In Depth

Adalian Column: Joe’s Jottings, or, Getting Dotty Like Larry King

Larry King wasn’t always just another pretty face on television.

I first got hooked on the King when he was a late-night radio host on the Mutual Radio Network during the 1980s. Growing up in Las Vegas, I dreamed of one day calling in to Larry’s show and defending Reaganomics. What can I say, I was a strange kid.

Larry King

Around the same time, Mr. King began a weekly newspaper column for USA Today. He’d just ramble along, shooting off various non sequiturs about whatever happened to be on his mind at the moment.

“Angelina Jolie, whose film ‘Original Sin’ opened Friday, tells me she has nothing in the works right now,” Mr. King once wrote.

The New York Times called it “a weekly offering studded with plugs, superlatives and dropped names”; I thought of it as 500 words of poetry.

In fact, when you think about it, Mr. King’s column could be considered one of the earliest forms of blogging. Larry was regularly updating his status years before folks on Facebook started doing it.

USA Today, in a bone-headed move that might have marked the beginning of the end for print journalism, decided to drop Mr. King’s column in 2001. An editor told the Times the paper wanted to make room for more celebrity coverage.

Ugh.

Anyway, while I could never come close to duplicating the genius of Mr. King’s meanderings—for one thing, Angelina Jolie doesn’t tell me anything—I’ve decided to take a stab at dispensing some three-dot musings of my own every once in a while. Unlike Mr. King, I’ll try to keep my focus on one major topic (television), and I’ll try to drop no more than 10 names per columns.

With apologies to the King …

ABC’s Steve McPherson should bring back “Dynasty” as a six-hour miniseries. Hire Marc Cherry to “reimagine” the Carrington clan for the 2010s. Watch the ratings explode. And thank me later …

Speaking of revivals, whatever happened to the primetime reunion specials that used to pop up at least once a season on the networks? You know, those one- or two-hour shows where the aged casts of classic hits assemble on a soundstage and valiantly attempt to hide their unspoken hatred for one another. “Seinfeld” and “Friends” are the obvious candidates, and I’m sure Ben Silverman would fork over some of his profits from the sale of Reveille to make those reunions happen. But I’d rather see the cast of “Roseanne” experiencing some ’Nam-like flashbacks when brought back into the same building with Ms. Barr. … A “Full House” reprise would result in a tabloid frenzy, assuming the Olsen twins would agree … Other reunion-worthy shows from the recent past: “Party of Five,” “Family Ties,” “In Living Color,” “Benson,” “Designing Women,” “Frasier,” “Melrose Place” and “Ally McBeal” … If the networks don’t consider the 1970s too ancient, a “Good Times” reunion would do a lot better than anyone might expect. Or, if CBS wanted to get clever, it could bring together all the surviving stars of Norman Lear’s shows for a tribute to Mr. Lear. …

SNL MacGruber Sketch

Returning to 2009: I wasn’t bothered by NBC’s Pepsi-purchased “MacGruber” commercials during the Super Bowl. They were clearly ads. I was a bit annoyed, however, when the same spots aired a night earlier during “Saturday Night Live,” Mainly because they forced me to stop fast-forwarding through the commercials as I watched the show on my DVR. … As the “MacGruber” mini-controversy proves, NBC gets beat up like a pinata in the press. A lot of the drubbing is deserved. But the network is still home to “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Chuck,” “ER,” “Life” and “Friday Night Lights.” I dare you to name 10 shows of the same caliber on any cable network that doesn’t charge $12 a month. … That said, if NBC spends another dime on “Lipstick Jungle,” it deserves the failure that will surely follow. Just sign Brooke Shields and Kim Raver to a talent deal, hire away a writer from “Brothers and Sisters” and call it a day.

Would somebody please bring back “The $25,000 Pyramid”? And do it right? … Speaking of game shows, “Wheel of Fortune” would be three times cooler if they brought back the shopping sprees at the end. Even for a week. I’ll take the ceramic Dalmatian for $300, Pat—and put the rest on account. … Glad to see that CBS is considering bringing back its upfront party. If you’re gonna hit someone up for hundreds of millions of dollars, the least you can do is give them some free shrimp.

Bill Maher

Doesn’t it feel like President Obama has already been in office for a year? And that the cable news channels are just looking for an excuse to stir up some scandal—any scandal? … Speaking of politics, I’m counting the days until “Real Time With Bill Maher” returns to HBO on Feb. 20. … Fox’s grindhouse promo for its Friday lineup is one of the coolest bits of TV hype in years. … I miss seeing Connie Chung on TV. … NBC’s “LMAO” Super Bowl promo for its Thursday lineup was well-executed. But a tipster notes that Fox once promoted “In Living Color” with spots that had viewers losing their posteriors. … I seriously miss the days when CNN Headline News—sorry, HLN—actually churned out the day’s top stories in 30 minutes. Can’t someone figure out a way to make money on a news channel that just airs, you know, news? … Speaking of which, I can still hum the theme for Satellite News Channel. Ted Turner did many great things, but killing off SNC wasn’t one of them. … Yes, CBS once used as its slogan, Turn Us On. We’ll Turn You On.” Can you imagine what the Parents Television Council would say if a network used that line today? … Remember when networks used to air news briefs during primetime? CBS still does a “MoneyWatch” segment on Sundays, but it’s not the same. … Anyone know whatever happened to former “Saturday Night Live” star Norm Macdonald?