Friday, November 28, 2008

BAD TV: Rosie Live on NBC

Just when you think that TV isn't "the shithole" everyone says it is -- Rosie O'Donnell comes along and raises to bar of shitty television to a new level with a variety show special that she was hoping would become a weekly series. The variety show -- "Rosie Live" -- was NBC's gift to America on the night before Thanksgiving and let me assure you that this show was a bigger turkey than the NFL Detroit Lions game that CBS aired on Thanksgiving Day and you have got to be trying really hard to be shitter than the Detroit Lions.

I actually like Rosie O'Donnell -- which makes it hard for me to hate this variety special as much as I did -- but if you're thinking of trying to revive the variety show format -- don't present it like a shitty dinner theatre production of some tired ass Broadway play.

One of the problems that I found with "Rosie Live" was Rosie. All the guests on this show had to interact with Rosie in some way or another and the scripted interaction wasn't funny, it wasn't entertaining, and trust me when I say that not only was "Rosie Live" not enjoyable to watch -- it was gut-wrenching to see such talent wasted like this live on prime-time television.

The show started off with Liza Minelli and Rosie performing together and it was the first indication on how big of a train wreck this show was going to be. Liza's singing was all over the place and Rosie (I'll be gentle) of all of your talents -- singing is not one of your strong suits. Rosie -- you want to revive the variety show format -- you should of had Liza come out and perform her verison of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab". Now that's entertainment!

And then there was Alec Baldwin -- who along with Conan O'Brian -- must have been on the show as a favor to the suits at NBC...why else would either of these two people have wasted their Wednesday night to do this show? Conan appears from being a closed door as a surprise guest only to get hit in the face with a pie -- now that's top-notch comedy that's going to bring the variety show format back (or cause the TV audience to search around the TV dial for something more entertaining -- like watching somebody's bowel being disected).

Rosie even had Clay Aiken pop up on the show with a scripted bit that was "gay" and the sad thing is that they meant for it to be just that. And why oh why Rosie did you waste so much time interacting with everyone when you could have better used the time to expose some of the talent that you had -- such as have Harry Connick, Jr. peform a song instead of appearing to promoting a CD or you could have even had Gloria Estefan sing a song by herself -- it would have improved the quality of your show.

I found it hard to watch "Rosie Live" all the way through -- but I did and judging by the ratings that the show recieved -- I was one of the few people who did....which means that there's a good chance that we'll never see "Rosie Live" again on NBC. Who said that TV executives were heartless? Not me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Memories of November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963.

It's one of those days in history that you knew exactly what you were doing when you heard the news. On that date in history, I was a nine year old boy just starring out the window of Mrs. McLaughlin's third grade class room at Lewis Elementary School on the east side of Flint, Michigan. Looking out the window it didn't look like anything was different that what I saw every other day that I looked out the window, but something was different and everyone in the class knew that something was wrong when Mrs. McLaughlin didn't crack open the Bible and read from it like she did every day of the week. (You got to remember that this was 1963 and this was long before teachers were restricted from reading the Bible to their students in a public school classroom.)

Somebody from the office talked to Mrs. McLaughlin at the classroom door and instead of her reading the Bible to us she just sat quietly behind her desk in front of the classroom. It wasn't until around 2:30 or so that Mrs. McLaughlin announced to the classroom that President Kennedy had been shot and we were going to be dismissed from school early. None of us kids in that third grade classroom really understood the implications of what had happened in Dallas, Texas that afternoon. The President had been shot and kids don't connect being shot with dying -- that's something we never really had to deal with before.

I lived about five blocks away from school and I thought that I'd just go home and sit in front of the TV set and watch cartoons just like I did most every day -- little did my child size mind realize that the news departments of all of the network TV stations would be doing wall-to-wall non-stop coverage of the events in Dallas and there would be no cartoons. My Mom (who had just gotten a divorce from my father just months before) was working at a laundromat some five or six blocks away from our home and wouldn't be home until 7:30 or so -- which normally would not have bothered me -- but watching all of this coverage on the TV about the assassination was starting to scare me. I was so scared I couldn't even get off the couch and I feared what might be waiting for me beyond the furnace grate on the floor in the corner of this reverse L-shape living room/dining room of the house the lived in.

When you're a nine old kid -- seeing your President get shot on television just didn't make any sense and your small mind can't comprehend why adults were feeling like they did -- but you knew that something serious had just happened.

And just like everyone can remember what they were doing on November 22, 1963 -- they can remember just where they were when they turned on their TV set and watched Jack Ruby kill President Kennedy's alleged killer Lee Harvey Oswald. When Ruby killed Oswald, my Mother and I were visiting our neighbor two houses from us. Our neighbor was a deeply religious woman with four kids (one of those kids was a retarded adult who was pretty much sheltered from the public) and for some strange reason -- I walked into their living room and was glued to their black and white television -- the same television that I had seen Arthur Godfrey on one night now showing Jack Ruby pulling out the gun and killing Oswald.

"Oh my God!" was being murmured nonstop by all of the adults in the house as they watched the events unfolding on television.

Those are some of the memories that I have of November 22, 1963 and usually I relive those moments every year when November 22 rolls around -- but for some reason this year November 22 came and went just like any other day. I don't know why -- but I kind of feel bad that I forgot to remember a day in a history that the world will never forget.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Daytime Television

Allow me to bitch and complain a little bit about daytime television. Having worked in the television business -- I am quite aware that what programming that is aired during this day part isn't exactly of high quality -- it's basically mindless brain candy that gives the stations some place to air their commercials. It's also the lowest cost day part in the entire broadcast schedule -- which is the reason that you see the endless commercials for lawyers (that you'd be a fool to let represent you in you were in serious legal troubles), the 1-800-AS SEEN ON TV products category and the home improvement category (the carpet cleaners, furniture companies and window companies). These companies can buy spots during the daytime hours for literally pennies and they end up buying them in bulk so you can pretty much recite these damn ads in your sleep.

It use to be that the daytime schedule was filled with game shows and old reruns -- now it's talk shows and judge shows -- with a sprinkling of shows that not only question the intelligence of the people who watch them, but they make you wonder about the people who appear on them. When you turn on "Maury" -- you know that someone is going to find out that the DNA tests shows that he's the daddy of his sister's baby; and you know that when you turn on "Jerry Springer" that some fat broad is going to show her tits and some toothless a-hole wearing a pair of torn jeans and a dirty wife beater t-shirt is going to deck his daddy who made love to his girlfriend who is actually his first cousin on his Momma's side of the family. Yup, this is the stuff that daytime TV is made of.

Let's talk about daytime talk shows. When I was growing up -- we had a variety of talk shows to choose from: Mike Douglas, Woody Woodbury, Phil Donahue, Merv Griffin, Steve Allen, Della Reese, David Frost, Barbara Walters, and even David Letterman did a daytime talk show for a little while. Today -- who do we have to choose from: There's Regis and Kelly, Ellen, Orpah, Bonnie Hunt, Tyra, Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray and there's even a talk show on Fox that gives a place for Geraldo to stop by and chat about legal opinions on a Friday morning.

If you watch these shows in daytime long enough -- you will find some similarities. Why is it that anytime these daytime talk shows feature a performer doing their hit song they have to show the hosts of the show either dancing or google-eying the performers doing the show live on the air? Hey -- I don't need some kind of certification from Orpah or Ellen that this song and that performer is good I can judge for myself.

Another one of my pet peeves: Can Rachel Ray talk to a guest on her show without having to look at a card to find out what question to ask? Hey Rachel -- I love you -- but you're not someone who's going to ask some serious questions most of the time you ask them what their latest project is and then ask them how important food is in their life -- do you really need to have a card in your hand with the question -- "Do you (or your significant other) cook?" Rach -- throw the damn card away and talk.
And dare I speak about "The View"? Joy Behar actually thinks that just because "The View" was quoted on in the New York Times this past election that played a part with some serious political discourse....pleeeeezzzzzeeeee! Every time they talked politics this past year it was the same old thing -- Joy was the Democrat and Elisabeth was the die-hard conservative voice who wouldn't get off the daily Republican talking points. It was boring and predictable and didn't even make for good TV. If they want to really do some interesting political discussions they should have tried to copy some of the old William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal style arguments from the old "Dick Cavett Show" that was some good TV.

Well, I could go on and bitch some more about daytime TV -- but I don't have the time -- I got to go watch Judge Judy yell at some jerk who hasn't paid child support and I hear that someone is going to win the 250 grand on the daytime edition of "Deal Or No Deal"