honors 'meaningful' videos
By Dean Robbins
MTV is adept at hyping its Video Music Awards
(Sunday, 8 p.m.) but much less skilled at making
the show live up to the hype. Last year, host
Chelsea Handler laid an egg, and only Taylor
Swift and Florence and the Machine made much
of an impression with their performances. Still,
hope springs eternal, especially with Lady Gaga
in the room. Can she top her meat dress from
2010? Well, she's Lady Gaga, so you know she's
This year, MTV unveils an interesting new category
called Best Video With a Message. The nominees
include Lady Gaga's "Born This Way,"
a plea for tolerance; Eminem and Rihanna's "Love
the Way You Lie," about domestic violence;
and Rise Against's "Make It Stop (September's
Children)," a shoutout to despondent LGBT
teens. The category's one questionable nomination
is Katy Perry's "Firework." I'm not
exactly sure what the "message" is
here, except that all of us should have sparks
shooting out of our chests.
Do we really want to live in such a world? And
do we really want to go to the trouble of revising
all the fire codes?
'Rat Busters NYC'
Friday, 9 p.m. (Animal Planet)
This new series focuses on a couple of New
Yawkers who claim to be the city's top exterminators.
Jimmy and Michael handle not only rats, but
also "every New Yorker's worst nightmare"
— bedbugs. After the premiere episode, they'll
be your worst nightmare, too. Jimmy and Michael
explain that the bedbugs suck your blood while
you sleep, and they show horrific close-ups
of the little monsters. I was freaking out,
just like the Ratbusters' desperate client,
until Jimmmy and Michael unveiled their secret
weapon: a heat chamber. Baking all the client's
possessions to 140 degrees, they explained,
would kill off all the bedbugs and restore his
I have since heated my own possessions to 140
degrees. I even ran this blurb through the chamber,
just to be safe.
Saturday, 8 p.m. (SyFy)
I'm a fan of SyFy's Saturday night creature
features, but this one is stingy in terms of
monster gratification. It's about a mountain
in Nepal that's "forbidden" and the
American corporation that, naturally, sends
up an expedition anyway. Most of the climbers
mysteriously die, so another expedition sets
off to find the survivors.
In a haunted-mountain picture, you expect a
certain amount of hands slipping off rock ledges,
ropes straining, etc. But that's basically all
we get for well over an hour as we wait impatiently
for the reptile-insectoid monster to show up.
During these scenes, the only ones who appear
to be having any fun are the soundtrack's orchestra
members, who get free rein to pound the timpani
and blare the trumpets.
I wonder if the monster got scared off by all
the loud music.
Monday, 9 p.m. (MTV)
MTV tries to put a hip spin on your basic Internet
video clip show. These are the same clips you
watch on your own computer — pets doing stupid
stuff, skateboarders taking spills — but here
you get host Rob Drydek sniggering about them.
MTV, do you really think we'll consider "Ridiculousness"
hip just because it features a host with a sideways
baseball cap rather than Bob Saget, who basically
beat you to this concept 20 years ago with "America's
Funniest Home Videos"? That's not ridiculousness
— it's preposterousness.
'Big Law: Deputy Butterbean'
Tuesday, 9 p.m. (Investigation Discovery)
When you learn that a super heavyweight boxer
is returning to his hometown to fight crime,
you think: Criminals beware. The solid mound
of flesh named Butterbean is deputized in Jasper,
Ala., where he hunts down meth dealers and other
Wait a minute — "Butterbean"? That
name doesn't exactly strike fear into my heart.
To be honest, neither does Butterbean's open,
friendly face or his sympathetic way of interviewing
"I'm a big fan of teddy bears," he
admits in one such interview.
God help Jasper. With Butterbean minding the
store, I suspect meth dealers will be moving
to the area in droves.
'Top Chef: Just Desserts'
Wednesday, 9 p.m. (Bravo)
You'd think a reality cooking series focusing
on dessert would be, above all, fun. But there's
no lightness of spirit among this season's contestants.
They're so paranoid that every glance from judges
Gail Simmons or Johnny Iuzzini freaks them out.
"I couldn't believe how Johnny's eyes stare
deep into you!" one of them says, with
no irony whatsoever. People, we're talking about
banana splits and cupcakes here!
In the challenges, these unappetizing chefs
bitch, insult one another and deflect responsibility
for their missteps. If Johnny really is staring
deep into their souls, he's looking into a void.