Monday, May 20, 2019

TV: NETFLIX comes not to praise LAUGH-IN but to bore you

This weekend, NETFLIX offered STILL LAUGH-IN: THE STARS CELEBRATE.  A more apt title would have been NETFLIX COMES NOT TO PRAISE LAUGH-IN BUT TO BORE YOU.  By going with the other title, they begged the question: What stars?


For those who don't know LAUGH-IN, the show ran on NBC from 1967 to 1973 and was actually titled ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN.  An hour long comedy, it featured blackout jokes, cutaways, skits, gags and much more.  It was not the second coming of comedy.  It was often funny.

The funniest thing about LAUGH-IN was Goldie Hawn.  She was the breakout star and, while still on the show, landed her role in the film CACTUS FLOWER.  She became a movie star and an Academy Award winner.  Goldie's known for her good taste -- which goes a long, long way towards explaining why she didn't appear on the special.

Actually, "special" is far too generous.  What Jon Macks wrote was often pedestrian and sometimes offensive.  He's not really a writer.  He stumbled into comedy via politics -- he's a writer for various Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren -- a politician never known for having a sense of humor.  We'd argue Macks and Warren are a good fit.

Him and LAUGH-IN?  Not so much.

Co-host Neil Patrick Harris made a running joke of himself about to perform a song.  It was all pointless but, for the record, LAUGH-IN frequently featured songs -- original songs performed by the cast.  And the special offered a song -- Rita Moreno and Rita Wilson . . .  doing what?

Did they tape a rehearsal?  Because neither woman had any real dance moves.  LAUGH-IN had choreography.  It also had costumes.  Can anyone explain the outfits the two Ritas showed up in?  Nice street wear but nothing you'd perform a musical number in.

Tiffany Haddish, co-host of the whatever, always dressed with style and provided some of the few actual laughs.  Few others could make the same claim.

Lily Tomlin showed up with Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley.  The three had all appeared on LAUGH-IN.  For Buzzi and Worley, LAUGH-IN was the height of their careers in terms of visibility.  Lily, of course, would go on to films (including her Academy Award nominated role in NASHVILLE) comedy recording success (Grammy winner for her album THIS IS A RECORDING) and to success on stage (including her Tony Award winning performance in Jane Wagner's THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE) as well as to success on TV (seven Emmy wins -- and, for GRACE AND FRANKIE, four nominations).  Only Goldie Hawn has been more successful (Goldie became a movie star, at a time when few women emerged as film stars).

The bulk of the cast over the years never achieved anything of prominence again.  (Richard Dawson did go on to successfully host the game show FAMILY FEUD and Teresa Graves would star in the single-season series GET CHRISTY LOVE.)  That's not really a surprise, George Schlatter never achieved much himself after LAUGH-IN.


Exactly.  A professional liar is all George is and it's about time we all faced that fact.  He had no real vision, he lucked in to LAUGH-IN.  He did variety shows and did them poorly -- like when he took over Judy Garland's CBS variety show.  George didn't even create LAUGH-IN -- Digby Wolfe did.


That's the question you'd ask if you saw the NETFLIX product.  By the way, it was produced by . . . George Schlatter.  So he's not only a professional liar, he's also a back-stabbing credit grabbing ass.

Let's stay with that for a moment.

Lily did a bit as Ernestine where her famous phone operator was now working for a healthcare company.  It was funny.  She also did a two-liner where she said President Donald Trump had created jobs -- in the special prosecutors office.


Why did Lily appear on this crap special?

Chelsea Handler did a bit with Mary McCormack which would have been funny as a one liner but instead went on and on.  They spoke of LAUGH-IN's historic place in gender studies: in the late sixties, it dared to let men do comedy and took on the notion that men couldn't do comedy.

Again, it went on way too long, but the bit did have a point.

And we do as well.

It's 2019.  Why the hell is Lily doing this crap ass special?

In the series of the original show, 41 people get credit as writers -- George Schattler among them.

Lily, dear, who created Edith Ann?

You did.

Who created Ernestine?

You did.

Where's your writing credit?

Lily never got a writing credit.

In fact, no woman ever got a writing credit on that show.  All 41 credited writers are men.

It's 2019.  Any debt Lily owed George ended long ago.  And considering that Lily carried the show in its last two seasons, it's actually George who owes her.

There's no reason for women -- and that goes to Chelsea and Mary as well -- to prop up men who did their best to hold women back.  And that's what George did and Lily knows that.  For every Lily hire (a comedy hire), ten women were hired to be scantily dressed.  Goldie broke through -- while other dancers on the show didn't -- by the sheer force of her personality.

Women often have to use the sheer force of their personality to break through stereotypical rows.  Look at Tracee Ellis Ross.  An incredible actress with great comic timing who is trapped in a sexist and stunted role on BLACK-ISH but makes it more than it is on paper as a result of her personality.  In fact, BLACK-ISH has been one of the most sexist programs of this decade.  Jennifer Lewis also used her personality to make the one-note and minor role of Ruby Johnson entertaining and moving herself (in season two) into the actual cast.  Why are we the only ones who can point out sexism?  We've done it with BLACK-ISH, we did it the year the networks offered not one new series revolving around a woman.  Does no one else see the sexism?  Do they watch the first season of BLACK-ISH and somehow miss that Dre's co-workers are all men?  Was he working at PENISES UNLIMTED or was it that BLACK-ISH creator Kenya Barris is just a dick?

It's the latter.

And it's worth commenting on because Barris appeared on the show -- looking like a grossly obese Lucifer.  And clothes?  Did he wake up from his nap on the couch to rush to the stage?  Those jeans and that football jersey went to the fact that Barris is trash and always will be.

That was even more clear as he used the supposed celebration of LAUGH-IN to praise himself, his supposed bravery, his supposed success.

Kenya landed a diversity-hire contract with NETFLIX worth millions.  Don't mistake that for success.  Kenya does.

Unlike Shonda Rhimes -- or even, to a lesser degree, Ryan Murphy, Kenya brings nothing to NETFLIX.  Shonda is responsible for TV success -- that's GREY'S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE and SCANDAL.  Those were huge shows.


It's never been a hit.  To this day, it's ratings are awful.  Season one, the show was the 54th most watched series on broadcast TV during primetime.  That was the best things ever got for BLACK-ISH. For the fall 2017 to spring 2018 season, it was the 84th most watched series.  This week, the final new episode of the season airs and no one's watching anymore as the show churns out 2 million viewers the last two weeks.

As Kenya stood on the stage praising himself endlessly, he may have provided the funniest moment -- however unintentionally.  Unintentional laughs were also provided when Billy Crystal walked onstage.  Was that a wig he was wearing?

Regardless, there he was, film failure whose career made clear that people would pay to see popular concepts he was in but wouldn't pay money to see him in films.  This was especially true when Crystal tried to write a screenplay and, worse, when he tried to direct.

His career dried up sometime ago.  But there he was, desperate for attention.  Doing stand up.  Stand up?  LAUGH-IN really didn't do stand up.  Nor did they do the political he was doing.

Lily's joke about the special prosecutor was the type of joke that a LAUGH-IN might do.  It was quick, it was fleeting.  Billy doing a series of parody Tweets that a President Donald Trump might have Tweeted?  Not really funny and not really the sort of thing LAUGH-IN would have done.

It wasn't political, it was partisan and it was really hateful and stopped the show -- not in a good way.  Can we get a safe space option where we can just enjoy what's supposed to be entertainment without Donald Trump being injected into it?  We get that the outrage culture has turned their lives over to Donald Trump but not everyone on the left is dying to hear about Donald.  We'd like to enjoy our evenings Donald-free. 

A friend who writes for SNL called us and said he turned off the special in the middle of Billy Crystal's nonsense.  "What was that crap?" he asked us.

We have no idea.

We'd guess it's more garbage from NETFLIX which keeps throwing millions out to Barack Obama and his former administration officials.  No jokes were made about Democrats.  It's a one-sided, sort of hate-fest and, again, we're bothered that Lily participated.  Nothing she did was hateful but we really think it was a mistake for her to participate.  Again, good for Goldie Hawn for saying no -- a true class act.

George's one-sided view was really amazing to us because we know George, we know what a piece of s**t he is and how close with Richard Nixon -- the cancer on America.  But it's his efforts to suppress an honest discussion about the assassination of John F. Kennedy that should really have Schattler railroaded out of polite society.

He deliberately altered an interview with Jim Garrison for SPEAK UP AMERICA.  John Barbour was the producer and he was the one Schattler stabbed in the back, going around Barbour to have the interview re-edited and telling the editor not to inform Barbour that it had been done.  If news of the real George Schlatter -- piece of trash Schlatter -- is news to you, you can start your reading list with this interview with John Barbour.

Schlatter ensured, as producer of the NETFLIX product, that Digby Wolfe, the real creator of LAUGH-IN -- and the only person ever professionally credited as a creator of the show, was erased.  Listening to lunatics like Kenya Barris claim George invented it all, we realized that if he didn't vanish Wolfe, he'd also have to admit that LAUGH-IN owed a large debt to the UK's THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS (which Digby wrote for).

The NETFLIX product was an embarrassment. And watching it will leave you confused -- especially about the whole "THE STARS CELEBRATE" aspect of the show's title.  What stars?  Lily Tomlin and Michael Douglas?  Well they have NETFLIX shows, maybe they were forced to appear?  Other than those two though, where were the stars?  Like truth, they were absent from the program.

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