Friday, October 09, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside.

I thought I'd take a moment to catch up on a few subjects we've touched on over the last several months. Just to see where they've gone since I voice my opinion.

Have to admit my favorite story was the question of the DVD rental kiosks called Redboxes. I mentioned that Blockbuster might want to think about getting into the business just out of self defense. Later that week a friend pointed me to an article that said Blockbuster was planning on doing just that. Makes me feel pretty smart.

To help keep my ego in check I will note that Microsoft turned me down as a host for the debut of Windows 7 later this month. My computer is really up to the new OS so it wasn't surprising. But it means I AM looking for an invitation if anyone out there has been chosen as a host. I promise I'll be very complimentary about you in my report. No such guarantee for the software.

Early reports are split on the topics of the new search engine BING. After an early surge where it looked like they might be cutting into Google's business the latest reports are divided. Some show Bing sliding rather badly, others say maybe not. But it certainly hasn't taken the world by storm.

On that subject we must note the early ratings on the new Jay Leno show. Which have been terrible. Down 53% from the opening show with the Kanye West interview the Buffalo News recently reported that in our nearby large market the show sometimes has ranked FOURTH in its time slot. We'll have to wait and see if that still works for NBC's low budget business plan.

What I still consider a fairly dumb idea for a movie will actually begin shooting around the Harvard campus this month. Columbia Pictures has re-titled it "The Social Network". That's the Facebook movie. Color me still unconvinced.

And last but certainly not least the disaster that I thought was at the heart of "Jon and Kate plus 8" did indeed finally bob to the surface. Jon Gossilen has managed to make a complete fool out of himself with multiple affairs and claiming to " despise" his estranged wife only to turn around and decide it call be fixed once the network threatened to toss him out of the reality series. Now he wants the divorce proceedings to halt, to work on getting back together and oh yeah stop filming the series since it's bad for his children.
I can certainly agree with that last point


What follows is a rant, a veritable scream of outrage. You have been warned.

I was driving along in my car, a good day's work under belt, feeling that all was right with the world. As I drove I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations when I heard an interview that sent my blood pressure straight through the roof and a string of words that can not be repeated on the public airwaves to spring my lips. What I heard that day was nothing less than heresy, was in fact a simple and perverse announcement of abomination. Maybe you've heard it too. They've written a sequel to the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Hey I'm serious about this. This is an outrage. Spare me the logic that the book has been approved by the board at Pooh Properties, the trust established in A.A. Milne's will to care for his beloved characters. I don't care. It's just wrong. Add in the insult that they've decided to add a new character to the cast in the 100 Acre Wood and I must admit that you'll see just the beginnings of some foam frothing at the corners of my mouth.

I'm not a fan of "extending the franchise" as this practice is sometimes called. You had to be crazy to accept the challenge of writing the sequel to "Gone with Wind". Yet even with negative reviews by and large they actually did a second sequel beyond "Scarlett"! I will admit to reading and even liking Robert Goldsborough's sequels to the Nero Wolfe stories and I read a couple of the James Bond sequels by John Gardner. When you write a sequel you are faced with a very difficult choice - you must either be strictly faithful to the original or you give yourself some space to explore a little. The first is a stranglehold for any really good creative writer. The second way is to destroy all those things that the audience loves so much.

But the real villain here I'm afraid is the reading public. Since the days of Conan Doyle being dragged back to the stories of Sherlock Holmes by popular demand there is a foolish and unreasonable desire to have our beloved characters continue to dance for our amusement for ever and ever. First of all that's an insult to the original writer. We're saying "You didn't do anything special. We can replace you". Second it's disrespectful to the characters we love. Isn't it much better to have a limited number of really well done stories rather than an endless supply of stories of dwindling quality? Because that's inevitably what happens.

The new Pooh book was written for one reason and one reason only - to make more money. We don't need it. I don't want it and when the time comes to introduce my grand kids to the House on Pooh Corner the new book will not be invited to come bump, bump, bump down the stairs with Christopher Robin.


A professional hero of mine is being given the chance to redeem himself. And I'm torn as to whether or not it's such a good idea. When I worked in commercial radio I had three professional heroes - Jack Bogut, longtime morning man KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. The first DJ I ever paid any real attention to. The second was Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP in Cinncinnati. Yeah, I know he's fictional but Johnny always knew it was first, last and always about the music. Last but not least was the legendary Don Imus. Imus returns to his TV broadcasts this week on Fox Business and that has me in a quandry.

Don Imus was named one of the 25 greatest talk show hosts of all time a few years ago. When I first started working mornings as the Phlipside back in the early '80's I would tape Imus's show on W-N-BC and then listen to it during my lunch break. Imus was aggressive, provocative and disrespectful. He was also brilliantly funny and did some biting satire. I still love the story of the Rev. Billy Sol Hargus, immortalized in a novel called "God's Other Son". How can you not love something called the 1st Church of the Goodey Death and Discount House of Worship? Imus started in California, moved to Cleveland and then New York city. His life has been half glorious rise to stardom and perpetual fall from grace.

Starting in the late '80's Imus became much more political on his show and his mistakes became bigger and bigger. The Rutgers women's basketball team comments were the biggest and most offensive of a long string of racially, ethnically, sexually and religiously derogatory speech. Imus was really the first great "shock jock". Like it or not Howard Stern followed in Imus's footsteps. And shock jocks are always dancing on the edge. I believe there is a place in radio for the shows that push us to the edge of unpleasant truth and make us look over. The last 10 years have seen Imus falling over that edge more and more often.

So this week after a brief stint doing his show on the RFDTV network (as weird a pairing as may be imaginable) Imus gets his own show on Fox Business Network. I will give my old hero this - he has never backed away from his responsibility for his comments. He apologized to Rutgers and had that apology accepted. He acknowleges that MSNBC and his radio employer were right to drop him afterwards. Let's hope that's a sign that with a little more age we'll get an Imus that knows where the edge is and dances on the correct side of it from now on.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

No comments: