As television slowly returns after a brief winter's nap, it's inevitable that some nights of programming will be worse than others. And wooftie if last night's slate wasn't full of stinkers! Which piece of gunk did you watch?
ABC hit us with the sludgey one-two punch of the premiere of a new season of their always depressing death-of-romance series The Bachelor and the series premiere of Celebrity Wife Swap, which is about exactly what it sounds like it's about. ABC actually soft-pedaled last night's Wife Swap debut episode, giving us the reasonably tame and gentle pairing of Tracey Gold and Carnie Wilson. But tonight they're bringing out the big guns with a Ted Haggard-for-Gary Busey swap that ought to chill the bones. For its part, The Bachelor was its typical stupid self — this season's dream man is Ben Flajnik, some goober who didn't win last season of The Bachelorette, and the bevy of ladies who all showed up to say awkward things to him in a driveway (a Bachelor first episode tradition) were all appropriately embarrassing, with a lawyer announcing, "And the verdict is... you're sexy," or something to that effect and someone else who tried something new by saying nothing to him and just walking on into the house, only to later on get eliminated. Yikes! That said, The Bachelor has never quite hooked us the way it has some — we don't condemn anyone for watching it, but it's not our particular brand of muck. Nor has Celebrity Wife Swap. So that was not our chosen trash last night.
Bravo aired the premiere of their new stylist reality series It's a Brad, Brad World, about former Rachel Zoe assistant turned self-employed fellow Brad Goreski, who revealed himself to be painfully unlikable in large doses. Goreski is the kind of person who's taken what was once a charming little bit of vanity — the "honey, I look good" variety — and run with it too far. He now just seems like a pompous sonuvabitch, one who actually doesn't look that good when he says he looks that good. Also, the show is just kind of a snoozer. We don't need more than one stylist show, and The Rachel Zoe Project occupies that particular vacuous, shallow profession slot plenty well. Brad was cute when he was a supporting player on Zoe, chirping in to say funny things to his scary lady-dragon boss, but now that he himself is the lady-dragon, we can see too many of his lizard scales or something. Like making an occasional one-joke recurring character on a sitcom into a regular role (Ken Jeong on Community springs to mind), It's a Brad, Brad World shines too bright a light on what reveals itself to be a pretty thin TV personality. This is junk, but it's not good junk. Thus, it did not do the job last night.
The victory, for us anyway, went to ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, the nefariously addictive teen mystery series that began the second half of its second season last night. Oh man is this show silly — so much of it revolves around cellphones, and yet could a cellphone or a text message ever actually manage to be creepy or ominous? We'd suggest that One Missed Call proved that, no, that is not a possibility — but good grief is it hokily entertaining too. The show manages to make low stakes seem high and vice versa. We're oddly more intrigued by a common high school fight than we are about an attempted murder in a greenhouse. Yes, both things happen! It's a bit complicated to explain what the show is about at this point, but the basic plot is that four friends try to solve the mystery of their fifth friend's murder all while being tormented by an omniscient, anonymous meddler known only as "A." Who is A?? We almost found out last night, but of course in the end did not. The minute we find out the show loses all its momentum, and ABC Family does not want that to happen just yet. This won't be the Moonlighting of the new millennium!
But yes, there is something sinisterly watchable about this goopy show, which airs on a network that makes a dizzyingly depressing array of strangely tune-in-able young adult programming, which no not-quite-as-young adult has any business watching, and yet there we are, gobbling it up in guilty handfuls. We're not saying we're going to watch tonight's premiere of Jane by Design or anything, we're not that sad (though, please do call us in a couple years, Nick Roux). But Pretty Little Liars, after we'd avoided it for about half a season, has snared us back in with its cruel little claws. Ah well. It's still better than Brad and the Bachelor anyway, right? Eh, we suppose it's all relative. After all, one man's trash is another man's... well, trash.