Tag Archives: Martha Stewart

When TV hosts attack…Star Wars…Jonas Brothers

I’m going to talk about this feud between Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart that’s all over the news.

First, though, I want to say something else. About blogging.

It’s not hard to tell when somebody is new to something. They’re very, very enthusiastic for the first couple of weeks, right? Positively brimming with fresh ideas that they’re eager to communicate to you. Not only that, but they’re willing to sacrifice a dozen other, less boring activities in order to get down and do this new special thing they’ve discovered. My dad’s passion for bird-watching comes to mind.

But then the initial burst of activity is over. What was, to begin with, fun, stimulating, and a challenge, starts turning into a small chore, and they find that the novelty doesn’t just wear off but turns yellow and gathers traces of mildew on it, like last week’s towels. That’s the critical watershed. It may take a year,  it may take only a few days to reach the damp towel moment, but once it’s happened, there’s no going back. From that point on, every time they embark on what was once such a bright, shiny, exciting new activity suddenly becomes a grind and they want to quit. My dad’s passion for bird-watching comes to mind.

His explosion of interest began the day he bought the book at the store and lasted well into the following week when he got around to reading it and discovered how unremarkable and dull birds are – they hatch, they fly, they make nests, they eat, they crap, they get attacked and eaten by cats, and they die horribly; that’s the average life-cycle. Once he knew that, he never picked the book up again and we gave it to a charity shop.

As you probably guessed, I was about to draw a parallel here between my dad’s shortlived hobbies (remind me to tell you about his clock-making binge) and writing this blog. But actually it’s not quite like that. I’m not bored with it at all. In fact, it’s been quite gratifying on one level to have so many people stop by and read my thoughts every day. It does an ego good to feel wanted and know it serves a purpose.

Or rather, it did. Until I took a look at the blog statistics and spotted something interesting.

People aren’t really coming here for me. I hoped they were, but they’re not. I get the most hits on this site, it turns out, when I mention somebody else. Anybody, it seems, will do. As long as it’s not me.

Rachel Bilson is a good example.

Dropping Bilson’s name, for no other reason than that she’s my neighbor and marrying Hayden Christensen from Star Wars, instantly attracts traffic from fan sites and other blogs around the world, curious to know what I’m saying about the (presumably) happy pair. And look! See what I did just then? I just mentioned Star Wars too. That’s a biggie. I can expect a huge response to that now, I’m sure. In fact, I’d better go doll myself up and put a clean shirt on. This blog’s going to be like Home Depot on a Sunday morning; I need to look my best.

Another sure-fire visitor-count winner is The Simpsons. A passing reference to them got a lot of people very excited the other day. So they stopped by as well, just to see what I was saying about Homer. Which was nothing, it turned out; I’d stuck his name in at the end of something else for no particular reason.

Oh, and let’s not forget Hugh Laurie. For some reason, House fans trawl the web at all hours of the day and night, hunting down any reference to the show or its lead, and their diligence brought them here, to the TV Swami blog, where they became instantly disillusioned to find that there was nothing of any substance about House and Hugh Laurie at all, I’d simply shoe-horned them in for the sake of it. I’m not expecting those people back again. They’re upset. We’re not speaking.

And perhaps I should also mention the Jonas Brothers and Rihannah.Y’know, just because.

The reason I’m telling you this, in case you’re wondering, is because the whole issue of how to gratuitously whip up public interest happened to cross my mind last night as I tuned in for the very public brawl between CNBC’s Jim Cramer and The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart. You probably heard about it. And how the result was not just a bloodbath, but the best TV bloodbath EVER. Or at least the best since Jon Stewart did the exact-same thing in 2004 to Tucker Carlson on CNN’s Crossfire, a show that never recovered and died soon after.

If you don’t know how we got here, let me give you a summary: Jim Cramer’s an ex-hedge fund manager who’s made it big as a crazy-shouting-manic financial advisor on TV. I’ve only followed two of his tips.  Both times I lost what was, for me, a ton of money. So I don’t trust him at all. And now I find I’m not the only one.

Jon Stewart was on fire yesterday. He blamed CNBC and Cramer for being in bed with the very Wall Street criminals they’re reporting on and supposed to be exposing. Caught in the crosshairs, unable to run away, Cramer was high-pitched and helpless. He had nothing rational to say. He was dithery, stuttery, lame. Worse, he’d made the mistake of trying to defend himself on The Today Show and even Martha Stewart earlier in the week, where he dared mock Jon Stewart for being just a comedian and hosting a variety show.

Bad move. TERRIBLE move.

Cramer was booked as a guest on The Daily Show Thursday. He said beforehand that he was nervous. He was right to be. But even then, he didn’t see what was coming. Stewart tore him apart, not only limb from limb, but cell from cell, molecule from molecule. It was horrendous to watch, squirm-making, both funny and sad, diabolical and delightful, all in one.

The bout was also peppered with commercials. More commercials than I ever remember seeing on this show. Why? Because Comedy Central knew they had a winner. The media had chattered so much and for so long about this escalating feud that it became headline news, and people who normally aren’t interested in Jon Stewart and don’t even know who Jim Cramer is, much less invested in Best Buy a couple of years ago on his advice and watched it tank, tuned in to see this contest of heavyweights.

Actually, to be fair, there was only one heavyweight in the match. The pairing wasn’t fair last night. Then again, fairness didn’t come into it. We’re in a deep recession. People have lost their savings and houses and pensions and security. They’re angry. They wanted blood. And they got it.

Now, enough about them. Famous people. Back to me.

In a simple TV blog I can’t do any of that. I can’t give you a bloodbath every day. But clearly, good writing and interesting topics alone are not enough to make this page a magnet to web traffic.

However, what I can do, I now realize, is up the ante by riding on the back of other people’s bloodbaths. I can namedrop like fury whenever the opportunity presents itself, and sprinkle famous people, noteworthy people, newscentric people, throughout the blog – Barack Obama, Katie Couric, Doctor Who; there, see? – to draw in readers.

So that’s it. From now on, this will be my plan.

That way, the blog will stay popular, new people will come constantly, and The TV Swami will stay fresh and alive and exciting, and not go the way of my dad’s momentary fascination with bird-watching. And, later, clock-making. And winemaking. And caravanning. And playing the organ. And, come to think of it, being a father.

The Daily Show showdown gets five magic carpets out of five.

TV Swami – he say YES.

The Cramer/Stewart fight is here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/12/jim-cramer-on-daily-show-_n_174503.html

Stewart’s take-down of Crossfire and Tucker Carlson is here:

http://www.spike.com/video/jon-stewart-on/2652831?cid=YSSP

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Dead dogs and Englishmen

Well, that didn’t go well, did it? Last night’s BBC thing, I mean.

If you were listening, you’ll know that a relatively light-hearted chit-chat about the quirkery of American television devolved within no time at all into a quagmire of dead dogs, multiple rapists, broken legs on Dancing with the Stars, and Rachel Bilson’s marriage (which, by the way, I put on the same level, interest-wise, as the previous three.)

As a result, I fear my stint on Up All Night may be over. Or, if not over, then drawing to a premature end. One of those premature ends that, quite honestly, is probably long overdue.

After all, it’s been eleven years. In fact, the eleventh anniversary was this very week, though I forgot to mention that in my haste to talk about not one, but seventeen dogs being burned alive in a propane explosion.

Doing TV reviews was not a job I applied for, by the way. I got it by nepotism. A friend of mine used to host the show in the mid-90s and he called me up one day with sad news: the previous guy had died. Or absconded. Or simply not shown up for work and proved himself unreliable. “Will you fill in this week for three minutes? You can do it on the phone.” He made it sound easy, which to me is important, so I said yes, despite the fact that I didn’t watch any television and had to get all my information from magazines in our local supermarket. And when the guy failed to show up the following Monday (the Slot used to be on Mondays) I filled in then, too. And it just grew from there, as these things tend to if you let them. Eleven years later, it’s now half an hour long and broadcast from a real studio in downtown Los Angeles with music and sound-bites and everything. Only one thing hasn’t changed: I still don’t watch television. Well, who has the time?

However, last night’s outing may be, if not the last, then the red flag that signals the beginning of the end. There’s nothing funny about rape or dogs being burned alive. Nothing at all. It just came out that way.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems either. Back in January, when I embarked on the Master Cleanser and fasted on maple syrup and fresh lemons for two weeks (the movie of this debacle is on my Facebook page, if you’re interested!), I dared go on the BBC and gush about the benefits of fasting, and the following day almost drowned beneath a tsunami of complaints, one or two of them from doctors who claimed it was irresponsible of me to talk about such ridiculous and dangerous things on air, and thoroughly irresponsible of the BBC to broadcast that kind of holistic drivel. The same doctors who will be dying of blocked arteries, distended colons, and damaged livers years from now, I predict. Though of course you can’t tell them that. Bloody know-it-alls.

Quite frankly, I thought my number was up then. But we soldiered on. Last night, though, was another low, and honestly I’m worried.

My Slot could so easily go the way of the rest of the economy. Cutbacks, downsizing. “Sorry, but we’re taking the show in a new direction, one that involves accuracy and sticking to the topic and not distressing listeners.” At which point that will be it. I’ll be no different to a laid-off mill worker in Ohio or a kennel owner in Pennsylvania whose business  just burned down in a propane explosion.

Not that I need to worry. I’m plenty busy. New book coming out in April, another book just completed, a TV travel show to shoot in May, plus all the American radio stuff I do. Still, after eleven whole years of showing up for something week after week –  I mean, man, that’s like an addiction. It locks you into a groove you can’t easily snap out of, even though I know the day must come at some point.  

One of the reviewers of my new book Naked in Dangerous Places wrote, “Cash Peters is our generation’s Alistair Cook…”  Seriously? Didn’t he report from America for the BBC for 48 years or something preposterous like that and die at the microphone during a propane delivery?  I’m hazy on the exact details.

Last night, I came home after the show with a heavy heart. You can tell how affected I was: I remained completely unconcerned for the safety of the blind contestant on American Idol. Walk too far in the wrong direction, drop into the orchestra pit – I didn’t care.  (He’s going to be voted off soon anyway; he’s outclassed by almost every one of  his sighted rivals) And I wasn’t even as downright appalled as I should have been by a trailer for the upcoming Osbournes Reloaded, a variety show that promises to be a trashy, calamitous disaster, hosted by Ozzy and Sharon, and which seems to involve Sharon being strident and irritating for an hour and Ozzy shaking and being incoherent. What’s reloaded about that? That’s exactly how I remember them from last time.

No, last night, not even the sparkly baubles on American TV could make me feel superior and better about myself. I turned it off, dimmer and even more depressed.

Now at last I know how the Up All Night audience feels after my Slot.  

NOTE: Inside Out, the short movie I made about the Master Cleanser is available to watch on my Facebook page, and only on my Facebook page.

The BBC Slot is available to hear again on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00j2dr7/Up_All_Night_11_03_2009/. Have painkillers ready.

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