It's official. I've been invited back to Career Day at my daughter's elementary school to talk about my work. And don't get me wrong. I enjoy hearing all of their questions, such as if I've ever interviewed SpongeBob Squarepants and if I know any agents they can get their screenplays to. (It is Los Angeles, after all.) Still, I know what's going to happen. Other jobs will draw bigger crowds, like when the firemen let kids spray the hose and the race car mechanic lets everyone sit in the driver's seat and the ER doctor shares gross surgery stories.
I'll get the overflow crowd who couldn't get into those sessions, and even they will still be distracted when the kids in the police group get to play with the siren. That's why this year, I feel like I need to come up with a flashier sales job for being a TV critic. I could go to my ace in the hole - "Whenever your parents tell you to go outside and play, you can just say you're researching your future career." Or, maybe I should just explain that by watching shows like this batch, you get to experience many different and interesting careers without ever having to choose just one. As you can see....
Alien Tornado, Sy Fy, Saturday, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
Take a look at that title again. Now, just repeat it to yourself a few times. You should now have two reactions. First, is that not the funniest movie name you'll come across this week? And second, upon hearing it, how can you not want to watch this movie that's about - yes - aliens who try to take over the planet by disguising themselves as tornadoes?
So what does this have to do with jobs, you ask? Simple. I'm plugging this wonderfully cheesy B-movie of the week because it continues Sy Fy's elegant habit of churning out upgraded versions of the sort of good-bad horror thrillers I used to watch on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid. And because I think the best job in television is coming up with the titles. To whoever has already created everything from Swamp Volcano to Dinocroc vs. Supergator to Mansquito to Ice Spiders, I salute you. And.....are you accepting resumes? I would really love to pitch you on my ideas for Killer Koala-pocalypse and Hell's Hailstorm.
Real Housewives Of New Jersey, Sundays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
The table-flipping, tantrum-throwing, very much non-coupon clipping Jersey housewives return Sunday for a fourth go-around, settling into the second best job in television - being a reality star. It's a gig where the sort of bad behavior that would get you fired on a real job actually gets you bigger and better deals. Just ask Teresa Giudice, who has been the focus of the show's attention ever since the table was turned (literally) in the first season. Since then, she has written cookbooks, been on Celebrity Apprentice, even done commercials....who knew that tossing furniture, living beyond your means and venting every angry emotion the minute you have it would be the ticket to fame and fortune?
Well, everyone in this cast, actually. That's entirely the point of each entry in the dysfunctional Housewives. These Jersey women just seem to understand that perhaps more than the others. Which is why, if you enjoy watching petty people say mean things about each other so any drama in your life seems tame by comparison, this is the show for you. And the season for you, thanks to Teresa's "stardom." Advance word is that every other housewife - Caroline Manzo, Kathy Wakile, Jacqueline Laurita and Melissa Gorga - wants nothing to do with her now. That of course means that they'll end up having everything to do with her. And the showdown between this crew will make the battle between Dinocroc and Supergator look like, say, Curious George vs. a Care Bear.
Fox 25th Anniversary Special, Fox, Sunday, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
The third best job on TV has to be working as a programmer at the Fox Broadcasting Company. Ever since it signed on 25 years ago this month, it's always seemed like the kind of job where you can stay out late partying, show up in your office around noon the next day and when asked for ideas, just say whatever pops into you head. There's really no other way to explain shows like the post-apocalyptic comedy Woops! Or M.A.N.T.I.S. Or Women In Prison. Or giving Chevy Chase a talk show.
However, for every time this freeform approach to show development didn't work, there were some spectacular successes (either creatively or ratings-wise): The Simpsons, The Ben Stiller Show, The X-Files, Beverly Hills 90210, Arrested Development, 24, House...it's a very long list, and one that deserves to be celebrated with this special that looks back on the higher points of the network's relatively brief history. Expect plenty of past stars to pop up to talk about the now familiar Fox attitude, which started out brash and bratty but has, like that of most 25-year-olds, mellowed and matured. Although I do hope there's a segment devoted to the folks on the job in the Fox reality department, who have been hard at work all these years giving us such treats as The Littlest Groom, otherwise known as The Bachelor for little people, and Mr. Personality, otherwise known as The Bachelorette with 25 guys wearing Mexican wrestler masks while host Monica Lewinsky (yes, that Monica Lewinsky) looked on with bemused detachment.
Veep, HBO, Sundays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
There may be no funnier job in America than vice president. Think about it. From Dan Quayle to Al Gore to Joe Biden, having this gig is like playing the Wacky Neighbor in a sit-com. Meanwhile, there is no funnier actress on television than Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Hence, my excitement for this new series that debuts on Sunday. The idea of Louis-Dreyfuss playing the vice president is just way to good to pass up.
She is Selina Meyer, a VP who apparently has about as much access to the president as I do. And I've never even been to the White House. Judging by the clips I've seen, Meyer is the quintessential Louis-Dreyfuss character: a rough mix of arrogance and insecurity who is surrounded by a group of even stranger friends and co-workers who make her quirks look sane by comparison. No word on whether she'll be able to work in, say, some Elaine Benes dancing. Even without that, though, this series seems poised to be even wackier than a Dan Quayle spelling bee or a Joe Biden press conference.
Deadliest Catch, Discovery, Tuesdays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
My job has never required me to learn the difference between red crabs and blue crabs. Not even once. In fact, I had no idea they were color-coded. And yet, thanks to watching the guys on Deadliest Catch do their job, I now possess this knowledge. I'm allergic to seafood, so this information will do me no good but still....it's a perfect example of why this show is still the godfather of reality job series and can is thoroughly entertaining even as it starts its eighth season.
Here's the thing. Very few of us will ever have to deal with the stormy seas these guys navigate on the job every day. However, watching them deal with their stormy relationships with each other seems so real and raw, it's hard not to relate to the men of Deadliest Catch. You may not have a job as rough as theirs or co-workers as gruff as they are but at the same time, they are living blue-collar lives the way most people in this country do. The closest I'll probably ever come to life on a fishing boat is watching Finding Nemo at the orthodontist while I wait for my kids, but I will stay (wait for it....wait for it...) hooked on this series because in the end, it's still all about the people and those people continue to be compelling.
Dance Moms: Miami, Lifetime, Tuesdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
They say that being a mom is the toughest job there is. However, I have to say that there is one job that is probably even tougher. Being a mom on Dance Moms. The gig requires you to be mean, petty, self-absorbed and crass pretty much 24 hours a day. (Which, I believe, are the same requirements listed on the Real Housewives job posting.) That's what made the original Dance Moms a real piece of work, and things are no different in this spin-off set in a Miami dance studio run by two humorless men - Victor Smalley and Angel Armas - who are fond of saying things like "We don't want dancers. We're in the business of making stars!"
Whether it's the pushy and abrasive Debi (mother of Hannah) or the pushier and more abrasive Susan (mother of Jessi) or the rich and pushy and abrasive Abby (Sammy's mother), the fun of the show is trying to decide whom you rooting against more. On one hand, that's unfortunate because kids are involved. Many of them may come across as bratty, but you forgive them because you see the homes they come from. On the other hand, however, this is fascinating to watch for anyone who has had to sit next to the dad at Little League games who screams at the umpires or the mom who pulls her daughter if she didn't get a solo at her dance recital. Tune in for even one episode and I guarantee you won't feel bad at all about that one time you griped that your kid got stuck as a third munchkin from the left in the elementary school production of Wizard Of Oz.