Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Boob Tube: Will Everything at NBC Be Coming Up Rosie?

Ben Silverman is sort of like Harvey Weinstein, in the fact that he is a gift that keeps on giving to folks like me who like to discuss the shortcomings and bunglings of Hollywood moguls. His latest misadventure are reports that he has signed former comedian, talk show host, and View spewer Rosie O'Donnell to host a new prime time variety show. (h/t Defamer)

Can anyone say: Massive stink-bomb?

I'm afraid that Rosie O'Donnell burned too many bridges with her past antics, and alienating that precious flyover country audience. And don't say it's because she's a lesbian, Ellen Degeneres is as out as a lesbian can be, and has ratings that have been consistently going up while even daytime Queen Oprah is slipping. That's because while Ellen plays to the audience, Rosie plays to the Axis of Ego and its satellites in upscale Manhattan neighbourhoods and the Hamptons. Where Ellen comes across as the goofy average person that most Americans would accept as their wacky neighbour, Rosie comes across as shrill, obnoxious, narrow-minded, and openly hostile and affressive to anyone who differs from her opinions in the slightest.

Rosie's fame is derived from kissing up to those more famous than her. She got her boost from "best friend" parts in chick flicks to her own talk show because she was friends with famous people and usually kissed their asses. While the show did succeed for a while, people got bored with her wild swings between brown-nosing Tom Cruise, and attacking Tom Selleck. H

er time on
The View did boost the ratings for a while, but not out of any real affection for her, but out of a sense of schadenfreude over what craziness would come stumbling out of her mouth. And let's not forget her claims that "fire does not melt steel" and that 9/11 was a secret conspiracy between the Bush Administration, the Freemasons, and the Girl Guides.

Oh, people will watch, for a little while, but mostly out that same sense of schadefreude of seeing rich celebrities debase themselves in public in sub-standard sketches and musical acts.

But there's another reason the show will ultimately fail.

The art of prime time variety broadcast network shows in North America is dead.

It died the day Carol Burnett retired her long running show in 1978.

Why did prime time variety die?

There are several reasons.

1. The Star Has To Be The Centre Of The Show: Back in the 70s just about everybody famous had their own variety show. Most were quickly forgotten. The singer Tony Orlando had his own show, and found the schedule gruelling and exhausting, but alway noticed that Carol Burnett, who shot her show in the next studio always looked rested and fresh. He asked her how she was able to survive the grind, she said "Get a Harvey Korman." Basically it meant that any memorable variety show had to have a top notch ensemble, and that each member of that ensemble had to have a moment to shine.

Burnett didn't have to be the centre, or even appear,
in every sketch. Gladly letting her supporting cast have their moments in the spotlight. It made them look good, it made her look good, and it made the show better, because it expanded the scope the writers had to work within. While you may have a fair sketch for Burnett to star in, if you had a really killer sketch for Korman and Conway, she'd say go for the killer. Pleasing the audience was what mattered not feeding her ego. (The paychecks from owning a piece of the wildly successful show were compensation enough)

Nowadays there can only be one star, and all the rest must be anonymous stooges, serving only to deliver straight lines and step back while that "star" did their thing. Anyone who dares to outshine the star is immediately dispensed with, for fear of displeasing the star.

2. Too Many Try Too Hard To Be Hip: Look back at the old Carol Burnett sketches, and while the clothes and the hairstyles place the show within a certain time, they don't feel particularly dated, while other shows seem embarrassingly dated. That's because the Burnett show really didn't deal with what was considered cool or hip, and when they did acknowledge it, it was as a target of satire, not as a bandwagon to hop onto.

3. Too Many Hollywood Stars Take Themselves Way Too Seriously: When you look at the old shows, with Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Bob Hope's specials, they almost always featured big stars acting goofy, ad libbing, and generally making asses of themselves. Most modern stars, excepting a rare few, really don't know what to do if the sketch goes off the script by even a hair. They're too scared about hurting their image to do something really silly just for a laugh.

Most couldn't hack it doing live sketch comedy without a sizable safety net, it's damn hard, I know, because they think too much of themselves. Many of the Golden Age stars, no matter how huge, considered themselves professional entertainers, working class folks, not some special elite granted privileges because of their celebrity. Most, unlike John Wayne, wouldn't put on the bunny outfit unless they thought it made some sort of grand political point that makes sense only to themselves. They don't just go for a laugh for the sake of a laugh.

Oh well, at least Rosie's show won't be on that long.

No comments:

Post a Comment