Geiger's Culture Counter: Why I'm thankful for the wacky and weird


Not everything needs to be a prestige television show like “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad.” Not everything should be. I may lose my sanity if that was the case.

I’m glad that we live in a time where premium quality shows such as “Fargo” can exist outside of premium channels like HBO. These not so mini-series for the masses are better than being flooded by sitcoms or police procedurals. They offer unique and compelling narratives that are worth their awards.

I’m equally glad that network executives throw caution to the wind during the summer season. After a long day at work—or the whirlwind news cycle that makes each week feel like an eternity—I simply don’t have the energy to concentrate on Ray Stussy and Nikki Swango plot against his brother Emmit in Minnesota.

Knowing that people are busy with vacation and other summertime activities, the prime lineups are sidelined for reality television shows and reruns. This annoyed me when I was younger but now I see it as a welcomed oasis.

For the most part I’m done with shows like “America’s Got Talent,” yet NBC’s revival of “The Gong Show” has just the right amount of ridiculousness to make it bearable. Like the original show, contestants perform whatever they consider a talent to impress a trio of celebrity judges. This could be breakdancing while sketching, playing a bagpipe that shoots fire in a Sasquatch suit on a unicycle or regurgitating bananas.

Unlike other programs, the definition of “talent” is extremely loose.

If the judges don’t like an act they hit the titular gong to send them home. This time around it’s hosted by the hilarious Tommy Maitland, aka Mike Myers decked out in prosthetic make up, to introduce each of the performers and announce the winners. The prize? A relatively small $2,000.17 and 15 minutes of fame.

If you prefer your nonsense to be less impromptu and more animated, then Cartoon Network’s “Rick and Morty” is the slide-splitter like no other. Following an alcoholic mad scientist and his grandson, each half-hour episode has the duo simultaneously screwing up and saving the universe.

The show started as a short parody of “Back to the Future” so it’s no wonder that it’s packed with pop-culture references. Plot lines pay homage to “The Purge,” “Total Recall,” “Inception,” “Jurassic Park,” and other scifi classics. Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s wacky romp through the space has infinite punchline possibilities.

The generous helping of goofs serve the dark story rather than distract from it. The relationship of Morty’s parents Jerry and Beth is strained because of Rick constantly ridiculing his son-in-law, making Beth believing she settled. Summer, Rick’s stereotypical teenage sister, is spiteful at her brother and grandfather for going on most adventures without her. Meanwhile, Rick may be more caring than his aloof Grinch-like nature appears.

So far the start of the third season highlights how the kids are dealing with their parent’s divorce in their own ways. Blending the serious and nonsensical, the show that focuses on aliens and pocket dimensions is filled with a devastating amount of humanity.

Nevertheless, those two shows are meant to be comedic on purpose. Yet summer also means the return of my favorite scripted drama that doesn’t know it’s a comedy. “Zoo,” based on James Patterson’s novel of the same name, started as a thriller where animals decide to throw a coup against us bipeds.

These aren’t just rabid lions and bears, however. We’re talking about an earthquake-causing sloth, a saber-tooth tiger, an ancient jellyfish and a komodo dragon that breathes ice. Why? Just because. The main cast—a ragtag team of a journalist, a zoologist, a veterinary pathologist and a safari tour guide—eventually cure the animals but then the villains sterilize the world. Why? Just because.

This season picks up a decade later and zoologist Jackson Oz is getting a better handle on his animal-controlling physic powers (which he has because his father ran genetic experiments on him) to survive in the baby-less apocalypse. Though the initial animals were cured, a new crop of hybrids is terrorizing the world. The entire Pacific Coast is cordoned off by a wall to try to keep the razorback wolves, tough rhinos and divebombing bird monsters out of populated areas.

When the “previously on” segment takes almost two minutes of running time before the show actually starts you know you’re dealing with a level of weirdness that shouldn’t even be on television. There’s lots I’m not mentioning because it’s all so delightfully absurd.

This has been my first proper “adult” summer where I’m not lounging by a pool, spending days in the mountains or seeing how long I can play videogames without changing out of my pajamas. My body doesn’t have the luxury to take a break like it used to, but I’m happy my mind can.

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