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Ecks Factor: Free-Floating Hostility

As a television viewer, I am subjected to a lot of ideas in 30 and 60 minute time periods. Sometimes, the ideas are creative, innovative and imaginative. Sometimes, the ideas are ridiculous, absurd and downright stupid. Sometimes, people do stupid things. Sometimes, people do stupid things constantly, never learning their lesson.

In honor of the late George Carlin, I am calling this piece "Free-Floating Hostility". These are five things in television I am bored  with, tired of and pissed at.

**Eddie Murphy quits as host following Ratner's resignation; it took a four-letter F-word to get Billy back as Oscar host**

It amazes me that someone like Brett Ratner could so freely throw  around a word we've all learned to accept as offensive. Unless you're talking cigarettes, saying the word "fags" is generally not a good  idea. In fact, even if you are referring to cigarettes, just call them cigarettes. Just a good idea all around.

But the true travesty is that it took Brett Ratner's four-letter F-word and Eddie Murphy's subsequent quitting as Oscar host to get Billy Crystal to return to the stage as Oscar host. I believe you need an edgy comedian to tackle these award shows every year, which is why I'm ecstatic about news that Ricky Gervais will three-peat as Globe host  in January.

Of course, you're probably asking how I can be excited about Billy Crystal when he's clearly not an edgy comedian. It's because he is reliable. He's funny. He's warm and personable. He can actually be funny without pushing any envelopes. It's a lost art in comedy. Guys like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson knew how to be funny without pushing  it too far. Guys like Jay Leno try hard to emulate the same traits but end up looking dated and out of touch. It's a tight rope to walk in modern comedy.

So it's unfortunate that Eddie Murphy was so insulted by the decision  to force Brett Ratner out as producer of the Academy Awards that he himself quit the hosting gig. But it's for the better. When you think edgy comedy, of course you'll think Eddie Murphy. From 1985. In 2011, he's not the same guy anymore. At least not on the outside. On the  inside, sure, he's still Eddie Murphy. On the outside, he's the guy  who enjoys cashing paychecks by playing a cartoon donkey. But out of this mess, we get Billy Crystal, the most reliable Oscar host of the last twenty years.

**Bruised egos on a night of mutual back-patting and self-serving congratulations almost kept us from Ricky Gervais three-peating at the Golden Globes**

If you want reliably funny with a comfortable face, Billy Crystal is your man. If you want reliably funny with a punch to the face of Hollywood, Ricky Gervais is your man. If Crystal says something that  some celebrity might take as hurtful, he usually says it with a smile and a wink, so the blow is cushioned. If Gervais says something that  some celebrity might take as hurtful, he makes no apologies. What he says isn't meant as cheeky or friendly. He's saying it from his heart.

And why not? If you're a public figure, you become open to these sorts  of things and should be able to take the lumps. You're sitting in an  auditorium, handing out statues to your peers for a job well done. Why  can't you take a joke at your own expense at the same time? Is Tom  Cruise so full of himself that he can't take another gay joke? He's  been enduring them for twenty years. It hasn't hurt his  career yet. Jumping on Oprah's couch and marrying Katie Holmes might  have, but people joking that he's gay hasn't.

Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais is easily the best thing to happen to the  Golden Globes in years, perhaps the best thing to any awards shows.  Like Bob Hope before him, Gervais should make it an annual thing to  host these award shows. God knows he's not cashing in big at the box  office, so why not take a break between standup and television gigs to  host these shows the right away, the way they're meant to be hosted.

**Nicole Scherzinger on The X Factor**

I know I've devoted far too much time to The X Factor in recent weeks,  but it bares repeating: Nicole Scherzinger does not belong on The X  Factor. In fact, she doesn't belong on television at all. She has  presented an ego worthy of an A-list diva (Jennifer Lopez, perhaps),  but has no experience to back it up. She sang for The Pussycat Dolls.  She danced around in skimpy outfits. She won a season of Dancing With  the Stars. I'm sorry, I know experience isn't everything on these  shows, but if you're going to act like your knowledge in the business  is vast, you have to back it up. And she simply can't.

It all came to a head last week when contestants Marcus Canty and  Rachel Crow were in the bottom two, leaving it to the judges to choose  who went home. When it came to Nicole, she forfeited her vote by  voting to eliminate Rachel so that the vote would go to deadlock (an  outcome that results in the lowest vote-getter going home). Instead of  making a decision for herself, a decision she clearly could make but  chose not to so she didn't hurt Marcus's feelings, she let it go to  the vote and Rachel went home. It's all well and good, except that she  is paid a ton of money to make these decisions and offer valid  judgment to people trying to make it in the music business. What most  of them don't realize is that the majority of them won't make it as  far as Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Which is why they need the  knowledge of four people in the industry. If one of them cannot  provide sufficient advice and be honest to them and herself, she  doesn't deserve to be there.

Fire Nicole Scherzinger.

**Whoever scheduled seven new episodes, two months off, six new  episodes of The Walking Dead**

I realize television is a big machine. There are a lot of moving parts  and a lot of ways for it to run properly. But I simply don't get the  reasoning behind cutting up an already short season (by regular  network standards) in half. The Walking Dead was renewed last year for  a second season of 13 episodes, a number that is fairly average in  cable networks. Normally on the big nets, regular seasons run between  22 and 24 episodes, while cable nets go between 10 and 13 episodes, on  average. Therefore holding interest for 39 weeks between seasons is  difficult enough.

So why make it worse by airing seven all new episodes of The Walking Dead, keeping it off the air for two months, then returning for six  new episodes? It just doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make it any  easier to wait seven months for the third season. It just slowly kills  the momentum you had when the season began. Check out FOX's New Girl  and its terrible scheduling in October, then see its current ratings  compared to its first four weeks. That's how you kill momentum.

*Those in charge at NBC**

Pick a night, any night, and NBC is surely sinking like a stone. Once reliable hits in The Office and The Biggest Loser are fading away fast, and their brightest spot on the schedule so far in the 2011-2012 season is the return of grossout series Fear Factor this past Monday night.

A few years ago, NBC traded in number one ratings on Thursdays in favor of smaller comedy hits in The Office and 30 Rock. Of course, with age, these series (The Office especially, as 30 Rock has yet to return for Season 6) have provided diminished numbers of late, unable to provide proper support for newcomers Whitney and Up All Night, as well as canceled Free Agents, which stood no chance premiering after another unproven rookie series. In doing so, they have completely obliterated their comedy lineup. Critical and audience darlings Parks & Recreation and Community are not finding a mass audience, each unable to capture more than 4 million viewers a week, a far cry from the 25+ million of Friends and Seinfeld in their prime. While this has been an incredible season for comedy thus far, it ain't because of NBC.

Their only other reliable hit is the reality competition The Voice, which they have properly positioned behind the Super Bowl next February. But what will they do with the additional viewers? Nothing. They will throw a new series at the wall after The Voice and hope it sticks. When they find a meager hit, they squander any and all benefits it may provide for other shows. Look at how they coddled The Office for years and settled for less. Now The Office has been unable to attract viewers to other shows and its own viewership is down. Same will go for The Voice by its third run. It'll lose viewership quickly and any hopes it can resurrect NBC will be lost.

Television is a big machine with a lot of working parts. Instead of fixing the big problems, NBC is simply patching what's already there. If you think you have seen rock bottom, you haven't seen anything yet.

GOLDEN GLOBE REACTION: BRIEF THOUGHTS

The 69th Annual Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning,  and thankfully, they were as crazy as ever. Where else would Callie  Thorne be nominated for the USA drama Necessary Roughness? Who else  would snub two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons? And who else besides the  Globe voters watch HBO's comedy Enlightened? Let's take a brief (not  really) look at the nominations as well as my accuracy in predicting  each category (warning: like Jack and Jill, it ain't pretty.)

In Supporting Actress, I correctly predicting one of the five  nominees: Kelly Macdonald. And if I'm being honest, she was the one I  was most unsure of. Two of the five nods went to made-for/miniseries  (Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey, Evan Rachel Wood for Mildred Pierce).  The remaining regular series nominees were Jessica Lange for American  Horror Story and Sofia Vergara for Modern Family. I was gravely  mistaken to ignore Lange for the FX horror drama, while I figured Emmy  winner Julie Bowen would sneak by Vergara for the obligatory Modern  Family nod.

In Supporting Actor, I again scored one of the five nominees right,  but only after I was prompted to do so after snubbing Game of Thrones  in my nominations. Three more went to made-for/miniseries (Paul  Giamatti for Too Big to Fail, Guy Pearce for Mildred Pierce, Tim  Robbins for Cinema Verite). The remaining nomination went to Modern  Family's Eric Stonestreet. Again, I predicted Emmy winner Ty Burrell,  but I'm not shocked to see Stonestreet get it.

Again, I must stress how unpredictable the supporting categories are.  Comedy, drama, made-for-TV movies and miniseries all in one? It's too  much.

In Lead Actor for a Comedy, I stay consistent by correctly predicting  one of the five nominees. And it's the one I was least certain of  again (Alec Baldwin). Johnny Galecki snuck by co-star (and acclaimed)  Jim Parsons in what has to be a huge shock. Previous Globe winner  David Duchovny scored a surprise nod for Californication. Last year's  Hung nominee, Thomas Jane, gets repeat recognition, while Showtime's  Episodes saw two nominations this morning, one of which for star Matt  LeBlanc. Honestly, there aren't any huge surprises here, outside of  Jim Parsons being snubbed. Did he not submit? It's crazy that the man  seemingly everyone (except me) loves was forgotten.

In Lead Actress for a Comedy, my accuracy finally goes up with three,  as Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Laura Linney (The Big C) and Amy  Poehler (Parks & Recreation) are all recognized. Also joining them  are critic darling Tina Fey (30 Rock) and the minimally-seen star of  the HBO comedy Enlightened, Laura Dern. The biggest surprise here is  no love for Melissa McCarthy, 2011's It Girl of comedy. Equally  shocking is no love for CBS's 2 Broke Girls in neither Kat Dennings  nor Beth Behrs. Zooey Deschanel is the favorite here, but don't count  out Laura Dern. My predictions for the winners are coming up in  January.

In Lead Actor in a Drama, I again hit three nominees perfectly: Steve  Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire, Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad and  Damien Lewis for Homeland. I'd be lying if I said I was surprised by  Kelsey Grammer's nomination for Boss. Despite the small network  (Starz), Grammer gives an awesome dramatic performance, a drastic 180  degree turn from the comical Frasier Crane. But I never would've  predicted Jeremy Irons for the almost-forgotten The Borgias.

In Lead Actress in a Drama, I only predicted two correctly: Claire  Danes for Homeland, as well as Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife.  AMC's The Killing lost favor with its audience, but star Mireille Enos  isn't a big surprise after scoring an Emmy nod. I mentioned Madeleine  Stowe as an outside shot for a nod on ABC's addictive Revenge,  although personally, I'm more impressed by co-star Emily VanCamp.  Finally, out of left field, USA's Necessary Roughness scored a nod  here for star Callie Thorne. She's particularily great on FX's just- ended Rescue Me, but I cannot vouch for her performance on the USA  drama.

For Best Comedy, I continue my trend of only predicting a couple  right, correctly guessing Modern Family and New Girl as nominees.  Again, I'm a bit surprised at the lack of love for 2 Broke Girls, as  the Globes love a newcomer with lots of buzz. Which makes it all the  more shocking that their other rookie picks are Showtime's Episodes  and HBO's Enlightened, neither of which garnered much buzz during  their respective runs. And I cannot tell you how much of a surprise it  is to see fading FOX series Glee nominated here. It's as if they don't  want to pull the trigger, even though the musical dramedy is clearly  dying.

Finally, in Best Drama, I correctly predict three of the five  nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and Game of Thrones (a gimme,  after wrongly guessing Mad Men for an ineligible calendar year). The  Walking Dead's chances were greatly diminished after a lackluster  mini-season, while The Good Wife is too much of a safe nomination for  the Globes. In their places, FX horror drama American Horror Story and  Starz drama Boss. Not sure what to make of those. Horror Story clearly  has a solid fanbase and it might be this year's True Blood. Meanwhile,  the network nobody knows produces shows, Starz, must be ecstatic over  Boss's nomination here. It's surprise nominations like these that can  turn into even bigger surprise wins.

Of my 38 predicted nominees (excluding made-for/miniseries  nominations), 16 came true. Not a terrible number, considering the  general wackiness of the Golden Globes. My predictions for the winners  (fingers crossed for a better average!) will be coming up in January,  one week prior to the telecast, as well as more in-depth analysis.

TUBE NEWS

-NBC has announced that shock jock Howard Stern will replace Piers  Morgan on the hit competition program, America's Got Talent. Those  expecting the outrageous sexual antics of Stern will likely be  disappointed. Personally, I think Stern will make for a great  addition, as long as he stays true to what he promises and doesn't  allow NBC to control the way he judges the show.

-NFL will remain with CBS, FOX and NBC through 2022. Ten years after  the world ends.

-FOX comedy I Hate My Teenage Daughter continues to squander the  already-disappointing lead-in provided by The X Factor. Jaime Pressly  struck gold with My Name is Earl, but I don't think lightning will  strike twice. Straight-to-DVD titles are in your future, Jaime.

Thank you for reading any or all of my column this week. It was a  mixed bag for sure. Next week, I'll fondly remember some of my  favorite holiday programs as we make our way towards Christmas.

Until then, stay tuned.

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Total Comments: 2
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Dec 15 2011 11:31pm
Some thoughts:

1) I would have liked to see you split this into two pieces ... your free floating piece, and your thoughts on the Globes noms. Both topics are great in their own right.

2) Game of Thrones!!! Wooo.

3) When are the Globes? You're dead on about Gervais, I may watch just to see him. I also agree on Crystal, he's not my favorite host, but he just FITS the Oscars. Of course, he appeals to an older crowd, so his days are numbered.
Mister Ecks
Mister Ecks    Dec 20 2011 12:28pm
Well, the Free Floating Hostility will likely be a recurring column idea. TV is full of bad ideas that piss me off.

I'll devote a column in January to predicting the Globe winners, and only two weeks after a Globes-oriented column, I didn't want to do overkill on it.

Thanks for reading Karl. It's always appreciated!