Sunday, December 31, 2006

Life With Elmo . . . and Warren Bell

You thought Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was bad? Meet Warren Bell, his replacement.

Bully Boy nominated Bell to the board of the Coporation for Public Broadcasting in June of this year. Even with a Republican controlled Senate, Bell couldn't get confirmed. So in the week leading up to Christmas, Bully Boy put Bell on the board via recess appointment.

Bell is a contributor to The National Review, a right-wing periodical, and that's alarmed some. At The National Review, he's announced he's anti-choice (May 11, 2005), he's demonstrated his 'sensibilities' ("Let's be real for a second — there's a Brokeback Mountain flavor to figure skating, except for Canada's Elvis Stojko, who would do reasonably cool things like make his long program 'A Tribute to Bruce Lee'." -- Feb. 13, 2006), called for a boycott of the WB and NBC over their airing of condom ads and attested that he sees no value in singing ("Since when are we all so excited about singing? Wasn’t the talent portion of Miss America the boring part?" --
June 2, 2005), bragged about his campaign donations to the Bully Boy (March 31, 2005), exposed and stroked his inner Jerry Lewis by declaring women weren't as funny as men (January 31, 2005), and, on August 10, 2006, issued a long whine:

Yesterday the head of Disney's Touchstone Television and the head of casting for ABC/Disney called me to, er, suggest that According to Jim might do a little better this year in terms of casting minorities in significant roles. Our admittedly dismal track record was recited to me -- two Asian-Americans, one Latino (oh, dear, is that the rightterm?) in roles of "guest star" billing during the 26-episode course of last season.

Bell has declared, "My intent for my service with CPB is to ensure a strong healthy, vibrant public broadcasting system for everyone to be proud of. My politics can't enter into it. It's not a partisan position."

His politics can't enter into it? We wish it were so but his opinions already entered into his comedy -- take for instance the deplorable record on casting minorities and his whine when ABC/Disney pointed it out to him. (For which he had to issue an apology.) He's not fond of the arts either. Why does that matter?

From the CPB website:

CPB is the largest single source of funding for public television and radio programming. CPB funds diverse and innovative programming that's useful, educational and cultural.
Most CPB-funded television programs are distributed through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). CPB-funded radio programs are distributed primarily through National Public Radio (NPR), American Public Media, and Public Radio International (PRI). CPB created PBS in 1969 and NPR in 1970.
CPB does more than invest in quality programming; it helps parents and teachers educate children. CPB intends to help every child learn.

Diverse programming? Diversity is a word that Bell sneers at.

From the CPB's mission statement:

The fundamental purpose of public telecommunications is to provide programs and services which inform, enlighten and enrich the public. While these programs and services are provided to enhance the knowledge, and citizenship, and inspire the imagination of all Americans, the Corporation has particular responsibility to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.

Creative risks? Bell's gone from one lousy sitcom to another (he's rarely stayed around too long -- he was off These Friends of Mine before it was Ellen, he joined Coach late, and ususally his so-called sitcoms were cancelled early). Bell knows how to make cookie-cutter, standard fare, sitcoms, with White casts and nothing else.

While his politics should alarm, the greater shock is that a hack with no experience in broadcasting (the creative end isn't broadcasting) who has never done anything other than churn out yucks is suddenly fit to sit on a board that's mission is to provide programming that's not the run of the mill offerings from network TV.

Bell told The Los Angeles Times: ""I'm a comedy writer. I'm not on a crusade, except to maybe make PBS a really great network for people to watch." Like Tomlinson, he doesn't listen to NPR (which the board is also responsible for). Like Tomlinson, he prefers sports radio. He has no news background, no background in anything other than substandard sitcoms (many of which were quickly cancelled). It's a bit like hiring William Hung to open for Tony Bennett. If he weren't conservative and a big donor to Bully Boy's campaign, he'd never have been considered for the job and would instead be attempting to figure out if the fat husband & skinny wife combo could be milked for another year's worth of laughs? (No, and it didn't even qualify for one season's worth of laughs.)

He's made cracks about Elmo which is why we've used Elmo for our illustration. This is what Warren Bell can offer public broadcasting, Elmo, with a hand in his boxers and a beer in his other hand, saying, "No jugs, but check out Zoe's can!" Ernie (like the goofy sidekick in all of Bell's bad sitcoms) says, "You're funny, Elmo." To which Elmo replies, "Get away from me, you big homo." As is often the case in Bell's works, the female says nothing and is just there for show value, but, hey, as he explained himself, women just aren't as funny as men.
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