Viacom continues searching for the web-TV nexus with this program featuring a half-dozen three-minute sketches — including one generated by viewers — that will then be available online and voted on to determine which return the following week. Alas, the framework is cleverer than the execution, with the debut yielding an assemblage of shorts reminding us how long three minutes can feel. Tailored to cash in on the YouTube generation (oops, Viacom’s suing them), this show is an interesting experiment, but if forced to select from these clips, here’s one vote for “none of the above.”
In the accompanying promo for the series and Web site, producer Jack Black promises that thanks to “Acceptable.TV,” “TV just got a little less shitty.” Well, not really.
The staff-created sketches betray an extremely narrow, uninspired lens that seems to begin and end with what they see on TV: a gameshow spoof titled “Who Farted?,” a reality show spoof called “Joke Chasers,” “Homeless James Bond” and a tiny family called “The Teensies.” One suspects none of them would have made the cut on “Saturday Night Live,” or even “Studio 60.”
The one modest spark of creativity resides in the animated “Mr. Sprinkles,” a “Cat in the Hat” takeoff about a sprightly character who shows up on rainy days and scares the hell out of children.
Everyone is wrestling with the notion of bite-sized Internet comedy (what MTV Entertainment Group prexy Doug Herzog recently called the “video snacking era”), but much like the Current TV venture, VH1 appears to be pandering to that “You’re in charge, viewer” mentality without creating material destined to possess much shelf life or value. As for the thrilling innovation of allowing people to select which elements they prefer, doesn’t some Fox show — “American Idol” or something — do that already?
The Web has demonstrated its ability to offer scenes cherry-picked from TV programs, as popularized by YouTube, as well as shorts people watch on the computer. Still, it’s difficult to see the benefits of TV aping the Net’s cut-rate look and then dicing the material into juvenile bits offering no incentive to sit through a commercial pod.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being juvenile, of course. It’s only the unfunny that’s unacceptable, and judging strictly on its premiere, Black’s pledge notwithstanding, “Acceptable.TV” only manages to make the old tube just a little bit shittier.