November 25, 2006 - 12:27pm
Was Michael Richards wrong? Hell yes! Is his career over? Conventional wisdom suggests there's no doubt about it. Is he a racist? Darned if I can tell - I would never judge anyone I don't know personally along those lines. But if he has a career after this is over I'll be fascinated to see how he pulls it off.
Has there ever been a celebrity who said something this spectacularly stupid? I can think of one example, when beloved New York City weatherman Tex Antoine quipped in passing one night in 1974 - after a news story about a rape - something to the effect of, "If rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it."
That remark made the national news; amid a hue and cry from his many fans, Tex was summarily fired and publicly disgraced. He insisted it was an innocent, misinterpreted remark - and I'm sure it was - but it instantly ended his career. (His comment was based on the media's at-that-time new advice to women if they were being raped. The suggestion was to relax and suffer through it rather than fight back - this to prevent further violence and injury.)
There will be no such fan protest for Michael Richards. Everyone knows he messed up - big time. And in all probability revealed a racist side. From my point of view there was genuine anger behind his comments - why would he go there? He didn't just cross the line between acceptable usage and flinging unacceptable invective, he pole vaulted into uncharted waters.
Something to factor in is the inherent panic of being on stage, it can lead a person to say insane things - certainly can lead to a person saying things they don't really mean. You're on stage and into your on-stage persona so to speak. Believe me, I've done hundreds of radio shows, TV shows, stage productions and stand-up situations - sometimes things come out of your mouth that you wish you hadn't said but there you are. (That's why surveys tell us that getting up in front of a crowd to speak is an American's number one fear.)
For all I know he may have thought he could pull a forward-thinking Lenny Bruce style commentary out of his ass by starting up with the word nigger - he clearly wasn't up to the challenge if that was his intent.
Quite frankly the whole thing would have been a blip on the radar, easily deniable, if it were not captured on tape. And thank God it was - so perhaps the dialogue can begin in ernest.
Some history: NBC was the first broadcast network to officially ban the "N" word from the airwaves back in the 1950s. Although in all fairness, I can't find a single example of "nigger" being used on any TV network before that point or after - until NBC introduced the word to primetime with an episode of Sanford & Son at the beginning of 1974. In that episode, you may remember, 'Big Money' Grip Murdoch confronts Aunt Ester with his theory that he was Lamont's father. Aunt Ester yelled back, "What did you say, nigger?" and the studio audience went nuts. Even Archie Bunker hadn't used the "N" word, choosing instead antiquated insults like "Tar Baby," "Black Beauties" and "Jungle Bunnies." The taboo broken, this led to the word being used on ABC's Roots in 1977; that series would not have had the emotional impact it had if it were not for the sadistic use of that previously forbidden word. (By the way, 85% of all television sets were tuned to all or part of Roots.)
Since the nineties, the word has been used with impunity by black comics and rap artists of color. The other day a car pulled along side mine and a guy was blasting his music - I heard 'nigger" at least a half-dozen times while waiting for the light to change.
I find that offensive, but in terms of vocabulary the cat is out of the bag on the word nigger. The word should have stayed dead and buried and I thought we came to that consensus decades ago. One truly bothersome aspect to this whole controversy is the idea that one segment of society can use this particular word but another can't - and the criteria is the color of one's skin. Didn't we decide that discriminating along color lines was wrong? (I believe it is.)
Can Michael Richards make this all right? Sure he can. You and I both know what he could do, he could start with some community service - but it would have to come from the heart and it would take a long term investment. Will it happen? Not likely, it requires a commitment that exists outside the media. The slow road back can make you a better person - and a better performer - but it's not how things are done these days.
Why doesn't someone ask the African-American regulars and guest stars who appeared on Seinfeld over the series' eight-year run what they think about the situation? Oops, there weren't very many...
Michael Richards can make inroads with classic TV fans by allowing ABC's Saturday Night Live clone Fridays to finally be released on DVD - he's the guy that's been holding up that release. "Michael Richards was the only person that in his contract had approval that was anything that was not a rebroadcast," producer John Moffitt told writer L. Wayne Hicks. "There's a clause in there which prevents us from doing a home video without his permission. Unfortunately, in our ignorance at the time, we signed it."
November 25, 2006 - 12:19pm
S. BUTLER WRITES:
It would be better if The Price Is Right also retired with Mr. Barker. 35 years on the air is long enough for any TV game show to be seen.
- Not a bad idea Kevin. Of course, no way would CBS give up this daytime profit center and I'll bet Bob Barker hopes the show continues another 35 years because he's a part owner. Will CBS give the show a makeover along with a new host? Or will they expect someone to step right into Barker's shoes?
Who realistically could do the job? Chuck Woolery comes to mind - but he may be considered too old. Will they hire a former standup comic to do the job?
November 20, 2006 - 2:49pm
November 17, 2006 - 8:31am
THE MERRY BELLS KEEP RINGING!
Also from 1975, one of the original spots for thatenormous pitcher of Kool-Aid that would burst forth and terrorize the landscape.
What dad in 1975 didn't want the Schick Hot Lather Machine? It was one of the hottest selling items that year. As I remember, they didn't work for very long but I'm sure they've been perfected over the last 30 years.
Finally, from the holidays in 1979, the gift every TV lover wanted - but few could afford. The first generation of home video recorders from Zenith. I don't recall how much it cost but I'm sure it was well over $2,500 in today's cash money.
November 17, 2006 - 8:11am
I get promo screeners all the time - and if the show is good, I like to tell you about it.
There's a new show on the HGTV network that I like very much - it's called House & Home with Lynda Reeves. It's a home decor program - but not one of those ubiquitous DIY shows that I find so tedious. (All too often those home makeover shows present something that might photograph well on TV but you wouldn't want to live with it.)
House & Home is different; it's no-nonsense, practical, presumptuous and upscale. Each episode centers around a theme - 'Are we Stuck In Neutral' discusses the penchant for overusing neutral colors; 'Is the Decorator Dead' asks whether we are becoming too obsessed with DIY. The program is hosted by the publisher of Canadian House & Home magazine Lynda Reeves who has an easy going style with a bit of a bite - and that's why I liked her. This kitten has claws!
The best reality shows allow divergent personalities to shine through; House & Home does that better than any other production in its genre. The discussions between Reeves and today's top interior designers are level headed and engrossing - they leave you thinking about the larger picture rather than on the instant gratification offered by other shows. I look forward to future episodes.
November 15, 2006 - 3:11pm
I mentioned earlier that I had to go back and re-encode hundreds of video clips for the site. Here are a few that fell between the cracks and never got added in the first place:
Twin Cities kiddie host Captain 11 from a Christmas Day broadcast in the 1960s.
Also from the Twin Cities - a Casey Jones retrospective and update in a news report from the year 2000.
Promo for a CBS Schoolbreak movie - this aired on Saturdays in 1987.
This clip is from an interview with Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon while they were filming Life With Lucy, her failed TV comeback in 1986.
Here's an I Love Lucy animated opening and commercial for Phillip Morris that aired during that series' original primetime run.
Remember Wayland Flowers and Madame? Here's a short clip of him (them?) with Rock Hudson.
A fall preview short outlining ABC's Thursday night line-up in 1965 - wall-to-wall variety shows for the old folks.
With all the recent political news, I'm reminded of comedian Pat Paulsen, the Jon Stewart of the 1960s & '70s. Here's a monologue (audio only) from 1975 when he was, once again, running for President.
November 12, 2006 - 8:41am
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