Friday, June 1, 2012

GOOD ON TV? "TMZ" vs TABLOID ENTERTAINMENT NEWS SHOWS THAT SUCK! (I'll give you a hint, the one that doesn't "suck" is worth watching)



One of the few people I haven't gone after for their part in forcing bad reality TV down our throats is the tabloid entertainment news shows. You know, "Extra," "Access Hollywood," "Entertainment Tonight," "The Insider," "Inside Edition", they're the biggest offenders. They're also just completely unwatchable. Not that they were ever really great. They always leaned towards the sensationalistic (As much of the news media leans towards nowadays as Jon Stewart has famously pointed out, but these people were one of the first). They really peaked, I'd say during the O.J. trial in the early '90s, and the first thing I really remember was "Hard Copy," airing the Tonya Harding sex tape, and, boy am I dating myself there. They do generally talk about Hollywood in the most boring and cliched ways possible. There's rarely any legitimate reviews or P.O.V.'s and if you want to know anything that's in the trades, like who's switching to which agency, or who the new showrunners are, they're fairly useless. The last time I remember watching them on a regular basis, was during the first season of "Desperate Housewives," where, and I remember this, "Access Hollywood," spent weeks at a time, devoting the first 15 minutes of the daily episode to "...Housewives", every night. They should've, it was clearly the biggest thing in TV, and in the entertainment world at that time, and I, among others, couldn't get enough of them. (And they should've won the Emmy that first season, instead of "Everybody Loves Raymond," big Emmy screwup that year.) The reason I'm bashing them now, is first of all, they're just unwatchable in general; and if anybody ever wants to counter-program them with an entertainment news magazine show, that covers entertainment similar to the way the Hollywood Reporter  Variety, does, I'll be first in line to watch, but the main thing I want to knock them on, is how they've basically become promotional vehicles for those bad network reality shows that I have been railing against for a while now. Yes, I've been criticizing "American Idol," mostly, partly 'cause of it's high ratings (I should be talking about the most popular thing(s) happening in the entertainment industry as much as possible, or I'll seem out of touch), but some of the other shows are just worst, and worst yet is that, they're tailor-made news filler for these shows. Week-long analysts of who did what on "Dancing with the Stars," and "American Idol," or "America's Next Top Model," and it's mind-numbing. I mentioned that Philip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez were one-two on "Idol," this year in my last blog, and it took me a couple days, but then I thought, "Wait, I didn't watch "American Idol," this year, how the hell did I know that?", and the answer is, that it's because of these tabloid entertainment shows completely giving themselves over to the shows. They're covering these things as though the outcomes have some real significance, and really, they are just TV programs, most of them, highly-rated ones, I grant you, but just because they're easy to cover because of their built-in weekly drama and popularity with the audiences means ratings, doesn't mean they should be covered like this. I understand sensational journalism to an extent. I mean, if Woody Allen marries his daughter, you can't frigging ignore it, I get that, but it's tiresome and boring, and even with the extended coverage of the reality shows, the shows are basically long advertisements telling people to go read the entire story/interviews/etc. on their website. They've all but taken over the entire 6-8pm syndicated TV blocks here in Vegas, and have pushed sitcom reruns to past midnight here, and it's kinda ridiculous, and by the way, they're lose badly in the ratings to reruns of "The Big Bang Theory," and "Jeopardy! and "Wheel of Fortune", and they should. Oh, and "Entertainment Tonight", that set is atrocious! Yes, it's entertainment, but it's still news, and you're not a fucking disco ball. The lighted steps, those blaring colors, you know, occasionally, you have to report a sad story like somebody's untimely death, and you all still look like you're waiting for Rod Roddy to tell the next contestant that she's going to be playing "Plinko". Most watched entertainment show, my ass, and by the way, there's no basis for you guys to make that claim, but for Christ's sake, do it on something that marginally resembles a set that people could take seriously. (Oh, "Access Hollywood," your set sucks too, I'm not forgetting about you, but you're still miles ahead of "E.T.", so you got some time. Oh, and fire Billy Bush, nobody likes him. That's not because of his family either, he's just annoying, even outside of that. Let him executive produce, he's good at that, but as on-air talent, he just... ugh.)

You'll notice up until now, I've missed one show, in this rant, and that was on purpose. "TMZ," is the only one of these entertainment news shows I watch, and frankly, I don't think it should even be compared to the other shows, I don't consider it the same genre. No, it's not exactly the hypothetical "Hollywood Reporter,"-type show that I'd prefer, and yes, there's paparazzi-lead style of interviews can be somewhat morally questionable, but from everything I can tell, yes, they're looking for a story to break, but I detect no mean-spiritedness with their forward tactics. Their tactics are journalistic in nature, and have given them credibility as a news organization, most notably, being the first to confirm Michael Jackson's death, an hour before everybody else had the story. This was on their website, where they combine serious investigative entertainment journalism with the more low-key and random celebrity encounters and news that peppers their TV show. They do head out, and search for celebrities most days, but their primary focus is to portray celebrities as the people that they are. The one thing that's really interesting about celebs isn't who their with, or what rumors are abound, but the people who they really are. Most of the time, the celebrities seem rather friendly, others aren't, sometimes they're caught in a bad mood or something like that, some take more offense than others to the paparazzi  all of these emotions are understandable, and we get to know them a little better. If anything, the newsroom atmosphere of the show, along with the satirical segments of their own scoops indicate that they're as surprised at what they are genuinely covering as breaking entertainment news. Justin Bieber seems to be a constant good example, as they continually parody his twitter postings, and his young age et al, and luckily, he seems to be able to get the joke. They cover the more sensational material, but it feels done in an appropriate, and often respectable manner, and if there's disagreement on that, it's often shown by having the staff in the room arguing, discussing and debating their subjects, and what to think of them. It's format is truly unique. Dare I say, it is the opposite of sensationalism. They do sensationalize, if that's what the news gives them, but they don't go creating stories, or jumping on reality-show bandwagons just because they're popular. If anything, with their overly-produced, usually comical segments, they seem to be mocking their competition that does choose sensationalism. I don't think they go for satire in these bits; they're not "The Daily Show...", they are a news organization, and they take it seriously, at least as much as they can. Actually, "serious" is the wrong word, the word is realistically, which is the one thing that the other shows severely lack, any realistic portrayals of the news of the day. They say a lot, but among other things, they say what we're thinking, or at least, what they're thinking. The other shows are sensational, but they're overly-serious about their sensational celeb and entertainment news, and that makes it all the more annoying. "TMZ"'s goal seems to be to report on the entertainment and celebrity news, but then to take a step back, and to see these celebrities for what they are, human beings. It's not a radical or even a unique approach, but it's done well, and it's approach, while not the approach, I would take, it's the exact right approach for them.

Harvey Levin, and all the folks at "TMZ," have successfully carved out a unique new niche in a tired, boring oversaturated genre; they're the only thing interesting in this genre in fact, and frankly, I'm tired of sitting through all the other entertainment news show crap just to get to TMZ. There's too many of them, all on at the same time, and that was already after more local and national news shows than I think anybody can take, (Seriously, 4 o'clock news, 5 o'clock news. 5:30 news, 6 o'clock- what the hell's happening every five minutes that I need another news show for it?) they're all followed by these entertainment news shows, and it's overwhelming, and frustrating. Pick an entertainment news show, just one, then let it be, and then put on a rerun of "Friends" or something to kill time. There was an episode of TMZ recently where even they starting complaining that it was just too slow of a news day, and they were right then, hell, they're right now, (Why do you think I'm even talking about this, I had to come up with something to write about this week) and, the ten-hours of real news a day is annoying enough, at least that's informative and occasionally important, why we need all this flashy glitzly paper-thin entertainment news after it, I don't know. Consider this a memo to all local station affiliates and especially their programmers, one half-hour of entertainment news, is enough. Pick one to compete with the others, and move on. Buy a syndicated sitcom or something for the rest of the time. That's why we like celebrities to begin with, because they're amazing entertainers and performers (Cast of "[INSERT STUPID CABLE REALITY SHOW HERE]" not withstanding), they're amazingly creative and talented people, and that's why we want to know more about them to begin with, even if they're the latest casted-off flavor-of-the-week, reality show contestant.
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