Less Than 20 Questions …

Jan 8, 2007  •  Post A Comment

… some of which are rhetorical, some of which have no answer and some of which would be no fun if we went in search of an answer.

If Oprah Winfrey-gawd bless her beneficent bent-had asked your advice about what to pack for her trip to South Africa to cut the ribbon on the girls’ leadership academy she built, mightn’t you have advised her to take shorter drop diamond earrings and to shorten the floor-length pink gown she wore for the daylight ceremony? Is there no one who could or would say to her that less ostentation would be more appropriate when trying to set the tone for youngsters who have experienced the deprivations these girls have survived?

Why was there not more attention paid, during the long and rewinding road to Saddam Hussein’s hanging, to the news from the Texas White House that President Bush had been briefed about what was scheduled to happen in Iraq and then gone to bed and slept through the execution? Increasingly anti-war Americans watched and waited for this remarkable sign of these wire-world times-imagine the whole world technologically able to tune in for the despot’s death watch-while the leader who teed off on Iraq and Saddam and landed this country and his own legacy in the rough would rather be snoring. How could this not turn into a bigger question for the cable TV pundits who filled the midnight hours of Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 and the Sunday-morning second guessers?

Would it be just too inappropriately snarky to point-call the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s attention to a glaring misspelling in the new public service campaign TV spots starring rapper-turned-mogul Jay-Z and hip-hopper-turned-mogul Russell Simmons talking down bigotry? While the musical legends declare anti-Semitism just another form of racism, the graphic legends on the screen repeatedly spell the former “anti-Semitisim.” Remember: There is an “i” in proofreader.

Could the explanations for the downslide and demise of “The O.C.” be any more insulting? It wasn’t the switch to Thursday nights. It wasn’t, as a New York magazine writer posited this week, that the storylines had become too mainstream to please the hipster core audience. It was when the writers lost faith in and with their characters. The Insider knew the end was nigh in Season 2 when the writers inexplicably turned Kirsten Cohen into a secret lush and concocted a near-infidelity for Sandy Cohen. Those weren’t the only bone-head plots. The late Marissa’s L-word digression spelled doom. But it was when Kirsten went away for rehab and let a larcenous stalker follow her home that The Insider knew that while there might be moments in which “The O.C.” could once again make teen angst both giddy and touching, the thrill was gone. The show had jumped the shark, not in the innocent Fonzie kind of way but in the “screwed the pooch,” carnal kind of way.

Will there be any unexpected themes raised by those who cover TV when the Television Critics Association convenes at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif., for its winter tour on Tuesday? The Insider made a quick-gut check of veteran TV types who have been prepping for the marathon and here are the topics they expect to be raised with all programming executives: The failure of serialized programs; the phenomenon of the return of Fox’s “American Idol”; NBC’s 8 o’clock non-scripted strategy; and junk reality programming, whether it’s Fox’s aborted O.J. Simpson “If I Did It” special or CBS getting down and dirty with “celebrities” in “Armed and Famous.”