Tag Archives: Jay Leno

How I almost appeared on The Tonight Show.

Casual Friday. It’s already hot and sticky in L.A., and I’m writing this naked. Those are the facts, people. Just accept them.

On Casual Fridays I like to bunk off work and hand the Swami over to someone who writes better than I do, or at the very least has something better to say. Today that honor falls to a guy whose name I will have to cut and paste, because I can neither pronounce it nor spell it: James Poniewozik.

LenoHe’s written a fantastically informative article for Time magazine about the future of television. And right now, he posits, the future seems to rest on what happens next week when Jay Leno launches his new show five nights a week on NBC, replacing their old, costly, lumbering, expensive dramas that nobody was watching.

Most people are expecting this experiment to be a flop. The bulk of variety shows do, after all, go into a rapid tailspin and disappear. In the 1950s, we used to enjoy watching a mixed bag of crap. Nowadays, less so. Unless there’s a talent show element to it at least, such as American Idol, in which case we’ll watch crap forever.

Witness the Osbournes variety special – The Osbournes Reloaded – which Fox was extremely cockahoop about at the time, and which was meant to be the first of a series of six. Unfortunately, the premier was so mind-numbingly dreadful that the rest of them were never shown. Here’s a taste.

leno picSo now we’re getting Jay Leno, trying to salvage his post-Tonight Show glory.

I once received a phone-call from The Tonight Show, inviting me to be on as a guest. Somebody had dropped out, it was late in the day, and I lived close to their Burbank Studios. This was when I used to do handwriting analysis. One of Leno’s producers had seen me on The View, apparently, and thought I’d be fun. But first they needed me to do a quick audition please. “Sure,” I said. “Easy.”

I didn’t drive in those days, so I traveled to Burbank by bus. And I bet not many of Jay Leno’s guests ever did that!

When I arrived, I was taken into a small room by the producer who had me analyze her handwriting. The girl in question was a mess. She had huge emotional problems, I recall, and somehow it didn’t seem right or responsible, even for an audition, to make light of them. So I gave her a straight reading, which was pretty damn accurate, just not especially entertaining.

Midway through, the room darkens. This taller, older woman walks to the door, stands there with her arms folded, listens for five seconds, then blurts out “No” in a stern voices and strides away.

That was it. I was promptly shunted out, given a handshake – “Sorry.” – and told to leave. Clearly, I wasn’t Tonight Show material.

To make matters far worse, when I got home I took off my trousers and found a massive brown skid-mark down the back. Seems I’d sat in something on the bus! One of the many hazards of using the L.A. public transit system. Most times you spot it before you sit down; but sometimes you’re preoccupied with an audition and possibly appearing on The Tonight Show and you forget to look. Oh god. Nothing could have been more embarrassing. I’d walked around their offices, meeting people, saying hi, doing quick handwriting analyses for anyone who asked…and all the while I looked like I’d shat my pants. I still cringe even now.

Anyway, who knows if I’ll be invited onto Leno’s new show. Maybe that old bag who said no to my gifts before has retired now.

Of course, I don’t do handwriting stuff any more, but that’s okay. I have other talents. Yesterday, for instance, a producer emailed me, asking if I’d like to do the voice of the lead character in a cartoon for the web. A fun character. He’s a talkshow host. “The guy has a gun for a nose,” the producer explained, “and explosives for a chin….it’s called Gun Nose.”

Of course it is. What else?

I said maybe. But I’m not hopeful for it. Gun Nose? Really? Why on earth would a producer dream up a character called Gun Nose, then automatically think, “You know who’d be good for this? That guy who does reports on NPR. I forget his name…the idiotic one.” Weird. And a hoax, I’m sure.

In the meantime, take a look at the Time article. All very interesting. And don’t forget to watch when Jay invites me on his new show later this year as a guest. “Next we have a very funny and original man. Author, handwriting analyst, NPR contributor, and the voice of Gun Nose….Cash Peters.”

I thank you.

www.cashpeters.com

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Just what I love – a night of the long knives.

No Swami today. Sorry, guys.

Whaaa?

Hey, I said I’m sorry! But I have things to do. One of which is to put up a bunch of audio features on my website so that you can listen to past reports I did for Marketplace.

I’m in the final throes, last legs, dying moments of my radio “career” right now. It won’t last much longer. So I thought it would be nice if fans of the pieces I made for public radio could track down archival material after I’m gone. This is my version of the George W. Bush Library, only in my case I’ve actually done things I can be proud of. 

NBC Universal TCA PartyHaving said that, if I were writing a blog post today it would be to celebrate Ben Silverman being ousted at NBC. As the guy who oversaw the unnecessary revivals of American Gladiators and Knight Rider, as well as cancelling one of the best dramas NBC ever had – Journeyman– plus being responsible for truly terrible shows like Parks and Recreation, My Own Worst Enemy, and the upcoming five-nights-a-week Jay Leno Show, a disaster in the making, he was long overdue for being fired. Although in PR Knight Riderterms, he’s not being fired at all, he’s found another job and is going to that, because firing him would suggest that whoever hired him in the first place had made a huge mistake, and that would never do.

Indeed, the guy who really should be fired is the guy who hired him – Jeff Zucker, the big cheese at NBC Universal, who began as a researcher for their Olympic coverage in the 80s and rose steadily through the ranks when maybe, perhaps, for the good of all concerned, he should have stayed a researcher. Zucker, in the mind of many critics, is responsible for NBC being at the bottom of the network pile right now and continuing to languish.

But will they junk him? Oh good grief, absolutely not. Once these people get their feet under the desk, however mediocre they are, their big-time friends protect them like they’re an endangered species. Zucker is going nowhere.

Besides, he’s not alone. TV executives make lousy decisions and waste millions of dollars all the time and are never held accountable. For example, my innovative and fascinating little TV travel show, which had a legion of loyal fans, was cancelled in 2006, to be replaced by a bland, toe-curlingly awkward sports show hosted by Drew Carey. Which sports show? What was the title? Answer: nobody has a clue. It pretty much tanked, leaving Carey to move on to The Price is Right

In those circumstances, wouldn’t you have fired the executive who made such a rubbish and ill-conceived move? (That and many more, I might add.) But no, it won’t happen. The bad decisions continue at these places. Or rather, they do, until one day the roster of catastrophes is so great that someone has to be blamed, and publicly. And that’s what’s happened at NBC. 

That’s why Silverman is out finally. For the record, here he is, praising Leno and saying how great the atrocious Parks and Recreation is going to be.

And here he is in a hotel room singing a made-up song very, very badly.

On that ground alone, I’d have fired his ass. They say he’s being replaced with a worthy substitute. Hopefully, it’s someone with vision and artistic credentials, someone who’s created great shows, understands writers, is bold and daring and willing to consider bright new innovative ideas….let me see now….

His name, apparently, is Jeff Gaspin.

Hang on, let’s take look a look at his background….oh, what a surprise – he’s an accountant!

So another four years of doldrums for NBC, then. Will these people never learn?

 

TV Swami – he say NO to NBC pretty much for the foreseeable future.

www.cashpeters.com

Buy Cash’s book, Naked in Dangerous Places, HERE.

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I’m not going to lie to you: we’re screwed

They’re showing an episode of new cop drama Lie to Me on hulu.com. Episode 6. A young girl has gone missing. In order to track her down, the main character in the show, played by Tim Roth, is given the job of striding around various houses and offices being quirky and unpredictable for an hour, as main characters in dramas have to be now, if they’re to compete with Hugh Laurie in House.  

Roth plays a human lie detector who uses body language and other psychological tics to tell if people are being deceptive. And we the viewers play a group of people who have to sit through sixty minutes of this stuff, of actors clearly acting and reciting words they’ve learned from a script, and try to pretend we’re enjoying it.

So unriveting is this show, in fact, that, leaving it to play in the background, I skip the visuals and only half-listen to the dialogue while switching to another screen and writing emails.  

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding dramas like this harder and harder to focus on these days. And it’s all the fault of reality television.

Such is the pervasive, even insidious presence of reality TV in our lives, from the good ones like Amazing Race  and Kathy Griffin, Life on the D-List (and even those are contrived to a certain extent), right down to the lowest of the low, such as I Want to be a Hilton, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Hey Paula, Kid Nation, and Sons of Hollywood – clunkers all – that anything less than real people on screen yelling at each other and facing constant rejection and upset in real environments (mostly Hollywood mansions), is starting to seem phony and dull and performed.

I’ve said this before, but actors need to watch out, because they’re going to be surplus to requirements soon. In fact, a word to Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen about their wedding: I hope someone’s filming it, my dears. You may need the income.

Luckily for us, TV networks are in a recession too, and since top dramas cost around three mill an episode to produce, and reality shows cost…I don’t have an exact figure in front of me, but let’s say fifteen bucks. And also since recent tentpole dramas that were supposed to be huge – Christian Slater’s My Own Worst Enemy, for instance – tanked badly in the ratings, the focus is shifting away from scripted tosh to less costly ways to keep us entertained. Or if not entertained exactly, then at least preoccupied, diverting our minds from how this ghastly economy is impacting our lives, which nobody wants to think about.

Anyway, according to ABC News today, when the fall season rolls around in September, one of the networks’ prime responses to the deepening recession will be a raft of programs about…the deepening recession.

Kelsey Grammer’s in one of them. He plays a Wall Street financier who becomes a nanny. Totally believable, that. Another is about young investment bankers who quit the world of finance to become something else. What that might be is unspecified – though unemployed and living under a bridge is probably the most realistic option. And there’s a sitcom about a Detroit car worker who’s down on his luck. Of course, if he were to move out of Detroit, his luck would change immediately and he would be a lot less depressed, it’s a terrible city. But I don’t think that’s part of the story arc.

So you get where I’m going here. TV is downsizing. Even NBC, to save money among other things, is about to replace its entire 10PM drama strand five days a week with Jay Leno’s new talk show. A bad idea? Sure. And believe me, I’ve told them a thousand times in my dreams. But one we’re stuck with. 

Interestingly, though, the crisis we see playing out on TV is a reflection, not only in content but actual substance, of what’s going on out here where it matters, in the real world.

Hard times like these are good for us. They’re cleansing. The tide of prosperity has gone out and it’s going to stay out for a while. That forces us to reevaluate our priorities. Losing your savings, being laid off from a job, getting thrown out of a house you couldn’t really afford because you overextended – all of that is traumatic and a major shock to the system, natch, but believe it or not, it’s a good thing. It helps you regroup, prioritize, clean out the cobwebs. You’re compelled to ask yourself, the way the networks are doing: what job do I really want? Where would I like to live in future, now that this unwanted and unexpected choice has been thrust upon me? Am I in the right relationship? Have I been happy up to this point or do I need to make changes? Was it wise to put Jay Leno on at 10PM, given how bland, uneventful, and anemic his talk show usually is?

All of this is a vital step towards a better life. So that when the tide comes back in again, and it will, you’re ready for the next stage. That’s why there’s no point complaining about it, or getting depressed, or, worse, taking it out on society by shooting up a post office or shopping mall, or whatever your plans were for today. Instead, get a grip. Make the big changes now, and when everything stabilizes again, you’ll be glad we all went through this. Trust me.

By that time, of course, Lie to Me will have been canned, as will that Kelsey Grammer sitcom probably, reality shows will represent 95% of all TV output, and the only memory our children’s children will have of these gruesome, difficult, depressing times will be that Jay Leno will still be on at 10PM and nobody can figure out a way to get rid of him.   

Lie to Me gets two magic carpets out of five for being slick. Otherwise…

TV Swami – he say NO.  

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