Sunday, March 15, 2009

TV: The cavers and the fighters

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." Aretha Franklin sings that in "Sister From Texas" (Hey Now Hey). And wouldn't it be great if it was something that applied to many people? Imagine what a world like that might be. If only.

Take for example NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. They had "a few more dreams" inside them, right? They were "in there fighting every day"? Maybe the bulk of the women, but the men? Not so much.

NBC's Celebrity Apprentice airs on Sunday nights (it has been repeating on Saturdays). It's the women against the men and, as the title indicates, the contestants are 'celebrities.' In the way that Ginger on Gilligan's Island was "a movie star." That's really not completely fair. Regardless of what you think of their talents, people like Joan Rivers and Clint Black, for example, are actual celebrities. People like Herschel Walker? When your big moment came in college and you're 47-years-old, you really have nothing to brag about. That becomes obvious every time Herschel opens his mouth. In fact, like Brian McKnight and Dennis Rodman, we're hoping the overfed ego gets sent home real soon.

If you've missed the show thus far and it's your idea of "Must See TV," you can take heart in the fact that only two episodes have aired thus far.

Two people have been sent home. Week one, it was Andrew Dice Clay, the one-time famous shouter. Every evil thing ever said about Clay was shown to be true throughout the first episode. The challenge was selling cupcakes which each team had to bake. Andrew doesn't bake, don't ask him. So he bailed to give interviews (on radio, TV was never his medium as any close up or his many failed sitcoms will prove). When it was time to sell the cupcakes, Donald Trump (host) pulled a surprise out of the mists, each team had to take a cupcake to a bakery where they would be judged for excellence. Andrew represented the men's team, Melissa Rivers the women's. They had to walk in together and, of course, Andrew didn't hold the door for her. Though Melissa, raised with manners, did hold the door for him. For Andrew, it's all about him. And he does the world a favor just by dragging his disgusting and unwashed body before it.

Melissa brought her cupcake in a small baker's box/cube. Andrew? He carried it over. In his hands. In his dirty, filthy hands that had the same trashy (fingerless) gloves he wears all the time. He is a walking health hazard.

Andrew couldn't get along with anyone and when both teams had to go before the Donald it was cute to see Andrew threatening to quit. When Donald wouldn't let him, we pretty much knew that was just because Donald wanted to can his ass. He had to go back into the room with Herschel and Dennis Rodman. Before he did, he sexually harassed Donald Trump's receptionist who made it clear she wasn't interested but Andrew still insisted she'd be going home with him. So we really enjoyed his firing.

Last week, Scott Hamilton was fired and thank the Big TV In The Sky for that. What a whining, never-shut-up, baby. It was as if the narrators to The Wonder Years, How I Met Your Mother and Grey's Anatomy had combined into one Scott Hamilton. He not only couldn't shut up, he couldn't stop talking about his feelings unless it was to tell you what you'd already seen.

For those who don't know, Scott was a skater once upon a time. Who is he today? Just another nobody trying to earn some scratch pretending he matters. He and Herschel got along marvelously, no surprise.

Clint Black demonstrates the worst problem in appearing on these shows. You either are laid back (Tom Green) or you end up like Clint, a control freak. "Is he that bad in real life?" asked a friend who is Tivo-ing the whole thing. No, not really. But you either try to be likable -- because you're on TV -- or you decide, "I've got to win this! I'm on TV! My reputation is on the line!" If it's the latter, you become a real ass which Clint Black has quickly become.

There are other roads you can take. For example, you can be Dennis Rodman who is never around when things need to be done but generally manages to skate away with little or no criticism. You can be Herschel who shows up for the meetings and claims credit for things he didn't do. People (on the show) also don't appear to have noticed that. Except possibly Brian McKnight who really is the most perceptive member of the men's team. He's not being Dennis Rodman. He is around. But he's not in the forefront and appears to be allowing others to burn out as they go for the glory. That's the strategy successfully employed repeatedly on CBS' Big Brother but it's not been effective thus far on The Apprentice.

The women? They have won both competitions that have aired so far. If we had to pick a winner from their side, we'd go with Tionne Watkins (once a member of TLC) who, if you pay attention, is absorbing every lesson in success and failure as the game is played. Others, Playmate Brane Roderick, for example, bask in the success after. Tionne's absorbing everything and came into the game knowing a great deal.

Annie Duke rivals Clint Black for the title of Player You Love To Hate. Duke is a poker champ and that apparently means something to someone. It doesn't mean anything in terms of the competitions thus far. She's repeatedly been wrong. (Such as when she screamed at Roderick for selling several cupcakes for several thousands of dollars or when she had a snit fit at Melissa Rivers over the cupcake that Melissa took to the bakery -- which would be the winning cupcake.) She does nothing but alienate everyone she works with by insisting upon, as Claudia Jordan has pointed out, treating them as children. (Jordan pointed out she was "a grown ass woman" and didn't need anyone telling her how to frost a cupcake.) No women have left the show yet since their team has been on a winning streak. When one does, we're starting to think it's going to be Melissa.

She continues to make mistakes. Not in the game so much as in when speaking. Her mind is somewhere else completely -- such as when she gives her mother's age and it's a year older than Joan is. Surprisingly, Joan Rivers hasn't embarrassed herself. In fact, she may come off better than anyone else because the show actually works to humanize her while embarrassing the bulk of the others. Joan can be a real ass, as most Americans know. But while the cameras document that ass-ness of the others, Joan actually gets moments that remind you why, once upon a time, a Joan Rivers appearance was something to get excited about. No matter when she exits, the show's a boost for her (long) career.

For someone like Brian McKnight, the converse is true. McKnight's an exceptional vocalist and musician. He's not had a recent run of hits, but he hasn't been recording. As long as he can breathe, he can make music. Age will not force him out of his profession as it has Scott Hamilton and Herschel Walker. But Brian has an image and it's not there on TV. His wardrobe is ill chosen and between the way he looks and the fact that some may be unaware of what he's been concentrating on since 2007 (his last single was in 2007) some might assume he's dressed the way he is because he's a has-been. Brian McKnight is one of those performers you always expect to be turned out.

The money raised in each week's contest is turned over to a charity so that and the fact that these aren't 'regular' people mitigate some of the past problems with the show. No one on the show is unaware of what the spotlight means. So you don't have to feel sorry for any of them. Donald's children appear at his side from time to time. They're actually the most appealing aspect of the show. Ivanka Trump has a very sharp eye and can pinpoint a team's problem area long before they're revealed to be the losing team in the boardroom. Don Trump actually has a sense of humor that's completely unexpected, relaxed and gentle. (We'll credit Ivana for that.)

A sense of humor -- gentle or sharp -- is something Saturday Night Live long ago misplaced. That was again made clear Saturday night when Tracy Morgan hosted a very unfunny broadcast. In his opening, he punched various unknown people and then slugged Tina Fey because . . . Well, she's a glutton for punishment. Then he went into his unfunny monologue that was made even less funny by the fact that he rushed the timing.

It was then time for him to dust off Brian Fellows and it only became more obvious that his timing was off. In a View skit, you had five women around a table -- only two were played by women. No one was supposed to object. Already in the show it was obvious the writers couldn't write for Morgan's limited talents. Every line delivered the same and always staring at the camera after each line in a tah-dah moment.

The Scared Straight skit wasn't funny last time they did it -- it was highly homophobic. And it wasn't funny last night with Morgan in it. Morgan and Kenan Thompson made fools out of themselves and worse with the non-stop homophobia.

* You're going to find yourself sideways on a prison floor.
* You'll be tasting a bunch of liquids in your mouth.
* Only thing you'll be tasting is Penis Noir
* It ain't gonna be spring time, it's gonna be ding-a-ling time.
* And he's going to have a long, skinny finger alright but it's not going to be on his hand
* The size of a beer can.
* You'll call the hospital saying "I need a new ass."

And that's not a full listing. It's interesting that Kenan's in this skit again. Last time, it ended with him stealing a police car. This time it ended with him and Morgan stealing a police car. So you get homophobia and racial stereotypes. It's a two-fer. About the only thing you don't get it any laughter.

Needless to say, Seth Meyers continues to get applause (when the APPLAUSE sign goes on) and continues to be in the midst of a laugh drought as the sole anchor of Weekend Update. Next up, Morgan revived the never funny character of Astronaut Jones (no, it's not a famous character) and tried to get laughs by having Andy play an alien woman. It didn't work. Nor did Morgan going back into drag for a Big Love spoof where he was a drag queen named Fantasia Davine brought home to be Wife Number Four.

The last skit managed a few laughs because Kristen's character was supposed to be dismayed/appalled by Morgan's character. We felt a great deal of the laughter you heard were people laughing at Morgan who probably now holds the record for worst SNL hosted by a cast alumni.

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." No we really didn't feel it from Tracy Morgan. Not at all. We did, however, notice for the first time how much smaller Tina Fey's left eye was than the right one.

Small is the mind of MSNBC viewers. Or at least the ones who take to jabbering. Pravda On The Hudson's Amy Goodman got booked on Davey The Tiny Prick Schuster's bad MSNBC show March 4th. When she's on someone else's show, Goody Liar can talk about the Iraq War. When she's on someone else's show. Last Thursday, the UK government released e-mails which added further backing to charges that the pre-war 'intel' was cooked and deliberately so. It wasn't a segment on Friday's Pravda On The Hudson. Goody Liar couldn't even make it a headline. But put her on MSNBC as an expert on the Iraq War. Well, we see now the pay-off for Panhandle Media's refusal to call out Davey when even MSNBC decided his behavior warranted a suspension. It all washes out in the whoring, eh, Amy?

Goody's not out there fighting every day. Nor is her ever-dwindling cult. At the cesspool that is Democratic Underground the 'knowledgeable' navarth ("1000+ posts"!) offers up, "Amy Goodman on Shuster??? Off to the greatest page with you! This is amazing, I'm so glad I can see it here, missed it last night, wasn't home. Wow. I truly never thought I'd see Amy Goodman on MSNBC. Shuster RULES." Poor Amy.

She sends out those e-mails for every MSNBC appearance. You know the ones, they say, "Please e-mail the show to tell them how much you enjoyed my appearance." It's even better if you play like you've never seen Amy before that appearance! Amy's been doing that for years. "I truly never thought I'd see Amy Goodman on MSNBC." Did you poke your eyeballs out in 2005? Goody's always on MSNBC. Chris Matthews brings her on regularly. Or maybe those "Write him and tell him you love me or he won't invite me back!" e-mails make it seem like she's on all the time?

Regardless, the stupidity is amazing. And apparently catching because Jefferson23 ("874 posts"!) felt the need to weigh in, "I never thought I would see Amy on the MSM, incredible." Not only has she been on Chris Matthews' show, she's been on CNN. In fact, despite the fact that she did nothing for Ehren Watada once a 'reporter' attempted to steal the focus ("I might have to testify! I don't know if I will or won't, but America needs to object! I may or may not object, I can't discuss legal strategy, but America needs to! They need to do what I'm too lazy to do!"). But Ehren's court-martial was coming up and there was Amy Goodman acting like the Ehren expert and letting the pro-War Hawk Mommy's Pantyhose walk all over her and insult Ehren repeatedly. Goody Liar never corrected him. She just smiled and waited to speak her sound-byte.

But Amy's audience (and Democrats Underground) aren't bases of knowledge. Let alone of reality.

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." A male friend at MSNBC asked us Friday night why we never mentioned Andrea Mitchell Reports? We honestly weren't aware of it. He pointed out that Mitchell, a reporter, is actually anchoring a daily hour long show (airs Monday through Friday, one p.m. to two p.m. EST). He pointed out that Women's Media Center and other "women-centric" (his term) outlets had tongue-bathed non-journalist Rachel Maddow for her on air musings and abusings but no one's giving Andrea Mitchell credit for holding down a solid hour of news.

That may be due to the fact that MSNBC hasn't created a site for her. We looked and couldn't find it. We could find other MSNBC programs (even Al Roker Reporting: Marijuana Inc.), but no page for Andrea Mitchell's show. But, yes, it is disturbing that the "women-centric" outlets can repeatedly note the factually-challenged Rachel Maddow, the non-journalist on a news channel, but they can't give even a mild shout-out to Andrea.

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." Though we frequently disagree with Andrea, we wouldn't ever claim that she's not out "there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me." And when we might lose faith in all, it's good to find someone who is. Her fights aren't usually our fights, but she keeps fighting. And for those who doubt the power of doing that, Katie Couric.

The minute she was announced as the anchor of The CBS Evening News, months before she did her first broadcast, she became the punching bag. It was non-stop attacks, sexist attacks. They continued for months and years. And she could have stopped fighting. She could have buckled. If she'd asked to be released from her contract, CBS would have agreed. She stuck it out. She stayed in there fighting every day. Her work just got recognized with a prestigious award.

And that's the thing, few people can stand up to that kind of pressure. Those who do, like Katie, find themselves having the last laugh. And while they enjoy that moment, it elevates others as well. Barbara Walters and Connie Chung and Elizabeth Vargas were all undermined by sexism. (Vargas should sue ABC News.) The United States has not become a sexism-free zone as the attacks on Katie Couric demonstrate. But in part because more people are aware of the problem and in part because of Katie's own considerable strength, she became the woman to make it on the network's evening news. Not as co-anchor, but as anchor.

At any time that's worth noting but especially during Women's History Month. The lessons, however, apply across the board. For example, the peace movement can throw up their arms in despair and head home or they can keep plugging away, every day. If you've got it in you to continue the fight to end the illegal war, you can join with The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War this coming Saturday. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st

As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)

To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.

For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or

"But I'm in there fighting every day because I got a few more dreams in me."
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