through the news
by Mad Dog
Newsweek thought it was a good idea to get a brain transplant from
USA Today. This is a lot like giving Stephen Hawking Pauley
The news is boring. It’s not the fault of those making the
news. Lord knows there’s nothing dull about terrorist bombings,
gas prices that make truffles look like a bargain, and the
presidential election—okay, two out of three isn’t bad—it’s
the delivery of the news that’s the problem. TV newscasters are
stoic and unflappable, newspapers couldn’t find an exclamation
point if their circulation depended on it, and radio’s idea of
news is telling us the time and temperature for the hundredth time
this hour. Even MTV’s Music News, which should be fun and
interesting, features human dynamo Kurt Loder droning on in a
monotone that makes Ben Stein seem effervescent. Is it any wonder
people are falling asleep during the 10 o’clock news in spite of
the fact that they’re passing out No-Doz as a promotion?
This isn’t to say they
aren’t trying, they’re just doing it in the wrong places. On TV
they’ll encourage the weather person to wear clown outfits, use
glitzy special computer effects, and come up with ridiculous names
for weather conditions like “thunderboomers” and “Wanda’s
Watch-out Weather Warning”, yet they force their newscasters to
have surgery which leaves them physically unable to smile. And if
they should even think of showing a glimmer of emotion, the
producers flip the switch on the cattle prod that’s stuck down
their shorts. And you thought the job looked easy.
Newspapers have tried to
spice things up by adding color, fancy weather maps, and fluffy
feature stories. This doesn’t make the news any more interesting,
it just gives us something more to read. Time and Newsweek thought
it was a good idea to get a brain transplant from USA Today. This is
a lot like giving Stephen Hawking Pauley Shore’s brain. Thus, Time
now runs a weekly crossword puzzle, cute statistical comparisons
they ripped off from Harper’s Index, and silly multiple choice
quizzes so lame Conan O’Brien wouldn’t donate them to Jon
Stewart. Is it any wonder 40 percent of the under-30 crowd gets
their political news from late night talk show monologues?
King with a Russian accent and no suspenders. Okay, now picture him
as a chimp. I know this doesn’t take a lot of imagination, but
that’s exactly what they’re doing. DePalma, you see, is a
I know the news media is supposed to be impartial, but a
touch of entertainment wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we should take a tip
from the Russians and put some sex into it. “The Naked Truth” is
a hit news program on channel M1 that makes “60 Minutes” look,
well, overdressed. It’s a thirteen-minute newscast featuring
26-year-old Ukrainian actress Svetlana Pecotska reading the news
topless. At least she usually ends up that way, though sometimes
she’s more than topless.
Before you think the show
is just about sex, she does read the news and she reads it straight.
In fact, there are evenings when she doesn’t undress at all—the
weather girl does. Or her guest interviewee might strip. It would
probably go over well here in the U.S., though I don’t think we
should inaugurate it on Nightline, especially during an interview
with Madeleine Albright. And heaven forbid Andy Rooney picks up on
the idea, though I have to say I’ve always suspected he was doing
his segment without wearing pants. It’s that smirk.
If this isn’t the
network’s bra cup of tea, maybe they could import another show the
same Russian company is producing, the talk show “Natural
Selection”, where host John dePalma discusses topics with his
guests that range from politics to philosophy. Picture Larry King
with a Russian accent and no suspenders. Okay, now picture him as a
chimp. I know this doesn’t take a lot of imagination, but that’s
exactly what they’re doing. DePalma, you see, is a chimpanzee.
I’m not sure this will do as well as “Naked Truth”, despite
how much people like animals. Now maybe if the monkey was
They ordered up “Survivor 2” and are importing new
so-called reality shows like “Boot Camp”and “Public
Property.” Luckily no one’s come up with the idea of a cooking
show based on the Survivor menu, “Rats in the Kitchen.” Yet.
The networks already know that entertainment beats news.
That’s why NBC and Fox skipped the first presidential debate.
Well, that and they already have enough sleepers in their new fall
line-up. Back in 1985 the networks were faced with a choice of
airing President Regan’s second inauguration or the Superbowl
because they were both scheduled for the same day. Luckily they
didn’t have to make the obvious decision because the government
made it for them—they moved the inauguration.
It’s too bad because
I’m sure the networks could have found corporate sponsors for the
inauguration, like Depends (“Protects against trickle down!”),
Grecian Formula, and Memorex. And with a little work they probably
could have talked the Supreme Court Justice into foregoing his
robes. At least then people would quit asking him “Is that a gavel
in your robes or are you just happy to see me?” I feel certain
that if they promoted it right—“Inauguration 40. The Gipper
Returns!”—they could have pulled people away from watching the
“My Mother The Car” marathon on Nick at Night. A few anyway.
They should learn from the
success of shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and
“Survivor.” It’s true they ordered up “Survivor 2” and are
importing new so-called reality shows like “Boot Camp”, where
contestants are put through basic training, and “Public
Property”, in which viewers tell people what to wear, what to eat,
and why they should have their heads examined for wanting to be on a
show like that. Luckily no one’s come up with the idea of a
cooking show based on the Survivor menu, “Rats in the Kitchen.”
But what they really need to do
is incorporate some of these concepts into the news—it would boost
ratings while raising our current events IQ. Put the “Dateline”
crew on an island and let them compete in silly contests in order to
read the news. Lock Mary Sunshine and Dick Dour from your local
nightly news in a house filled with cameras so we can see them
without make up and with their hair messy. And let’s put the whole
New York Times editorial staff on a quiz show with Regis. I’m sure
they’d do well, which would be fun, but if we’re real lucky
they’ll get so sick of his pointing his finger at the camera that
they’ll break it. It won’t make the news any more interesting
but at least it would be good television.
©2000 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. That's
why they're not so boring .