Friday, May 05, 2006

American Inventor: Wigging Out


So remember the great Simpsons episode where Homer is competing with Daryl Strawberry for a spot on the power plant baseball team? And he asks Strawberry, "Are you better than me?" And Strawberry says, "Well, I've never seen you play, but yes."

In the first half of American Inventor last night, a game called Word Ace vied against two other inventions for a spot in the final four. I still have no idea how Word Ace is played. Yet I was convinced from the start it had to win. That's how awful the other two inventions were.

One was an exercise belt with strings. The inventor was clever enough to do the old IBM thing of splitting the work between two competing design teams. But he was stupid enough to have them chase the same design. (D'oh!)

The second inventor was the woman with alopecia ("
gentille alopecia") who stuck a dress shield in her wig ("and called it macaroni"). She gathered a focus group of apparently predominantly flamboyant gay men to suggest who else might like to put tampons in hatbands ("and whiskers on kittens").

"Policemen!" hissed one. "Firemen!" cooed another. "Army men!" lisped a third. "Indian Chiefs!" purred a fourth. (Okay, I may be exaggerating.)

Anyway, as much as we all love pulling strings from our belts or putting maxi-pads in our hats, they really can't compete with a game that actually teaches children to read. So the belt guy goes home to his hot girlfriend, and Alopecia McBeal goes home to Wisconsin, presumably to put dress shields in cheese-hats.

The second half is tougher, because all the inventions are good. There's a toilet seat that stops the spread of bacteria, which is awesome... but it's inventor is a loathsome magician, whose only redeeming feature is his unbelievably sweet, supportive (and can-tastic) wife.

There is a remarkably charming and capable woman who invented a multi-million dollar idea: a clip that keeps ladies' room doors closed. The judge tells her to turn it into a whole "bathroom kit." Then when one of the other judges complains that she went too big with the concept, judge #1 stays remarkably mum. Still, she should be very proud, she out of all the contestants on the show was the most professional, and I think she stands to make the most money.

But come on: the third invention saves childrens' lives. And as I said at the beginning, if this car seat is for real -- and so far, so good -- it should go all the way.

But still, kids should play Word Ace every day.

And one more thing: Remember in Airplane!, when Leslie Nielsen kept poking his head into the cockpit to wish them luck? I thought of that when, for each of the six inventors, someone would pull the string in the middle of Mary Lou's back and she would say, with the same inflection and the same zombified, silver-dollar eyes, "[inventor's name here]... Why you?"

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