Rodney, which airs Tuesdays on ABC, is a show about some guy named Louis, but since the show is named Rodney, everybody on the show calls Louis by the name of Rodney. This running joke draws incessant guffaws from the audience every time it occurs. If this were actually the case, it would make the show twice as interesting as it actually is.
Standup comedian Rodney Carrington plays Rodney, a chawbacon numbskull father typical of the new millennium. This seems to be the trend in today’s representation of fathers on sitcoms. Is this how the world views us fathers nowadays – as inane, childish boors? I would be offended if I wasn’t such an inane, childish boor. Personally, I consider myself more of a concerned circus shovel thrower who, through a combination of playful and circumstantial events, is financially responsible for my children, and not so much a goof of a father. Whatever happened to the Howard Cunninghams, Mike Brady’s and Ward Cleavers of the world? They must be in rehab. Speaking of Ward Cleaver, remember that one episode where Beaver got his head stuck in the wrought iron fence? That really happened, and they wrote a show around it. It’s true; some guy told me.
Rodney (the show) fills the ABC quota of providing a country-style, Blue Collar TV type show to accommodate the yokel demographic. Rodney (the goofdad) has a wife, two sons, a slut sister-in-law, a knucklehead friend and crappy job at some plant. This raises the question, why do I need to watch this on television when I can go down to the bar and experience it firsthand by listening to Stan, Joey the Toucher, Irv and Bouncin’ Reggie whine about their lives?
This week’s episode offered two story lines. The son had grown pubes, and the friend had grown breasts. The writers’ challenge was to come up with as many man-boob jokes and as much father puberty talk awkwardness as possible. They were successful in their quantity, but fell short on the quality. Throw in a concerned mother, a perturbed younger brother and the slut sister-in-law grabbing her own chest and you have a show. That’s all it takes in today’s programming. Not one mention of anybody getting their head stuck in a fence. I took a page and a half of notes detailing the specific events in the show, but I choose not to relive them now nor bore you with them. I bore you enough as it is. If you feel like committing brain damage on yourself for a half hour each week, go ahead and watch the show. Although, I did find myself laughing uncontrollably during the fourth scene. I composed myself by the next commercial break by which time my dog had finished licking the raw ground beef from the bottom of my feet.
There is a looming issue more important than the lack of quality of this show. That is its title. Rodney. That’s the best they could do? Not even Rodney: Goofdad Warrior Princess, or Rodney Scratches Himself, or Rodney Shouldn’t Be On TV, or Little Rodney on the Prairie. Couldn’t they come up with something unique to show us they actually tried to make the show a worthwhile watch? Not to mention an entirely different issue in that we already have an established Rodney in the world of comedy, be he dead as he is or not – still receiving no respect from beyond the grave. Why don’t you call me sometime when you have no class?
Titles are important. They set the tone. They make an impact. Consider Moby Dick by Herman Melville. What if that book (as well as the whale) was called Rodney? Does the word "rodney" sufficiently provide the reader with the foreboding peril that is depicted in the book? No, it does not. Come to think of it, neither does "moby dick". What the hell is a "moby dick"? Nobody knows, but at least it causes you to wonder until you reach the conclusion, "I don’t know what a "moby dick" is, but it can’t be good, and it probably forebodes of peril." The word "rodney" suggests visions of bumbling and stumbling and a general disregard for competence. A whale with those characteristics would be lucky to scare plankton into submission, let alone stouthearted sailors. Here is an example of how Moby Dick might read if it were instead titled Rodney.
Ishmael: Captain Ahab! Captain Ahab! Rodney is attacking the boat and picking his teeth with our harpoons!!!!!
Ahab: What’s the big deal? Can’t you buffoons do anything for yourselves? It’s only Rodney, for criminy sake.
Captain Ahab reaches into his tackle box, grabbing a fishing net, and walks up to the main deck. He reaches over the side of the boat where Rodney is chewing on the anchor, and scoops up the whale with the net. After sauntering to his cooler, Ahab drops Rodney into the awaiting ice and slams the lid.
Ahab: Now, was that so difficult? Everybody better leave me alone until I finish crocheting these harpoon cozies or else it’s the plank for the lot of ya!
Ahab storms back into his cabin.
Ishmael: That man is amazing. Oooh, I love him, so.
Queequeg (apprehensively gnawing on a tuna): I suppose if I were a bear, I’d probably like eating fish.
This version doesn’t seem to portray the distinction of a literary masterpiece. Lucky for us, Melville took five years to compose the title, Moby Dick. Legend maintains that he almost chose "The Whale-inator" as the book’s title. Imagine the possibilities if he had opted for this instead. Not only would the book have been a success, Ahh-nuld would have another hit movie on his resume’. Even the great Herman Melville had his limitations – everybody makes a wrong choice sometimes. After he determined the title, Melville completed the text in about a day and a half. The title transformed a mere whaling manual into a masterpiece.
The creators of Rodney would have done us a favor had they committed to the same title choosing diligence as Melville. Had they done so, the show would not yet be on the air, relieving us the possibility of accidentally watching it. Instead, they chose to slap on a generic title to reinforce the show’s entertainment value, and force feed it to us through our airwaves IV tube, while a tear drips down the collective face of Howard, Mike and Ward as they cling to sanity at the sitcom father convalescence home.