|Dennis Miller is the host of NBC's new Friday night game show "Amnesia." (CHRIS HASTON/NBC PHOTO)|
Thanks, NBC, for reminding us once again of how much we truly need TV writers. By delivering two dull, weightless new game shows, "Amnesia" and "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad," the network is scaring us into an appreciation of scripted television. Watch these two hourlong slogs and you'll be crying out for new episodes of "According to Jim," "Two and a Half Men," "Cane" - anything that involves memorized lines and stage directions.
You'll also be shedding a tiny tear for "Amnesia" host Dennis Miller, whose career has come down to following in the footsteps of Howie Mandel.
Both of these shows from reality honcho Mark Burnett premiered last week to fill the dead period before scripted TV returns from strike-induced hiatus. "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad," which airs Mondays at 8 p.m., ultimately wins the prize for being the most unbearable of the two, although the competition is tight.
Hosted by Dan Cortese in the manner of a slightly depressed Dane Cook, "My Dad" has father-child teams competing against one another in physical stunts and quizzes. The dads break desks apart with axes, they swing their kids on ropes toward a target, they answer questions about pop culture. It's as exciting as watching strangers at a Saturday morning Gymboree class. When the gym is 100 degrees. And the screeching is loud. And you're hung over.
The kids get over-stimulated, but, having been carefully chosen by the producers, they also get schmaltzy. "I'm a little disappointed," said one daughter upon losing last week, "but I still love my Daddy." Earlier, that same kid boasted, "I love my daddy so much there isn't a word for it." I know one little girl who has a future in the greeting-card industry.
"Amnesia," tonight at 8, is a variation on "This Is Your Life," as contestants answer questions about their own history. Miller deploys the personal trivia with his trademark razor tongue, like a card shark playing Go Fish, asking about high school exploits and favorite children's books. Last week's player, a very game fellow named Will Fowler, remembered a few things, most of them embarrassing. When Miller brought out Fowler's father to get material for questions, Will stood in a glass booth with headphones on, dancing like a 1960s teenybopper at a record store, enjoying his moment in the TV sun.
Spending a Friday evening listening to trivia about a stranger's childhood. Good times.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.