Monday, April 24, 2023

TV: The media circus

Sometimes the biggest entertainment on TV can be found in non-entertainment programming.  The work week began with news of two high-profile firings.  CNN, once a news network, and FOX "NEWS" -- the talkshow network -- each dropped some heavy baggage.

CNN got ride of Don Lemon.  Took them long enough.  He apparently shoved his hand down the front of his pants, rubbed it around down there, and then tried to shove the odor off on a bar patron.  That didn't get him fired.  When, because he worked for CNN, Don learned that the police no longer believed Jussie Smollett was the victim of a hate crime, Don didn't take it upon himself to break the news on the air.  He did, however, call his friend Jussie to give Jussie a heads up.

Time and time again, Don got away with it.  For years, he got away with his sexism and threats against women in the workplace.  Then he started snapping at his female co-hosts on air.  

That didn't get him fired.

Finally, he declared Nikki Haley to be out of her "prime."  He shouted down his co-hosts and insisted that they could GOOGLE it and they'd see he was right.

Thing is, people did GOOGLE it and he was wrong.  And at 51, Nikki might actually be considered young for a presidential candidate.  But by no means would she be considered past her prime.

Hillary Clinton was 61 when she ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and one of the few sexist things that wasn't said about her was that she was "past her prime."  She was 69 the year she ran for president on the Democratic Party ticket.  Again, no one said "past her prime."

Don's remarks were stupid and offensive.

Still he kept the job.  

He had a tantrum on set last week that made it clear that CNN couldn't continue to work with him.  He says he was surprised when he learned he was fired.  Really?  Because when confronted with his on set behavior last week, the first words out of his mouth were, "I know I did wrong."  Yes, you did and it was the last straw. 

Sometimes, you reach the end of the rope, it may take forever, but you reach it.  And last week, Don did.

Suspension of disbelief only works so long. 

MRS. DAVIS, PEACOCK's latest offering, might need to heed that reality.  Four of the eight episodes are currently available.  What's the show about?

Bette Davis, WARNER BROS' last star, leaves the lot and bequeaths her dressing room to her "most deserved" successor Jane Wyman.  She then tries to control Jane and others via phone calls and advice.  

Actually, that might be more interesting.  In fact, it would be.

Liz -- also known as Sister Simone -- grew up with grifters for parents.  As an adult, she's portrayed by Betty Gilpin.  When her mom's crossbow booby trap lands an arrow in Liz's chest, she eneds up in the ER (as a child) and meets Wiley.  As an adult, Wiley is played by Jake McDorman and that might be enough for some viewers to understand her attraction.  We're not sure how anyone explains her attraction to Jay (Andy McQueen).

It's not that the actor playing him isn't attractive.  It's that after heavy petting, she wants to do it but he's saving himself for marriage.  Before the religious right starts thumping their chests, he's Jesus.  Jay is Jesus.  So, to marry him, Liz becomes a nun, Sister Simone.

That's a lot to absorb, isn't it?

There's more.  

Mrs. Davis isn't Bette.  She's an Artificial Intelligence construct.  

Is Mrs. Davis using and abusing people as Wiley and the renegades he funds believe?

It's hard to tell.  Or maybe we were just stunned by the sheering of Ben Chaplin.  

Ben's a British actor who first impressed us in 1996's romantic comedy classic THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS and continued to impress us opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in WASHINGTON SQUARE, in Terrence Malick's THE THIN RED LINE, opposite Winona Ryder in LOST SOULS, opposite Nicole Kidman in BIRTHDAY GIRL, opposite Sandra Bullock in MURDER BY NUMBERS . . .

With Ben Chaplin, you can count on two things -- an impressive performance and a hairy chest.

Or you could before MRS. DAVIS.

At times, Ben seems to be channeling Douglas Fairbanks, Kevin Kline and Cyndi Lauper -- when it gets really bad, he's channeling all three at once.  It's a lively performance, to be sure.  And it does keep you awake.  Maybe it's leading to something?  We hope so.

Otherwise, in some sort of modern-day Sampson fable, Ben's lost his artistic sense when he removed his chest hair (and slathered on what appears to be QT -- Quick Tan -- across his now hairless chest).

The series is quirky and, if adds up to something, the audience will feel rewarded.  If it doesn't?  You've been mildly amused for a few episodes.

Mildly amused is how Tucker Carlson always came across -- mildly amused and slightly off.  The boy with the bowl cut grew up to be the man with no clue.  After failing on CNN's THE SPIN ROOM, he got a job on CNN's CROSSFIRE where he degraded the nation's intelligence and when Jon Stewart pointed out what a mockery of news the garbage was, the Mother Tucker was out of a job.  He tried to spin it, insisting that he had resigned from CROSSFIRE in April of 2004 -- guess he just forgot his resignation as, week after week, he continued to do the show until January of 2005.  TUCKER CARLSON UNFILTERED lasted a year at PBS.  Onto MSNBC at a time when it was already featuring garbage like Michael Savage and had plenty of room in the toilet for Tucker. TUCKER lasted a little less than 3 years on MSNBC.  

Not being a journalist, talk show host Tucker took time to do what many did in recent years, take a spin around the floor on DANCING WITH THE STARS.  That he was the first celebrity eliminated should have told him something about how beloved he wasn't.

When Melissa Gates gave then-husband Bill the ultimatum, all the hate merchants were kicked off MSNBC and Tucker landed eventually at FOX "NEWS." He was a panelist, kind of the 21st century version of Kitty Carlisle Hart.  By toadying and creating many mini-'controversies' passed off as news, Mother Tucker eventually worked himself up to a weekend co-host on FOX & FRIENDS   Finally, he was ready, he thought, once again for prime time.  TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT debuted in 2016 and got cancelled last week.

Tucker is homeless yet again.

It's greatly upset his friends -- racists and transphobes like the Great Glenneth Greenwald:

One reason there's so much hatred among left-liberal media types toward Tucker is petty jealously: that goes without saying. They always hate most those who succeed in journalism. But he's also hated by that crowd because he holds up a mirror to the failures of their heroes.

The mirror Tucker held up was to his own ass.  Is that what Glenneth found it interesting?

Glenneth and Tara wanted you to know that Tucker hosted plenty of lefties.  Tucker brought on lefties who played his game or served up the red meat his deluded audience wolfed down.  The same way Bill O'Reilly had done a decade prior with, for example, Susara Taylor.  Mother Tucker didn't invent anything, he was just the new Bill O'Reilly.

And now he's fired.

And Glenneth tries to spin this as a good thing:

A major irony is that Tucker's separation from Fox may be the best thing that could happen to him in terms of his influence and impact. The sector of media growing most explosively are independent platforms. Joe Rogan is vastly more influential than every MSNBC and CNN host.

Yeah, but Joe Rogan has charisma.  Tucker doesn't.  Tucker is not Joe Rogan who makes people laugh intentionally.  Tucker is an uptight prig.  That's not going to play well in 'new media.'  It didn't play well for Bill O'Reilly when he tried to survive being fired from FOX "NEWS."  And Tucker already failed as a podcaster.

And there are the internals.  As the ones -- and only ones -- who have reported the realities about FOX "NEWS" finances, we can tell you he was not worth his salary.  His podcast for FOX was a failure and then came FOX NATION and TUCKER CARLSON TODAY. 

While transphobe, FOX "NEWS" apologist and enabler Jonathan Turley keeps trying to pretend DISNEY is in a crisis financially (it's not), the real crisis is FOX "NEWS."  Jerry Hall didn't walk away empty handed from her divorce.  Rupert Murdoch is a buffoon and always has been.  He needed money -- and tried to pretend otherwise -- a few years back so he sold FOX (20th Century Fox20th Century Fox Television, and FX Networks) to ABC DISNEY.  FOX "NEWS" still owns the over-the-airwaves broadcast network but that's really it in terms of what they had.  And that's really not enough.  They need to be making programming to make money and you're usually looking at a five-year turn-around before a production company makes real money off a series. 

Using Roseanne Barr's return to comedy, FOX NATION was supposed to be firmly on the map.  And Roseanne did bring in eye balls.  But they also left with Roseanne.  It got so bad that FOX NATION kept lowering the monthly fee in the hopes that they could lure subscribers back.  It got down to a single dollar a month before they realized that the surveys were accurate.  When you cancelled your subscription to FOX NATION, they had a lengthy survey and many people took it.  As we've noted before, they pointed out that there was no real programming on the channel, they pointed out that the transphobia was vicious and outrageous.

Now this plays for the basic cable crowd.  They don't pay enough to cover FOX "NEWS" bills.  And they're a highly unattractive demographic.  So FOX "NEWS" doesn't do as well as it needs to now in advertising.

Now?  FOX BROADCASTING is a sink hole FOX entertainment covered the losses for FOX "NEWS" for years.  And that shouldn't have been a surprise.  For decades news -- or what passed for it -- was bailed out at the big three networks by entertainment programming.  Losing that income harmed FOX "NEWS."  They have created FOX ENTERTAINMENT but it's only real success is from co-creations THE CLEANING LADY (a bonafide hit) and FANTASY ISLAND (about a million viewers notion of entertainment).  ALERT: MISSING PERSONS did very poorly for a first season broadcast and that's true -- only more so -- of THE ACCUSED (when you drop from an 8.7 million to start to barely a million viewers, you don't deserve a second season).  CALL ME KAT's also run off a ton of viewers in season three.  They have no real hit because the viewers aren't there and they're producing the shows with four to five other companies which may minimize their losses but also minimizes their potential profit.

Like CNN, FOX needed something more to bring in income.  That's one reason why CNN's doing all the 'movies' ('documentaries') over the last few years.  It's why it spent all that money on creating a streamer and why, when it was obviously going to fail, they immediately closed it down.

Better to write off as much as you can then be a laughingstock. CNN knows it can try again (and will).  FOX NATION?  They don't know what to do.  It was supposed to be a boon on Wall Street.  But, for that to happen, it needed to be successful.  Instead, it's a failure.  

And that's true of everything except Roseanne's comedy special.  Now Tucker speaking with Roseanne did help TUCKER CARLSON TODAY.  But every episode couldn't be a Roseanne Barr interview or a special about Roseanne.  And few bothered to stream him otherwise. 

A lot of money was being pumped into Tucker's pockets.  And it just wasn't worth it.  

The business model didn't work.

Jonathan Turley, right now, is probably ready to type up his latest anti-DISNEY column about the layoffs at DISNEY.  That's not DISNEY threatened for life or even really hurting.  That's a case of too many employees and too much redundancy.  Which is to be expected when you are ABC, FREE FORM, FX, FXX, FXM, HULU, ESPN, DISNEY+, 20th CENTURY FILMS (which released the cash printing machine AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER), MARVEL, WALT DISNEY STUDIO, WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS, DISNEY PARKS, etc.  

Turley's far too dishonest to tell the truth about the conglomerate that pays his bills.  But FOX "NEWS" is in serious trouble and that was true before they settled one lawsuit that will cost them   $787 million.  There are more lawsuits to come over that issue (lying to viewers).  And Lachlan Murdoch is especially worried about the network's estrangement from Donald Trump.  Rupert considers himself a kingmaker and believes they've buried Donald.  But if Lachlan is correct, and he believes he is, that FOX "NEWS" needs Donald for a successful business model, they can't hold on to Tucker who revealed in texts (that the Dominion lawsuit brought to the surface) that he hates Donald.  And besides the lawsuits -- it's not just Dominion -- over the lies about the 2020 vote, there are other lawsuits there's also the harassment lawsuit. 

FOX "NEWS" has to do more than tighten its belt.  There are no friends on Wall Street willing to bail it out -- NEWS MAX and other similar outlets can continue even if FOX "NEWS" falters.  And they're sinking in debt.  Tucker Carlson became an ugly face for the network -- an admitted liar (in texts, he not only admitted to hating Donald, he also admitted that despite making 'stolen election' claims on air, he didn't actually believe them).  This is a problem because AOC rightly noted the FTC when she was on Jen Psaki's talk show over the weekend.

Glenneth and others didn't understand what AOC was talking about because they're not real smart.  Oh, censorship! - they cried.


She mentioned the FTC which handles issues like fraud and consumer protection.  Viewers are consumers.  A TV host telling them that an election was stolen when the host admits privately that he didn't believe it was stolen?  That's fraud.  And eliminating that type of fraud is why the FTC exists.  This had nothing to do with The First Amendment.

So Tucker was a liar and he was accused of harassing in the workplace and he wasn't delivering new streams of money.  Of course, he was going to go.  FOX "NEWS" has much more success with THE FIVE -- and pay them less -- and this blend, they hope, is the future of the network.  Yes, even FOX "NEWS" is considering stepping away from the White Male single-host dynamic.  

Two firings that were a long time coming finally happened.  It may be the most obvious, the least absurd, media news of the year.

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