Archive for the ‘tv’ 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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Ashton Kutcher’s Lateral Move to Nowhere

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

I just watched half of Ashton Kutcher’s romp-com No Strings Attached. By accident. I laughed at a bit player’s line: “The sounds of your sex are ruining my porn!”

Then I got bored and started staring at my thumbs.

Mr. D. Moore has done the same character in about 12 and a half movies, including the glopped-together Valentine’s Day, where he was, once again, the clueless cluck with a heart of gold. Inevitably, I’m confronted with his movies while on airplanes, and each time I shake my head in wonderment, “WHY is he hired?!” …”Why is HE the lead actor?” … “Can’t they find someone else with more than one expression?!” It’s not as though any of these starring roles — The Guardian, Guess Who, Butterfly Effect, Killers, Just Married, the list is endless — has made any money.

Dude, where’s my actor? Ashton Kutcher is not he. This guy is a puppet (also known as a marionette, which is commonly referred to as a dummy)!

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Which brings me to the news: Hiring his abs, err, this piece of plastic to replace America’s favorite Sheen-wreck in Two And a Half Men makes perfect sense — for Kutcher.

While he may be able to give excellent ghost-written speeches at TED and such events; boast about his one million Twitter follower milestone; handle a pretty good starry marriage to a lady who seems like an actress; talk a good game about causes he believes in, and somehow be credited with the forward to a book on social media … he is not a movie actor as much as a well-honed product placement.

Michael Kelso, the character he handily got us loving in That ’70s Showis Ashton Kutcher. He’s the clumsy, daft guy a lot of women find attractive. It’s what got him started, but sadly, he’s never learned to shake that persona and emerge as a respectable actor.

How about creator Chuck Lorre does something different … actually makes an “actor” of him? Shake it up! Bring him back on 2 ½ as the long lost gay cousin … or, shave his head, give him nerd glasses and make him gain 100 lbs. or wear a fat suit. Will the ladies still drool? Who cares. Pay for the guy’s scene classes and wash that perpetually goofy grin away. Otherwise we might just start missing Tiger Blood–at least ratings wise.

Kutcher possesses none of the traits thrown at him. He’s not this big social media guru; he tweets. As for his huge Twitter following, you do know that once you follow him you are unable to unfollow him, eh? Sneaky bastid. AK plays a public part that changes constantly and he does it quite well. Every choreographed move in this man’s life is strategically pieced together by his posse.

I’m glad — for Lorre’s sake, and for the goober mainstream media’s — that a bright-eyed, good-looking malleable Hollywood star has taken that asshole’s place in a show a lot of people like. I hope everyone at CBS is aware, though, that his ratings popularity is, just like Whoopi Goldberg’s, not guaranteed. Pre-The View a multitude of Whoopi’s movies, books, comedy shows and theater gigs fell with loud crashes; she always does well on TMZ“though. [Her unread autobiography was, not ironically, titled Book!]

The big Ash could pull off his new TV gig if he tunes in and recognizes the need for an eight-year-old show to evolve into something brand new AND different. This is a gig in which he desperately must succeed. We all know he is that guy who while not a trained actor (see above) can perform for his supper. As Daniel Tosh might say, “I thank him.” Because dumb is as dumb does.

But, do we have to be just as idiotic to watch?

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A portion of the above was originally created for HuffingtonPost but got killed by its AOL-purchased editors; do you think they’re in bed with Ashton Kutcher? I am not upset about it.

Find me on Twitter posing as @laermer. I’ll let you unfollow.

Buy the Book - 2011

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