Daily Archives: March 3, 2009

Another British Import Hits the Scrapheap

70s drama Life on Mars axed

It was pretty so-so in its original form, I thought. They made it a little zippier in the US version, but it simply never caught on, and ABC killed it.

So – another one down. Add this to the worst comedy of all time, Coupling, game shows by the horrendous Ant and Dec and also Eamonn Holmes, and a bunch of personalities from Ann Robinson to Ainsley Harriott who tried to make it in America and fell short, and there’s a grim lesson to be learned.

Unfortunately, the British won’t learn it. You can’t just dump stuff on us and hope for the best. It has to be good too. Life on Mars wasn’t special, it was just more actors yakking. Drama’s costly, reality’s still popular, and cheap. A lot of actors need to start looking for second jobs. Their days are numbered on TV. Hopefully, the networks will think twice before importing any more dramas from the UK. Or anywhere else for that matter. 

The big-time British successes, such as Ricky Gervais and The Office, Simon Cowell and American idol, Piers Morgan on America’s Got Talent, and Gordon Ramsey, deserve to be popular because they’re authentic, extremely gifted, articulate, clever, and not just out to woo American audiences with their ‘act’. The losers – Ant and Dec, for instance – simply tried too hard and came here with insufficient charisma, talent, or material to make it. They weren’t up to the job and were sent packing by American audiences. Right now, Paul McKenna is making shows here. Another gifted guy. I hope the series takes off. 

After the demise of Life on Mars, next comes the American version of Absolutely Fabulous, which I predict will fail too. The BBC original ran for 36 episodes, beginning about 17 years ago. Loved that. It never gets old. But I already dislike the US version, to be called AbFab, and not one frame of it has been shot yet.


Filed under Television commentary

To Hate or Not to Hate

I don’t like Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Let me at least be upfront about that. 

Her complaining voice, the self-righteous drivel she spouts on her crowing yentafest The View, her quick-to-anger defense of extreme right-wing politics, her support for Sarah Palin…all the ingredients are there. The fact that she’s had a kid now, which means the poor little boob is going to be indoctrinated with her skewed political ramblings from the day he utters his first word (“Limbaw”). Even the sound of her preposterous name makes my neck hairs stand on end.

No, I really don’t like her at all.

But do I hate her?

Well, I certainly dislike the way she spouts the Republican agenda as readily and automatically as your voicemail repeats that droning message you recorded five years ago and never changed. Last week, for instance, on the show, she seemed unable to comprehend how anyone, anyone at all, could possibly misunderstand talkshow host Rush Limbaugh when he said, in plain terms, how much he  hoped President Obama would fail. Christ, the guy’s only been in office a month, trying to sort out the mess he inherited; at least wish him well and hope he does a good job. But in Limbaugh’s eyes – and Hasselbeck’s, I guess – the country should be returned asap to Republican hands. That way it can be managed competently. In other words, to the financial benefit of the top 2%, themselves included, ignoring everyone else.  This, even though Obama’s failure is America’s failure in the short term, which means Limbaugh hates the country he professes to love so much, and even though it was the Republicans and their reckless hands-off, free market, no oversight of anything approach that plunged us into this ragged, sorry, desperate, ghastly economic cesspool in the first place. 

Hasselbeck,though, appears to see none of that. On the face of it, she buys Limbaugh’s self-professed divinity without question, just as she buys into the Bush mythology that someday history will do a total 180 about-turn and he’ll be seen as one of the greatest US presidents of all time, not as the crooked, sly, lying, incompetent, bungling, inarticulate windbag it’s shaping up to present him as right now. In short, Hasselbeck is a fool (though that’s not telling you anything you don’t know, I’m sure), one who buys virtually everything she reads, hears, and sees in support of the GOP, talking point by talking point. In other words, she’s Fox News in a skirt.  

But do I hate her for it?

The reason I ask is because a lot of public radio listeners out there in the UK and also the US seem to hate me. It’s a weird experience. I happened to do a Twitter search yesterday of my name, just for the hell of it. Because I’m astonished by what an utter sinkhole Twitter is, even though so many people are happy to waste precious minutes of their life telling everyone else exactly what they’re doing right this second. (I’m at the computer typing. That’s it. Now leave me alone.)

Not everyone hated me, thankfully. There was praise. A kindness here and there. But a couple of people were incredibly rude, called me names, and simply hated me and my work.  

I mean, hey, if hating’s their thing, let them. I’m just saying, what’s the point?

The same happened when I did my TV travel show. There were many positive, supportive people out there who piled in and said they loved it. Equally, though, the message boards were jammed with comments from viewers actively campaigning to have me removed as host, or claiming to hate my guts so much that they were boycotting the entire network.  I don’t begin to understand that.

In my new book, Naked in Dangerous Places, I include a few of the emails I received from the haters about the show. They seem pretty funny now, but at the time I was baffled, and a little hurt. Why bother to hate someone you don’t know? Why write to them and tell them so? Why try to get them taken off the air? Why not simply avoid their show in future?

The reason, I decided, was jealousy. The haters resented the fact that someone else, someone they didn’t think deserved it, was receiving that much air-time and opportunity. Meanwhile, their hundrum provincial lives continued as always, uninterrupted by money, celebrity, adventure, or much of a future. They felt ignored, small, irrelevant, their opinion was going unheard. Like a spoilt child, this was their tiny tantrum in an effort to grab someone’s  – anyone’s – attention. Not hate at all really, but rather a ploy. Subconscious, latent, secret, but very real. A ploy to divert the spotlight onto someone who in their opinion has really earned it: themselves.

So I won’t say I hate Elisabeth Hasselbeck, because I admit I am a teeny bit jealous that she has a show on TV and I don’t. I do think she gets way too much attention and is not deserving of her fame or success or money. But on the plus side, I am only hated a little bit by listeners and viewers whereas, by comparison, she and her lunatic views appear to be hated by so many, including the media, that she’s right off the hate-measurement scale (HMS).

In a sense, then, this is hatred by proxy. Others are hating her enough right now that I simply don’t have to. And that’s fine by me. It means I can reserve my energy for better things. Learning how Twitter works, for instance.

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Filed under Television commentary

So okay, I caved and decided to blog!

Generally speaking, outside of the BBC show, I don’t have anything more to say about television. Once I’ve done my BBC slot each week (www.bbc.co.uk/fivelive, streamed live Tues 6.35PM in the US, Wed 2.35AM on the actual radio in the UK), I’m spent; I’ve shot my bolt and I’m done. That’s it. You’ve had the best of me.

But then I thought, hang on, can that be right? Don’t I have TONS more to say? And it’s true, occasionally I do. After all, I was on TV myself for about a nanosecond a couple of years back, which gives me some insider knowledge and perspective, right?

We only get around to two or three subjects each week on the show, which isn’t much, and the slot is twenty-five minutes long maximum. That’s nothing. Not when you have as much to say about television as I didn’t think I did but now I clearly do. Which means there’s lots of material left over.

Also, the clips I play on the BBC are audio only, its being radio ‘n’ all, whereas if I did a blog…well, oh my lord, I’d be able to include the visuals too, wouldn’t I? Oooh.

That’s what got me to thinking.

So, despite holding out for the longest time, I finally caved. Here’s my blog. My take on American TV, and other stuff, including the gossip about my celebrity neighbors and friends and whoever else you hear me mention on the radio each week. I may even include photos of Brad and Angelina’s house, or Hayden Christian’s Mercedes, or whatever. I have no idea what I’ll do. I’m crazy with the power of possibility right now.

I’ll do my best to keep up with it. I make no promises as to its frequency, though, or length. Or accuracy for that matter. It will be here sometimes, and then sometimes it won’t, depending on what else I’m doing. I just made a documentary short movie, for instance, which was lots and lots of fun, and more interesting than blogging, believe me. So that took precedence. (The movie is currently posted on my Facebook page, if you want to see it.)

However, if you like the idea of checking in with me now and then to find out what’s going on – something I highly recommend, because to miss this crap would be a sin, frankly, and who doesn’t have time for a little fluffy nonsense in their life? – I suggest you make that RSS thing happen and have my blog delivered straight to your computer.  

That’s all for now. Take care.


Filed under Television commentary