ABC's "Dot Comedy" is a poor translation of Internet humor. 


Back when dirt was clean I did an interview with a curator of the Smithsonian Institution whose job it was to go around after political conventions, rallies and victory parties and scavenge all the stuff that might someday be of interest to museumgoers of the future. We sat in his graciously appointed dining room in Alexandria and ate hot dogs served on presidential china from the Madison administration. (Or was it the Monroe administration? Whatever. Curators tend to collect in their personal as well as their professional lives, and this particular curator was very proud of his plates and cups that had once been used in the White House. The incongruity of eating hot dogs on presidential china struck him as less significant than his pride in showing them to me.) As the quest to pick a president slogged painfully forward last week, I wondered what the Smithsonian's curators were collecting this year. Were they savvy enough to be saving all that stuff that was circling the globe via the Internet? I hope so. Some of it was mildly amusing. But some of it was hysterically funny. I suppose everybody has seen a bit of it by now. For instance, there's the caricature of the infamous butterfly ballot with a nest of tangled lines connecting candidates' names and punch holes, or the animated file of a ballot with holes that move just as you try to select one. Somebody from the Left Coast sent me a marvelous parody of the "Yes, Virginia" editorial that had been rewritten to assure young Virginia that "Yes, there is a president-elect." Another goodie somebody e-mailed me was the selection of parodies on poets ranging from Longfellow to Dickinson purportedly struggling to explain our Current Troubles. Which brings me to ABC-TV's new prime-time half-hour, "Dot Comedy." It debuted on the same day that the Battle of the Supreme Courts began to unfold. But for a program whose whole point is to show the best of Internet and e-mail humor, it's an utter failure. At a time when politics has us all sitting on the edge of our seats, there wasn't a single bit of election humor to be seen. Instead, we were treated to what looked like the worst of Internet zaniness (and there's a lot of that to select from). The show's two less-than-entertaining hosts sat on a platform that looked like a Victorian hairbrush and showed us MPG files of a drunk guy trying to walk a straight line, another of a boy eating the pepperoni off of a pizza he was about to deliver, and a JPG of the Lincoln Memorial with a giant Q-Tip in Abe's ear. The moral is: If you're looking for Internet humor, get it from the source. ABC's lame "Dot Comedy" is an MPG late and a JPG short.

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