Archive for the ‘News’ Category

‘The Comcast Evening News’

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

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Walter Cronkite brought us the evening news for decades; we watched in awe. Uncle Walter packaged stories of import that made tens of millions stop, sit, lean forward, and grab it in. There was never a doubt that Cronkite was in charge.

These days we have Brian Williams presenting segments that are for the most part neatly packaged promos with a tie-in to Universal and Comcast. NBC’s daddy has a huge portfolio of lower-rated cable networks that Comcast feels must be showcased on the network news. These include the Weather Channel, NBC Sports Net, USA Network, Cloo, and even a new African American storytelling site (theGrio), all of which are mentioned in more than half of what’s covered in News With Brian Williams (not including the previews of NBC’s Dateline).

Where a sacred shroud of church and state existed during Cronkite’s day — entertainment programming knew nothing about the news division and vice versa — has gone by the wayside thanks to new-fashioned desperation in the form of memos from the TV gods.

Williams keeps losing his cred as he brings on “experts” from various Comcast holdings — see early May’s letter to the Justice Department about Comcast by Sen. Franken — and hypes the latest Universal movie in segments, wincing all the while. Like most wage earners Williams must believe he’s imminently replaceable and the hardworking chap can still see skid marks where Tom Brokaw was pushed out. He probably thinks they can wind up a new anchor via the hype machine called “NBC.”

Yes, network advertisers are mentioned in the news all the time. (It’s comical when a sanctimonious reporters act as though that never happens.) But corporate entities make news and many of the giants are solvent enough to run ads too. As for the giggly morning shows, these have been promoting primetime programming with gusto between stories about menopause since J. Fred Muggs — the chimp — hosted Today in the ’50s.

But a well-preserved, ultimately brief, news show has a duty not to produce three segments about USA Network’s airing a 50th anniversary telecast of To Kill A Mockingbird; or do nightly storm stories right after its parent buys the Weather Channel; or hype meaningless sports hours to help low-rated NBC Sports Network. These aren’t reasons to use 22 measly minutes allotted for informational programming.

And Williams is no innocent. He joyfully previews news-free interviews coming up on his own Rock Center With Brian Williams, NBC’s “Dateline Lite” that keeps getting new time slots searching for viewers (Monday, Wednesday, Friday–now off the air during May Sweeps). NBC This self-promotional NBC Gone Wild is so out of control that last month Weekend Evening News host Lester Holt ran five minutes of a commencement address he gave at Pepperdine U!

If the network news producers act like weaselly pegs in oversized conglomerated wheels while the bosses dictate all movements then it’s soon going to be hard to tell what is news from what is a commercial for Comcast.

Watching actual ads on the evening news (i.e., must-pee pills for erectile dysfunction or overactive bladders) prove there isn’t a lot of demand to advertise. So cancel the evening news, already, and produce 30 minutes of promos of shows on Comcast properties rather than pretending 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. is news. This new show is exactly what E! Entertainment Television — NBC’s closest sister — does with ease.

Comcast owns or co-owns more than 25 networks and sites — iVillage, A&E, History, Oxygen, Golf Channel and DailyCandy to start — and many were smart investments. But ripping apart the proud peacock when NBC News has better ratings than its weak nighttime lineup is sure to lessen Comcast’s value. What’s bad for viewers is bad for shareholders.

It’s likely “creatives” like Williams and Holt have built enough goodwill within NBC to ignore the baser objectives of their bosses. I remember how, after Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked to the media about her new show Watching Ellie. She said she refused to allow network executives on the set. The quick-witted star snorted: “As if any notes from the network has ever helped a show.”
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Improve Your Life (and Those Of Others)

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

breaking-bad-habits.jpgEvery day we act in ways that don’t move us forward. I stay in bed longer than needed, sue me. With that here are a few late-year ideas on ways to make everyone around you like you some and tips on how to be a better human:

1. Stop using “!” in email subject lines since you’re not as important as you think you are. Remember nothing is urgent except babies flying out of mothers. And stop blind-copying. This is a big eyeroll and people will think less of you (and thinking is hard to do).

2. When stepping into an elevator turn off all contraptions and talk to the person there. Try a few human steps and maybe Orwell can stop spinning in his grave!

3. When driving just drive. Try it once. No CD changing, satellite connecting, phone dialing, talking to yourself, text making, makeup wearing, seat adjusting, screaming at back seat person, even singing. “Accidents will happen. I don’t want to hear it /Cause I know what I’ve done.” (Thanks Elvis.)

4. Pick up the phone and call someone with whom you sport-mail constantly (back and forth, forth and back) but haven’t called in — no, no you’ve never called! Voices carry. Indeed.

5. Grab a piece of trash on the way to work (stop — not a person) or Starbucks. After dropping the trash in the can, spritz your hand with Purell when you arrive.

6. Say one fabulous and positive thingat random about your spouse, whether you feel like it or not. To anyone.

7. Count your change. I bet you half the time there’s a mistake there. Let the cashier know they got caught. The crowd behind you will cheer…

8. Ask someone — anyone — for help. Even if you have to pretend you don’t know everything. This act always surprises people. Then you’re not the jackass they thought.

9. Read something that surprises you, and share it with someone you don’t ordinarily like. See the response. Then watch the relationship change in seconds.

10.First breathe. And then speak. Three breaths, deep and strong. It’s stunning what happens when things that come to you in your own addled head stay there.

11.Ignore the newest technology. For once. Don’t run to the Apple Store. Damn it, watching the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy on your new techno-toaster is not a good use of your glasses.. If we put a machine down for seven seconds an hour, we become better than Neanderthals. Vonnegut will smile down from wherever he is.

Thanks for playing. Now try and become a better words of wise-ass-ness than me. I dare you.

Are you still reading?

@laermer good

…being in Athens as it falls down

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

athens_plus1.jpgAthens is the dirtiest, foulest, most-disorganized city I’ve visited in decades. The capital city of Greece is ripe with pollution; there isn’t a motorbike that doesn’t snort emissions far worse than cars. I can’t get enough of it and you can sense the excitement in every section of town. Each person wants to help make this nation great again.

I am drawn to the pact the citizens have made with each other to do whatever it takes to improve the bad scene that scares everyone I’ve met. (Bizarrely, there is nonstop graffiti on every pubic available space that appears to be an encouraged outlet!) Still, if you ask any Athenian he will tell you “I have no idea how to fix this. I just know doing it will be painful for us all.” To fix this place there must be some consensus on what went wrong, and this Government can’t even say that is decisions have been bad for decades.

Not a political reporter by trade, I have spent four decades running towards cultural happenings before their awareness is widely known for magazines, newspapers, TV commentary–and via fiery blog posts. Here in Civil War Athens I blanched when I was first told about the Government’s policies on getting away with it - there isn’t anything the Greek Government won’t do for its friends - and I wonder if the organized strikes the world witnesses so casually are only the first spark of hell for this godforsaken place.

The entire town sat still for 48 hours while protesters took over the city square, forcing every business that sold anything to shut down in solidarity. (It’s wild to find everything here being unionized while none of these groups are, to the naked eye , connected by ideals.) The local pharmacy closed to protest a law that says anyone with a permit–even an optometrist–can naturally pass it down to his next of kin. This is madness. If you own a taxi medallion you can hand it to anyone you know at a price set–by you.

This is a place that, since the torturing junta was thrown out in 1974, turned to a definition of democracy that says “Here!” Public sector jobs are given to whoever the giver knows. There are no standards here–a recent census proved every family has an unwarranted worker among them. d. There has been a general acceptance of tax evasion for anyone who has a cash business including service pros, General Contractors and any smartass who could take cash. The only people who hate these facts are the ones in the streets now. Does this sound famili A relatively small percentage of the nation makes a lot of money–and everyone is under- or unemployed. Sound familiar? made a lot of people rich–and the rest of the people unemployed. It is such a known fact how Greece has been bilked by its childish leaders and “those in the know,” in its shamelessness it renders Bernie Ebbers and that Tyco freak petty thieves. Only thing that surprises Greek citizens is how long it took for these outrageous backwards laws, a known house of cards, to bankrupt the whole nation.

Patronage is a word that you don’t hear much in the “first world”. Here it is a matter of record. The citizens are asking millions of Greeks with work paid for by Government to stop their selfishness and think of the whole: They want workers to work in jobs that are sanctioned; they know some of them will be unemployed and sacrifice is the word everyone throws around. It may seem comical to the British or American, but no one in Greece has ever been “made redundant” and yet there are more than two people doing every public sector job. So this is political nightmare that can only be undone when tough, swallowable rules are voted upon. Don’t forget: two years ago when the I.M.F. asked leaders how many Government employees existed the answer was no one had ever counted!

Older people and young kids are holding placards in the city center alongside those you expect at a loud protest. (Police are reticent to act; they appear to recognize friends in the crowd.) All the people are asking, from where I stand, is that jobs are kept by the ones who work their asses off and pay correct taxes–jobs that are unnecessary must cease. And, yes, union heads must agree to take concessions in order for the European Union to loan Greece all the funds it needs to keep it from losing incoming travelers.

After a week here I believe that these leaders are childish and scared to change; and that Greek professional workers will never accept those in power. A lady I like here said: “You have laws in your country and we don’t. I’d hope Americans realize how lucky they are every day.”

I am proud of all Greeks in what I am calling the European Fall because although it is hard to breathe the air and the trash guys still refuse to budge, no one is fleeing–I haven’t met anyone who wants to abandon what they started. “Something has got to give,” a lively store clerk said with a sudden sad expression. “I have a job today and am lucky; tomorrow I probably will not. Who can know!” There is a sense Greeks will accept what may come–even if it means the worst. Like all Mediterraneans, at night The Plaka is packed with partiers. I don’t see a lot of Athenians staying home eating takeout–they need to converge. When I asked a new friend in a trendy cafĂ© in Gazi–once a slum, now a super-busy Soho–he shrugged. “We will get through it–but we’ll be hard to recognize on the other side.”

It’s difficult to sleep The hotel window is open and the buzz outside is palpable even as the daily The New York Times claims Greece is turning a corner I think not: The nation will fall hard before its revival because no one on any of the multiple sides wants to budge. The next time I come here I’m certain nothing will be the same. There will be many people out of work. Taxes will be paid by people who have never filled out a form. Undeserved funds handed by the European Union–which Greece should never have joined–will have been spent and a hand will be out again. Garbage will be collected by private entities. Each union will ask for concessions and most will be thrown a bone. Yes, strikes will occur every day. The tourist areas will be separated and likely overseen by troops. There will be many people to blame, and a whole country to thank, for the changes. The Ancient Greeks will be proud.

[My new book out in 2012 is titled How To Fame.]

My List (Is a Very Very Very Fine List)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

optimism.jpgIs this the worst economic hardship we’ve suffered through? It’s bad, that’s for sure. And yet… Let’s Imagine a Worse Year! Sorry 2009 was ugly but it could get yuckier if we’re not careful. I’ve hereby devised scenarios to make this bright Christmas seem like the best yet! See,in the next 12 months who knows: you could find everything you ever believed in suckered-punched sideways.

Everything has truly hit rock bottom if:

…The World Famous Magnolia Bakery converts to The New York Breadline.

…Black Friday is a holiday when no one buys anything.

…Tiger Woods opens a self-defense school

…You’re forced to get that new Shareable PDA, smarmily branded as 2010’s PartyPhone!

…Stouffers sells frozen dinner called LeftOvers.

…Jeff Zucker transfers to Golden Light Bulbs at GE.

…An internship replaces a regular job…..for CEOs.

…An email comes offering “Provides New Stamina,” and it refers to your mind.

…Airplane seats are auctioned off at SalvationArmy.com. I mean the chairs–not chances to fly.

…Someone famous dies and instead of going “Wow I can’t believe this,” and spending time emailing/statusing our friends, we just go on with the day.

…The only no-reunion-ever band Talking Heads reforms with David Byrne for a cover album of Sinatra cover ballads; guest hosts Regis, then does a daily drive-time show on talk radio. Finally, Byrne embarks on the Whenever-I-Call-You-Friend tour with Stevie Nicks.

…A town known as Off The Grid pops up; it’s geographical equivalent of the train’s Quiet Car. That is: nothing can be done between people but talking–and sex.

…Jake and Reese officially split up — and admit that the whole thing was a sham and that Taylor and Taylor are following in their footsteps LA publicists commence hunger strikes!

… The NY Post and NY Daily News merge–and reemerge as Entertainment Weekly. Ultimate mashup!

…NBC dumps the whole of prime time for That Leno Show (third hour hosted by Kathie Lee)

…But no one notices.

…SiriusXM Satellite Radio changes into White Noise Inc.

…A much loved, decades-old magazine ceases publication –and no one tweets about it.

…Google can’t close a deal! Google files for, well, no one knows.

…Taxes are lowered across the board. Schools are shut, parks close down, highway medians remain half-built. Oh, yeah right, that’s California now.

…Without a new gimmick on deck, Glenn Beck and Beck duet on a CD. (And, in times of direst straits, Martha Stewart and Jon Stewart are combined for a gig on LifeSucks channel.)

…Having a meal at your parents’ is not obligatory any longer since you need the sustenance.

…We rent our homes by the hour to couples. Thousands of highway motels go under.

…Sappy Web videos do not cheer you up (sorry, ukulele-playing kitten!).

…It is unlawful to dub yourself “talent” or “talented” unless it’s true.

…Trump & O’Donnell are the new Sonny & Cher. (Cher sues. Cher pouts. Cher marries Donald, Jr.)

…Popular Wine Clubs replaced by even more populated Whiners Anonymous.

…Legal betting on which celebrity will be forced into exile is the newest national pastime. Results from this are mandatory. No ifs or buts.

…Wal-Mart has a hissy-fit when a chain called Smears opens. [You know, the new Sears and Macy’s combo.]

…IHOP runs out of batter! Japanese restaurants run low on rice! Hooters runs out of… you know!

… Newly-freed Katie Holmes is slated to star in Mission: Impossible 4 - A Woman Scorned!

… Janet Jackson starts seeing Bubbles on the down low..

… Palin joins Real Housewives. Does anyone notice?

…NotAGuru.com becomes a hot 12-Step Program.

…Microsoft and Apple join hands: iPod and Zune become IZod, a strangely compelling the line of musical clothing.

…High school and college reunions are the only networking events left.

…The words “on sale” are automatically cut-and-pasted by “please buy this.”

…Kirstie Alley loses a whole bunch of weight through hunger. Food markets in Beverly Hills close.

… Government certifies the donut crumb as a vegetable for schoolkids.

…Congress passes The 2010 Say Something Act, whereby useless phrases are taken to the woodshed: “Sounds Good,” “Booyah!” and “No Problem” are first. And “Game Changer” added at last minute.

…At the same time, lawmakers tell drugstores to sell, you guessed right, pharmaceuticals and that’s it.

…Home-free families create habitats in zoos.

…Ryan Seacrest, sensing attention-to-him deficit just as E! folds and American Idol finds a knowledgeable music biz host, finally admits he’s–happy.

… Nigerian scammers pay us.

…Some idiot who writes lists as blog posts is roundly ignored.

…Paul Simon calls Garfunkel to see how he’s doing.

NY Times promises it will never ever publish another of those 2000 stories on how social media is the saving grace for brands. No one….yep.

…Joe Biden makes some sense.

…All remaining newspapers -4!–are purchased by fifth graders. They recognize their reading level.

….Kissing is named new Olympic sport. (Say it together now-: Awww.)

…Aability to marry yourself passes in 47 states and Guam to portray the true meaning of equality.

…Zac Efron, lost without screaming teens to support his entourage, is forced to make High School Dropout

…You read this long, unadulterated list and go “Wait. Shit - really. That could happen.”

——–Twitter @laermer and @howtofame

GM Kills Saturn, Oldsmobile & Its Own Spirit

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I got called a downer back in February when I

Television In 2009: Desperate Attempts At Nothing

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Gossipeur: The Second of an Inane Series

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Starting last Friday, until whenever it ends, I will be reporting on the facts behind gossip

Gossip Cop: To Protect and Serve Who?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is the first of an inane series on one of America

The Lion In Water

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Ted Kennedy was the lion of the Senate who lived a long and consistent life as a public servant. Not even political foes can argue that his service was not of the highest order; he served just as his brothers before him had. Always a liberal trendsetter, this Kennedy pushed for single-payer national health care starting in 1974. A consistent promoter of what he believed was right, the man never wavered.

Throughout the career of the Massachusetts leader, a notable cloud followed him at all times. He was not able to shake Chappaquiddick

Lenny Bernstein Will Smile Now

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Leonard Bernstein, the emblem of 1960s New York and icon of the time when classical music still mattered, would have been 91 this week.

Bernstein came onto the scene when art music was cool. Here was a 25-year-old with a wild haircut on stage with the New York Philharmonic. The kid was a rock star when Mahler was still considered rock!

To get an idea of the world during Bernstein’s prime: For nine years, from 1962-1971, CBS broadcast more than four dozen of Bernstein’s Young Person’s Concerts LIVE from New York and these shows were syndicated to more than 40 countries. Think about that. A major TV conglomerate (”suits”) broadcasting hours of classical music to every set in America for almost a decade, and advertisers paid for it. Today we get 12 episodes of Harper’s Island from CBS if the ratings hold water.

Unfortunately, Lenny probably wouldn’t much recognize or appreciate what the audience of the Philharmonic and its counterparts is now: It’s old. I mean really old. If you go to a concert these days, expect to wait between movements for the old people to stop coughing. I’m serious! Lorin Maazel even steps off the podium occasionally.

So what happened here? Why didn’t the next generation follow their parents into the orchestra halls of America? It is said our nation’s constantly-shrinking attention span got the best of art music. As Robert Putnam’s sick-with-research Bowling Alone notes: urban sprawl and the logarithmic growth of the availability of everything have made in-person social events that last more than 15 minutes pretty much outr

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