Monday, July 02, 2007

It’s summer, which means three things: Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and the Disney Channel. While the first two have served me as surrogate parents for as long as I can remember, the Disney Channel is like an uncle who died after he stopped airing Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire. After they did that, Raven Symone took over the network and instantly turned me off with her fistfuls of sass and hips dripping with equal parts Crisco and attitude.

I switched my allegiance to Nickelodeon’s TEENick lineup, a suitable replacement for Louis and Lizzie. Drake and Josh are obviously hilarious, Ned’s Declassified is quality entertainment, and Zoey 101 proves that when given a good script, even a Spears child can suspend the redneck in her for 22 minutes a week. Also, the show has sweet scooters.

Somehow over the course of a few years, Raven and the new Disney crew tricked a bunch of children into thinking their shows were funny and the channel saw its biggest successes thanks to a pair of twins and the daughter of a former country singer. I ignored these shows for as long as possible, but in the lazy doldrums of summer, I simply couldn’t resist any longer. Also, I took some notes and did a little science while watching the episodes and discovered some very disturbing information.

The first show I watched was The Suite Life with Zach and Cody. With a pun in the title as hilarious as that one the show could have been about a school janitor who molests corpses and still be considered a rip-roaring comedy. The show stars two twins. I remember the good old days when twins were granted only half the rights of a normal person, a fitting sentence given that they each can only possess one-third to one-half the brain of a human. But apparently those days are no more and twins are now acting side-by-side instead of playing the same person. This confused me at first and made me realize that Full House could have been twice as hilarious, if only the writers were as clever as the ones from The Suite Life and child labor laws were easier to bend.

The episode I watched was “To Catch a Thief,” surprisingly about a thief. This caper was one of the early adventures in the Tipton Hotel- it was filmed before the That’s So Raven Curse settled in on the kids and made them fat. Raven is inflating at such a rate that it's only a matter of minutes before her form is more suited for a syrup container than a television screen. Just like Raven and her black friend, Zach and Cody are plumping up each day so they will go into cardiac arrest just as they stop being cute. Disney also has forbidden them from cutting their hair lately; I suppose the Disney marketers figure the kids watching are sitting around getting fat and growing hair all day, so the kids on the screen should too.

But back to the episode I watched. In order to see just how hysterical the show was, I made note of each use of the laugh track, a daunting task, especially when you consider that it’s played so frequently it can often be hard to tell when one bout of laughter ends and the next begins. The show’s heart beats with that laugh track, constantly reminding the audience that the show is still alive and the story is progressing. During the 21-minute episode, the laugh track played 146 times, an average of 6.95 laughs per minute, or one laugh every 8.63 seconds, which is an astonishing feat. I also recorded the number of times that I laughed during the episode: 3, and they weren’t really laughs, but I kind of quickly exhaled and thought, “Yeah, I’ll give them that one.” These laughs were due to 1) A suspected thief talks about his crime loudly on a phone in the middle of a hotel lobby, 2) It turns out that guy wasn’t the real thief, and the “huge Diamonds” he was talking about is a fat couple named Diamond, and 3) An old woman is captured in a net and beaten with an umbrella. For each genuine laugh I had to sit through 48.6 rounds of the imaginary audience loudly enjoying something that I just couldn’t appreciate. My loss, I suppose.

After the show, I saw a commercial for High School Musical 2, a film I am greatly anticipating. My excitement was only elevated when I saw the movie’s star, Zach Efron, tell me how much fun he had making it while in some strange desert and wearing an absurd amount of makeup on top of a ludicrously fake tan. That smells like entertainment.

Up next was Hannah Montana. Based on the theme song “The Best of Both Worlds” and the star’s appearance, it looks like the show is about transsexuals. Sadly, it is much less funny than that show would have been. My opinion of Miley Cyrus is that aging country singers shouldn’t procreate with farm animals. I’m sure some unfortunate looking little girls look up to her, but aside from her startling appearance she always sounds like her mouth is full of braces or marbles or carrots, oats, sugar cubes, and other horse-feed. Her best friend on the show is played by Emily Osment, punching in her time card on the set now that her brother can’t plump up the family bank account anymore. An interesting note is that, as in The Suite Life, males are forbidden haircuts on this show. The guys look like girls and the girls look like thoroughbreds and there’s a little Mexican boy who owns a hot dog stand. It’s a terribly confusing show.

When it comes to the funnies, this show seems to think it’s a home run. In its 21 minutes it racked in a whopping 182 hilarious moments, according to the laughter, or 8.67 laughs per minute. That’s one laugh every 6.92 seconds, certainly proving that this show is the funniest thing of all time. Sadly it is not. The episode, “My Best Friend’s Boyfriend,” had a plot, I think, but it wasn’t important. What was important, though, was the fact that I didn’t laugh a single time. Perhaps all the jokes went over my head with metaphoric subtext and allusions to things greater than me, but I suppose that’s my fault. One of the laugh tracks played after the line, “We were robbed.” This doesn’t strike me as humor. Perhaps they’ll get a smile out of me next time in the episode “My First Date(Rape)!”

Some notes on the episode: Hannah wears an awful lot of makeup when she goes to sleep. Hannah buys an apple from a vending machine at school. This raises some questions: 1) Where are these vending machines? 2) How bad do they smell after no one buys the apples and they sit around for 30 days until the refill truck comes around, and 3) They could do a better job of hiding the fact that the actress is a horse. According to, apples are “relished by all horses.” Perhaps a granola bar would have been a less obvious choice.

Moral of the story? Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire had no laugh tracks and were hilarious. These new shows do and aren’t. Though without them the viewers would be confused and wonder things like, “Is this supposed to be funny?” “What the hell am I watching?” and “How’s that horse stand up on two legs?”

Also, have any of you ever taken a leak in complete darkness? It’s an experience everyone should enjoy. I did it a few days ago when my bladder yelled at me in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to wake myself up, so I left the light off and bravely stood over the bowl. I couldn’t see a thing and, based only on my memory of the room, I uncoiled my weiner and aimed it to what I could only assume was the water. Bracing myself, I contracted my bladder muscle and there was a pause. A silent beat echoed through my head and I felt as vulnerable as I ever have. My heart ushered out one firm thud, and then SPLASH! The noise of my urine hitting the toilet water was a symphony of stinky success. A proud smile wrapped over my face as I crawled back to my cocoon. I recommend this experience to everyone, but no cheating: be sure to stand up. This will be even more thrilling for the ladies.