Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Whatever Happened To...Ken Wahl?


I was sludging my way through writing a blog post about 1980s TV stars who fell from grace, partly inspired by the Bill Cosby sex scandal, until I got to Ken Wahl. 

Reading about Wahl's story, I realized he didn't deserve to be lumped into the same category as those actors that let drugs and other demons take over their lives and eventually drive them to their deaths. Wahl's rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story is mainly due to plain old bad luck, and it's even more troubling considering he's a stand up guy who would do anything to help animals.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why I'm Glad the Honey Boo Boo Show Went Kaput


Kramer called it years ago on Seinfeld...

KRAMER: ...And you're the manager of the circus.
JERRY: A circus?
KRAMER: Come on, this is a great idea. Look at the characters. You've got all these freaks on the show. A woman with a moustache? I mean, who wouldn't tune in to see a women with a moustache? You've got the tallest man in the world; a guy who's just a head.
JERRY: I don't think so.
KRAMER: Look Jerry, the show isn't about the circus, it's about watching freaks.
JERRY: I don't think the network will go for it.
KRAMER: Why not?
JERRY: Look, I'm not pitching a show about freaks.
KRAMER: Oh come on Jerry, you're wrong. People they want to watch freaks. This is a "can't miss."

To quote REO Speedwagon, I just can't fight this feeling anymore; I'm feeling massive schadenfreude these days knowing that the inappropriately-named network The Learning Channel finally pulled the plug on the massive gravy train wreck called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (and there goes Honey Boo Boo...buh bye!) after evidence surfaced that the mother was cavorting with a child sex offender. 

I never saw a single episode of the show, but the biggest problem I had with it is that for a while you couldn't get through a typical day without seeing that obnoxious brat and Mama Jabba the Hutt receive unjustifiable media publicity somewhere. Those of us who weren't fans of the show couldn't avoid it. For reasons unknown even Steve Harvey, a man usually known for doling out common sense, interviewed the family on his daytime talk show--where they farted and brought down everyone's brain cell count. Viewers took to his Facebook page in droves to question and denounce his decision...and to be honest, my own interest in his show dwindled after he stooped to that low. 

I also can't help but feel glee that The Learning Channel has some massive egg on its face to clean up thanks to this mess. The network that has built an empire on pap such as Jon & Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting, and My Strange Addiction finally learned a harsh lesson: when you're dealing with real people and reality TV, you're taking a huge gamble that anything they do in "real life" will hurt your own reputation. Like when Duck Dynasty "star" Phil Robertson made anti-gay comments to GQ Magazine and A&E, which airs the show, suspended him (a "punishment" that ended far too quickly.) 

It's just bizarre to me how different television has changed in a span of 10-15 years. There was a period shortly after Survivor premiered that I really thought reality TV had run its course. Instead, it's gotten far worse. At least shows like The Amazing Race is a competition. Now we have shows about vapid women who are famous because they are famous, and women who didn't know they were pregnant until they went into labor. 

I grew up on series like AliceOne Day At a TimeHappy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and ALF. Maybe they were't exactly intellectually stimulating, but at least they made me laugh and they didn't show people doing asinine things that made me want to throw up. But what I miss more are the family dramas--shows like Judging Amy. They've been replaced by the CSI franchise (do we REALLY need another autopsy show set in yet another city?) 

The cancellation of Honey Boo Boo is a good thing, and not just for the most obvious reasons. I'm hoping that it starts a trend away from reality TV and back towards programming that requires creativity and has something viable to offer viewers. These reality TV buffoons need to keep up their off-screen bad behavior, because I'd like to see every single one of these shows canned (but please not Masterchef and Masterchef Junior; as much as I dislike reality TV at least I learn something from these shows about cooking techniques and food.)

Unfortunately, as one of my friends recently commented on Facebook, Honey Boo Boo will probably be replaced on TLC by another show that's just as awful. These shows are cheap to conceive and produce; there's no writing, costumes, or sets really required. And for reasons I'll never be able to understand, they manage to attract an audience. (At this point I'd love to toss in the old saying "only in America" except the Brits apparently have an awful show called Sex Box which is going to make its way across the pond here soon.) I'd love to see variety shows make a comeback, but I know that it will never happen. For starters, we just don't have the variety of talent that had mass appeal in the '60s and '70s, and they just cost too much. Everything always comes back to the mighty dollar. 

In the meantime, at least I have PBS and TV Land. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Song's Story #5: Superstar (Groupie)


I recently contributed to REBEAT Magazine's staff picks for guilty pleasure tunes, and while I went with the giddy, upbeat "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, I was sorely tempted to list "Superstar" by the Carpenters. There's something about the feeling of angst and unrequited love in their 1971 hit that is oddly satisfying during the right mood, but it's also just a beautiful melody. 

This isn't the first time I've covered a Carpenters hit in the Song's Story series; I previously wrote before about the history of "Close To You" which originally was covered by other singers before the brother and sister Carpenter team turned it into pure gold in 1971. They replicated that success with their cover of "Superstar" the same year. Like "Close To You," "Superstar" was attempted by several artists before it found the right fit. 

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