GRRR! Touching Message in Time of Trash TV

Call me jaded, but I've never really been a conformist.

I find anything considered "party music," like "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" and the theme song to "Friends" among the most cheesy tunes ever written, and I find equally cheesy anyone who rushes to the dance floor or bobs one's head to said tunes.

When I was a DJ at a 1950s theme club during college, the same people would request the same songs every Friday:

"Can you play 'Brown Eyed Girl' or 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light?'" they'd squeal, and when I finally couldn't take yet another request for the Van Morrison or Meat Loaf anthems, I'd capitulate and grudgingly spin the vinyls.

And then I'd cringe when a group of squealing girls and their nerdy boyfriends rushed to the dance floor to do the white man's overbite as if they'd never heard those songs before in their lives.

Just to speed things along I'd peg the pitch on the turntables to top speed, making Meat Loaf sound more like one of the Chipmunks instead of the raspy rocker he is.

Ah, the memories.

I also never really cared for anything considered "Must See TV" from NBC's heyday.

"Friends" and "Seinfeld" never really appealed to me, mainly because all of the fraternity and sorority zombies and the office coffee klatches would quote from those shows ad nauseum. I chalked up the popularity of both shows up to the millions of unoriginal Oblivions among us.

Maybe it's just me, but tell me something's "Must See" and I treat it as something I must avoid.

Therefore, it has been with extreme skepticism that I tuned in to "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" on NBC, from "West Wing" creators Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme but starring former "Friends" ensemble player Matthew Perry and "West Winger" Bradley Whitford.

Add the always-entertaining D.L. Hughley and the babealicious Sarah Paulson and Amanda Peet, and I find this show hard not to like.

"Studio 60" is a program about a weekly variety comedy show, much like "SNL," also on NBC. Last Monday they did something that I might have once found cheesy, yet found utterly touching, and it made me realize what's been missing in television recently.

Amid the reality TV frenzy where so-called "real people" are pitted against one another in un-realistic situations to win some kind of extraordinary prize, the lines between scripted and non-scripted (or fiction and non-fiction) television has become irreparably blurred.

And when television-show producers do try to do something meaningful, it's usually so disingenuous that viewers are mostly turned off by the gesture.

Therefore, when a fictional program is able to deal with a real issue in a simple yet touching way, the message hits home.

In the episode called "The Christmas Show," Whitford and Perry, who play co-executive producers of the fictional program, discover that union musicians on various TV shows were calling in sick so that out-of-work musicians from Hurricane Katrina-damaged New Orleans could get a union card and a paycheck in time for Christmas.

The co-EPs decide that the "City of New Orleans" would be the musical guest that evening, and five of the most brilliant horn players since Wynton Marsalis take the stage for a beautiful rendition of "O Holy Night."

Without pontificating or shoving an agenda down its audience's throat, "Studio 60" reminded us that there are those who are in pain and who need help, and what better time than Christmas to reach out and lend a hand.

No Grrrs there.

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