Sunday, January 31, 2010

The NFL Is Playing Games With My Heart

I couldn't write about the Vikings loss last Sunday. I tried. There was too much aggravation. It would have come out a jumbled mess of dirty words and bald jokes. What made it particularly frustrating was the self destruction. We lost by three, but there were so many opportunities we tossed away. We seemed to be doing everything we could to lose.

Then the NFL admitted they blew a big call in that game. A really big call: one that would have taken an interception of the board if they'd ruled correctly. This is not something I want to know. If I hadn't screamed so much during the game, I'd have yowled like a dying animal. This is not a big hardship. It's a part of being fan that everybody deals with.

But here is a list of preferred NFL announcements:
-They have towed Brad Childress's van and declared his mustache against league policy.
-Because he is so awesome, Adrian Peterson fumbles are a hot potato: if the opposing team touches them, they sit in time out for five plays.
-Bonus points will be assessed for how gritty and earthy he appears in postgame press conferences.
-Free Gucci Mane.
-Prince will be playing every Super Bowl Halftime show forever and ever amen; "Purple and Gold" is cut from the setlist.
-When sacking Aaron Rodgers, Jared Allen is permitted to actually calf rope him.
-Rich Eisen will replace Chris Berman at everything.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Situation Needs Better Management

In a moment of negotiations genius, Jersey Shore's the Situation and Pauly D are apparently holding out for more money. MTV offered a deal worth a total of $125,000: $10,000 per episode, plus a $5,000 signing bonus. These walking stereotypes have decided that they deserve a higher pay grade. I watched the whole season. To their credit, they were the most entertaining guys in the cast; carried some weaker episodes and made for good TV. But, I can't think of a worse idea than what they're doing.

It's hard to make money nowadays. The cost of producing a show continues to rise. More and more actors with a lot of film credits on their resume have their own shows. They don't come cheap. Meanwhile, the internet continues to change the number of entertainment options, along with digital TV. The audience is diversified in a way that the older networks didn't have to deal with. A massive hit show now makes up for a tiny percentage of the US population. Profit margins are razor thin. One of the few cheap and effective options is the reality show.

Need to buy script? No you don't! Just get some attractive idiots, buy them some drinks, and press record. What about their paychecks? Most likely, you won't have to: this is probably their only way to be famous. Don't talented people want to be paid? What a silly question! They're not talented. They're young, fit, and have bad judgment. They can't think three hours in the future let alone ten years. Their definition of success is some kind of bizarre morbid 21st century joke. And there a million people waiting for the opportunity.

Situation, smile and take your $125k. Put most of it away, get a stockbroker, buy some property. Think for the long term. Making salary demands is similar to someone wearing a sheet over their head claiming they can't be replaced. You can be replaced. This is a fact. There are plenty of tanned morons who will step into your shoes, and probably for free. Your best case scenario is that ten years from now, someone pays you to hand out drinks and bus tables at a theme party. For the sake of your GTL budget, listen to reason.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conan O'Brien Goes Out in a Blaze of Dignity

Conan was the reason I would smuggle a TV up to my room as a kid. My parents had pretty strict rules about TV watching. It was hard enough to get time for any show, so the idea that I'd be allowed to watch something starting at 11:35 was insane. We had a tiny, old black and white set that was probably twenty years older than me. Some nights I'd plan ahead. In the afternoon when nobody was paying attention, I'd take the television from the cedar closet upstairs and hide it under a blanket in mine. Even when I'd get it hooked up I'd have to be careful...but the risk of getting in trouble was worth it. I loved Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

His sense of humor made sense to me. He was a TV star, a celebrity with a lucrative job and a national platform. But, the character he played was a loser. He poked fun at his pale skin, his goofy looks, and his show's limited budget. He was clearly charming and engaging, but willing to depict himself as a goof who couldn't get a date. His skits were simultaneously cerebral and infantile. One of my favorites was the NBC Satellite Dish, where he created 15 second clips of imaginary cable channels. Examples: Not Cool, Zeus, which featured the king of Greek Gods being inconsiderate, and the Battle for Burrito Island, starring Marlon Brando and Roseanne Barr.

His show thrived on this kind of brainy weirdness, which made me wonder whether the Tonight Show would be a good fit. I wasn't lucky enough to watch when it was the kingdom of Johnny Carson; all it had ever been to me was the program for old people. Jokes with no teeth, just a bunch of bland, inoffensive chuckles. How could Conan fit there? But, it was his dream. He'd fantasized about for his whole life: getting the chance to succeed his hero. I watched the first few episodes and was mildly disappointed. But I thought back to the infancy of Late Night, and I felt like he was too smart not to figure it out. It was a new challenge, a new audience, a new coast. Conan loves a challenge.

He turned a graveyard with a tiny budget into one of the funniest shows on TV. When NBA playoff games or the Olympics pushed his show even later, he made devastating jokes about it. He would have figured this out too, but now we'll never know. NBC was too scared, had spread itself too thin, and the truly believed this was their best option. Credit to Conan for not giving up his dream. Good for him for refusing to compromise and roll over for anybody. He will bounce back. He is too smart, too funny, and too determined to let this stop him from sharing his gift. Jokes that make so much sense to you, that you'll watch them on a 7" set and put a hand over your mouth to stop yourself from laughing.