Tag Archives: CNN

So long, Gary Coleman, small person with kidney problems, we will miss you.

I knew Gary Coleman. Briefly.

In 2003, the former child star of Diff’rent Strokes, who died today aged 42, of a fall, a knock on the head, and then an epidural hematoma (though not a stroke thankfully, which would have been the most horrible coincidence ever), was running as a gag candidate against Arnold Schwarzenegger for the governorship of California, and I was working for CNN as a reporter on my debut assignment.

The CNN editor told me to follow Coleman’s campaign with a camera as he doorstepped for votes. To be honest, I’d barely heard of the guy back then. Diff’rent Strokes was either never shown in Britain or, if it was, it was certainly never watched by more than about four people, because his stardom was a complete mystery. I must say, though, that this little guy surprised me. He was a celebrity marvel. That rare thing – a total has-been who, years later, still had the power to stop traffic. For the report, we put him out on Sunset Boulevard in a smart suit for a lark and there was chaos. Not the sitcom kind of chaos where hilarity ensues, but real mobbing-type fan chaos, the sort that causes car accidents and endangers lives.

The general public simply adored Gary Coleman. It’s just a fact. They’d followed his ups and downs, his bizarre erratic behavior, his arrests and public humiliations, his relentless bullying by the tabloid media, his sexless existence and strange moral values that seemed to preclude him from having any kind of fun, yet somehow they were able to see behind the facade, finding kinship in the string of hard knocks suffered by this tiny little boy-man who, despite a couple of kidney transplants that stunted his growth, and despite deciding to sue his own parents for misappropriating his TV fortune, had nevertheless faced the world with dignity and his head held high. Well, four feet high anyway, which is high enough.

Make no mistake, however, though physically diminutive, Coleman had the charisma and enthusiasm of a giant. I’m not kidding. It was a wonder to be in the presence of it.

In our sit-down interview, he was friendly and gushing. He had a keen brain and wonderful sense of humor. When he smiled, I honestly felt as if he liked me and wanted to be my friend. More than anything, though, he longed to be taken seriously, as an adult. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen. His legacy as a child star and his stature as a tiny little person you wanted to treat as a collectible and stick in your top pocket simply stood in the way of that transition from famous kid to full-grown man, simply because, to the naked eye, he wasn’t one.

I remember emerging from the interview, after he’d left us, and telling people, “I’ve just met one of the most fantastic people EVER.” The crew loved him, the producer loved him, the people waiting outside the door loved him, the firemen who stopped their truck on Sunset Boulevard, blocking traffic for ten minutes, loved him. The whole thing was just an eye-opening experience.

But then I met him again about two months later, in Las Vegas. He was sitting in the lobby of a hotel playing with a Gameboy. So naturally, since we were such good TV friends, I walked straight up to him and introduced myself. Not that I needed to. I was the guy from CNN he’d had such a good time with – remember?

Well, he didn’t remember. Or if he did, he pretended not to. I was quite put out. He looked up, grunted something unintelligible, and, dismissing me with a menacing glare, went back to his Gameboy. Something at that point told me that this was the real Gary Coleman. In the limelight, fizzy, rambunctious, and fun. In private, a depressed, abused, miserable munchkin with major psychological issues. A man trapped in a kid’s body, yearning to break free, but unable to figure out an escape plan that worked. Until now.

Anyway, that all happened several years ago.

In the end, I never got beyond my debut CNN assignment. The debut assignment was also my swansong on the network. I was fired the next day. And Gary Coleman never got to be governor of California, although he did clock up an astonishing 14,000+ votes, coming in eighth, which is a fantastic achievement, and to my mind a grand testament to the star power of the one-time actor turned security guard who left us today.

TV Swami – he very sad to lose a friend. Albeit a television friend he only met twice.

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Ask your doctor if Purobutimansoprol Soothing Nighttime Formula, Cherry Flavor is right for you.

Recently, I admitted that, beyond a cursory glance here and there to keep up with the overall direction of everything, I don’t follow the news any more. I guess people were surprised to hear this. Things were said. Remarks made.

I, in turn, not surprisingly perhaps, was surprised by their surprise. Because why would I watch the news? Give me one convincing reason.

Ever since it ceased to be about facts and keeping the general public informed and became more about opinion, money, and ratings, the news, I would advocate, is actually not news at all, but a bunch of eye-catching trivialities dressed up as substance to distract you from what’s really going on. Here’s why.

But first: a word from our sponsor: Veridian Dynamics.

Anyway, back to the news thing.

For a start, TV companies are beholden entirely to their sponsors. When was the last time The Today Show, for instance, or the CBS Evening News or even one of the cable news shows did a scathing expose of the pharmaceutical industry and the damaging side-effects of all the dangerous drugs they sell? I’m feeling bold this morning, so I would venture to say NEVER. 

Why?

Oh, come on! You know why. Because the drugs companies have bought up every ad break they can get their hands on to advertise their evil products.

Haven’t you noticed? 90% of the ads on the morning shows end with the words, “Ask your doctor if Purobutimansoprol Soothing Nighttime Formula, Cherry Flavor is right for you,” or somesuch gibberish, followed by a blizzard of possible side-effects, read very fast, that must have been written on a roll of toilet paper, it goes on for so long – everything from dry mouth to renal distress to heart failure. Side-effects that viewers by the million seem happy to ignore. 

No network would ever dare risk offending one of its major sponsors. If they did, the sponsors would pull their ads and, with them, millions of dollars in revenue, and it’s all about money. So, as always, big pharma gets a free pass, with the result that:

  • the whole nation is hooked on drugs;
  • people are growing steadily sicker;
  • reporters who should be investigating this topic aren’t being allowed to; and
  • the culprits escape without a trace of blame.

By the way, our sponsor and mighty overlord Veridian Dynamics issued a great commercial recently.

The question is: if this blind-eye bias from the news shows is happening with the pharmaceutical industry, what other areas are not being discussed or looked into because scoundrels or criminals are buying up ad time?

I’m no doomist, but I’m beginnining to think we’re truly screwed. As individuals, we’re growing smaller and more insignificant every day. In the broader picture, our private concerns matter less to Washington than they ever did; our needs are considered irrelevant to anything the government is doing, or Wall Street, or the banks, or big corporations.

The GOP, for instance, has switched its focus entirely these days from advancing policies that might excite voters or working for a stronger America, to being the Party of No: working to undermine, attack, deride, and thwart the current administration in all its plans, while at the same time ardently fighting to protect the rights and profits of a battalion of powerful special interest groups and other lobbyists from whom they earn millions of persuasion-dollars each year. Why aren’t the news shows all over that?

Everywhere you look, the prime motivator now is simply money, success, having more, owning more, beating the other guy past the post. It’s not capitalism any longer, it’s naked greed unapologetically pursued, and it’s unhealthy. 

As is often said by Veridian Dynamics….

So when I catch a TV news broadcast, on whatever network, I don’t feel I’m watching a vehicle for the delivery of truth. All I see is a glossy product filled with color and graphics but short on facts. Carefully manufactured, heavily censored and crafted so as not to test, probe too deeply, or offend. A flash of bright lights dominated by the swiftness of the news cycle and, like a small, eager child, prone to being sidetracked or mesmerized by every fleeting, sensational bauble, no matter how insignificant or bogus. 

So why would I want to watch that?

Why would I want to watch Fox News, and see that prime ass and needless irritant Glenn Beck trying to keep the spotlight on him no matter what it takes? By accusing Obama of being a racist, for instance.

Why would I want to hear that MSNBC‘s David Shuster had a meltdown after shusterthe camera accidentally caught his bald spot, when in fact this story was entirely made up by a gossip columnist in one of Rupert Murdoch’s rags? Murdoch owns Fox, Fox hates MSNBC, so Murdoch’s other “news” arms feel entitled to undercut MSNBC wherever it can.

Why would I want to watch Lou Dobbs ignoring all the facts and continuing to push the fiction that President Obama wasn’t born in America? On CNN???

No, no, no, no, no.

There’s too much airtime to fill. Too many people trying to fill it. Too much irresponsible, immature, irrelevant crap they’re trying to fill it with. And it’s all done, not to keep us informed, but to line their own pockets.

That’s why I don’t watch news. And someday I’ll thank myself for it.

TV Swami – he say NO to news for the second time in a week.

www.cashpeters.com

Veridian Dynamics.

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Total doofus gets slapped on TV.

At some point in the past I was a reporter. For a little while I waded in way over my head and attempted the whole live reporting thing that is now the staple of local news coverage on TV.

Needless to say, I was hopeless at it.

The first time alone should have been warning enough. 

On a cue from the director, I stepped out from behind a bush ready to speak, but as I did so I caught my finger on a thorn and let out a girly squeal. Then, as now, I was very caught up in my own comfort and wellbeing, and proceeded to complain bitterly and suck my finger throughout the whole piece.

Well, it hurt!

Another time, I was dispatched by a regional news show in Southern England called Coast to Coast (hosted by nano-talents Fred Dinenage and Fern Britton) to cover some kind of geriatric Elvis convention. Only, when I got there I found that nobody had turned up. Nobody at all. The whole event was a bust. 

But did that stop me?  Good grief no. I’m very resourceful in a crisis.

Because I was a freelance and only got paid a fee if I actually produced a piece, I produced one. I staged the Elvis event myself. Rigged it from beginning to end. Even going as far as to hijack an entire busload of ageing tourists off the street and force them to participate.

The resulting report was great, I thought. You’d never have known it was bogus. However, the show’s editor took an entirely different and surprising approach. For some bizarre reason he thought a news show should have integrity and be about actual news (soooo behind the times), therefore I was fired on the spot and the report pulled from the broadcast.

Unfortunately, they had nothing to replace it with. Which meant Fern and DinenageFred (pictured left) had to limp along with nothing. It was horrible. As I was escorted from the building, I glimpsed the broadcast on a TV in reception. F and F were busy gibbering about their vacations and where they planned to go that year, desperately trying to fill the unexpected three-minute gap that had just been sprung on them. I’m guessing it was the longest, most excruciating three minutes of their entire lives. Still, I felt no remorse.

Come to think of it, all the other times I ventured into TV news were rubbish too. In the end I realized that I would never cut it as a reporter.

That, though, was not until after I’d been recruited as “fresh on-air talent” by CNN. This was a few years ago and lasted only one day, after bosses CNNdiscovered that the report I’d put together didn’t contain a single fact. Not one. Instead, it was really more my opinion of things interpersed with pithy asides. Which apparently, is not what CNN’s about. Maybe this explains why it trails several points behind Fox News in the ratings each week. Because Fox News, as we know, isn’t news at all, it’s just people giving their opinion about things, interspersed with pithy asides. Once again, I was ahead of the curve. If only these dim executives would listen.

But anyway, dire experiences like that have equipped me well to appreciate  the horror – the horror, I tell you – of live TV when I see a news reporter struggling with unforeseen mishaps. Which is what happened to this poor guy, Steve Ryan. During a live report about Michael Jackson from the Vegas Strip, a drunken doofus emerges out of nowhere and tries to eclipse his act, eventually driving him to violence.

It manages to be both funny and tragic all at the same time. Enjoy.

TV Swami – he say YES to slapping doofuses.

www.cashpeters.com.

Also, follow me on Twitter, if you really must, @cashpeters

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Jackboot Journalism

Fox News’ ratings are up again this month.

Not just up, but through the roof. Something I reveal, not with any sense of delight, by the way. Quite the reverse: it’s out of utter despair.

That close to three and a half million Americans simply don’t have the confidence or the mental capacity to turn away from this monster and shun it; that they don’t grasp how much they’re being exploited and manipulated by a band of savvy, cynical bullies so very adept by this stage at triggering a Pavlovian response from the unthinking masses; and that they don’t have the wherewithal to see what the rest of us see: that the Republican Party is the ventriloqust, Fox News is the dummy, and anyone who watches it without laughing at the audacity of this sham, unfair, unbalanced “news” operation is an even bigger dummy – well, understandably, that’s a source of massive angst to me, as it is to anyone with an IQ in more than double digits. 

Whenever I happen to catch Bill O’Reilly smiling his lizard smile, spouting what to me is the opposite of the truth – “The spin stops here” being just one example – and selling his line of trinkets and books to the pinheads at home; or when I see the monstrously awful, posturing Glenn Beck going through his phony clown routine; or Sean Hannity, or any of the other celebrity puppets on there, for that matter, slanting the truth the way they do, cherry-picking their fights to favor and embolden the right, demonizing the good, ambushing interviewees in the street, verbally tarring and feathering their critics, pumping the acid of anxiety into people’s veins, dangling the carrots of neverending distress and danger and doom before a public either not bright enough or not switched on enough to see when they’re being had, it’s hard not to feel sad for America. Sad and alarmed, actually. 

That it all came to this, I hear friends lament. Centuries of struggle, riots, marches, intelligent discourse, caring, concerned people laying down their lives for freedom, generation after generation proudly standing on each other’s shoulders, striving to reach a higher standard, a bigger dream, a further star – and after all of that, this, Fox News, is what we ended up with.

If you doubt what I’m saying, try watching BBC News sometime. Its objectivity and lust for facts and honest information will blow your socks off.  

Take Fox‘s attempts this week to spark a volcano of unrest under the conservative base by enraging them into supporting those embarrassing tea-bagging rallies. 

It was a fairground attraction, of course, a bid for ratings. Waves of wrath were supposed to be unleashed. Ordinary dopes across the country were duped into braving the pouring rain in utter outrage at the Democrats’ plan to raise taxes, seemingly unaware in their blind eagerness to stand up and be counted that, since every last one of them was earning less than $250,000 a year, their taxes would actually be coming down. Oops.

A million tea-bags dumped in a Washington park – only, someone forgot to apply for a permit, so they couldn’t be. Oops.

Glenn Beck trying to start a revolution at the Alamo. It’s Glenn Beck – so it’s always an oops.

Neil Cavuto caught in an off-camera moment saying that the rally he was at had five thousand attendees, then going on TV immediately afterwards and telling his audience that there were three times that number standing behind him. Big oops.

Bah, humbug. Really.

Yet, all across America, tiny pockets of ignorati responded to the slow drum-beat of  Fox News’s formularized tubthumping by engaging in this newly invented ritual of tea-bagging.

Tea-bagging, tea-bagging, tea-bagging – it’s all we’ve heard for days.

Meanwhile their rivals CNN and MSNBC, as astonished as the rest of us that such an idiotic movement could have gained any traction at all, felt compelled to quit skulking in their respective corners and actually tell the truth.

They showed, with relish, the meager number of attendees at those rallies.

They ridiculed, albeit in sober ways, the very idea that anyone would fritter  even an ounce of energy or a valuable second of their life in these modern times trying to convince voters at the dimmer end of the spectrum in such states as Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, that seceding from the Union is a viable idea.

They pointed out that whoever threw a box of tea bags onto the White House lawn was a moron, and should have seen that they would be viewed as a potential terrorist.

Above all, they took care to remind their audience, subtly of course, what tea-bagging actually is: a slang term for dunking your balls in someone’s mouth like a teabag and letting them slide in and out of the lips, a move designed to induce pleasure in both sucker and suckee.  

What’s odd to me, and to many others, I suspect, is that these latter broadcasters, the ones who are less frenetic, more grown-up, more cagey about lavishing invective and superlatives on obviously trumped-up garbage –  more BBC-ish, in fact,  in that they actually try to deliver the news rather than promising to, then doing something else entirely – have far lower ratings, relatively speaking.

If Bill O’Reilly clocks up three and a half million viewers, say, then Anderson Cooper (whom I don’t like either, incidentally, but for a whole bunch of other reasons), grabs a straight million. Give or take. Now, a million people is a lot. But not when you consider that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a real news show masquerading as a fake news show, beats him by almost eight hundred thousand viewers. In fact, very many Americans – my friends included – get the bulk of their news from The Daily Show.

None of which is terribly encouraging.

But it’s the same old story. Cheap sensationalism wins. Loud sideshows draw a crowd. As I’m prone to saying, dim people love color and movement and noise and explosions. And I guess I can add to that list Fox News. 

Intelligent people, on the other hand, tend to be dismissive and let it go. They’re simply too busy enjoying their lives, doing interesting things, getting educated, contributing to society, traveling, exploring, feeding their curiosity and their brains, to waste a single moment on jackboot journalism and those who engage in it.

 

Fox News gets two magic carpets out of five.  

TV Swami – he say NO.

www.cashpeters.com

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