Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wheeere's Johnny?

Jeff Zucker has been getting the stuffing beaten out of him by dozens and dozens of people in the press. “Who is Jeff Zucker?” you ask. Mr. Zucker is the president and chief executive officer of NBC, and he is the person who created quite a storm in the world of television.

Remember a few months ago when it was decided Jay Leno would host a Tonight Show-esque program five nights a week at 10/9 central on NBC? Remember a few months ago when 94% of the rational beings in the United States (which included most toddlers and a few really alert gerbils) decided Jay Leno hosting a Tonight Show-esque program five nights a week at 10/9 central on NBC was an idea so bone-headed it must have been created by a not so alert gerbil? Well, that not so alert gerbil was Harvard graduate Jeff Zucker.

Now there is another painful divide in a nation already torn asunder by liberal versus conservative, Chevy versus Ford, PC versus Mac, alive Elvis versus dead Elvis, and tastes great versus less filling. Are you a Jay supporter or a Conan man?

I don’t have an opinion. I liked Jay in his stand-up comic days but never watched his version of The Tonight Show. Conan is really unknown to me for anything other than his hair.

As of the writing of this column it looks like Jay will get the Tonight Show back and Conan will get 40 million smackers to stay home and perform for his wife and kids at the dinner table. I don’t care who hosts the Tonight Show for two reasons. The first reason is as I get older my bedtime keeps creeping farther and farther from midnight and closer and closer to dinner time. The second reason is I miss Johnny Carson.

I always felt a certain connection to Johnny Carson. He was from Nebraska. I am from Nebraska. He started on the Tonight Show in 1962. I started on this planet in 1962. Every anniversary show for Johnny had the same number as the number of candles on my birthday cake. He was funny. I always wanted to be funny. He seemed to have a kind soul. I strive for kindness. Humor for him was never mean-spirited. I find it difficult to make jokes that might be hurtful to anyone (even thought there are times I fight through that). He was a private man. I am naturally shy.

Holy cow! That’s it! I have the solution to Mr. Zucker’s predicament. Fire both Leno and O’Brien and hire me to host The Tonight Show. I always wanted to be Johnny Carson, I can have clever conversation with Hollywood stars and, if you hire enough writers, I can be funny five nights a week. And the best part for the embattled NBC CEO and all the shareholders of NBC stock (those who have not already sold it because it has become as attractive as dirigible stock after the Hindenburg), I will do all of that for one fortieth of what you are paying Mr. O’Brien to go away.

How’s this for my first monologue:

Well, Massachusetts has a Republican taking Ted Kennedy’s senate seat and the number of people in Hades looking for their mukluks just went through the roof. Really, the odds against that just a few months ago had to be longer than the New York Jets playing in the AFC championship game. What’s that? The Jets are what? I guess that means the snowball fight at Beelzebub’s house is definitely on for tonight.

James Cameron has another gigantic hit movie on his hands. First he makes a movie where everyone knows the ship sinks but we all go anyway. Now he has a movie which has everyone from the Vatican to the People’s Republic of China complaining about the subversive message he is trying to foist upon us. The only message I took from it was it takes $280 million of technological wizardry to make skinny smurfs.

I know NBC was in deep trouble. I mean they were getting beat in the ratings by cable networks that specialized in reality shows showing paint dry but did they really have to go for such a gimmick and hire some 47 year old nobody to host their flagship show? What could they have been thinking when they decided to put this overweight, gray-haired, talentless…uh, who wrote this joke?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting the cold shoulder...and everyplace else...

As I write this I am in my home office, sitting in my recliner, wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants and my slippers all toasty warm while outside the mercury in my thermometer is doing some sort of Cirque du Soleil contortionist version of the Limbo. How low can you go?

I have always said I prefer cold weather to hot weather. One reason being when it gets cold I can simply put on another layer of something to warm up, but when it is hot there is a finite number of things I can take off before anyone in the vicinity starts shrieking and running like citizens of 1950’s Tokyo escaping Godzilla. (I suppose you could say the poor people of Japan being menaced by the giant lizard were suffering from reptile dysfunction.)

I do still prefer cold weather to hot, but this is ridiculous. When the high temperature for the day equals Billy Barty’s inseam and the overnight low is a darn good golf score there is something horribly wrong. (For those readers too young to get the reference, replace the name Billy Barty with Mini Me. It will make more sense.)

Weather like this requires new terminology. I’m sorry but “wind chill” just doesn’t cut it. A chill is something you get when the air conditioner kicks on and you’re standing over the vent. When the anemometer starts spinning in Kansas and the air temperature is already a pre-adolescent number calling it a “wind chill” is like calling Sean Hannity a little conservative or saying Tiger Woods plays a little golf. (I’m not going to make another joke here about other ways to describe Tiger Woods, but feel free to do so yourself before reading on. I’ll wait.)

What should television meteorologists call it? Tonight the “wind blast” will reach seven below. Or how about, with near record lows the “wind brrrrrrrr” will drop well below zero. Let’s make it rhyme. The “wind kill” may reach dangerous levels. Actually, when it is so cold that just peering out the window and contemplating going outside causes frostbite we should simply call it the “wind forget about it”.
Due to some quirk of thermodynamics my daughter Alice’s bedroom is not affected in the slightest no matter how hard the furnace works. I am not kidding when I say we could make a few extra bucks in the winter renting out her closet as a meat locker. Needless to say this winter she has been sleeping in her sister’s room quite regularly. Who knew the secret to getting teenage sisters to get along is making one of them live in a room which makes Lambeau Field in January look like Waikiki Beach in August.

“Hey, Alice, does your bedroom have wood floors or carpet?”
“Neither, it has tundra.”

Kindergarten teachers already have many tricky and time consuming aspects to their job but weather like this means there is just enough time after the morning bell to help the munchkins out of their various coats, boots, mittens, scarves and hats to send them to lunch and then the process of getting all the stuff back on must commence in order to assure nobody misses the bus.

On a side note: There is nothing quite like the experience of spending time in a room containing 60 kindergarteners because it is too cold to go out for recess. The fire marshal would re-think his maximum occupancy rules if he had to be in a room with 60 six-year-olds. There may not be a room big enough for a high concentration of these creatures of pure impulse and action.

“OK, kids, we’re going to all go in to room 196 and sit down. Then I’ll give you the instructions on what to do next. Wait, David, don’t climb on the table…no, Tina, I didn’t know your brother’s dog could open the refrigerator door all by himself…please let go of my tie…but we just took a bathroom break…Susie, give Joe his book back…no, no, no, just hand it to…Joe, go see the nurse…”

I guess I really should look on the bright side. At least when it is this cold outside I don’t have to worry about the ice cream melting while I’m driving home from the store, even if I take a route which includes a quick stop at Bismarck, North Dakota between Dillon’s and my house.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

An Aught Time in the Old Town Tonight

The days of 2009 are dwindling down to a precious few. At first glance moving into 2010 means at least one truly excellent thing. Those novelty eyeglasses sold each New Year’s Eve with the double zeros acting as the lenses will no longer be around. Another good thing is there was no Prince (or The Artist Formerly Known as Relevant to the Pop Music Scene) song asking us to party like it was 2009.

Remember back ten years ago when we were waiting for all the computers to go haywire, the phone systems to stop working, the internet to stop in its tracks, and nuclear power plants to meltdown. Then as the clock ticked past midnight we all held our collective breath as absolutely nothing remarkable happened. That is pretty much how I see New Year’s Eve every year. Millions of people gather for parties and hoopla whether it be in homes throughout the world, hotels and nightclubs with music and dancing, or in Times Square with public drunkenness and the ensuing public “becoming unwell” on other people’s shoes in order to watch the clock go from 11:59 to 12:00. Since my clocks do that a lot I fail to see the reason for all that effort. I will most likely be in bed before the clock goes from 9:59 to 10:00.

I am not entirely unsentimental about the ending of the calendar year. I don’t mind waxing a bit nostalgic and taking a look back at the year that was 2009.

January saw the United States of America make history on inauguration day. No it wasn’t the obvious thing – having the first African-American sworn in as President. We officially started a new political era. One in which the Republicans and the Democrats behave in such a manner they make the Hatfields and the McCoys appear circumspect and reasonable, the Montagues and the Capulets seem positively chummy, and Red Sox and Yankee fans give the impression of being blood brothers to the very end. The two political parties have never seen eye-to-eye on all things, but they now seem to base their decisions on what would annoy the other side more than what makes sense for the electorate. Why don’t we just have Pelosi & Reid and Boehner & McConnell suit up for a rousing match of Rollerball to determine health care plans for the nation? (Admit it. You’d love to see old, rich, white people strap on roller skates and leather gloves adorned with flesh ripping spikes duke it out for political supremacy.) The ticket of Jett Li and Ray Lewis would win in a landslide if Rollerball became the way disputes were settled politically.

Stepping away from the world of politics (mainly because it is too depressing to keep thinking about) we look back on the year in pop culture. A forty-eight year old nobody from Scotland captured the world’s heart and became an internet sensation. Susan Boyle is now world famous and probably quite rich. It just goes to show you you don’t have to have the looks of a Britney Spears to become a recording star. It also shows you that Simon Cowell has more power than any one man should have, especially a grumpy man who seems to be devoid of talent himself.

The top grossing movies of 2009 show commerce and art can go hand in hand. The commerce of teenage boys buying movies tickets and the art of keeping just enough clothing on Megan Fox to avoid getting a rating which would keep teenage boys from getting into the theater worked very well this year. It was also proven once again the movie going public wants films which ennoble mankind and show the high moral ground people of the 21st century so frequently aim towards. This was shown by the high income for a film portraying how men bonding together in ritualistic manners are men to be revered, men to emulated, and men to be signed for a sequel because The Hangover made boatloads of money and that really is all they care about in Hollywood after all.

In 2009 the Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl and the New York Yankees won their twenty-seventh World Series. In the year 2009 fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals surprised many in the sporting world by admitting they were fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals…in public…without shame.