Bill Maher refers to the tendency to sit and watch a movie that you come across while flipping channels even though you own the DVD of it and can watch it any time you wish, as Shawshank Syndrome.
There's an even more insidious affliction emanating from your cable system. It's the tendency to sit and watch a movie that you come across while flipping channels, even though you've seen it plenty, you don't like it and you know you never will, yet you convince yourself that maybe if you watch it now, since nothing else is on, that it will somehow get better.
I call this Being Gung Ho For No Discernible Reason Whatsoever, named for the 1986 Michael Keaton film about what happens when a Japanese automobile manufacturer buys the economically endangered car assembly plant in a depressed Western Pennsylvania town. Part comedy, part drama, part social commentary, Gung Ho is total dreck. Its topicality has turned to datedness over two decades. Ron Howard's direction, featuring many nods to the MTV ethos of the day, is hamhanded, another victim of time. Keaton's appeal as a leading man is better covered by a cape and a cowl. His character, a Chevy Chase ironic wise guy but with a heart of gold, makes no sense in the context of his job, which is saving the factory, rescuing the hard-working, blue-collar men and women of his community, relating honestly to the Japanese executives and learning to grow. The cast includes a hodgepodge of the miscast: John Turturro, George Wendt, Mimi Rogers and Clint Howard. Put simply, every time I see Gung Ho — whose title is taken from a phrase that means, literally, “extremely enthusiastic and dedicated” — it gets a little worse…yet I'm somehow a little surprised that it's really as terrible to watch as it is.
But I sit and watch it more often than not, especially if, like last night, I'm sitting up with a nagging headache and, you know, there's nothing else on. Last night I caught about two-thirds of it, declared it a disaster, watched something else until (with my head still kind of bothering me) I discovered Gung Ho had started again on one of HBO's West Coast feeds. Then I watched the part I had missed earlier to determine that, no, neither the movie nor my head nor my judgment was improving.
Why we sit and stare at programming that is obviously and predictably dreadful, that we've seen too many times and that doesn't soothe our aching heads one little bit I'll never understand.