24 and It's Me or the Dog

There's been a lot in the media recently about comfort food; dishes like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes that we like to eat when we're stressed out, because it makes us feel better emotionally. This week's column has a touch of comfort television about it. There are shows that I only watch when I've got a cold, or have something big coming up that's got me so nerved up I can't concentrate on stronger fare. Surprisingly, one of these choices is not comforting at all; instead it's a show that gives me the willies.

It's Me or the Dog
I like to call this show the Bad Dog/Worse Owner show. It runs on Animal Planet and features Victoria Stillwell, who has been training dogs for thirteen years, as a short term trainer who comes into the homes of people with out-of-control dogs and teaches both owner and pet how to become functioning members of dog society.

The show is entertaining for several reasons, not least because Ms. Stillwell is a master at showing owners what it's like to be a confused dog getting mixed signals from its even more confused owner. I saw one episode filmed in England where she told an owner to get on the couch and off the couch over and over, in the space of just a couple of minutes. Of course all parties ended up in a frustrated mindset and when a dog is frustrated it can make life miserable for everyone in the household. Frequently encountered problems include dogs that steal food off the table, dogs that attack other dogs while on walks, dogs that aren't housebroken (usually these dogs aren't on a schedule or are home alone for too many hours in a row), and dogs that not only don't come when called, but actually run away.

I recommend this show because you can often pick up good tips about how to make your dog more secure and happier, it's often quite funny (although it can also be depressing), it's interesting to see what a variety of dogs and bad training methods are out there, and because, at the end of the day, you might just be able to feel a little smug. After all your own personal dog listens most of the time and you know not to cook your dog homemade meals while you eat frozen food out of a box, right? You're already doing better than just about everyone on the show!

24

I watched the first season of 24, and then lost interest. Occasionally I regretted not watching, if only because the show is a cultural touchstone and I'm lost when I hear or read references to it. So I tried it again this week, with the season seven opener, and couldn't decide if the show was supposed to be a parody of itself. While the show appeared at first glance to be a drama, the more I watched the more I was baffled. For instance, why did it need a four-hour season opener? What show needs an opener that spans two evenings? (In fact it seems to me that if there are two episodes to an opener, then one of them, by definition, isn’t really an opener.) How in the world does Keifer Sutherland manage to say the word terrorist so many times with a straight face? I pity anyone who dares to play a drinking game using the word terrorist, or who has to take a drink any time Jack said something like, "Do it my way" as they would surely have ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning. And please, please, please, don't even think of doing anything with the new phrase "CIP device" or you'll suffer permanent brain damage before the season really gets going.

I have so many questions about this show. Do the writers really think we'll believe you can just give directions to a pilot and get them to almost crash into another plane? Last I checked pilots were people, not mindless drones. They don't just steer their planes into other planes or send them to the earth just because a voice on the other end of the headphones asks them to. Should we believe that Jack would switch allegiances just because someone tells him "The government is corrupt" – an empty phrase if I ever heard one? Does cutting off someone's air supply and sending them into respiratory/cardiac arrest really make them tell you whatever it is you want to know? (Clearly not, as you can't articulate while you aren't breathing, even if you want to.) Is smashing someone's car not once but twice, injuring the occupant, really the best way to kidnap someone? Especially when you need them to be mentally sharp so they can "fix something" for you? Why is the show so fixated on torture?

You know what I'd like to see Jack do? I'd like to see him sleep for eight hours. It would be a nice break from all the extreme violence of the other episodes. It couldn't really be any more ridiculous than what I saw in the season opener. Just think of how much we the viewers could get done while watching this snooze fest. Pay bills, get a nice yoga workout, meditate, write a letter to granny, or even take a nap ourselves. Now that's comforting.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is of a video game available for the X-Box 360 and the PC. (Our reviewer played it on the PC.) "Left 4 Dead is a fantastic 4 player Co-op FPS (first-person shooter) featuring amazing graphics, several different campaigns, an almost perfect AI, and a "director" who makes it so no 2 campaigns are alike, the game has almost only good things going for it. I personally play this game very often, and I am still not tired of it. With constant bug fixes and exploit fixes being released, this game proves to be one of the best games on the market for at least a year to come. -Bill" Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.