SHUT UP AND START TALKING: While there’s been no news on how he’ll be disciplined by the Writers Guild of America for “writing” the words that come out of his own mouth, Jay Leno appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show as a guest and vice versa late last week, where the men bonded with war stories about bad guests and the peculiar indignities they have to suffer while lobbing softballs at ego monsters on a nightly basis.
As someone who’s covered over twenty film festivals and reviews DVDs for a living, with the result that I see close to 400 movies a year, the most resonant moment was when Leno, commiserating with Kimmel on the paucity of stars who’ll cross the picket lines and see their shows, said that at least he didn’t “have to see a lot of stupid movies and pretend they’re good.” Kimmel’s nod of sympathetic recognition made it clear that, while asbestos mining or working the stun gun at the slaughterhouse are probably more basically onerous jobs, there’s something really unpleasant about forcing yourself to watch bad movies every week, year after year, and that Hollywood’s unspoken mission seems to be about making sure the river of crap never runs dry.
Over on CBS, the parade of mutual regard continued with Howard Stern’s ritual biennial appearance on David Letterman’s show, which featured Stern’s baiting of the Late Show host, his overt attempts to recruit Letterman to Sirius satellite radio, and Letterman coolly refusing to respond to Stern’s characterization of Jay Leno as a scab. Stern went on to applaud Letterman for paying his production staff during the two months he was off the air, and how that shamed the other hosts into reciprocating – a copycat scenario Stern compared to Goofus and Gallant, with Letterman in the latter role.
On Friday, Broadcasting & Cable magazine did a story on a Pew Research poll that revealed that just under half of the TV viewers interviewed for a study admitted that the WGA strike hasn’t had any effect on their TV viewing. Over fifty per cent said that they didn’t know whether the strike had affected the late night shows of people like Leno, Kimmel, Letterman or Jon Stewart, while the study definitively debunked the trope that a growing majority of people get their political news from late night chat shows instead of the news – fully 70 per cent of poll respondents said that they get their political and election news from a variety of sources.
First of all, you’re forced to once again feel sorry for that 30 per cent who do get their political news from late night television (a demographic segment known as “college students” and “unemployed liberal arts grads,” whose buying power for potential advertisers has to be somewhere slightly less than prison inmates.) Second of all, there has to be something truly wrong when Howard Stern referring to a children’s cartoon strip is delivered with the literary heft of Peter Ustinov quoting Jonathan Swift to Dick Cavett. Sobering times to be alive.