Sunday, October 4, 2009

Letterman Revelation Isn't Funny

On camera, David Letterman is the same clown today as he was when he was hosting a daytime talk show in the 80’s (not long after he began his career as an Indiana weatherman). His humor came from his irreverence.

As an individual, he seemed fairly serious and contemplative. He was said to be with one woman, Merrill Markoe, then Regina Lasko, his current wife, for a long time. He was not photographed out on the town and didn’t ever mention his personal life until he had a son. The conclusion was that he was a fairly straight-up, though commitment-phobic guy.

Last week’s revelation of sex with subordinates is a surprise and a disappointment. There are so few individuals in public life who are as they seem. Now, there’s one fewer.

I guess sexual harassment training isn’t mandatory for someone like Letterman whose World Wide Pants Productions is contracted to produce a program for CBS. Or, he took it as a joke.

But it’s not funny for people in power to take advantage of women (or men) in the workplace. Letterman’s behavior wouldn’t be accepted at most corporate offices or small businesses. In some places, it would be grounds for dismissal.

CBS should investigate and take action. If he is found to have used his position to demand sex, or if women were rewarded or punished for being with him or not, he should be fired, or, at the very least, suspended.

No matter how funny, or successful, or profit-making, Letterman should be treated like any other jerk.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Neil Patrick Harris is Perfect as Emmy Host

Pros and Cons on the 2009 Emmy Awards

  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Great new sets - Finally, producers have done away with the old stage and screen.  They've entered the 21st Century.
  •  Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You" during the In Memoriam segment.
  • Weird pairings - David Boreanz and Laren Conrad, a reality star?????  Bob Newhart on his own?  He's great, but his monologue was out of place.
  • Good pairings with bad dialogue.  It was good to have Kyra Sedgwick present with Kevin Bacon and to bring together the casts of various shows, but why go to the trouble if they're not going to be witty or interesting?  
  • Separation of the show into segments by genre.  This slowed the whole presentation.  And, the whole mini-series/movie segment (which revolved around the same five programs) was a bomb.
  • The writing for everyone but Harris was blah.
Kudos to the producers of the Emmys for a great program from a production standpoint.  It came alive.

Next year, maybe they'll assign better writers to the entire show and keep doing what they're doing with Neil Patrick Harris.  That's a show I'll look forward to watching.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poor Jay: The Debut of The Jay Leno Show

Poor Jay Leno.  Jeff Zucker forced him out at 11:30, even though he was on top of the ratings. Now, they've given him this consolation prize that's an embarassment for an entertainer as successful as Leno. 

On the premiere program, Leno was forced to interview Kanye West on the heels of the Taylor Swift/Beyonce debacle on the VMA program.  He played it straight, not Leno's strong point, and evoked tears.  I couldn't figure out if Jay or Barbara Walters was conducting the interview.  Then, West went on to perform with Jay-Z and Rihanna, a weird segue. 

I was never a steady viewer of Leno's on The Tonight Show.  I thought his humor had sunken from Johnny Carson's high-minded variety to that of Howard Stern.  But he's clearly a good guy who doesn't eviscerate his comedic subjects.  He is consistently funny and that's not easy to pull off for decades at a time.

Despite great ratings (17.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen), this new iteration is horrible.  It's more of the same with the wacky headlines, a monologue and guests.  Jerry Seinfeld was somewhat funny, but the bit was lacking, especially when they brought in Oprah Winfrey via satellite to make it look like Seinfeld and Oprah were stealing the show from Leno.

Jay should be so lucky.  This show will not last, unless the other networks offer absolutely nothing at 10 p.m.   As someone commented on Facebook before the Leno show was even over last night, "I hope they can use the sets for something else."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Charlie and Diane

Charlie Gibson says he was not forced out at ABC and ABC's David Westin insists that's the truth.  I hope so because no one was more deserving of the anchor chair than Gibson. Westin would have had little reason to replace him now.

For years, Gibson has been one of the most solid, trustworthy, intelligent and prepared news people on television.  A long time Washington correspondent who paid his dues, Gibson moved on to Good Morning America and played his role there well, but he belonged in the anchor chair, if not at ABC then at one of the other networks.  It was not easy to see Charlie squirm when, on GMA, he was forced to do light segments (like talking to Kermit the Frog) or promote Disney movies.  You could tell he hated it.  Even the cooking segments were tough for him, though he had an obvious affection for Julia Child when she was a regular.

Gibson could easily have taken over for Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw when they departed.  In fact, Gibson was easily the best of both of those legends.  He has the necessary gravitas.  He's studied, he's quick on his feet and, most of all, he relishes the role.  Like Walter Cronkite and those of an earlier age, Charles Gibson is a news man who loves being part of historical events and wears his patriotism securely but not ostentatiously.

Will Diane Sawyer be a worthy successor?  Yes.  Sawyer has many of the requisite strengths.  She knows her stuff.  She's smart and she works as hard as anyone.  Her only fault is that she likes the spotlight.  Sawyer sometimes allows herself to become part of a piece.  There's a little too much "I" when she's on camera.

The ratings will probably hold their own at ABC and Brian Williams at NBC will once again be in a horse race. But, it won't be the same.  I, for one, will miss Charles Gibson during major events.

And, by the way, look for George Stephanopoulos to be waiting in the wings.  He is the obvious (and worthy) successor to the 64-year-old Sawyer.  Believe me it won't be long until there's a World News Tonight with George S.....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy Coverage: Will It Introduce a New Era in Washington?

My initial thought on the seemingly endless coverage of Senator Kennedy's farewell is that it's been overkill.

Unfortunately, all of us have seen the footage and heard the commentary before, especially those of us who have been around since the 60's.  Ted Kennedy is absolutely deserving of network/cable coverage, but 24/7 for almost an entire week is a lot.

From bad, however, good may evolve.  The fact that the focus has largely been on Kennedy's bi-partisanship and countless friendships with political opponents is enlightening.

Is it possible that those in Washington will heed his example and return to mutual respect and compromise?  Can they abandon the childish behavior of the recent past?

I am an avid viewer of cable news, but I'm also most likely to view programs where the accent is on the middle.  Morning Joe is a perfect example.  Its hosts are Republican and Democrat, and guests are from both sides of the aisle.  The discussion is always frank, but rarely is it not collegial.  The same is true for Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews, for the most part.

Not so much with most of the others.  While you get what you expect from Fox, Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC cannot keep their disdain for the other side in check.

O'Reilly, who says he's centrist and "fair," is the worst because of his obvious hypocrisy.  His claims are insutling to those who actually read newspapers and know the truth.

As is often the case, a return to mutual respect may be short-lived, but one can hope.  At a time when so many major issues are ready for reform, a meeting in the middle could be Ted Kennedy's "dream that will never die."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Closer Season Finale

Though the final episode of The Closer, directed by Kevin Bacon, was good, it lacked a real punch, despite the strong subject matter about a serial killer.

There was a compelling twist in the search for the culprit, a visiting Texas law man already on the hunt for the same killer.  Who was going to find him first and who was going to be able to prosecute?  Texas, with the death penalty?  Or California, without it?  Of course, Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) would outsmart her competitor.  Or would she?  In the end, she gave in to her sympathy for the victims and conceded to the Texan.

On the home front, it was Brenda vs. her husband and her father over whether visiting neice, Charlie, would return to her parents back East.  She surrendered on this, as well.

The producers of The Closer billed this season as "one of change," which led me to believe there would be significant character development.  I really didn't see it.  The character of Brenda Leigh Johnson continues to put the search for murderers above all else.

On the other hand, this show is extremely entertaining and the characters (particularly G.W. Bailey as Lt. Provenza) and the smart dialogue are the draw.  Sedgwick is deservedly nominated for an Emmy for her role.  I will be watching when The Closer returns in December.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm wondering why TV programmers ignore Sunday night. Yes, "60 Minutes" can be compelling, but I think it's popularity surged because there has traditionally been nothing else on. Tonight is a perfect example. Nothing great to watch. "In Plain Sight" is over and "Amazing Race" has not yet begun. I'm somewhat intrigued by "Shark Tank," and I love "Entourage," but otherwise, nothing.