Screen savors: Playing us for fools

Xtra HOT's new I Pity the Fool is where Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil rejects go to get advice from the wisest of all TV make-it-all-betters... Mr. T.

mr t (photo credit: )
mr t
(photo credit: )
Ever wonder where the people who were rejected from The Jerry Springer Show or Dr. Phil go for help? What our sage daughter referred to as "the folks poor white trash call poor white trash?" Apparently, to Xtra HOT's new I Pity the Fool, where they get advice from the wisest of all TV make-it-all-betters... Mr. T. Yes, Virginia, it's the same Mr. T. you remember from The A Team, the one who wasn't gettin' on no airplane, Hannibal. And the same Mr. T you remember from Rocky III, from which the title of the show is taken, as when, referring to our hero, T snarled that "I don't hate Balboa, but I pity the fool." Too bad Xtra HOT didn't take pity on its viewers when it signed on for this TV Land-produced six-part absolutely awful reality program. Of course, one of the problems for Mr. T is that reality and fiction seem to have blurred many, many years ago, perhaps explaining why he's still wearing a '70s-style jumpsuit in 2006, when the show was made. In fact, the whole show has a definite retro look to it, probably on purpose, especially on TV-Land, where old TV shows never die. Even the special effects are hokey, as when mom/horse-farm operator Sue Layton writes in to Mr. T about her problem teenage boys. "Dear Mr. T," she writes, and we actually see her writing, "My boys have no respect for anything... Mr. T, this farm needs your help," and Mr. T's image emerges from inside her! How lame is that? Well, not nearly as lame as the rest of this "unscripted" show. (Yeah, right). "Mama Sue's got four big problems on her hands - her sons!" growls Mr. T, whose dialogue really should be close-captioned. "They got a lotta learnin' to do. And you know what I'm gonna learn 'em? I'm gonna learn 'em some RESPECT!" (Flash word RESPECT on screen, the weekly value that's part of each episode). Completely appalled so far, we nonetheless pressed the "play" key on the VCR. Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea. "T Challenge Number 1," snarled our host, "Boys Gone Wild." Next we saw the four Layton boys running wild at their house. Dad: "My kids don't clean up after themselves." "We argue about everything" says Mom. "You raise boys on a farm, sometimes they act like animals," says Mr. T. Groan. Mr. T appears at the farm, shown running down the road in his red jumpsuit and signature shaved head, as if he were about to meet Face, Murdoch and Hannibal. Acting as if he wasn't at all expected - which is the same stupid thing they do in all these reality shows - Mom and Dad are suddenly all "Hey, Mr. T" etc, but when our host calls the boys over, they just yell: "No." Clearly they missed Rocky III. Cuz the former B.A. don't take no B.S. But oh, that non-script is awful. "These boys thought they were the James gang," says Mr. T as the boys are shown riding. "More like the lame gang." Ouch. "I had to find out why they was actin' the fool!" After ambushing their new teacher with water in a scene about as badly set up as any we've seen on TV, Mr. T administers a wake-up call of his own, gradually whipping the four into shape ahead of the big country horse show by having them make their parents breakfast and inspiring them to behave better. But nothing at the show smelled any worse than Mr. T's poetry, including: "If you want to get a boy to stop actin' the fool/All you have to do is show him lovin' his Mama is cool." Move over, Robert Frost. If that's not bad enough, in between segments of the godawful mess, T offers little homilies about life, such as "Life is tough, I'm tougher," and a warning: "Hey you, with the short attention span! It's time to settle down with a good cup of T!" This is beyond appalling. Before long Mr. T "had 'em respectin' their mama, respectin' their horses and respectin' each other." Just not the viewers' intelligence. With the previously bratty Adam now willing to say "I love you, mom," (cue tinkly music and slow-mo close-up of teary mom), it was time for T to run off, with the family yelling: "Bye, Mr. T! Yeah, Mr. T!" Guess that was the "non-scripted part." Just when we thought our suffering was over, there he was again, celebrating his success by offering (wait for it)…a haiku. Ready? "Wild Dayton horse boys lacked respect. Sue was upset. T brought them wisdom." Then a gong was sounded. Roll credits. We assume there must be some fabulous new show Xtra HOT was able to get in return for subjecting viewers to this drivel. At least, we hope so. And why, why, why start with episode 5? We'll have to get Mr. T over to HOT headquarters to find out what's with CNN and get them to show us a little respect, too. Plugging Grade Z reality shows into the schedule is really acting like fools.