So coming soon to a cable line-up near you in June is Planet Green, the latest player in eco-entertainment (see also: special "green" issues of Vanity Fair; hand-wringing but feel-good docs about global warming; recent car and gasoline commercials (for real!); Al Gore anywhere; and so on). Planet Green is under the Discovery umbrella and is pitched to replace its Home Channel.
Part of me can't help but snark, though my better half knows that making worthy behavior or the acquisition of useful knowledge either entertaining or competitive appeals marvelously to your standard otherwise disengaged Westerner.
Following on the heels of BBC's recent Dumped that forced some First-World whiners to live at a landfill, TLC is previewing the Planet Green with frequent blasts of a show called Wasted.
I've caught three episodes and already I'm annoyed.
I sure wish that after a decade of reality and fix-up shows that producers would break out of the box, but Wasted uses every cheat: overly perky female host (Annabelle Gurwitch, from TBS' Dinner and a Movie) with hot male sidekick; repeating things over and over; wasting time on tired visual gimmicks; silly cash incentives; and unspooling each episode in the same rigid formula.
The joke is -- this is only a 30-minute show, so by the time all the repetitive filler and ads are stripped out, there's hardly a minute left to share any useful information or take-away tips.
The show's lazy tactic to hook viewers is to profile a variety of eco-offenders -- there's one for everybody. Harried new parents; boozy fraternity dudes; gay marrieds in Manhattan; the mega-mansion family.
The marginal amount of entertainment I eked out from Wasted was checking out what Grade-A idiots some of these eco-villains are.
In the suburban mansion episode, one of the crimes was that the family's grown son perpetually left the refrigerator door open while preparing snacks. It's inconceivable to me that anybody older than second grade would do such a thing. And how is this a high crime when four people are living in a 9,000-square-foot home?
Mom's shame was using $756 worth of paper towels a year. Breathtaking!
But the fact that the show had to rig an electronic alarm on the fridge to cure the young man of leaving it open shows that many of our fellow citizens may simply be beyond reach. (And let's be honest: Is this an eco-crime or just bad child-rearing?)
Over at the frat house, there was some success teaching the brothers to recycle their understandably prodigious accumulation of beer cans. They also agreed to fix a leaky faucet and promised only to turn the beer-sign lights on when there actually was a party happening. If only George W. Bush had gone to this frat …
The two gay men in New York City had a super neat and spare apartment, but were otherwise huge eco-messes. Busy urban living was rapidly inflating their naughty footprint. Too many cab rides, too much air conditioning, and -- I guess they missed that classic piece of gay cinema -- too many wire hangers! The annual byproduct of their dry cleaning was 200 wire hangers.
But it was their little dog Teddy that took the brunt. Seems his two dads feared so much for his sanity during the day, that while they're at work they leave the heat and flatscreen TV on for him. They got a strict taking to from Annabelle about actual doggie behavior, but they looked woefully unconvinced. I mean, really -- what do people think dogs did before there was Lifetime?
I'm not sure if I'm going Green when the network debuts next month -- my cable providers may just want to keep more popular energy-consuming channels like Speed or Home Shopping. One thing's clear: As a nation of lazy dumbasses, we've got a long way to go. We'll just start slow by just watching more TV.