Kendel's Crew: Pixilated But, Alas, Not Pixelated
Sunday, March 19, 2006
They say the magic of cable is that it provides a programming niche for every viewer. There are channels for those who love cooking and those who love home decor and those who can't get enough reruns of "The Golden Girls."
For those who love amateurish production values and subject matter that's alternately monotonous and obscene, there is an on-demand cable series called "Live Right: Straight Talk on Substance Abuse," hosted by Kendel S. Ehrlich, the first lady of Maryland. It includes achingly dry interviews about The Problem of Drug Use Among Our Youth and -- inexplicably -- one episode that appears to have drawn inspiration from that pillar of the documentary genre, "Girls Gone Wild."
For example, there's a scene in which a fellow in a nightclub pulls his most private body part out of his pants. This seems rather inappropriate to us, but hey, we're not the substance abuse experts.
Last year, Ehrlich, who was paid $55,000 for her role as executive producer and star of "Live Right," attempted to get the show into Maryland public schools. The series was deemed unsuitable for children. But happily for us, it is still in circulation as part of our Comcast digital cable package.
We set out to review the show, which we confess was a little difficult to find, tucked into an obscure corner of the on-demand lineup, next to "Dating on Demand" and "Taxes." The first few episodes, we found, are plodding and poorly edited, endless conversations with those affected by substance abuse, brightened by rare flashes of insight. But then local cable television has never been noted for its high drama.
And then we got to Episode 10. It is called "Live Right: Ocean City," and bears a warning: "For mature audiences only."
Standing on the beach in a blue polo shirt, the first lady introduces the episode:
"We're going to send our camera crew to the beach to hang out with teenagers the week before they go to school. This program is going to show the physiological aspects of alcohol. We'll let the story unfold in the time sequence it occurs. Come on, let's go!"
We join a group of unidentified young people in bikinis and swim trunks who smoke, curse, joke about herpes and lesbianism, ogle their beach mates and act increasingly inebriated. A guy talks about how much pot he smokes. A girl jiggles her hips and the camera pans gratuitously to her bikinied lower torso. The language is unprintable.
The first lady does not appear during these scenes and, frankly, we find ourselves missing her. We want a chaperone.
A clock tracks the teens' drunken progress and, occasionally, a bubble pops up on the screen explaining what the teenagers might be experiencing now. For example: "Increased Sociability" or "Incontinence."
At 2:30 p.m., one guy says, "I think I found the hottest chick in the world! You gotta see."