Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
'19 Kids,' not counting all the dull bits
OTHER FEATURES CRITIC'S CHOICE SERIES NOTES LATE NIGHT BY KEVIN McDONOUGH,
Reviewing reality television often reminds me of my favorite quote from director Alfred Hitchcock. When asked why his movies weren't more like "real life," he replied, "What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?" Too often, reality television is nothing but the "dull bits."
I was reminded of this while watching "19 Kids and Counting: Duggars Do Asia" (9 p.m., TLC, TV-PG). For the uninitiated, the Duggars are a family from Arkansas. Parents Jim Bob and Michelle have 19 children, and all have names that begin with "J" -- from the eldest, Joshua (age 25), to the baby, Josie Brooklyn.
As one of seven children raised with my parents and grandmother in a house with one bathroom, I am no stranger to large-family dynamics. I shudder to think what our lives would have seemed like had we been subject to a reality television camera crew. It might not have been entertaining, but, to quote my mother, "Life was never dull."
But dull is precisely the word to describe this Duggar special. We watch while the huge brood packs for the trip to Japan. The cost of the adventure or the purpose of the trip are never discussed. Nothing is ever discussed. We're too busy watching them pack. And eat waffles on their way to the airport. And arrive at the airport. And sleep on the plane. And walk through the airport again on the other side of the world. If anything qualifies for Hitchcock's definition of "the dull bits," it's these banal scenes of brazen ordinariness presented with infantile cheerfulness. Look! A big family is walking up to the baggage carousel! What an accomplishment!
Twenty minutes into this riveting programming, I was struck by how this might be worth enduring if it were part of some larger story. What if the Duggars were like the Osmonds or some other musical family, on their way to play a concert in Japan? Then all of these logistics might make sense. Or lead to something. But the Duggars weren't there to sing, dance or perform. They were there to have lunch. And check into a hotel.
Although this show is presented as good, clean, wholesome fun with a religious (be fruitful and multiply) backdrop, I found it more than slightly decadent. Andy Warhol would have loved its flagrant emptiness. There's something rather sad about all these little Duggars -- Jessa, Jinger, Jackson, Jennifer -- being set up and exhibited as postmodern performance artists for us to consume as entertainment.
n "Preachers' Daughters" (10 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14) examines the lives of three teenage girls whose parents are religious and community leaders. It leaves no cliche unturned.
n TV-themed DVDs available today include "Foyle's War: Sets 1-6" and "Petticoat Junction: Return to Hooterville."
Ramsay and crew arrive in Las Vegas on "Hell's Kitchen" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
The better halves of Alan Thicke and Gilbert Gottfried appear on "Celebrity Wife Swap" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
The 2012 geological shocker "Ring of Fire" (8 p.m., Reelz) concludes.
The subtitle is a spoiler as the 2012 miniseries "Hindenburg: The Last Flight" (8 p.m., Encore) concludes.
A winner emerges on the season finale of "The Taste" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Savino (Michael Chiklis) schemes to elect a friendly mayor on "Vegas" (10 p.m., CBS, r).
Tough calls on "Smash" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Megan and her team come under fire on "Body of Proof" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
The new documentary series "Nightmare Next Door" (9 p.m., ID, TV-14) looks into a child's murder.
Drew's escape sets off a wild chase on "Justified" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
Nightclub nights prove fatal on "Dead of Night" (10 p.m., ID, TV-14).
Bowling buddies (Jeff Bridges and John Goodman) become embroiled in an extortion scheme in the 1998 comedy "The Big Lebowski" (9 p.m., TMC Extra).
Rumors spread about Gibbs' ex on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, r) ... "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" (8 p.m., r, and 8:30 p.m., NBC) ... Lavon falls behind on "Hart of Dixie" (8 p.m., CW, r).
A drone strike leaves grim remains on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, r) ... Ray mentors Owen on "Go On" (9 p.m., NBC, r) ... Vincent makes a costly move on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, r) ... Secrets revealed on "The New Normal" (9:30 p.m., NBC, r).
Nina Dobrev appears on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) ... Moshe Kasher, Fortune Feimster and Mo Mandel are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
Steve Carell, Emilia Clarke and Josh Ritter appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Justin Timberlake visits "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Craig Ferguson hosts Minnie Driver and Ben Schwartz on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).