On the off chance that there is, God forbid, an afterlife, this writer sometimes considers how he may one day pay for his sins. I may, for instance, have to put in some time tossed by tyrannous gusts in the second circle of hell (on account of lust) or jousting with weights in the fourth (having demonstrated a talent for avarice). And now I may well have to clock in at the fifth and go spluttering in the Styx. Such is the fate of the wrathful, among whom I now count myself given my response to Undateable, the stench of which has been wafting from the direction of VH1 all this week.
For this, we could condemn Michael Hirschorn, a fine journalist also immortalized as “Mr. Bad Taste” for giving the people what they want. As a programming executive at VH1, he brought to America I Love the ‘80s, with its nostalgic quipping on the era of Rubik’s Cubes and hair bands. That hit paved the way for Best Week Ever, on which comedians digested seven days’ worth of fluff news and thence disgorged bilious sound bites with some degree of style. Adapting the Best Week Ever format and sapping it of its energy, Undateable translates to the screen a book subtitled “311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating or Having Sex.” However, the show, a five-night miniseries, advises guys against only 100 habits, accoutrements, and points of idiocy to avoid—not even one-third as many “things”! Consider this a small mercy.
The Undateable viewer is asked to snark vicariously at the bad taste of dweebs, dorks, tools, and various other undesirables you might run into at the mall or the breakfast table. This is not a how-to show but a what-the-hell? show. Thus, we are informed that ostentatious celebrations of flatulence are likely to decrease a man’s odds of attaining a faithful companion or a reliable booty call, as are wearing embellished jeans and sports jerseys and Speedos and Crocs and Cosby sweaters and tacky neckties and “dad jeans” and leather pants and two pieces of denim at once. Further targets of mockery include those fellas who drink wine at an athletic stadium and those who drink girlie drinks anywhere. You know what else is lame? “Lame pick-up lines.” Hey, Undateable, did you fall from heaven? Cuz that might explain your resemblance to Satan.
Too harsh? Probably—but the show’s targets are too easy, so consider it a response in kind. All of us, working under deadline pressure or the influence, or both, have let slip an occasional lazy jest at fanny packs or “moobs” (man boobs), but it is an entirely different thing to build five hours of prime-time television around such material. Undateable, too disengaged from reality to qualify as reality TV, gives snark a bad name. It may well be possible to say something fresh and clever about Star Trek convention-goers, but this show is too smug even to muster the effort. It is easy-listening snark, snark wallpaper, enervative snark.
The persons doing the snarking include both comedians earning what one hopes is a decent paycheck and a terrible bevy of D-list personalities. Indeed, when I say that Undateable assembles a dream team of junk culture, I am specifically imagining a nightmare version of the 1992 Dream Team, one featuring Christian Laettner at every position. The gang’s all here—Bret Michaels, Ron Jeremy, Dee Snider, Bethenny Frankel, someone from Tool Academy, some disposable Playmate, poor Brandy, an oranger-than-usual Snooki. … Is that you, Daisy Fuentes, in among the breakthrough has-beens? Lo siento.
But perhaps you have been glutting on Undateable and still find your hunger unsated. In this case, Dante would say that you should expect to find yourself pelted by foul hail and torn piecemeal by the savage jaws of Cerberus—a steep price to pay, I think, for sneering along with jokes about guys who wear their cell phones on their waists. If I ruled the netherworld, I’d simply have you spend eternity watching a VH1 snarkfest that only attacked VH1 snarkfests—an infinite loop of an infantile regression.