If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to talk about deforestation, does it represent a missed marketing opportunity? Yes, answers the week-old cable network Planet Green, a Discovery Channel spinoff now available in 50 million homes. The New York Times quotes Planet Green’s general manager calling its fare “eco-tainment,” and there you have it. Concern for the environment is, among other things, an upper-middle-class privilege and a status marker. Planet Green turns the entire Earth into a lifestyle accessory, often to uniquely awful effect.
The most inane program in Planet Green’s initial lineup is, by a nose, Alter Eco, which, depressingly, finds Adrien Grenier behaving very much as he does in the role of Vincent Chase on Entourage. Verily, the show is promoted as a virtual hangout with Grenier’s “entourage of green activists, experts, and friends,” and it feels designed to provide you with lines to pick up chicks at the farmers market.
In one episode, Grenier chills with a dude—obviously a douche bag, just a biodegradable one—who is constructing an eco-friendly pleasure dome in the hills of Los Angeles, a Playboy Mansion with organic bunny feed. We’re told that the water from the showers will be treated and reused to water the garden, and also that the shower in the master bath will be spacious enough to accommodate 19 honeys. Elsewhere, some of the crew goes to an organic wine tasting, where they swill in a most obnoxious fashion. There are “great little tips” for exercising greenly, such as doing pull-ups on the limb of a tree. People seeking material gain are exhorted to “make that cheddar.” It’s impossible to say whether the show’s smug superiority is more grating than its anorexic thinness of content, but seeing them in combination may fill you with a kind of retributive rage. I for one want to go out and kill a dolphin.
If Alter Eco is Planet Green’s Entourage, Living With Ed, which first aired on HGTV, is its Curb Your Enthusiasm. Actor Ed Begley Jr., who boasts of having owned an electric car as early as the 1970s, is the cranky head of household; his wife, Rachelle, is the spouse battered by her own embarrassment. The show would have us believe that a typical morning at the Begley home sees Ed riding a stationary bike for two hours to generate the energy to make toast. Rachelle scoffs at this and then tosses her Los Angeles Times in the garbage can, and then Ed scolds her and heads up to the roof to spend time with his solar panels. Living With Ed is clearly the most phony and least enlightening show yet devised about the home lives of celebrities, and I include Keeping Up With the Kardashians in that count.
Then there is G Word, a daily magazine show striving after the DIY artsy-craftiness of Boing Boing and the genial glow of an indie Access Hollywood. The hosts stand in a New York studio that looks like a Seattle living room, where they flirt unconvincingly and introduce segments. In one of these, a dorky fool shows us that it’s very possible to get around Los Angeles without a car. To illustrate this, he hops on his bike, goes to a bus stop, gets on the bus, transfers to another bus, and then congratulates himself. Throughout this odyssey—a journey of 25 blocks—fun facts popped up on the screen: “Bike trips create zero emissions.” You don’t say?!
To be fair, Planet Green isn’t always this stupid. What could be? Some of the home-improvement shows are engaging and impressive, and a forthcoming show called Greensburg, about the reconstruction of a tornado-ravaged town in Kansas, has promise. But until Planet Green quits its annoying mix of condescension and pandering, watching it will be an unforgivable waste of energy.