Put Your Socks On Mama, Now

It was another warm night in the valley, and the Internet was down. Cut off from the world, unable to forage among the endless supply of worthless news articles and sports scores or however else people waste their time online, my roommate and I were forced to spend several hours with our first love: Cable TV.It's not as if we don't normally watch TV. The TV's on pretty much all the time. I turn it on every morning even if it's just background noise as I prepare for work; I find its mindless chatter soothing, the white-noise coo of a mother over a crib. But last night was different: We cruised through tiers of premium pay channels as if on a mission, determined to find something to take our minds off the fact that we were sweating bullets, our balls stuck to our thighs, trying to maintain a minimum of movement, wondering just how hot it has to be for your ankle to sweat this much. We needed to find something good. And find it we did. We've got a ton of cable channels we just never watch, mainly because no one in their right mind would watch GAC when you've got HBO. But it turns out that we get quite a variety of esoterically programmed music networks, among them Fuse TV. And last night we discovered a sparkling freak show, a glimmering beacon of absurdity amid the wasteland of weekend programming, a discover akin to finding an original Picasso in an Oklahoma garage sale tagged at $2.50 with a complimentary set of McDonald's souvenir glasses. My friends, I'm speaking of Pants-Off Dance-Off. It literally is as simple as its title: Contestants strip on camera to a music video playing behind them. The production costs have to be extremely low: Green screen, video, camera. Put it on the air. The show's obviously got a fleshly appeal, and I'm sure I don't need to sell you on the transfixing merits of watching some pretty toned women who teach aerobics or tend bar shake it onscreen to some generic dance rap/R&B. There were chunks of time during which my roommate and I simply sat, staring silently. But the show's much more than that. This thing is like freak central. The skull-shattering humor started to hit home when Ron, an old man, began to simply bounce back and forth, arms extended akwardly, while The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" played behind him. Even 20 years ago, Ron would have been way too old for that music. Does he like The Cure? Was he given the song by whoever told him to do the show? The mind reels. And it's not as if Fuse is mocking these people; there's an air of genuine openness about some of the dancers, many of whom dance like retarded goats but don't care. It's like all the cool kids in high school took the day off, and the theater students decided to put on a show. The unicorn girl was frightening. She just stood there in her underwear and a boa with A GIANT UNICORN MASK* on her head and shook quite unerotically. It was like watching my nightmares come to life. It was as if Cronenberg and Lynch had a really poseur-ish hipster love child that just got really into exploitive irony. And I couldn't look away. There was also the dwarf dressed like Elvis, cape and all, and he was pretty ripped for a little guy. There was the woman with clown makeup, who so thoroughly unnerved me that I will not speak of it further. There was the really, really gay guy, like so gay he was back to straight and then gay again, who danced to Prince. Man. The whole thing was amazing. If you watch any of the clips on their site, be warned: There's partial nudity, and it's not pretty. But more than that, you might not be able to stop yourself. There's something oddly affecting about watching a clearly unbalanced man named Glenn dance sadly in an undershirt to obscure pop. It's a fascinating cross-section of America like you'd find at an airport. Only topless. *I know that the tools out there will try and call me on using caps, though careful readers will remember I didn't ban the practice outright. Now can it.