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Cathy's World: Dubious Media Moments

By CATHERINE SEIPP   |   Dec. 16, 2001 at 6:11 AM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- I see that Esquire magazine has decided to kill the January issue's longstanding annual Dubious Achievement Awards. That's probably just as well: the Awards have been only dubiously amusing these past few years.

But since Esquire doesn't need it anymore, maybe I can revive the tradition. So here's my look back at a calendar of Dubious Media Moments, 2001.

JANUARY: At an NBC press conference, Vince McMahon says that there are limits to the XFL's reality tone: "If someone is DEAD, I don't know if I'm gonna put a camera on him and say, 'Look at this tackle, he just DIED,'" McMahon explains.

Like wrestling, the new XFL football league brings up all sorts of issues about taste. NBC sports chief Dick Ebersol recalls that a press conference in the old days, during "Saturday Night Main Events" and Grant Tinker's final tenure at NBC, "they were giving Grant Tinker a hard time ... saying how can he put wrestling on the network with all of the quality shows. And Grant looked 'em in the eye and said, 'Because it's QUALITY wrestling.'"

FEBRUARY: There's something missing in the Los Angeles Times' four-part David-Shaw-Explains-It-All-For-You series on Hollywood. Where's the special Shaw nut graph -- you know, the one enumerating how many people were interviewed and how long the series took to produce?

Sure, there was the part reassuring everyone that all quotes were on the record (whew!), but that was just redundant filler. It's David SHAW! Of COURSE everything's on the record! They may have to prop your eyelids open with toothpicks to get you to read the whole thing, but, by God, you won't be distracted by any reckless comments from unnamed sources.

MARCH: I remain pained that Fox canceled "Harsh Realm," "X-Files" creator Chris Carter's fascinating virtual reality thriller, after just three episodes in 1999. So I have high hopes for "The Lone Gunmen," which premieres this month. This is the new "X-Files" spin-off starring the three bumbling conspiracy buffs. But I find myself nodding off during the first two episodes.

Does anyone really check into Carter's fevered vision for the laughs? The occasionally comic chemistry between Scully and Mulder on "The X-Files" grew mostly out of the deadpan acting, while the best running joke "Harsh Realm" could come up with was D.B. Sweeney's constant threat, "I'm gonna eat that dog!" Right, I know: Har-de-har-har.

I loved "Harsh Realm," but 99% of the time, it didn't try to be funny. "The Lone Gunmen" does, and it's unbearable. Fortunately, it's quickly canceled, and the Gunmen are folded back into "The X-Files."

APRIL: Media companies are forced to think harder about electronic database rights in the wake of the Tasini v. New York Times lawsuit, which decides that freelancers must be compensated for this extra use of their work.

My favorite Tasini scene is Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe claiming, in what surely must rank among the most disingenuous arguments ever made before the Supreme Court that, "We're going to have a serious problem with our kids doing homework" if his clients are forced to purge online databases of freelance content.

Yes, that would be a problem of Sputnik-era proportions: "Why Johnny Can't Access Occasional Freelance Articles Written by Underpaid Hacks." My God, could even our superlative American educational system survive such a crushing blow?

MAY: And more about the doomed XFL: The Wall Street Journal reports that advertisers didn't like the show's genuinely unscripted dialogue, such as The Rock's ad-libbed suggestion to "NFL suits" that they take the luggage they'd moved out of Los Angeles with, "turn them sideways and stick them straight up your candy ass."

But you know, the Rock does have a way with words. I've been planning to borrow his line, "Why don't you drink a big glass of shut-up juice?" the next time my ex-husband calls to rant and rave about whatever.

JUNE: One of my least favorite things is the media habit of referring to gutsy female journalists as "ballsy." For those unfamiliar with the "if you can't say something nice ... " world of Los Angeles media, let me explain that just making the occasional mildly blunt observation gets this compliment regularly thrown your way. I always find myself thinking: "Thanks! And why don't you add that I have five-o'-clock shadow and male-pattern baldness and really make my day?"

So I never thought the words "Gloria Allred, you go girl!" would cross my mind, but at the L.A. Press Club's annual Southern California Journalism Awards, which included a big tribute to Dan Rather and CBS News -- plus many smaller tributes to various "ballsy" women reporters -- the feminist attorney did have a good response.

A small posse of protesters objecting to the CBS anchor's liberal agenda had been marching outside earlier holding "Rather not!" and "Ratherbiased.com" placards. "To Dan Rather, for enduring the attacks of Bill O'Reilly et al," Allred said at the dais. "Dan Rather, you got breasts!"

JULY: I read a news story about Google spilling journalists' search queries onto the Web. But it turns out these are only serious source queries in connection with actual work.

That's a relief. Because it might be rather embarassing if there were an electronic trail revealing how often I look up my own bylines on Google and Google Groups, followed by searches for various friends, ex-friends, relatives, old schoolmates, ex-husbands. (Hmm. So he's trying to track down an old Beatles record? Typical.)

It is interesting what you can find out, though. Because of a small film role in the mid-'80s, my sister is now forever immortalized on a tight skirts fetish website.

AUGUST: I am so bored I actually turn on the local TV news and see a remarkably stupid story about lead paint and picnic tables. "These children are eating off picnic tables COVERED with lead paint!" the announcer exclaims in horror. For God's sake, just eat the picnic, not the tables.

SEPTEMBER: After Sept. 11, people start emailing me various lists of ersatz TV lineups in Afghanistan. Most are lame, but one list, from Hollywood Reporter TV reviewer Ray Richmond, is actually pretty good. Some of Richmond's TV shows in Afghanistan: "Everybody Loves Osama," "Buffy, the Veil-less Female Slayer of Guiltless Deceased Martyrs," "C.S.I.: Camel Slaughter Investigation," "That Afterlife Show," and "Sunday Night at the Munitions Factory."

OCTOBER: Three of my favorite shows debut with three annoying new elements this season: Buffy is overly sulky about being raised from the dead on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"; Lorelei is insufferable after flightily breaking her engagement on "Gilmore Girls;" and Max now has an unbearably adorable genetically engineered friend, Joshua the Dog Boy, on "Dark Angel."

Still, all three shows have hit their stride again. And on the bright side, Willow's finally broken up with her mopey lesbian girlfriend on "Buffy."

NOVEMBER: I become embarassingly obsessed with "Hullabaloo," the old '60s music show AMC keeps running during sweeps month. Well, it's hard not to get hooked after catching Gary Lewis sing "Wild Blue Yonder" and then do a duet with dad Jerry Lewis. But I guess it wasn't "Hullabaloo" but another '60s music show that had the weird tag line "Tina Delgato is alive -- alive!" Because despite watching "Hullabaloo" religiously during November I never hear the Tina Delgato line. Who was Tina Delgato anyway? Is she still alive?

DECEMBER: The holiday season is brightened with the e-mail Battle of the Fox Sitcom Showrunners, which is quickly forwarded all around Hollywood. The story so far: when "Undeclared" executive producer Judd Apatow wanted "That '70s Show" star Topher Grace to make a guest appearance on "Undeclared," he was puzzled why his old friend Mark Brazill, the executive producer on "That '70s Show," kicked up a fuss.

It seems that Brazill was still angry that Apatow had -- in Brazill's mind, anyway -- stolen one of his ideas 10 years ago. Some excerpts from their email argument:

Apatow: "I truly don't remember what you are talking about."

Brazill: "Die in a fiery accident and taste your own blood."

Apatow: "I hope your anger is a joke, because if it isn't ... wow."

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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