Television

Comedy Central Fired the Wrong Guy

Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show was never supposed to be as huge as The Colbert Report. To expect that would be unfair since much of the staff went with Stephen Colbert to the Late Show. Wilmore was an important voice for people who we don't hear from enough in the culture. He did everything the right way and there is nothing to criticize him for. No matter how underwhelming his numbers, he did not deserve to be fired before Trevor Noah:

Comedy Central announced Monday it is canceling Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show, and the last episode will air on Thursday. Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said the show has not been resonating with the network’s audience. “Even though we’ve given it a year and a half, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to click with our audience, but it hasn’t happened and we haven’t seen evidence of it happening,” Alterman said. Wilmore recently headlined the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where he was roundly criticized for using the n-word. Rory Albanese, a comedian who works on the show, tweeted Monday morning: “I’m very proud to have been a part of a show that has been funny, diverse & extremely necessary.”

Noah is the one who doesn't "resonate" with viewers. Why is he being given a pass?

When was the last time anything on the Daily Show was worth blogging about? For me, there has been a glaring omission from the political discussion ever since Jon Stewart stepped down. At least Wilmore understood American politics.

The Tonight Show is Unwatchable

I promise you one glittering, unfettered hot take and only one. The Tonight Show under Jimmy Fallon is infantile and unwatchable.

I realize that this is not a popular opinion, nor will it win me any special acclaim. I also realize that it is based on a very subjective understanding of the medium of television. The Tonight Show was pretty unwatchable under Jay Leno because he played it as the alternative to all of that "mean comedy" that was out there; it was temporarily smart and funny under Conan O'Brien. It went back to being "YouTube" friendly for about a minute under Jay when he took the show away from Conan. Since having it taken away and given to Jimmy Fallon, the show is a childish, ridiculous piece of flaming shit. The show does better in the ratings than Stephen Colbert because nobody wants to watch smart TV anymore.

That's my hot take. And I can remember when Johnny Carson was never there during his last three years because he didn't give a shit. So don't think this is a post like that. The good old days for the Tonight Show ran briefly from the late 1960s until about 1985 or so, and then it went into receivership until Carson was tired of making all that money.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 at San Diego Comic-Con

Well, I won't be in San Diego this weekend, but I will be Earth-bound and dreaming of what's to come from the reboot of MST3K.

This Saturday! Join @JoelGHodgson & the new cast of @MST3K in San Diego for panels, signings & more @Comic_Con! http://mst3k.com/sdcc2016

The wait is driving me a little crazy, but I'm super psyched to have the show back.

Bill O'Reilly is Destroying His Literary Brand

Noted historical author Bill O'Reilly--easily the most important historian in American history and far, far better than you could ever be*--has decided to air his dirty laundry in public and chase after money that his ex-wife probably doesn't have:

Bill O’Reilly’s legal battle against his ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy appeared to be over earlier this year when a panel of three appellate justices unanimously granted McPhilmy residential custody of the ex-couple’s two children. According to court documents filed last last month, however, O’Reilly intends to sue McPhilmy for $10 million on charges of misleading him about the terms of their separation agreement. In the same papers, the Fox News host accuses McPhilmy of using the proceeds of their separation to underwrite an affair with another man. And he wants the entire lawsuit to proceed in secret.

O’Reilly has built a formidable media empire around his unique brand of moral authoritarianism, with which he has indulged his audience’s obsession with the moral failings of black families. When it comes to the perceived sins of his own family, O’Reilly is only slightly more circumspect. The Fox host’s lawyers have filed a series of documents alleging that McPhilmy “knowingly made false misrepresentations and material omissions of existing fact to [O’Reilly] ... for the sole purpose of inducing [him] to agree to a consensual divorce and to obtain money and real property to finance an existing extra-marital relationship.”

Can you feel the rage behind this? Can you imagine what it was like for the ambulance chasing lawyer who took this lawsuit? He or she probably had O'Reilly breathing down their neck for months. I wonder if they advised him not to sue. This would make the whole thing go away and it wouldn't give his entire family a chance to reveal massive amounts of evidence that would prove that Bill O'Reilly is a huge Fighting Irish leprechaun come to life with actual fists and ill-fitting pants.

"Hey! Lawyer person! Shut up. Listen to me. Hey! I'm suing my ex-wife and we're going to court now! Is it written up yet? What's wrong with suing her for all the money I had to give her to get away from me? Let's get cracking on this!" And then Bill screams and throws a lamp at the wall and bellows like he just got stabbed with one of those Game of Thrones swords. Only an Irishman knows what I'm talking about.

You can well imagine the scene of old Bill, screaming and pounding things and throwing salt shakers and coffee mugs at scurrying law clerks as the details of the suit were being decided. The guy must be a peach to work for. If this delays the release of his next book, "Killing James Garfield the President Not the Cat You Shithead," it will cause tremors in the celebrity book business.

I think O'Reilly needs a lawyer with guts. I think he needs a friend who maybe served as a merchant marine or a pile driver machine operator who can wrap a big, meaty hand around his neck and explain to him how things work.

O’Reilly continued to meddle with McPhilmy and her new family as their divorce made its way through the court system. A court-appointed therapist testified last year that, when O’Reilly was alone with his and McPhilmy’s teenage daughter, O’Reilly would call his ex-wife an “adulterer,” said his daughter’s step-father was “not a good person,” and claimed that spending any time with McPhilmy and her new husband would “ruin her life.” The same therapist told the justice overseeing the ex-couple’s custody battle that O’Reilly and McPhilmy’s daughter witnessed her father drag her mother down a staircase by the neck.

See, the only thing O'Reilly understands is when someone's getting their neck worked on in a fit of rage. An inescapable truth has evaded this poor man, genius that he is. When your wife is done with you, she's done with you. Suing her for finding happiness with someone else is, well, a huge dick move. No amount of throwing a tantrum in public can change the fact that everyone in his life seems happier and more well-adjusted when they hide behind the furniture and turn off the lights when he shows up for visitation. Family values in action, hellz to the yeah.

The damage being done to O'Reilly's literary ambitions is staggering, though. Once people figure out that he's a perpetual rage machine, he may well end up being merely the Norman Mailer of his generation. That's a tough break for a guy who, for all intents and purposes, is probably the most bestest and greatest of all writers forever and ever, Amen.

*Good God, satire is dead, isn't it? If I had access to an audio track that would play as people read this, it would be a recording of a shot glass full of cheap whiskey being thrown through a plate-glass window, over and over again.

Comedians Have to Apologize For Everything Now

Maria Bamford's new show Lady Dynamite is getting a lot of write-ups on the websites that contain information that I sometimes use while blogging:

Conventional wisdom would have it that crippling mental illness isn't a good subject for a sitcom. But there's nothing conventional about Maria Bamford's brand of comedy. Fans of her stand-up and such through-the-rabbit hole projects like 2012's Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special—  in which the 45-year-old comedian performs a taped set for just her parents in their living room — know that she isn't afraid to tap into very dark, very personal places in her work. So when Bamford announced she was developing a sitcom for Netflix that would touch on her career struggles in Hollywood and stints in psychiatric hospitals to treat a bipolar disorder, you expected something different. And Lady Dynamite, which toggles between our heroine trying to land acting gigs in Hollywood and her time in a mental hospital in her real-life hometown of Duluth, Minnesota (and premieres in full tomorrow night on the streaming service), could not be a better introduction to her ability to slide between sunny absurdity and depressive reality in a blink.

It sounds like a great show in the making, and I'll definitely watch it. But I hate Rolling Stone and I am sorry I linked to them. At the end of the article, poor Maria has to get her apologies in early:

"I had wanted to go very dark for the dark moments. Just, you know, minutes of silence passing. That's how it truly is — these unbearable moments. But who knows if that makes for good television," she says with a laugh. "I mean, people die from illnesses like these. I was a little worried about that, so I hope it turned out to be respectful as well [as funny]. And if it isn't, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize. I apologize right up front for everything I've done and will do."

The truly daunting thing that comedians do nowadays is tell jokes and try to get shows on the air. No one has a sense of humor about anything anymore. The Internet amplifies the voices of people who are outraged. I'm fine with all of that--I run my own website so I can't ban myself and I can't stop showing up for work, so there's that. The real problem is when someone organizes a boycott of everything you say or do--that's not fun. It's almost better to be ignored and have no one read what you're writing, but I have no opinions about that.

MTV Never Had a Clue About Anything Important

The idea that MTV had an understanding of American musical culture or the arts in general is laughable. You only had to live through the 1980s to know this:

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year for rock music. That was the year of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind. A documentary released in 1992 even referred to it as The Year Punk Broke. The alternative revolution was just entering its golden age, as evidenced by the popularity of the inaugural Lollapalooza. But MTV’s Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren did not have the benefit of hindsight when they made a recap special called The Year In Rock: 1991, a long-forgotten program that has resurfaced, thanks to Reddit. What did Loder and Soren see when they looked back over the previous 12 months? “A pretty bad year” of slumping album sales and half-empty concert tours. Pearl Jam is not mentioned in the special, and Nirvana is relegated to a spotlight on new artists, alongside Color Me Badd and Marky Mark. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is briefly used to accompany a segment about the Persian Gulf War.

Because MTV was situated in the Northeast of the United States, everything that it did was based on pressure from record companies. American music has always had a regional flavor, and that was ignored by the cultural elites based in New York City. If a certain label wanted an artist to break, they would put heavy pressure on MTV to play their video and on New York based publications to provide positive coverage. This could also mean gaining favorable coverage through what was loosely termed "MTV News" by making the artist available for exclusive material. If you deliver content, you can demand that it gets airtime. And if you were in the business of keeping these people happy, why wouldn't you look up the sales information and run with that? There was no alternative back then--you took what the labels handed you and you dealt with it. Now, you can tell them to fuck off. 

Remember when Pidlar made a video with Nick Offerman? That's a video you would never have seen on MTV in the 1990s. Good God, they were so prudish it was a wonder anything made it onto the air.

I am so glad I ignored MTV for all of those years. It's always a shock for me to go and find the "official" video for songs from the 1980s and 1990s that I liked; I never had a chance to see any of that stuff because I couldn't be bothered to engage "music television" at all. And, yes, MTV's 120 Minutes was a joke then and it's a joke now.

This Poor Kid

Isn't it time to ban the Disney Channel?

Debby Ryan, the 22-year-old star of Disney Channel show Jessie, was arrested for drunk driving in Los Angeles last week, TMZ revealed Wednesday. She reportedly hit another car, causing the other driver an injury. Authorities only charged her with a misdemeanor because the injury of the other driver was minor and Ryan only blew a .11 on a breathalyzer test.

The only reason why I even know who Debby Ryan is stems from the fact that I have children. And if you're like me, you watch what they watch so you can have an understanding of what it is they like. I did that then and I do that now--how did you think I ended up being an expert on Pokemon?

Plus, I was a stay-at-home dad when the kids were watching shows where Ryan appeared and I've always been uncomfortable watching what the Disney channel did with her as a performer.  Suffice it to say, they used to dress her to hide her figure. This was another example of cashing in on how a young girl looked without noticing that this is a really creepy thing to do because it tends to screw people up and make their lives unbearable.

The Disney Channel was happy to put her on television but refused to let her look like an actual person--kinda like what happened when Ariel Winter would show up in public to promote Modern Famly. They were happy with the fact that these actresses looked sexy but they were unwilling to be honest about it, and they weren't ready to deal with body shaming issues and things of that nature. In effect, they went with what they knew and they left these young women to deal with the consequences.

Does that mean Debby Ryan is screwed up? No, and this could be a one-off sort of thing. But, if you look back at all of the actors and actresses that have been eaten up by the tween show phenomenon, it's not hard to guess how this plays out. Yeah, I would regulate tween shows (they make 40 of these in a year? Really?) and I would make it so that there was a support mechanism in place to help young performers. And no kid of mine would ever be allowed within a thousand yards of whoever runs this industry.

Louis CK Loses Millions

Someday, we'll all brag about how we paid for Horace and Pete, even though nobody's been buying the show:

As often happens with the web, there’s good news and bad news as television shifts online. The spirit of the age tells us that everyone should go it alone, that entrepreneurial individualism is more important than being part of a larger team, that we all need to unbundle.

But Louis C.K. has learned the hard way that it doesn’t always work. Even with a series that’s smart, well-acted, topical, and ambitious.

C.K.’s show “Horace and Pete” is about as close to the classic American theater of Eugene O’Neill as television offers. Taking place in a century-old, family-run Brooklyn bar, it’s a show in which politics, class, race, gender, gentrification, tradition, family turmoil, and various painful aspects of the generation gap are worked out in natural, unforced ways. The kind of conflicts and honest talk that a lot of shows wait half an hour to build to come every few minutes on “Horace and Pete.” It features actors as good as Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, and Jessica Lange. And while it’s certainly not a comedy, it’s often funny in a kind of uncomfortable and revealing way. (The bar’s policy of charging hipsters more for their drinks is one of several brilliant bits.) It makes a barroom-set show as good as “Cheers” look shallow.

It even has an intermission.

But C.K. has apparently lost millions on the show, which costs about $500,000 per episode to make. He sells his standup performances as audio files online – you can buy his Madison Square Garden show, for instance, from his website for anything from $1 to $85. Episodes of “Horace and Pete” costs between $2 and $5 apiece. And not enough people bought them.

Vulture doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic:

Not one to suffer silently, Louis C.K. went ahead and spread his financial burdens around on The Howard Stern Show today, revealing that making Horace and Pete left him several million dollars in debt. Basically, his debt is our bad, C.K. explained, because fewer people bought the show than C.K. was (literally) banking on.

So what went wrong? According to Variety, it turns out C.K. turned down a chance to offer the show to FX – where he has a first-look deal — for financing, hoping that his own visibility on television and on his site would drive traffic. He’s one of the biggest stars in comedy, but apparently it’s not enough to make a show with sets, actors – a piece of theater – pay for itself.

Louis isn't a businessman--he's a content creator. He's really good at it! People should give him lots of money to make things! Someone should have given him better business advice. You can't leave yourself exposed like this in a business run by thieves and vicious throat-stabbing ghouls. Television is an industry where decency and ethics are killed simply because they showed up to work one day.

And it really is too bad--when someone takes a big risk, there should be a government program that kicks in and helps them out. PBS should buy Horace and Pete and run it, warts and all, and not send any notes.

I got all of those sad E-mails, asking me to buy Horace and Pete. I'm sorry! I had shit to do. I feel bad now.