Friday, January 15, 2010

LIST-en up...I love lists

I've been listening to podcasts lately, which, salty humor notwithstanding, have given me much to laugh about and ponder in my driving time.

If I had a podcast, it would be "Deb Loves Lists."  My podcast would be coming up with ideas for lists, listing the things that might fill those lists, and, perhaps, in a fit of ecstasy, listing the lists in preferential order.

If I watch VH-1 for any length of time, it is because they are showing one of their incomparable list shows, like I Love the '70's, I Love the 80's, the 100 Greatest Songs of the '90's, I Love Toys, the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, I Love the '90' get the idea.

The format for the list show is simple:

1. Think of something awesome, like "Rock music" or "1984."  (The year, not the book.)
2. Hire a bunch of comedians, musicians, and "personalities" to discuss what was awesome and/or memorable, like, to use the 1984 example, Mary Lou Retton or crack cocaine.
3. Repeat

Most recently, VH-1 has been disappointing me with their choice for the top of these lists.  (SPOILER ALERT! I'm about to tell you what tops several of these lists.)  For example, when choosing the number one song of the 1980's, they chose "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.


Don't get me wrong, it's a great song about teenage love and/or pregnancy, right up there with "Don't Stop Believin'" or "Jack and Diane" or "Baby Got Back." It just doesn't scream "1980's" at me, tight pants and enormous hair notwithstanding.  They didn't even wear makeup, for cryin' out loud.

Then, in the 100 Most Shocking Moments in Music History countdown, the number 3 event was the suicide of Kurt Cobain.  "Huh," I thought.  "I guess John Lennon's death is number 1, but what would beat Kurt Cobain's suicide for number 2?"

Number 2: the assassination of John Lennon.  "Huh," I thought.  "What event in recent music history would be more shocking than that?"

I should have known.  The number 1 most shocking moment in music history, according to VH-1, is the death of Michael Jackson.

"Our number one event," intoned Chris Jericho, the host, who proves wrestlers can also be inarticulate and utterly without irony, "is so shocking, I'm sure we can all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news."

Chris, I hate to tell you, but we can all remember where we were and what we were doing because it happened six months ago.  I'm sorry, but the death of Michael Jackson, while tragic, was the other shoe dropping on a train wreck of a life.  The assassination of John Lennon, on the other hand, was completely shocking and caught the entire world by surprise.  I was five years old when it happened, and I remember it clearly.  What were they thinking?

In my podcast, VH-1's Most Shocking Moments in Music History would not be on my list of Best Lists. We would need to really get into it and reorder it, put some stuff in different places, really dissect the thing and make it work for us.

Then, after my show listing the best list shows, I would do a summary show about all of my favorite summary shows (which is pretty much The Soup, since they canceled Best Week Ever.  Boo.)  Then I could do a reality show with a behind-the-scenes look about the making of reality shows.  It's endless.

It sounds like so much fun!  It's gold, I tell you.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Battle For the Ages

It has happened.  Finally, a showdown between the baby boomers and Generation X.  To my delight, it is playing out on the front pages of e-Newspapers, Twitter, and blogs throughout the world.

Corporate vs. artistic.  The establishment vs. the upstart.  The slightly less funny vs. the sometimes just bizarre.

Conan vs. Jay.

Some history: in 2003, fearing the loss of a popular late-night personality, NBC offered Conan O'Brien a guaranteed hosting slot for The Tonight Show, beginning in six years, 2009.  According to reports at the time, Jay Leno was not consulted.  He made some kind-of-bitter-sounding jokes at the time about being told about his retirement on the front pages of Variety.

(Disclosure: I loathe Jay Leno.  I don't think he's funny.  I've never really forgiven him OR NBC for the Leno vs. Letterman debacle in the 1990's.  I like Conan most of the time, but I'm a fan of "alternative comedy," in which just about anything is considered funny.)

NBC, at the time, apparently decided the future of their late-night lineup was Conan, so they were willing to discard Leno in his favor.  Early in 2008 it was announced that SNL comedian Jimmy Fallon (who, although a breakout star on SNL, has failed to establish himself in films or television) would take over Conan's former late-night spot.  All appeared to be moving forward as planned.

Then, someone at NBC, displaying a startling amount of common sense, says, "Hey, wait.  Leno is number one in his time slot, has been for a while, why are we kicking him out again?"  The suits all nodded.  Then the guy said, "And, if we kick him off the network now, some other network is sure to snatch him up."  The suits all agreed, then sent the guy back to the mail room so the real brains could work out something that would keep "everyone happy."

Their brilliant solution debuted this past fall: Jay Leno gets a one-hour late-night format show in prime time, Conan takes over The Tonight Show name and time slot.  Great.  Everyone's happy, right?  Especially the suits at NBC, who now realize that a talk show is way less expensive than traditional prime-time programming.

Except Leno's new show is terrible.  Awful.  Nigh on unwatchable.  Ratings in the 10/9 hour plummet even further for an already troubled NBC, which leads to local affiliate news shows at 11/10 suffering, which means The Tonight Show, traditionally anchored by the prime time/local news block, is also rated very, very low.

Unfortunately, the guy from the mail room is now an executive at Fox, so the suits are on their own.

Clearly, they figure, it isn't that Leno stinks.  No, it can't be that!  It must be the time slot.  But if they let Leno go, SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT GET HIM.  And they can't have that.  No, no.

Solution proposed: Jay Leno will now get a half-hour "Jay Leno" show at 10:35/11:35, followed by The Tonight Show at 12:05/11:05.  (Jimmy Fallon gets what he gets and should be happy to get it, apparently.)

Today, Conan O'Brien justified my love by issuing a response.  He didn't speak through a lawyer or publicist, he issed the statement himself, and what he said should go down in history as a prime example of what someone who is upset, but ultimately too gracious and self-respecting to be vindictive, does to say no:


People of Earth:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me.  For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky.  That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009.  Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.  I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future.  It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule.  Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35.  For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news.  I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.  The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show.  Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot.  That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it.  My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.  Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter.  But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next.  My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.

How could I not love this man?  Sticking to his guns with style and grace, basically saying, "I know it's a great job, but if you don't let me do the job you hired me to do, I won't do it at all."
Even more impressive when you factor in Conan's reportedly $15 million annual salary.  While NBC would probably have to negotiate a payout to get Conan out, it won't be anything near what he would have made just saying yes and going forward.  Conan's not in it for the money; he clearly understands that he's got more than enough of that.
If only I could stay up past 9:00 p.m., I'd be his biggest fan.

P.S. I think Dave may be on to something here:

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Which Deb Assures Her Readers That She Does Not Have A Crush On Taylor Lautner

This whole Cougar thing has me thinking.

For those who have been "summering on Mars," a Cougar is a lady of a *certain age* who prefers gentlemen of a *certainly younger age.*  A cougar could be as young as, say, 35, if the gentleman in whom she shows an interest is in his early 20's.  Likewise, a Cougar could be in her 50's, and her interest would still be in a gentleman in his early 20's.  The Cougar trend began, as all worthwhile things do, in Hollywood, where dreams are made.  Some notable Cougars include:

Demi Moore
Courtney Cox Arquette
Elizabeth Taylor
Barbara Hershey
Halle Berry
Susan Sarandon
Mira Sorvino
Lorraine Bracco
Eva Longoria Parker
Cameron Diaz
And many more!

This Cougar trend has made it acceptable for ladies of a certain age (mine) to pursue gentlemen of a certain younger age (Rob Pattinson's) without enduring the scorn of society.

 I consider this turnabout as fair play, after years of male-dominated society judging women to only be attractive from age 18-23, pairing leading men in their 40's and 50's routinely with women young enough to require wearing a retainer between love scenes.

However, the newest young hot boy even has open-minded non-judgmental me thinking twice: 17-year-old Taylor Lautner, of "Twilight" and "New Moon" fame:

Taylor is the focus now of several "countdown" websites, similar to the ones that were formerly dedicated to female starlets like Lindsay Lohan, the Olsen Twins, and Hillary Duff.  The purpose of these countdowns is to pinpoint, to the second, the exact moment the star in question will legally be able to have sex with an adult: the eighteenth birthday.

I find this unspeakably creepy.  I found it creepy with the sites devoted to the girls, and I don't consider the one for Taylor any less so.  The law does indeed draw a "bright line" at the eighteenth birthday (or 17th, depending on the state), but morally, isn't that line a bit more fuzzy?

I was talking to Momz the other night, who said she couldn't imagine dating or having a romantic relationship with someone 15 years younger than her (the age difference between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore).  Me neither, because I'm 34, which would make my prospective younger beau 19, which to me is still a child.  If I were 40, I could: 25 isn't a child, I think the right 25-year-old and the right 40-year-old could have a lot in common.  At some point it becomes more about experience than age, I think.

What do we want in a romantic partner?  Someone we're physically attracted to, sure, but also someone to talk to, share experiences with, and enjoy on a daily basis.  I think if a woman can marry someone 20 years older than her with society's blessing, she can also marry someone 20 years younger.  It depends on the person.  I would make no judgment at all if a woman in her 50's married a man in his 30's.  It's not the age difference that matters, necessarily.

My problem with the Cougar fixation on Taylor Lautner is that, to me, it is sexualizing a child.  I think Taylor himself (or his handlers) are at least partly to blame: are the posters of him without his shirt on any better than the ones of Britney Spears at that age in her bra and panties?

So, yes, I like Taylor Lautner: I think he's a talented kid, and I look forward to seeing what happens with his career down the road.  I do not, repeat, do NOT have a crush on him.

I'll think about it again when I'm 40.