Entry 1
A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 26 2005 2:53 PM

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Learning to like Barney
Learning to like Barney 

It is 6:20 a.m. on Sunday. I have just put on Barney for my almost 3-year-old, Iris. I used to hate Barney, but now I kind of like him. When your child wakes up at 6:20, and your brain is mush, and you need to keep your child occupied so that she doesn't wake up the rest of the house, Barney becomes a great friend. I don't want to give away what happens on this episode, but Barney speaks Japanese.

My daughter Maude was 5 when she realized that Barney had only one expression. She couldn't stop laughing when she noticed this. She ran around the living room with this psychotic Barney smile which never changed, and then started saying, "I'm happy. I'm sad." She laughed some more and then screamed, "Help me! I don't know how to feel." At 7, my daughter also punched up the drunk-driving sequence in The 40-Year-Old Virgin—which features my wife, Leslie Mann, as the drunk driver—by saying to me one day in the car, "When mom is driving badly, she should fall asleep." The next day she tried to button the joke by telling me, "Dad, when mom falls asleep in the car, she should gas."

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After we showed the movie to a crowd, I came home and told Maude, "Mom falling asleep got a huge laugh." To which she replied flatly, "Yes, but did she gas?" When I said, "No," she just shook her head. She is either in for a lifetime of neurosis or a lucrative career as a comedy writer.

I've recently dragged my family to Charlotte, N.C., where I'm producing Will Ferrell's next film, which takes place in the world of NASCAR. Things are quieter for me when I'm producing than when I'm writing or directing, so my wife and I have been catching up on some of our television. Yesterday we watched the premiere of Nip/Tuck. That is one of our favorite shows. When I first watched it, I couldn't tell if it was good or bad. It had moments of perfect drama, then high camp, and some scenes that seemed plain bad. It was hard to tell if the writers knew which parts were good and which were insane. Now I see that that is their unique, difficult-to-define sensibility. What is fantastic about the show is the writers did everything a show would normally do in five seasons during their first season, and now, because they've burned through all of the normal storylines, the show lives on another planet all its own. Last night's episode ended with graphic sex and a three-way. I am all for those things, but somewhere a senator is writing a bill to let the FCC take over oversight of standards for basic cable. I could live with less thrusting, if that's what it takes to avoid that. Maybe writer Ryan Murphy is confident enough in his film career to create a firestorm on his way out the TV door.

My wife and I watch a lot of reality TV. I know this sounds odd coming from someone who has written a fair amount of scripted televison, but we love it. Sure, we feel dirty and ashamed after watching an episode of Being Bobby Brown, but we still keep it high on the TiVo list. What is fascinating about that show is that Whitney Houston never discusses singing or her career. Do they cut all that stuff out, so that they can focus on moments where they are discussing her need to go to the bathroom?

The drama that is Danny Bonaduce 
Click image to expand.
The drama that is Danny Bonaduce

It is hard to tell, but it seems like they are high out of their minds during a fair amount of the show. I may be wrong. In a way, I hope they are high, as that would explain a lot of it. It is a shocking show, but not as good as Breaking Bonaduce, which may be the best reality show made in a long time. Breaking Bonaduce is well-crafted and dramatic. I think the reason that reality shows are so popular is that most scripted television is fairly predictable and generic, even when it is touted as original. They all seem like re-dos of St. Elsewhere or L.A. Law or Twin Peaks. I think people are drawn to truly unpredictable, odd human behavior. I know I am. And most of that is on reality TV, unfortunately.

I wish all shows were as strong as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos, but until they are, I will happily watch Rock Star INXS. Speaking of which, I could not have enjoyed that show more. The finale was hilarious: The band seems supercool, they appeared to pick the right guy to win, and then they ended the show with him singing their new single. The only problem was that the new song is terrible. There you had this young guy—so excited to be in this band—and they make him play a song as bad as something you would hear on one of the albums the Doors made after Jim Morrison died. The singer, JD Fortune, actually wrote a good song for the band during the season, "Pretty Vegas." They should have gone with that.

It's like a few years ago, I heard ELO had a new album, and I was very excited to get it. It was truly awful. Such things make me scared for myself. Is there a moment after you have had some success, where you are no longer good at what you do, but you think you are still the shit? That is a truly terrifying thought for me. I can wake up in a cold sweat fearing one day I won't be funny at all, and everyone is afraid to tell me. Maybe it has already happened, and this diary is the beginning of that era of my life.

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