Depending on your personal beliefs, it was a week for underdog comebacks or crushing defeat at the hands of closed-minded tyrants who hate the gays and all their flashy gay ways, but one thing is clear as we enter this Memorial Day weekend: There’s no such thing as a clear victory anymore. Everything is so tainted with suspicion, discredited by innuendo, and generally picked apart in the post-game that first prize is essentially a condemnation, a polio-infected trophy that gives you the disease of never-ending, increasingly bitter scrutiny. But even though these blasphemous rumors are what prove that God has a sick sense of humor, most of the time the truth—those cavity-creating, unpopped kernels of truth at the greasy bottom of the bag that are always covered by so much fluff—are even worse. And wouldn't you know it, those are what make up this week's hot, buttery bowl of Friday Buzzkills.
Of course, the American Idol “upset” has already begun fading into the background, overwhelmed by the banshee-billy shrieks of So You Think You Can Dance’s Mary Murphy and the clangorous, million-junebugs-trapped-in-a-jar drone of summer programming. But rest assured that while you’re being alternately lulled and battered by reality shows about morons getting hit in the face and the slow torture of disgraced wives of people whose “celebrity” is the modern equivalent of spending six fortnights in the stocks, network executives are hard at work creating their inevitably disappointing fall programming slate. Apparently taking a cue from the Obama administration, this week’s upfronts were all about transparency: Leading the charge, Jimmy Kimmel openly acknowledged that pretty much every new show on ABC’s slate would be canceled before Christmas and that “everything we say up here is bullshit,” made jokes about new opportunities for synergistic advertising where “Dr. Izzy from Grey’s Anatomy could be crushed by a case of Coke Zero… It just depends on how much you want to pay,” and then brought it all home with, “Maybe these shows will work, maybe they won’t, but the important thing to remember is, who cares? It’s not your money.” Ah, it’s funny because it’s depressing.
See, Kimmel’s routine might have been seen as just yet another self-deprecating bite of the hand that sort of feeds him had it not come, you know, in the middle of an economic meltdown, when that “let’s take some multi-million dollar kindling and see if we can build a fire that will last at least a couple months” attitude is pretty much at the heart of everything that’s wrong with the faltering television industry right now. And while you can never go wrong with a little gallows humor, openly admitting that the network has next to no real passion for what it’s ostensibly championing seems sort of, well, dickish in a year when so many network employees have been laid off, and especially so during a week when so many shows—and thus, their entire underpaid production crews—got the axe for being “too expensive,” only to be replaced with stuff that seems equally disposable.
Then there’s this recently leaked internal video created as a joke by ABC’s marketing department, in which network marketing heads Mike Benson and Marla Provencio sarcastically “pimp” a fake show they hate called The Smoking Clown, satirically using awful strategies like renting advertising space on people’s lungs, having Chicken Cordon Bleu or whatever that kid’s name is do a “Smoking Clown” song for Radio Disney, asking Mickey Mouse to hand out cigarettes to kids, and partnering with Camel and T-Mobile to “bring you this amazing Smoking Clown ringtone.” Which is hilarious and all, except for the fact that that’s exactly the sort of stuff the network actually does to promote its terrible shows.
And that laughter rings even more hollow now that it’s out in the open that Chuck—one of the few freshman shows granted a stay of execution—is now firmly in the pocket of Subway. In this New York Times article, NBC executives explain how “the special sponsorship with Subway is enabling NBC to bring back the series,” and as a result the show—which already sort of crossed the line between winking product integration and out-and-out pandering with last season’s somewhat-controversial, “Let’s awkwardly pause for a minute to talk about how delicious this chicken teriyaki sub is” episode—will be looking to make the chain an even bigger part of its storyline, with the article speculating about the character “Sarah” (who works undercover in various mall food court stands) getting involved, saying, “It is no great leap to believe she could be selling Subway sandwiches next season.” Mmm, your candor is fresh-baked delicious.
We’re actually not sure which we prefer anymore: Everyone playing along and pretending that, yes, sometimes art comes at the cost of commodification—but why belabor the point when your laughter and/or tears are all that matter?—or coming right out and admitting that the network will suck your $5 foot-long if it means they can keep their shows on the air while still being able to spend the money on something really important, like assuaging Jay Leno’s rapacious ego. In a way the honesty is refreshing—but you know, so is Binaca, until it’s sprayed directly in your eyes.
But it’s not just television that’s fallen prey to turning tricks in lean times: Plenty of companies are relying on shameless crossover promotions (by the way, have you guys checked out Decider yet?) to keep their brands afloat—even willingly turning their chosen medium into an out-and-out farce as HarperCollins will do in a scant couple of weeks with L.A. Candy, the first in a series of young-adult novels from The Hills’ Lauren Conrad. The book—which is totally made-up, you guys!—is all about a beautiful young girl trying to navigate the stiletto-pocked foothills of Los Angeles society to gain a toehold in the “event planning” business all while starring in her own reality show, which has her constantly fretting over whether anything that ever happens to her or that anyone says to her is real, or if it’s all being done for the cameras… because just that’s the kind of inner turmoil L.C. lives with every day, you see. Sort of like how she must be sitting up at night and wondering whether she got a multi-book deal with one of the world’s biggest publishers because they genuinely appreciate her way with prose, or whether it was because they know that her legion of imitators would gladly pay $19.95 for anything with Lauren Conrad’s name on it, even if the pages were filled with mascara streaks and Red Bull stains. (Which, come to think it, might actually be more marketable than a bunch of antiquated words.)
But as infuriating as Conrad’s roman à cash-in must be to all you wannabe Dickenses without a reality show, it’s actually sort of innocuous compared to the way her Hills nemesis Spencer Pratt, whose name always makes us wish we used more British slang over here, has parlayed his main gig of being openly hated on television to being openly despised for his music. Boasting that “first I took over the TV, the tabloids, and the Internet—now I’m going after the airwaves,” Pratt debuted his new rap alter ego The Great White this week with the taunting new single, “I’m A Celebrity,” which kicks off with the line, “First Tweet of the day, I turn my swag on” and somehow only gets more vapid from there, including several not-so-veiled plugs for his upcoming stint on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. To his credit, Pratt seems completely aware that his music is utterly disposable—but that’s the future of music, you see: “People are not even going to have time to listen to radio in their cars because they are going to be talking on their phones or twittering, or BBM’ing,” Pratt said with a straight, puffy face. “So I feel like the only time people are going to hear music is when your phone rings, so that’s the whole market I’m going after. I don’t care about the clubs, I don’t care about the radio, all I care about is getting my digital downloads like Soulja Boy," which may be the only time in his career Soulja Boy has ever felt insulted as an artist.
So if television is devolving back to the days of the Texaco Star Happy Gas Time Theatre, books are now just novelizations of reality TV shows written by people who have never experienced reality nor read a book, and music is officially a democracy of dunces, what does that leave us? As we all know, those lumbering newspaper dinosaurs are but one meteoric blog from extinction, and according to media economics professor Robert G. Picard—who wrote this distressing article for The Christian Science Monitor earlier in the week—they can only be saved if journalists agree to sacrifice their current pittance for even lower pay until they figure out a way to contribute something more valuable than just being journalists. Picard argues that wages are based on “value creation”—and since merely conveying information gathered from sources of knowledge and conveying it effectively is something even a total Pratt can do with his first Tweet of the day before he gets his swag on, journalists have next to no intrinsic worth left. To save the industry, Picard argues, journalists must “add something novel that creates value. They will have to start providing information and knowledge that is not readily available elsewhere, in forms that are not available elsewhere, or in forms that are more useable by and relevant to their audiences.” Oh, is that all? (So in other words, every news story needs to be tainted with “me-first” punditry, hyperlinked to distraction, and 140 characters or less? Got it.)
In the meantime, journalists who have failed to redefine news reporting for the 21st century continue to lose their jobs—that’ll learn ya to follow AP style and work with reputable sources!—and as such certain facets of the newspaper business are dying with them, like all those investigative reporters who used to save death row inmates, but are now too busy trying to save their jobs with a breaking exclusive on who Robert Pattinson is kissing today. As a result, guess what? People who were wrongly condemned don’t have anyone to help them get their story out there, so they’re dying as well! What, do they not have Twitter in jail? After all, if it can crack the case on Patrick Swayze’s death like it did this week—a rumor that was “retweeted” thousands of times after originating from a pair of jackasses at a Jacksonville radio station, to the point where Swayze himself had to issue a picture to prove that he’s alive—why waste your time on valueless reporters who can only report boring facts? Didn’t you hear what Picard said about being novel? Do that.
Or you could just wait for karma to come back around on you, because it seems to be in an awfully forgiving mood lately. How else to explain why the formerly disgraced Mary Kay Letourneau—who became famous for having sex with her 13-year-old student in the ’90s, whom she eventually married and had two children with in between prison sentences—is so cavalier about hosting tomorrow’s Hot For Teacher night at Seattle club Fuel unless she knows that all cosmic bets are off, and that the thin line separating love and hate doesn’t even exist anymore? Hey, who can blame her? She’s surely no stranger to Nadya Suleman, a woman so despised that she’s one of the year’s biggest stars—so much so that now there’s even a porn parody, Coctomom, available right now for all of your time capsule needs.
Speaking of capturing filthy things on camera, a new documentary about Amy Winehouse is reportedly underway, promising a “truthful and revealing look at her complicated life,” by which they undoubtedly mean lots of shots of her shuffling around her apartment or St. Lucia hospital room looking like a collapsed vein in a wifebeater while her parents and various other hangers-on wonder aloud, teary-eyed, what they can possibly do about it. The project is laughingly titled Saving Amy, though it’s unclear how exactly enabling her addictive behavior with even more attention constitutes “saving” anything—other than saving her family and management from having to take more concrete steps toward getting her healthy again, because let’s face it, by now she’s more interesting as a trainwreck and it’s just not worth it until after the DVD sales have slowed. But sure, get it on tape while you still can. Seeing as everybody is so big on transparency these days, and are being rewarded for their honesty even if the truth is fucking despicable, this project sounds perfectly tailored for our fucked-up times.
Also, LFO—a.k.a. Lyte Funky Ones, the band of bards behind the slick couplet “New Kids On The Block wrote a lot of hits / Chinese food makes me sick,” and the dudes who turned "Abercrombie and Fitch" into accepted shorthand for the sort of vacuous, undiscerning girls easily bedded after a few sour apple shooters—just announced a reunion show in New York for July. That’s the truth, and it hurts.
For over 30 years, Wayne Allwine was the voice of Mickey Mouse, only the second actor to lend his pipes to the iconic cartoon character after Walt Disney passed the torch to Jimmy MacDonald in 1947. Allwine made his debut as Mickey in a handful of 1977 promos for The New Mickey Mouse Club, but began to fully inhabit the role with the 1983 special Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Since then, every modern appearance from Mickey Mouse has had Allwine behind him, while Allwine also worked behind the scenes as a sound effects editor for films like Splash, Innerspace, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Interesting side note: Allwine was married to voice actress Russi Taylor, who provides the voice of Minnie Mouse.) He died Monday of complications from diabetes; he was 62.
Roderick Anthony Burton II—better known as Dolla—was an Atlanta-based rapper who got his start in the short-lived Da Razkalz Cru, which so impressed Sean Combs and Missy Elliot that they helped land them a record contract in 2001. Burton moved on to modeling for Combs’ Sean John clothing line before branching out into a solo career as Dolla, breaking out with the song “Feelin’ Myself” on the Step Up soundtrack. Last year he released the singles “I’m Fucked Up” and minor hit “Make A Toast” as a prelude to a full-length album he had begun working on for Jive Records. Earlier this week, he and his entourage arrived in Los Angeles to continue working on that record, but took a detour from the airport to the Beverly Center to do some shopping. There, Burton had a chance encounter with Aubrey Berry, a promoter with whom he had had an altercation earlier in the month at an Atlanta strip club, which, according to Berry, ended with Burton and several members of his crew beating him up. Also according to Berry, Burton verbally threatened him in the restroom of the Beverly Center’s P.F. Chang’s and then followed him to the mall’s valet parking area. Berry then claims that Burton then “reached for his waistband,” so he responded by pulling out his own handgun and opening fire, hitting Burton several times in the chest. Burton died at the nearby Cedars Sinai Medical Center; despite the fact that no weapons were found on Burton, Berry is claiming self-defense. Burton was 21 years old.
British actress Lucy Gordon was a former Cover Girl model and up-and-coming actress with appearances in films like The Four Feathers, Serendipity, and a one-off role on Stella, though she is most familiar to American audiences for playing reporter “Jennifer Dugan” in Spider-Man 3. (Gordon can also be seen in the upcoming Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.) She was currently living in Paris, where she had just completed filming on the new Serge Gainsbourg biopic, Vie Heroique, in which she plays actress Jane Birkin, and the French comedy Cineman, which she worked on with her cinematographer boyfriend, Jerome Alveras. On Tuesday, according to neighbors, Gordon reportedly had a fight with Alveras in the Paris flat they shared. When Alveras awoke Wednesday morning, he found that Gordon had hanged herself. Today would have been her 29th birthday.
Have a super weekend!
[Friday Buzzkills has a wedding to ruin next weekend. It will return June 5.]