We’re getting out of here-just us ; NYTV will keep on a-chuggin’-and on the way out, we wanted to come up with an ideal finale, maybe not as good as Mary Tyler Moore ‘s, but certainly better than Seinfeld ‘s, or that moronic St. Elsewhere one when the saintly autistic kid looked into the snow globe and it was all … a … dream. We considered options. We thought about strapping ourselves to the couch with leather belts, drinking a tub of gin and actually watching an episode of The King of Queens . We thought about going on Ashleigh Banfield’s MSNBC show, but too late. We thought about going on Jesse Ventura’s MSNBC show, but too early. We thought about waking up in bed beside Suzanne Pleshette! We thought about asking Bill O’Reilly to stop deflecting the credit to everyone besides himself, and share a few of his opinions.
But in the end we decided to do a wish list. Television is nothing if not an instant-gratification business-so if we’re not instantly gratified by what’s currently out there, in a 500-channel, digital cable, HBO-on-Demand, Bill Maher–gets-one-show-after-another universe, then something’s amiss. So here’s 10 wishes:
1. We wish for peace in the Middle East-and on cable news. We’ve enjoyed the mean-spirited missile attacks between Fox News and CNN and MSNBC as much as anyone-probably more-but it’s time to stop. Guys: You all have your positives and your negatives, and as great as you think you are, twice as many people watch an average episode of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter than anything on your respective channels.
2. We wish television news in general would stop being so crazed about being live. Live coverage is easily the most overrated journalistic innovation going. It’s one thing if it’s Ted Koppel by the Euphrates, but the vast majority of live coverage is merely “live from the scene where such-and-such happened a long time ago, and the only reason we’re doing this is because we can.” It’d be great if news organizations cut their live coverage in half and devoted the saved resources to enterprise, investigative journalism.
3. We wish television writers wouldn’t confuse verbosity with intelligence. One of the more irritating developments of the past decade in TV is the growth of the 78 R.P.M. drama: shows in which characters speak faster than kindergartners who have to go to the potty, and always do it so grammatically and exquisitely-Blake references! Teddy Roosevelt quotes!-and launch smart comebacks every time. We’d really enjoy it if, every once in while, a super-smart character on a super-smart show said, “Huh?”
4. We wish David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Craig Kilborn and Jimmy Kimmel would do one week a year where not a single one of their guests had something to plug. And Bobby Short was the musical guest every night. We guarantee it would be the most interesting week of the year-and, probably, the worst-rated.
5. We wish someone would give Monica Lewinsky a reality show. Wait: done !
6. We wish the Friends could live forever. We really do. And by the end, the world will have run out of money to give them, so instead of giving them cash, we’ll have to award them vast tracts of land-literally, nations-so people living in, say, China, will instead live in “Lisa Kudrow” and have to answer to Lisa Kudrow if she wants to do anything, like redecorate the Great Wall for InStyle magazine or something.
8. We’ve moaned about this before, but we wish Six Feet Under would knock it off with the dream sequences. It’s gotten to the point where when anything interesting happens, you automatically assume it’s a dream-just like you do with the CBS Early Show .
8. We wish there’d be a reality television dating series which followed the love lives of the people who create reality television dating series. Why do we get the feeling it wouldn’t exactly be Shampoo ?
9. We wish there was a sign on the right-field fence in Yankee Stadium that read, “Hit This Sign-and Michael Kay Shuts Up For Three Innings.”
10. We wish Larry David ran everything.
Tonight on Fox, the finale of American Idol . [WNYW, 5, 8 p.m.]
Thursday, May 22
Found: media defender of Jayson Blair! In the person of Ted Faraone, a loquacious, no-nonsense local television consultant and public-relations rep. Mr. Faraone, of course, has a Big Fat Reason for sticking up for Mr. Blair-he’s angling to help his client, former Current Affair executive Ian Rae, land the reporter’s life rights for TV/film/book-but it’s worth noting he was also an occasional source for the disgraced ex- Times scribe, and said he was never burned by inaccuracies or cooked-up info.
“He did well and he got everything right,” Mr. Faraone said. “He impressed the sources I introduced him to.”
Mr. Faraone said it was a “big surprise” to find out Mr. Blair had been fabricating/ripping off stories. He called him a “very intelligent, very good reporter, very creative, good turns of phrase, good writer-all of the above.”
“If he had applied to all of his work the standards he applied to the stories he did on which I helped him as a source, this whole scandal wouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Faraone said. “And it really infuriates me, all the people who go around saying, ‘See what happens when you start giving preference to black people!’ That really pisses me off.”
We smell an “executive producer” credit for Mr. Faraone somewhere down the line! Tonight on WPIX-one of Mr. Faraone’s other clients-it’s Sabrina, the Teenage Witch . Isn’t Sabs post-pubescent at this point? [WPIX, 11, 8 p.m.]
Friday, May 23
NYTV Left Coast correspondent Alexandra Jacobs took time off from her packed schedule of writing, editing, hosting media salons and couching with Jenny Aniston to weigh in on last week’s epic Dawson’s Creek finale:
Fans of the young-adult television drama Dawson’s Creek -indeed, citizens of the world-can be divided into two camps: the “DJ”ers and the “PJ”ers. “DJ”ers are the cerebral, sexless idealists who thought that Joey Potter should wind up with that insipid broad-browed beta-male Dawson Leery. “PJ”ers are quick-pulsed emotional types who kept hoping, against all reason, that Joey would find a way to be with that handsome devil, Pacey …. What was his last name, anyway?
Well, no matter. The series finale last Wednesday marked a resounding victory for the “PJ”ers, still basking in the afterglow on the show’s teeming on-line message boards. After an excruciating two hours- during which that soporific blond chick took waaay too long to die (with obligatory plastic tube up her nose) and there were more same-sex clinches than in The Hours-Joey, now a sophisticated book editor, is spotted in her improbably luxurious Manhattan high-rise watching TV with … Pacey!
Phew! One might venture that Dawson’s Creek is this generation’s Philadelphia Story , with the tomboyish, holier-than-thou Katie Holmes in the Kate Hepburn role, James Van Der Beek as a bumbling Jimmy Stewart (albeit with a big forehead and zero charisma) and Joshua Jackson settling Cary Grant’s ermine mantle over his shoulders. Thanks for six special years, guys, and this Janey-come-lately fan will see you over on TBS.
Thanks, Jake! Tonight, Jake takes Precious and the cats to an early buffet at Asia de Cuba as TBS force-feeds us a Mets loss to the Braves. [TBS, 8, 7:30 p.m.]
Saturday, May 24
Kurt Andersen’s a great talk-show guest-we caught him the other day on Charlie Rose talking about the Matrix phenomenon, even though he hadn’t seen The Matrix Reloaded , and he managed just fine, much better than we ever did when we blew off the Faulkner before American Lit and tried to skirt by using the words “sweeping” and “Gothic.”
The point is Mr. Andersen’s a pro at this stuff, and he now has his own talk show, which ought to be good, and it is. It’s called Face Time , and it’s on the Trio network-growing in reputation as the Thinking D-Girl’s Digital Channel-and for its upcoming season Mr. Andersen’s gone out and interviewed a bunch of comedians, among them Dennis Miller-another professional talk-show guest-Bernie Mac and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the latter of whom has a paw up his hindquarters belonging to SNL /Conan O’Brien genius Robert Smigel.
Trio president Lauren Zalaznick raved about Mr. Andersen and Face Time . “Talk shows fall into two categories,” she said. “Fairly uninteresting people talking to all different kinds of people, and in Kurt’s case, an interesting person talking to all sorts of interesting people.”
Ms. Zalaznick, who used to work for VH1 before it became the ” Us Weekly Channel”-seriously, one of these days that Cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs network is going to run out of “sexy” pop stars to build cheap compilations shows out of, and it’ll be just as grisly as the day they ran out of drugged-out Behind the Music bands-said that Mr. Andersen’s show benefited by not having to do the usual talk-show pumping of “Friday movies” and so on. “That takes the lid of publicist pressure off and you end up with a more genuine conversation,” she said.
In other words, it may be a conversation with a rubber-dog hand puppet, but at least the rubber-dog hand puppet isn’t whoring an American Pie sequel! Face Time premieres June 1. Tonight on Trio, Perfect Pitch , a documentary about the art of convincing executives like Ms. Zalaznick to burn money. [TRIO, 102, 8:30 p.m.]
Sunday, May 25
Jeff Zucker-we mean, Ari Fleischer-has decided to step down as the White House’s spokesman, and you can hear the crocodile tears in Washington, D.C., all the way up here. Mr. Fleischer, of course, was hardly Mr. Revelatory-the guy was scripted as tightly as a Mamet moll-but we’ll miss his nice glasses, his occasionally spooky answers (hypothesizing the Iraq war could be avoided with a single bullet) and, of course, his important siege upon international freedom scourge Bill Maher.
Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer-who’s been around one or two White House spokesmen in his time-agreed that Mr. Fleischer wasn’t forthcoming with the press, but wondered if the young charge was simply following orders from on high. “He never gave you much information beyond the talking points,” Mr. Schieffer said. “But I always had the idea he was operating under such tight restrictions that maybe he just couldn’t go beyond that.”
Mr. Fleischer said he’s quitting the White House to move on to work in the private sector. Cable news networks, start your contract departments!
This morning on Face the Nation , Mr. Schieffer kindly begs some of his audience to go watch This Week with George Stephanopolous , “just to buck the kid up a notch.” [WCBS, 2, 10:30 a.m.]
Monday, May 26
We couldn’t get out of here without giving local loon/ Pop-Up Video guy/NYTV mascot Tad Low a final chance to sound off, and we were lucky to catch him at the airport, en route to Italy to attend the wedding of Rick ” Cad ” Marin and Ilene ” Swell ” Rosenzweig (hope Mr. Low brought his bear suit for the reception!).
We wanted the Tadster to talk about the future of television-we were hoping he’d sketch some kind of hilarious dystopia in which we’d all be downloading reruns of Silver Spoons into our optic nerves-but he was actually pretty thoughtful about it (the guy went to Yale!). Mr. Low predicted a not-so-future future in which the principal television delivery devices would be hand-held phones and P.D.A.’s (hey!-didn’t we read about that in the “Circuits” section?) and there’d be no such thing as nailed-to-your-couch destination viewing (as in, “Everyone gather around at 9 p.m. on NBC and watch the season finale of Frasier !”).
Mr. Low thought TV would soon be a free-for-all.
“The only thing people will watch en masse anymore will be sports and helicopter car chases!” Mr. Low said. He suggested the sitcom would soon be dead, and advised all sitcom writers-boy, Mr. Low just loves sticking it to those guys-to go out, buy cars and try to induce police chases if they wanted to see their work on the telly.
Television as we knew it would soon be dead, Mr. Low said.
“Les Moonves is a guy with a nice suit riding a dinosaur!” he said.
We have no idea what Mr. Low is talking about. Tonight on CBS, Yes, Dear . [WCBS, 2, 8:30 p.m.]
Tuesday, May 27
Tonight on YES, it’s the Boston Red Sox Versus the New York Yankees in a game of professional baseball played in the Bronx, N.Y. [YES, 80, 7:05 p.m.]
Thanks everyone for the e-mails, anger and encouragement. Now shut that thing off, go outside and take a walk. Courage!
Follow Jason Gay via RSS.