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Pop CultureNovember 4, 2015

Television: A Week Of It – Gorging on American TV Trash From a Lonely Hotel Room

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Alex Casey reports back from the US, after watching all of the terrible television that the land of the free could provide. 

I don’t know if I’m just lazy, but I have always maintained that one of the best ways to get a vibe for a new country is to do two very basic things: go to the supermarket and surf the TV channels. Adhering to this particular brand of couch potato wanderlust, on a recent trip to LA I decided to devote some time to my hotel room television every day. Here are my findings, accompanied with an American snack diary. This is my television trivago.

TUESDAY (on a plane)


The best thing about a long-haul flight is that you can become a giant bloated baby the second you sit down. I immediately switch my shoes out for some creepy plush booties, swaddle myself in a blanket and watch the most juvenile cartoon I can find as I wait for my very soft food to arrive. It’s “here comes the aeroplane”, taken to a whole new low. Anyway, so here I am, a moon-faced adult baby, watching smash hit Pixar film Inside Out. Liek if u crie everytym.

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Of course, my immature plane tastes took me a while to admit. Whenever scrolling through the viewing options, I frequently entertain the idea that this could be my one chance to really get cultured, to spend the next 13 hours sinking my teeth into some Chinese cinema, or maybe finally watch The Godfather so I can stop embarrassing myself at social gatherings. I watched a documentary about Lego next.

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A horrifying thing happened during the Lego documentary. Sitting amongst a very large group of young American Mormon men returning home, I suddenly received a message on screen. “Seat 45D would like to chat to you – do you accept?” My face went a deep shade of aubergine, 45D was right next to me, staring directly at his screen in a stiff pinstripe blazer. What to do? Do I accept and act casual? Be a real ‘Yes (wo)Man’ and chuck down a friendly “a/s/l”?

Instead, I took off my headphones and barked “is this you? about ten times louder than I needed to. My ears were popping and my brain was exploding with Lego facts, I cannae be dealing with this onscreen courtship and my eventual new life as a Mormon bride.

“Yes, that’s not for you though” he twanged. Owned.

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Still stuck somewhere between the ages of 0-6, the next item in my playlist was a documentary called The Genius of Roald Dahl, presented by David ‘Computer Says No’ Walliams. The Little Britain star is now by all accounts an extremely successful children’s author. Strangely, there was no era in Dahl’s life where he sat in a sauna wearing blackface for laughs.

Accompanying TV snacks:

Airplane food, I imagine the scenario looked exactly like this.

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TUESDAY (again! I don’t make the rules!)

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Look, I’ve had a giant day. I went to a Conan taping, does that count in my TV diary? Feels very rare to be able to sit in on a live taping, go and eat some Taco Bell (the taco shell was made out of Doritos FYI) and then watch the very same episode on television. I’ll write about the set visit in detail later but, for now, just know that there was a twerk competition to win a t-shirt and I got swept up in the atmosphere and started making very loud and strange “whoop” noises with my mouth.

Here’s where I was, enjoying the show with my nice new friend called Eric:

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Back in my sad old hotel room, I stumbled across one of the most simple show concepts of all time, and I absolutely fell in love. It’s called The People’s Couch, a reality show that puts a camera on top of the televisions in various households. Genius! It’s just watching people watch TV!

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As a big fan of all couch-based commentary, I actually do believe the concept is perfect. The US version of Britain’s Gogglebox, there is nothing more fascinating than watching a diverse range of friends, families and couples engage with the same episode of television. The only way we could ever top this would be to make a show that watches people watching The People’s Couch. Coming 2016 on The Spinoff dot net.

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Watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead, it cut between scenes from the show and scenes from the couch. “Everyone admires Rick, he’s just such a leader” a middle-class Mom swoons to her husband. Elsewhere, a worried teen warns his brother “this could really happen you know.” Julie, despite being a lesbian, is overcome by her horniness towards Rick.

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I love this damn show, a return to celebratory, communal viewing – remember?! Like back when X Factor was still good? Bring The People’s Couch to New Zealand imo.

Accompanying TV snacks: Goobers

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I tried to artfully arrange these chocolate-covered peanuts to look like a fancy person on Instagram might. They looked like rat droppings. I ate them all.



I’m going to leave my hotel room soon, I swear, but I’ve started watching America’s Court and I can’t move. This woman is suing her mechanic for taking too long to replace her brake pads and therefore making her miss her flight out of LAX.

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Despite only dropping the car off mere hours before, and having the flight booked for weeks, she is seeking full compensation for her airfare. Judge Kevin Ross looks the way I feel, probably time to turn the telly off:

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After a day of trying not get sued by angry entitled people, I arrived home with one mission: to find a show called TMZ Live. Broadcast lazily from the cubicles of the TMZ office, this bottom-of-the-barrel entertainment news half hour has got to be the scummiest around. I needed it, and I found it.

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On the left, Harvey (TMZ boss) stares soulessly past the camera as they run through the news items of the day. AKA, whatever they managed to capture on their camera phone without getting punched in the mouth.

Viewers are encouraged to send in Skype clips of themselves weighing in on celebrities, for whatever reason. I’m just sticking around to find out what the “Rapper’s Insane Tattoo” looks like. These tabs are such a damn tease – is this where Newsworthy got their internet-tabs-on-TV fitspo?

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The tattoo is fine.

Accompanying TV snack:

A slice of pepperoni pizza the size of my torso. I ate it all.

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There is no better morning wakeup than Americans screaming at each other over the size of a supposed teacup Maltese dog. I’ve tuned into Supreme Justice this time, one of the 40,000 courtroom shows on at any given time. And this lady is peeved to hell that her dog has grown too big for her handbag:

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She is suing the breeder. Instead of, oh I don’t know, putting her beautiful little pooch on the ground and letting it romp around like the angel it was born to be. Luckily, Judge Karen vehemently agrees with me:

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To the right of the screen you can see a glimmer the ritzy Hollywood Hills. Who needs the outdoors when you can see it reflected in your TV?


Forgive me, for I have sinned. I did not watch any TV tonight, as I spent the evening at Universal Studios getting yelled at by real-life zombies from The Walking Dead. Talk about #engaging with the #medium.

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Accompanying TV snack:

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This Halloweenie bag of American Candy, including three different types of candy corn. I always let my glamourous idea of candy corn get in the way of the fact that it tastes like a melted down lolly-scented candle from Typo. While watching Supreme Justice, I ate it all.



My morning courtroom TV obsession has now brought me to a show called Divorce Court, where a man is divorcing his wife for not cooking the dinner right. Like Judge Lynn, I am absolutely done.

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I have found a new show on the always-excellent channel Lifetime called Little Women: LA. In this episode, the women have all gone to Hawaii to scream at their husbands for covering them in clay the wrong way. I didn’t know there was a right way to cover someone in clay.

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Later, Elena sobs dramatically on the beach after realising that she can’t have her wedding right on the sand. Pesky old protected land eh, Elena? Briana is also giving her man a stern talking too elsewhere on the beach. This seems like worst holiday ever, and I’m really sad I have to go home soon and leave Little Women: LA behind.

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Accompanying TV snack:

This jalapeno pepper dipped in chocolate, only available in the land of the free.

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This was disgusting. I did not eat it all.


I’m at the end of my tether, I bought a terrible calzone for dinner and I can’t find anything good to watch on TV. The only thing that looked remotely interesting was what appeared to be a reality show about hamsters. There are two hamsters in a cage, one is on the wheel and one is sulking elsewhere. They are trying to string together some sort of break-up narrative.

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Back to my old mate TMZ Live, where the big boss Harvey appears to be trying out one of those glideboard things. Little did I know, the very same thing was happening back home. Just as I can look at the moon and know that my loved ones are seeing the same moon – I can also trust that they are watching their own whacky man on TV whizz around a glideboard. The world is small and weird.

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I stuck around to see what Caitlyn Jenner’s “Girl Problems” were. Turned out to be just a grainy, incredibly zoomed-in picture of her visible hair extension track. I feel bad about myself, even more so when this sick-as shit ad for toenail fungus comes on.

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In the ad the fungus-ridden toenail is some kind of celebrity, prowling the red carpet in a fedora and giving interviews. Does he have his own set of tiny feet with tiny fedora-wearing toes? Why is he wearing sunglasses?! I am sickened to my very core. Give me New Zealand’s first-year-Natcoll-student-3D-animated boobs and bums sweating away any day. There really is no place like home.

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