[Warning: what you are about to read might make the author look like a macabre weirdo with a terribly dull life, and you might be onto something.]
I was catching up on some Hollywood news the other day when I came across what might have been the eeriest, most amazing coincidence I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I honestly hadn’t been this shocked since the infamous Topless Jumper Cables Truth-or-Dare Fiasco of ’98. Before you read on, it might be a good idea to brace yourself. If you aren’t already sitting down, please sit down; if you are already sitting down, please crouch on the floor.
The story that caught my attention was about Madam Secretary, one of the new TV programs debuting later this month, and the latest offering from producer Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia). The drama will be a sympathetic portrayal of the personal and professional life of a woman serving as the USA’s Secretary of State, played by Tea Leoni. Like I did while reading the article, you’re probably thinking “say, didn’t we just have a female Secretary of State, and isn’t she planning on running for president pretty soon, and doesn’t it look as if the star of the show could practically be cast in a biopic as her at an earlier age? Wow, that is just un-CANNY!”
What that is, is a big pile of kangaroo crap. It’s Fahrenheit 9-11, only with a more gradual pace and a pretty face. It’sCommander-in-Chief, only the heroine can’t palm-print a ceiling while flatfooted. It’s Propa to the Ganda.
In case it’s been a while since you’ve had a taste of pure, liberal slant, TV Guide’s Kate Stanhope was nice enough to whip up a batch in her story on MadSec: “Much like many other political shows such as The West Wing and Scandal, the show also hopes to avoid partisan politics.” Avoid partisan politics?! Are you futzing with me?! That not only strains credulity, it puts credulity in the hospital with severe hyperextension. I’ve never checked out Scandal, but I did watch The West Wing, and it avoids partisan politics like gas pedals avoid making cars move. It’s been years since I watched, and I still have to pick little pieces of its liberal sermons off my clothing to this day. I can’t help but wonder what makes Stanhope think TWW was the least bit objective; does she grow it herself, and is it hydroponic?
In case you’re curious if Hall might consider nudging a little Benghazi-excusifying into the script, it’s like the lady read your mind. From the article: “’A lot of time in the immediate need to address the problem you don’t have political perspective,’ Hall said. ‘It’s not a democratic(sic) or republican(sic) response. … Its(sic) only later that we look back.’”
Yes, Barbara, deliberately & repeatedly covering up a Grade A pooch-screwing is merely instinctive thinking on your feet, even when the chaos died down several days ago. It’s such a fine line between spontaneous crisis management and a two-week campaign of lying to the world. Thank goodness you have two years, and a younger, more telegenic replica of Hillary Clinton to sell that.
It was actually by accident I learned about the pilot, since my cursor suddenly jumped to a CBS/Emmys link the instant I clicked for my intended link. As usual I ignored the Emmy predictions, figuring the whole spectacle would probably be a mere formality before they start to rain trophies on Breaking Bad.
Speaking of awards, it was maybe the mid-1990’s when I was watching an Oscars telecast and caught something new, and I don’t mean some headache-inducing musical sketch or the Best Actor winner looking like the Worst Speech Giver (I’d figured out those were anything but new while I was still gestating). I’m referring to “In Memoriam,” the little montage featuring various actors, producers, directors, and other film industry figures who died sometime over the past year. It might make me look like a sentimental little poofter, but I was very moved by it, and since then have enjoyed the segment every time the Oscar and Emmy ceremonies feature it. Well, mostly enjoyed, thanks to unnamed ceremony producers in need of a good “SNAP OUT OF IT!” slap from Cher.
Question: for what entertainment industry are Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston primarily known? I’m assuming your answer is music, since anyone who doesn’t know that would probably be unaware of the Internet. Given their places in the Academy’s annual tribute, and others likewise saluted through the years, however, you’d think the InMem staffs believe everyone sees those two entirely as movie stars. They aren’t alone–take the montage from the 2002 Academy Awards for one example:
Included: George Harrison, the former lead guitarist for the Beatles, whose sole, practical connection to film was the fact HE WAS A BEATLE, and R&B singer Aaliyah, whose acting career consisted of exactly two features.
Excluded: Kathleen Freeman, a veteran character actress/voice performer, featured in dozens of TV series and movies over five decades (the penguin/nun in The Blues Brothers, the foul-mouthed landlady in Dragnet, etc.), and Ray Walston, TV’s My Favorite Martian and a busy, versatile film actor whose body of work includes The Apartment, The Sting, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Freeman and Walston are just two examples on that year’s snubee list, though two of the best ones. As far as television performers with noteworthy movie careers go, Farrah Fawcett’s omission from the 82nd Academy Awards’ InMem was one of the biggest. No offense to Michael Jackson, who died the exact same day as Fawcett, but it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal to leave him out. But the fact they included him but not her? Glaring. She was an actress, first & foremost, whose resume’ includes Logan’s Run and The Apostle.
A partial list of other late performers who apparently never attained the cinematic stature of the aforementioned singers: Dennis Farina, Roberts Blossom, John Forsythe, Peter Graves, Robert Pastorelli, Lisa Blount, James Arness, Brad Renfro, and Ed Lauter. If you don’t recognize a name or have some doubt about someone’s worthiness, look up their credits. All had movie careers of note, and at least one of them won an Oscar!
The Emmy planners have had their share of questionable omissions, but they definitely don’t come close to those flaky mind-viruses at the Oscars. Something that bears mention regards the 64th Annual Emmys. The InMem began with a touching on-stage tribute to Andy Griffith, by his former co-star Richie Opieham (I may need to verify spelling). From there it proceeded into a standard montage, and concluded about 40-odd honorees later, without any mention of a certain cast-mate of Griffith’s who died around the same time he did.
Question for that segment’s producer: why would a memorial led off by Andy Griffith not feature George Lindsey? Another: were you away from the TV whenever a scene featured him as Goober Pyle? Last one: you wouldn’t happen to also work on Oscar shows, would you?
As peculiar as Lindsay’s snub was, it was small taters compared to what took place at the 65th Emmys one year later. In addition to the traditional memorial, individual homages were paid to five particular people, completely separate from the other group:
-James Gandolfini, honored by Sopranos co-star Edie Falco
-Jonathan Winters, honored by Robin Williams
-Gary David Goldberg, producer/creator of Family Ties, honored by Michael J. Fox
-Jean Stapleton, honored by All in the Family co-star Rob Reiner
-Cory Monteith, honored by Glee co-star Jane Lynch
This was no tribute. It was a symptom, of an illness commonly seen in entertainment elites: Feel-good Shallowness Syndrome. Hollywoodians often aren’t a pleasant sight, getting paid bootyloads of money to basically play dress-up, and then elevating themselves above folks with real jobs and more decency. Within the Hollywood bubble it then turns downright surreal, where the same sort of self-elevators are elevating other selves to higher elevations. The ridiculous group behind this frivolity effectively grabbed one of the very few things in their town with even an ounce of sincerity, and bit half of it right off.
Dick Clark, James Arness, and Walter Cronkite, three TV giants who passed away in years just prior to Gandolfini, Winters, and the others, merely appeared among the other deceased in their respective InMems. I have a good deal of respect for at least a couple of the above five, and most of them were without question a key part of highly successful shows. Not a single one, however, ever rose to the stature of Clark, Arness, or Cronkite, but all in the course of a few minutes last year, a group of emotional self-indulgents managed to tarnish some true icons out of arbitrary sentimentality.
The questionable decisions didn’t end there, of course. Four of those five honorees got their own tarnishing when Monteith, a comparative nobody who died of a drug overdose at age 31, got lumped in with them to begin with. I’m sure he was a very kind, talented guy, but so is my podiatrist. In an actual conversation between my wife and me, I had said “I can’t believe they had Jean Stapleton sharing a pedestal with Cory Monteith of all people!” Her response couldn’t have explained it better: “Who?”
Hollywood is like an elementary school: spreading the “everybody’s special” mindset and overrun with children. At least the food’s better.