washingtonpost.com  > Columns > Tom Shales

Auld Lang Resigned To 2005

By Tom Shales
Friday, December 31, 2004; Page C01

"Happy New Year" -- Bah, that's the real humbug. New Year's needs its own Scrooge to denounce it. Yes, there's plenty of reason to be happy that 2004 is ending, but who really thinks 2005 will arrive in a golden chariot of gaiety and promise? Okay, maybe gaiety. But not promise.

With Dick Cheney, Mother Nature and Liza Minnelli running loose in the world, about the most one can hope for is mere survival, if that.

Joan and Melissa Rivers, above, helped turn the red carpet into a place where celebrities should fear to tread. (Tv Guide Channel)

If life were fair, the egregious excrescences of the old year would vanish with it, and the new year would arrive encrusted with a fresh assortment of drivel and detritus, gruel and suet, dross and dregs, Sunset and Vine, Frick and Frack and, of course, the inescapable muck and mire. Also, if life were fair, I would be a dead ringer for Colin Farrell.

Alas, 2005 will look horribly familiar when it stumbles in on TV tonight, all faux frolic and pointy-hatted. Even better than having the new year arrive with fresh fads and fancies would be if it brought along an engaging new cast of characters -- faces we hadn't seen before, voices we hadn't heard, nine singers singing, eight dancers dancing, seven satirists satirizing, and best of all "talented" people who really are talented and "artists" actually capable of committing art.

You can't "in with the new" if you don't "out with the old." We therefore herewith henceforth submit a list, inevitably incomplete, of things and personalities that, in 2004, stank up the joint and that we could so easily do without in 2005.

If history has taught us anything, it's that -- oh, wait. History hasn't taught us anything. The presidential election alone should remind us of that. What's to become of us? Oh, Auntie Em! At any rate, these are the people, places and things we're most sick and tired of, 2004 edition:

• That "blue state vs. red state" thing. It's dumb, it's polarizing and it's hard to watch any news program without hearing it at least once. Pontificating pundits on panel shows race to be the first to utter it. Let's go back to "the greening of America," whatever that was.

• Ben Affleck, who has turned being photographed with pretty women, or with Matt Damon, into a career.

• Duck AFLAC, meaning that stupid duck that turns up in commercials for insurance cackling "Aflac." Why should a duck be selling insurance? He should be fed a diet consisting of -- the Geico gecko. Why should a lizard be selling insurance? When did we turn the insurance business over to ducks and lizards? Also, nothing is sadder than a commercial that thinks it's funny but isn't, and Geico's aren't.

• How-To TV, including How-To Networks like HGTV. Cooking shows were one thing, not that anybody ever really wrote down the recipes, but now hours are whiled away on cable, which is really nothing but nonstop whiling, demonstrating such no-brain topics as how to insulate the attic, how to plant hydrangeas and how to poop-proof a birdbath. This trivial tripe should be saved for Web sites.

• Web sites. Oh, we know they're here to stay. But is it too much to ask that, if we have to dial a phone number to talk to a machine, the machine then not direct us to yet another machine by saying, "Visit our Web site"?

• Billy Bush. Surprise! There's a goofy, doofusy Bush on the scene who isn't related, at least not closely, to the First Family -- he's the hysterical, insufferable host of the celebrity suck-up show "Access Hollywood."

• "Access Hollywood," and all the programs like it, even though Mary Hart has kept her dignity and withstood the dizzying perpetual remodeling of "Entertainment Tonight." No more celebrity claptrap until we have some decent celebrities.

• Ryan Seacrest -- See "Billy Bush." The same baloney in a different package, Seacrest is the "American Idol" host who isn't noticeably more talented than the untalented contestants he and the audience are always humiliating.

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