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.
-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.