"Poker" Superstars?; and, The Worst TV Show in the History of the Universe

Sunday, March 20th, 2005, 10:34 pm

I just watched the 2nd episode of the Poker Superstars II, at least it was the 2nd show broadcast here in Pittsburgh. This was the episode with Freddy Deeb and David Grey at the end. Now, the first episode, where Kathy Liebert beat Johnny Chan, was 2 hours long. This show was just an hour. Odd.

Even odder was the fact that Eli Elezra was knocked out on the 3rd hand or so, and then they showed a graphic illustrating the fact that Elezra had played 39% of the hands. OK, I know they don’t show every hand during a televised tournament, but you’re rather trumpeting that fact when you show stats like this.

But in truth the entire show made little or no sense. Antonio Esfandiari doubles up early, builds up a big chip lead, and nearly takes out Deeb before Fab Freddy spikes a seven on the river to stay alive. Esfandiari was still chip leader…until we got back from the commercial break. Somehow during those 120 seconds 5/6 of the Magician’s stack disappeared. No explanation other than that he’s run of tough luck continued. Deeb and Tommy Wang and Esfandiari got involved in 3-way pot, which Deeb won. Wang didn’t even have enough to cover the big blind, and he went out a hand later. And then Grey and Deeb went back and forth for a bit before Deeb triumphed.

What was televised had almost nothing to do with “poker”. Nearly every hand they showed for the last half-hour had a player shoving in all his chips because he had no choice. The blinds were so big, the stacks so small, that Esfandiari went all-in with J-6, Wang with 9-3, and both were calls of bets made by the big boys. When it was down to heads up there were several hands where the guy temporarily in the lead looked at one card, saw it was an ace or king, and called. This is poker? It was worse than the most insane Party Poker pushparty. And booooorrrrrrring. There was one goofy hand where Grey went all-in with A-7, Deeb peeked to find an ace and…another ace, and they ended up splitting the pot when a five came on the river to give them identical Wheels. But I don’t think there was a single hand they showed heads up where it wasn’t all-in preflop.

Compare this to the heads-up battle between Deeb and Daniel Negreanu during the Poker at the Plaza tournament. Both players had chips, the blinds weren’t onerous, they could bet and raise and bluff and make sophisticated moves and wise laydowns. Not tonight. And I don’t think you’re going to see poker of that quality in any of the upcoming Superstars episodes. It seems like you have room to make one preflop re-raise, and if you don’t win that you’re desperately shortstacked. Rather a large disappointment.

And then, being a glutton for punishment, I watched The Sketch Show on Fox. I guess Kelsey Grammer lent his name to the show because of some community service requirement he had outstanding. I can’t even tell you how bad this show is. Is it the worst show I’ve ever seen? It might be. Take five random people off the street and make them act, take another five and ask them to write, and they could do better than this offal.

Here are some highlights:

  • Guy and his wife talk to another woman at a party. “I think I know you from somewhere,” he says. He then rattles off ten or so ways they might know each other (high school? Gym? Coffee shop?) to the point where I’m shouting “GET ON WITH IT!” at the screen. Then he asks what she does for a living and she says, “I’m a lap dancer”. The guy steers his wife away and says he must have her confused with someone else. This is the whole joke.
  • Guy is putting suntan lotion on his wife at the beach. He shakes the bottle and says he hopes there’s enough left. “Be sure to get my shoulders,” his wife says. You hear a seagull caw, and then a huge dollop of guano splatters on her back. “That’s it, honey” she says, and with a disgusted look on his face he starts rubbing it in. This is the whole joke.
  • Woman is riding her bike. She passes a street sign that shows the road is curvy ahead (you know, yellow sign, black squiggly line). She rides past, and starts weaving a back and forth on the road. Following the curves on the sign. This is the whole joke.
  • Woman in a grocery store. Her kid won’t let go of a box of cereal he wants. “Put it back or you lose one of your privileges,” she warns. He refuses, and she says, “OK then, you don’t have a mommy anymore.”. And she walks away. This is the whole joke.
  • A couple looks in on their sleeping son, bidding him goodnight. They close the door and she said, “Isn’t it about time we told him he’s adopted?”He says, “But…he isn’t adopted.” She says, “I know, but can you imagine the look on his face?!” They laugh and head back to his room. This is the whole joke.
  • The show closes with with Grammer lying in bed, twisting and turning in the throes of some bad dream. He wakes up and the woman playing his wife asks what’s wrong. “I just had a dream…Frasier was over, and I was in this…sketch show.” His wife tells him it was all a dream, and he rolls over, the horror still etched on his face.

I read a review of this show on CNN or something. Its apparently an Americanized version of a similar show over in England. The review compared this show to Monty Python. This is perhaps the most criminal act of cultural slander in the history of Western Civilization. It makes me physically sick to even think about such an affront to all that is good and noble and silly. One wonders if Grammer will attend a performance of Spamalot, featuring his erstwhile co-star David Hyde Pierce. Or, if he did attend, whether he would have the wit to appreciate any of it.

Don’t panic if you see some cosmetic changes to the blog in the next day or so. Actually, you probably already see some. I may fiddle and diddle with things a bit, if you don’t like something I’ve change let me know, so I can tell you to get stuffed.

On a serious note, send out all your positive waves and best wishes and prayers to Felicia, who got some bad news from her doctor last week. If there’s any benefit to having a bunch of wacko poker-playing scribblers rooting for you, then she’s got that going for her in spades.

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