Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Odds and Ends

Late Night TV in Reruns

Maybe I just don't understand television, but it seems to me that of all the programs that would be adversely affected by a writer's strike, the late night talk shows would be at the bottom of the list. Yet, so far the only ones affected are the late night shows. It's understandable that prime time programs and soaps would be a little ahead of the curve and would have shows and scripts in the can, and would have a lag before the effects took place. And it is equally understandable that the late night shows would be written more near the actual broadcast date, but hey, aren't the hosts of these shows experienced stand-up comics? Didn't they once write their own stuff? Aren't the late night shows only a few-minute monologue similar to a stand-up routine, only shorter, and then a series of interviews?

Seems to me the late night guys could handle this all by themselves for a few days or weeks. Or, perhaps, it's more a matter of support for the writers, with whom they likely have a close relationship and upon whom they depend heavily. But then that focuses our attention on what is likely the real problem here: unions. If late night hosts want to have a close and supportive relationship with their writers, it would seem more productive and efficient to contract directly with the writers and circumvent the writer's union. Then, if the writers want more money, they go to Leno or O'Brien or Letterman or whomever and ask for a raise. If they don't get the raise, perhaps they decide to move on. After having run a small business and dealt with employees, when a valuable employee has an issue, you address it, and make a serious effort to keep a valuable employee happy, within reason. Since there are only a few writers on most TV shows, there's no reason why TV can't do the same thing; it's not like trying to work with hundreds of employees, which would be a good case for the workers to belong to a union.

In the Dog House

Surely nobody has escaped several encounters with the media orgy (how could you?) over the racial slur-laced telephone call by Duane "Dog" Chapman. The incident has led to Chapman's show being pulled by his network. Is this a case of political correctness run amok (please excuse the redundancy)? Yes, no doubt about it.

But let's look at what happened here before you start throwing stones my way. Chapman used this language in a private phone call with his son, who recorded the conversation, not in a public setting, and not on the TV show. Yet, when his son allowed the recording to become public, the outrage was enormous. Dog has since been compared to Don Imus, whose indiscretions were made on the air, and to Michael Richards, whose unacceptable racial tirade was made on stage, and to Alec Baldwin, whose private call to his daughter also became public. At least with Baldwin's situation there is some commonality; there is nothing in common with Imus and Richards.

This isn't about using the "n" word. What Chapman did was a private conversation. It has nothing to do with whether he is qualified to have a television show that focuses on his professional life. Zip, zero, nada. Were it not for a disloyal son, we wouldn't know that Dog is fond of using the "n" word, and it would have absolutely no influence on the network that he is fond of it. But because his son betrayed his trust, Dog is out of a job, and it is entirely because of the hypersensitivity that surrounds certain cultural phenomena that have become no-nos.

This is the United States; people are free to say and think what they please, and that is especially true in private, personal communications. We allow people to openly defame the President of the United States, and often these people are held in high esteem, but when an entertainer uses the wrong word, that entertainer is fired and characterized as some less-than-human cretin. Free speech means that you can call the President an idiot, terrorist or murderer, and it also means that you can call someone a spic, chink, redneck, queer, camel jockey, wop, or nigger.

This sort of inane emphasis on how people think is one of the several things that are ruining the United States.

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