") before the choruses, it gets me every time. Maybe it's just me.

I think my family thinks it's just me. For example, I much prefer watching home shopping channels to 90% of what's on TV - and it's not for the shopping. I just find the hosts fascinating; each product is presented as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so that, if you're patient, you get to see an unlimited number of once-in-a-lifetime moments pass by. What's astounding is the dedicated passion with which some of them do their jobs. The best/worst is this guy, Shawn Leflar. He doesn't just sell; he preaches with a borderline angry edge at times. If you don't buy this camera, he seems to say, then don't blame him that your life falls apart. You'll never get technology like that again, not at that price-point. When Shawn gets on the air with that scary coin guy, I tremble a little bit.

I am picky about what sorts of bad things I like, though. Some bad is good, but some bad is just bad. I don't find most Reality TV interesting or even watchable because the badness is too contrived (especially the ridiculous American Idol auditions). Yes, it's true that the hosts of shopping channels and infomercials are contrived, but . . . well, I'm not going to try to build some defense of this. It's not worth it, but let's just say I rarely fail to enjoy TV sales pitches. Jeremy Denk understands.

The other thing that made me think of bad things I love came from a rerun of Frasier last night. Frasier's depressed about being unemployed, and early in the show his denial is expressed in this great scene:

Martin: Morning, Frasier.
Frasier: Oh, good morning, Dad.
Martin: A little early for the piano, isn't it?
Frasier: Yes, I'm sorry about that. You know I woke up this morning thinking about that operetta I've been writing. You know, the one about Robert and Elizabeth Browning. I think, well, I had to get right to it.
Martin: Well, that's what you get living in a big city: If it's
not the horns waking you up it's someone writing an operetta about the Brownings.

Frasier talks his reluctant dad into helping him try it out, and we get just a taste of a bouncy little duet:

Frasier: What is it that you feel... (Martin: Love?)
Frasier: That fear which you conceal... (Martin: Love?)
Frasier: That powers that you heal... (Martin: Love?)
Frasier: Reveeeall. Take me in your arms... [Martin can't take any more]

Oh, how I'd love to hear the rest of that song. It's awful in that perfect way. If only they'd kept going, perhaps it could even have challenged that greatest of all sitcom songs, "Happy and Peppy and Bursting with Love." If you want to see "bad that's good," go here. Not only do you get Felix's and Oscar's fantastically bad song, you get a frightening 70's lounge singer, whose laid-back performance brings out the best in Tony Randall. Then, he sings it right. You can watch the odd couple write the song here. But, you know, maybe the words are enough:

Happy and peppy and bursting with love,
Dancing and singing to heavens above,
Jumping and rolling like a little pup,
If they knock me down, I'm gonna bounce back up.

Happy and peppy and feeling so swell,
I'm gonna answer when I hear the bell,
I'll knock down defeat with fury ferocious
Happy, precocious and swell.

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