Friday, November 28, 2008

The Vacuum That Both Sucks and Blows, Dept.

Well, it's been a while--a mega-long, fucking while, children--since your sobsister viewed anything on network television as wretched as Friday's Rosie Live!. The "return" of the variety show. Or, as it turned out, the wooden stake, silver bullet and garlic shiv through the heart of the variety show format.

Christ, I mean, even the network felt compelled to weasel-word its P.R. puffery:

Just as Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett and ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN, captivated the hearts of audiences across the country, the unpredictable Rosie O'Donnell will bring that grand tradition to a whole new level!

Would that "whole new level" be up or down? Who can say? Not the network, clearly.

Rosie will kick off the hour doing what she does best -- sounding off about current events, pop culture and whatever is on her mind. From there, anything can happen as Rosie, her celebrity friends and fans sing, dance, and laugh in a primetime variety show like no other.

Yes, it truly is "like no other." In the same way that a two-headed calf and a shit sandwich are sui generis.

But, sobsister, what exactly made it so relentlessly, irredeemably sucktastic, I hear you ask? Oh, very many things. So very goddamn many. For your convenience, here's a short list.

1) Rosie O'Donnell has zero fucking talent. She actually sucks talent out of those around her like a talent vampire. I remember watching her host Stand-Up Spotlight on VH-1 in the '90s and thinking she must've fucked the entire crew to get the gig. I mean, even the grips and crafts service. Because she was so unbelievably charmless and unfunny. And, now, America's Favorite Eternal Amateur™ is trying to bring back the variety show format that she supposedly loved as a child, but tragically forgetting that those shows were founded on entertainment. Not on an unbreakable fascination with one's self in the televisual equivalent of a dog licking its balls. For example, if you're hosting a renaissance of the variety show format, an opening monologue that describes in Proustian detail the undergarment you're wearing that reshapes your copious body fat into breasts is probably not the sort of material that Ed Sullivan would've chosen to deliver in a comparable situation. Your audience is no longer comprised exclusively of self-medicating housewives and graveyard shift stoners, Ro, and there's a significant difference between "host" and "star," so, before you vanish up the asshole of your self-regard, you may want to take into consideration the fact that, for example, no-one outside your immediate family ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever wants to see you sing and dance. Because--reality check and spoiler alert!-- you can't do either. Not even a little. I mean, you make Ashlee Simpson look and sound like the second coming of Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and Gwen Verdon, capeesh? And, honest, it's not enough that you're "trying." That shit flies on the tee ball field, but not on television and not on my time.

2) Liza Minnelli really needn't be seen in public any more. Leave me with the memory of Cabaret and Liza with a 'Z'. I mean, I can see how a prime time gig on a Big Three network would be attractive to her--the unenviable price being a duet with the Talent Vampire--but the unfortunate cosmetic work she's had done and the shit through which she's had to wade as a function of her illnesses and lifestyle have made her look and sound at least twenty years older than 62. It's like watching a high school hygiene film on the ravages of drugs, booze and neediness. And who was it, exactly, who thought that an opening number featuring a woman who can neither sing nor dance doing both and another woman whose appeal would seem to be founded entirely on how well she's doing, you know, considering would attract anyone outside a coterie of those who rubberneck at highway mishaps?

3) Who the fuck is Ne-Yo? Is he Usher's considerably less charismatic brother? And why is he on my screen? Did I lost a bet with Good Black Music?

4) The Talent Vampire actually has the brass knockers to feature a musical segment--featuring the otherwise-charming and -underutilized Jane Krakowski--in which she lists the crap she's giving away to audience members. So classy. She makes Oprah seem like Alistair Cooke at Edward R. Murrow's.

5) Ha ha! A segment with Clay Aiken in which both of them are cutesy-coy about being homosexuals! Oh, this must be considered ever so cosmopolitan and risqué by very, very old people in Des Moines.

6) Oh, Alanis Morrissette? 1995 called. Asked why you'd left your talent and appeal back there. She sang an interminable, nasally song about something. Life? Love? Wolverines? The sort of performance where the audience started applauding before she was finished. As a hint. Thanks a fucking load, Canada. Bastards

7) No, really, Rosie. This isn't your ghastly daytime show. You don't have to be in every number, sketch and scene. And you don't have to pretend to be even vaguely "turned on" by Alec Baldwin and Harry Connick Jr. You're a lesbian. We totally got that. And no shout-outs to your four children. This isn't PTA Talent Night at Commack High. Fuck, you're annoying.

8) Ah, novelty talent numbers. Jugglers. Acrobats. It's like watching European weekend programming. Or the lounge act at a Las Vegas hotel too chintzy to host a Cirque de Soleil spin-off. What, no quick-change artists? No human Slinkies? What a rip. I'm totally writing to the programming director at RAI.

9) Wow, a big finale with Gloria Estefan! I feel fifteen years younger! Is it time for President Clinton's first inauguration? *ha ha!* But seriously, the fact that it's been fifteen years since Li'l Gloria was even vaguely relevant doesn't in any way diminish the entertainment value of having her tell a couple of lame jokes and then do a duet--but, of course, a duet; Gawd forbid anyone should steal the Stand-Up Spotlight--with Rosie. (I wonder who else Rosie could feature in the handful of future episodes before network executives release themselves from the basement in which she's apparently locked them. The Baha Men? The Rico Suave guy? The ghost of the "where's the beef?" lady?) And, not content with a closing musical number that features both Gloria Estefan and boy dancers dressed as foodstuffs, she brings out Rachael "Ray-Ray" Ray! To sing!! Christ alfuckingmighty! Talk about a black hole of talent. I'm amazed that the audience didn't find its face sucked off by the vacuum on that stage.

Yes, indeed. Rosie O'Donnell "brought back" the variety show on Wednesday. Much like Jack Kevorkian offers wellness care to his patients. Or Hitler sponsoring a Hadassah summer camp. Sweet Jesus, it both sucked and blew. A hundred years of songwriters and entertainers spinning at 78 RPM in their graves. Catch it next time. It's so wretched, it'll clear your sinus passages like wasabi and your colon like an all-bran depth charge. And the Talent Vampire, having mutilated both the daytime talk show and the variety show, will surely soon decamp to feast on another genre.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clueless, Dept.

Now, you know that your sobsister is all about the local television commercial programming. Particularly as regards advertising. None of this high-concept, CGI-heavy, oil-slick eyewash. Just guys and gals in ill-considered outfits standing next to quality, previously owned Fords, Hondas and Subarus in footage that appears to have been shot on Super 8 and dubbed over a bad cell connection. And, hey, their messages haven't been "focus grouped" or "audience tested" or "edited." It's just straight-talking shovel-fisted entrepreneurialism, podner!

Case in point for your consideration: your sobsister is seated before the teevee after having watched another episode of Jeopardy! and again marveled at how many degrees off geosynchronous orbit Alex Trebek, on occasion, can be.
An ad comes on.
A fellow in a cheapass knockoff of a London chimney sweep's uniform ca. Mary Poppins IV: Supercalifuckingpointless pulls up to the curb in front of a suburban house and hops out.
Quick cut to the interior of the house.
Three teenage girls are playing "Clue." We know it's "Clue," because one of them is helpfully propping the box up on her knees for our edification.

clue girl

Over this action, a toy piano is doubling a woman's tuneless voice chantsinging, "A step in time, a step in time, gonna make your chimneys shine." The kind of performance that usually precedes all the children in the village taking up pitchforks against the unsuspecting adults.
Exterior shot: he rings the doorbell.
If it weren't for the grating jingle, I'd expect the chick-waka-waka-boom porn soundtrack to kick in: "Morning, ladies. I heard someone needed their chimney poled."
Inside, one of the three little louts--who clearly can't be arsed to answer the door three feet away--screams, "Hey, MOMMM! The chimney sweep is here!!"
Down the stairs comes "Mom" under a big load...of laundry. Chick-waka-waka-boom.
She lets the sweep in He proceeds to look up her...fireplace, then up the ladder outside to pound her...chimney with his long, black...brush.
Wow, this is like Porn Mad Libs! More fun to make than they are to read, I bet!

Anyhoo, he finishes his work, shakes her hand and drives off. The screen dissolves to this still:


Ummm...exsqueeze me, but is that a fish next to the Web address for this business? What is that, the chimney sweep's prison tat? Did a teardrop not make for a good graphic?
I'm sorry...what's that you say?
He's a Christian?
Ohhh...that explains ever so much. Is this what we're coming to in post-secular America? Flagging one's religious affiliation in teevee spots for knowing co-religionists? Is that what the teen mannequin was doing? Giving us a "clue" as to the chimbley sweep's post-Rapture forwarding address?
I hope to see similarly subtle hints in future advertisements. A smiling cow for a Hindu-owned clothing store. A frowny brain for a zombie-owned dry cleaner.

Heck, why stop at religious affiliation? I'd like to see an erect cock advertising a gay-owned business. Or a flatline EEG for a Republican-owned business.

Yes, I say! Let us all give each other a "clue" as to our leanings in our television advertisements. Otherwise, how will we know to whom to give our custom? "Quality"? "Customer service"? "Value"? Yeah. How're things in Cloud Cuckoo Land, Fantasy Boy?

I don't know about you, but I'm voting with my wallet and supporting Pornstar Xtian Chimney Dude. He may or may not know shit about chimneys or pleasuring suburban housewives, but at least I know where he stands on salvation.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Shout Bam-a-Lam!, Dept.

As afterglow fades into sweet memory, a few thoughts about the events of Tuesday night.

1) A lot of folks are waxing poetic--which is somewhere along the taint--about how "classy" Johnny Mac's concession speech was, how he nobly quieted those among his audience who booed the very mention of Barry's name, how he divided the fishes and loaves to feed the multitude. To them I say, Hooey! I also say, Nertz! Before I fall completely into 1944, I'll also say that them as says that are speaking through their posteriors, because offering your rape victim a breath mint don't make you a gentleman, capeesh? I've read no end of commentary to the tune of "This was the McCain of 2000" and "Where was this John McCain?" and, really, I'm...not "amused," not "bemused"...what's the word I'm thinking of...? Right: I'm gobsmacked that, after months of hearing Johnny Mac impugn every and anything about Barack Obama short of his manhood, anyone would be suckered in by this 11th hour show of "sportsmanship." Oh, yes, he quieted the selfsame crowds he'd been goosing to take up pitchfork, torch and noose. Why, he's practically Gandhi meets Mother Teresa at Albert Schweitzer's house!


2) Much more satisfying was watching the extreme discomfiture of Sarahcuda even as Cholly Chipmunk played the Good Loser. This was just like losing Miss Alaska! Only, this time, there were actual people watching! Not just tundra fauna and a grizzled prospector beating his jerky. You could just see the wheels turning behind her bitter, briny, streaky face: Fuckity fuck FUCK!!, plucky Sarah-Pie thought to herself, Now, I have to go back to the ass-end of the Ass-End of Nowhere with this clodhopping jagoff, four kids and two grandkids! And there's no Neiman for, like, ten thousand miles! And I have to eat Dinty Moore out of the fucking can with Sasquatch here when I could've been dining on foie gras mousse and porcini en croute with Condi Rice at Citronelle! FUCK!! My agent better get me that daytime talk show, or I'm going to kick Grandpa over there so hard in the goolies, he's going to have two sets of eyeballs!

3) Telling contrast of the evening: the demographics of the crowd at the McCain election night bash at the Arizona Biltmore versus those of the Obama crowd at Grant Park. The Obama crowd was, in the man's words, "young and old, rich and, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled." The McCain crowd, on the other hand, looked like they still can't quite understand why there's a federal holiday in January honoring an uppity nigger.

4) Related to the preceding, as your sobsister looks at the electoral map and the electoral figures, the ineluctable question nudges and pokes me: were 46 percent of Americans so retarded as to think that McCain/Palin was anything short of a screaming Kazakhstani clusterfuck? I mean, yeah, I'm all for a Big Tent and divergent views and honest disagreement but, really? Honest to dingdong goodness?! Y'all, hands to the Bible, really thought this doddering weasel with the twitching ethics impairment and the chuckleheaded mannequin who made most of the English-speaking world plus Jesus want to slap the aw-shucks out of her mouth represented our best hope for leadership in our nation's most trying period in 75 years?!?

Get out of my country.
And leave the cows, corn and cotton.

5) I only switched to FOX once, but they looked and sounded like they were trying to call the best game possible for the Washington Generals even as all five Globetrotters did the elastic ball trick. Not to worry about these viperfanged guys and gals, though. They're backing the calumny, disinformation and untruth trucks up to the FOX warehouse. `Cause feeding on your own is fun, but slashing at the legs of those trying to climb is even funner.

6) That Obama feller, he can talk right purty.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Dept.


If we, as a civilization, have plucked from the storehouse of eastern Mediterranean myth and legend the name of Oedipus to represent Freud's urge to kill his father and bone his mother, and the name of Sisyphus to symbolize profound frustration and fruitless endeavor, then where in that storehouse can we find a figure to represent the ingrained need on the part of mothers to throw out their sons' valuable shit?

Case in point: I know a guy who came home from college to learn his mother had thrown out his entire baseball card collection. That he didn't express his pique with the business end of a Louisville Slugger is unimpeachable testimony to his saintly forebearance. But, really, no foolin': what sort of confluence of bad chemicals, bad juju and bad judgment could possibly cause a person to do such a thing? "Tum-te-tum, just cleaning up my son's room, tum-te-tum, oh, look, here are several boxes of those baseball cards he loves so much, he's worked so hard to collect them all, how he used to save his lawnmowing money just to buy them, I remember the twinkle in his eye when he'd run back to the car, so excited to see which cards he'd gotten, such memories... welp, I guess I'll chuck them all out and then go shave the cat."

Such tales are Legion, for they are many. I, too, have had my life blighted by this scourge of maternal malice enrobed in cluelessness wrapped in a tissue of lies. After your sobsister graduated from college, I left my hometown to attend graduate school and then begin work. A few years passed, during which I was mostly overseas. Then, once back in the States, I thought to relieve my parents of the books and things I'd left with them. I went through several closets and retrieved books, mainly paperbacks that had formed part of a collegiate corpus of Required Reading that I'd taken great pains to avoid but also some of my old favorites from high school and college days. But danged if I could find my stash of Harlan Ellison novels and anthologies.

I had been a huge Harlan Ellison fan. I had first bought his better-known collections of speculative fiction, then his books of essays, then went back and bought his early novels. It was at a science-fiction convention that I'd had the opportunity to approach the Great Man, who was accompanied by a tall and leggy brunette I utterly ignored in my bedazzlement at the Presence, and ask him, tremulously, for an autograph. He smiled, took the book I'd just bought--one of his earliest novels, bound as a two-fer with someone else's equally minor work--and whipped off the dedication, "This is a terrible book and I apologize - Harlan Ellison."

This collection of paperbacks by my once-favorite author, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is what I was seeking in the closets and boxes of my parents' apartment. After opening and peering and moving and craning, I asked my mother where my Harlan Ellison books were. With the very eyes of guilelessness, she responded that she didn't know. Hadn't you taken them? No, mater, if I had taken them, I wouldn't be rearranging family-size bags of Cheez Doodles in the upper reaches of your storage areas. Well, you must've taken them; I haven't touched them.

At this point, I began to feel much as I imagine Orestes felt before Clytemnestra or, possibly, Stewie before Lois. The berserker fury was building in my head like pitcher beer in a puny bladder. Everything before me snapped into razorsharp focus then turned deep red. I remember little of what ensued, except, I think, I was fairly peckish and dinner was ready.

I cannot explain her behavior. I cannot explain the behavior of any mother who would so despoil the treasures of her son's youth. Is it payback for leaving the maternal bosom? Is it punishment for ineffaceable stretch marks? Is it transitory menopausal dementia? Wiser minds than mine may know, and they ain't saying. All I can offer by way of conclusion is this: don't leave your good shit in your mother's care. Ever. Because maternal instinct does not extend to your possessions, and if your boxes of near-mint Golden Age comic books are blocking her access to the Swiffer, kiss your run of All Star Comics goodbye, brother.

Oh, and I'm nominating Medea.