Film and TV

Reality Bites: Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

It's New Year's Eve. Many of you are doubtless girding your loins and hardening your livers for a night on the town, while others may opt for parties hosted at various friends' domiciles. If you plan on indulging, please make good use of Uber or the city's various taxi services. Otherwise, have the decency to pass out in a bathroom stall somewhere.

The parents among you -- those who aren't entrusting your offspring to a teenager who's going to raid your medicine cabinets for Adderall as soon as your headlights disappear around the corner, that is -- will likely make an early night of it, secure in the knowledge your trusting little darlings don't yet know the difference between 8:35 PM and midnight.

Whatever your plans, there's a good chance a TV somewhere in the vicinity will be set to ABC, so anyone interested can watch that annual reminder of America's love of variety TV and apostrophes, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.

Now that we've gotten the introductory pleasantries out of the way, can we all agree New Year's Eve is the fucking worst? As (pseudo)holidays go, Valentine's Day is a close second, but it at least excludes those of us not in active relationships or who've been together long enough to ignore it. NYE is simply forced merriment, and makes you feel like the Cygnus X-1 of jubilation if you're not whooping it up with a party horn, pointy hat, and thousands of strangers as the clock strikes 12:00.

It's also amateur night for drunks. The only thing that really rivals New Year's Eve in Houston for the number of annual boozers making poor decisions is the Rodeo, and that mayhem is at least spread out over a month. Mark my words, if you're on the roads tonight you'll see at least five accidents or DUI stops before that 9:00 rerun of Stalker on CBS.

Now that I think about it, CBS is the only major network not airing some commemoration of the new year. It's probably because they realize few in their core demographic care to be reminded of the inexorable march of time.

New Year's Rockin' Eve first aired in 1972 on NBC, moving to ABC two years later, where Dick Clark took over hosting duties for the next 32 years. The "Rockin'" part of the show's title was a necessary modifier, the better to differentiate it from the big band stylings of Guy Lombardo's venerable NYE broadcasts. It would remain immensely popular until Clark suffered a stroke in 2004, which forced him to pass off the majority of hosting duties to Ryan Seacrest in 2005. Clark died in 2012, and Seacrest is the Duke, he's "A #1."

Seacrest has made something of a habit of "acquiring" properties from ailing DJs. In addition to New Year's Rockin' Eve, he became the host of radio's American Top 40 following the retirement of Casey Kasem. Now, I'm not saying he had a hand in either Clark or Kasem's eventual demises, but I'm not *not* saying it, either.

He's also never been able to satisfactorily explain his whereabouts during the JFK assassination.

Seacrest and co-conspirator Jenny McCarthy will lord over the proceedings in Times Square while tens of thousands of ingrates cram into what is the closest approximation of a human slaughterhouse corral you can reliably find in the Western hemisphere. According to NYCGO, revelers start arriving as early as 3:00 PM to get a good vantage point. For those of you lacking the requisite urban sophistication to comprehend such a thing, that's nine hours of no food, drink, or nearby restroom facilities spent crammed into various viewing "pens." All for the privilege of watching a giant ball of Waterford crystal slowly descend earthward for, oh, about 90 seconds.

But what else do your hours of patience and borderline hypothermia afford you? Well, not only will you get frottaged by a million of your fellow revelers, you can also enjoy a few of this year's musical acts. In addition to Taylor Swift, who may or may not sing a song about how tough it is to be a rich, American 20-something white woman with lots of boyfriends, you can also enjoy the Staind-by-way-of-Big-&-Rich aural violations of Florida Georgia Line, Idina Menzel (who's going to sing that goddamn song again), as well as MAGIC!, a band whose sole (god willing) hit "Rude" is exactly as obnoxious as the spelling of their name.

Meanwhile TV viewers will merely have to endure several hours of Seacrest's leathery rictus and McCarthy's thousand-yard stare as the two try to distract us all from the fact he produces Keeping Up with the Kardashians and she champions the right for parents to avoid vaccinating their kids, allowing them to succumb to easily preventable diseases and endanger everyone else in the process.

I'm not sure which is worse, honestly.

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. Let's all try to be better human beings in 2015.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar