Dream Teams

Are you losing your mind yet?

I don’t know about you but I most certainly am.

More than once a day I think of myself in a celebrity box on The Hollywood Squares and I’m not even famous.  Nor has The Hollywood Squares really been a thing since around the time I graduated college.

But ZOOM – here we magically all are, perhaps multiple times a week, in a virtual new reboot of a TV game show where we play to the camera, try to seem intelligent and attempt to crack jokes when all else fails.

I don’t even want to see what 50th day looks like #itsnotpretty

Except, of course, we don’t have writers.  Certainly not judging by any of the countless Zoom chats I’ve been on.  Instead, midway through 2020 we are all solo acts, responsible for creating our own material and literally living and dying by each choice we make both inside and outside the grid.

It’s enough to make you long for the glory days when everything you said in your square was rehearsed and scripted for maximum effect.  Sure, you didn’t always get to be your absolute true self but at least you didn’t have to think about who and/or what that was 24 hours a day. Note: I’m including sleep time because, well, haven’t YOUR dreams been more than vivid lately?

This seems normal now

For those of you who don’t know, The Hollywood Squares was an addictive daytime and primetime game show in the sixties and seventies (and rebooted shortly in the late 90s) where celebrities each occupied a box in a glamorous life-size tic-tac-toe board and answered true or false questions on a myriad of topics of the day.  It was then up to a contestant to agree or disagree with the celeb, thus earning them an X or O and eventually prize money.

If you can’t quite picture it in your mind give it a few months and I’m sure some enterprising souls will come up with a Zoom version app and make a mint charging you for your own intellectual property.

This is too much to process

But back to the real Squares.  By far my personal fave was center celeb, Broadway, TV and movie actor Paul Lynde, who occupied that prime spot for almost a decade and a half.  Mr. Lynde was the funniest and outwardly gayest performer in the entertainment world during those years, quite a feat since he was never out at all, at least in how we traditionally define it.

If you want a sense of how it was back then with Paul and those of us who loved him, it went something  like this:

Moderator Question:  Paul, you’re the world’s most popular fruit.  What are you?

Paul’s Answer:  Humble.

.. with his signature giggle  #icanhearthispicture

Of course, I can’t recreate the sniggering, snide delivery (Note: Well, certainly not these days, if we can’t be face to face) but you get the picture.

This particular Paul question came courtesy of a short, snappy profile of him in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.  It’s officially called the PRIDE issue and in it the magazine devotes itself to pioneering LGBTQ entertainers and storytellers – past, present and future – and the many ways they have influenced culture, and in turn, our world.

Pour the champagne!

Lovely as it is to be noticed, by far the standout item in this week’s magazine is the bizarre cover, well, drawing, of noteworthy  LGBTQ celebs of the last century in what could best be described as the gayest nighttime cocktail party you will never experience.

It’s a virtual queer dream team of a party with the likes of Queen’s Freddie Mercury beckoning Janelle Monae over to his side of the room; Marlene Dietrich grabbing Cynthia Nixon by the waist and pretty much ogling her; and Ellen DeGeneres with her arm so tightly wrapped below Rock Hudson’s elbow that he can only barely make eyes at the hot – well, I’m not quite sure who he’s making eyes at but rest assured from the expression on his face there must be a myriad of hotties he’s focused in on at some unseen corner.

And to top it all off there’s good ole RuPaul in a red gown and black satin gloves, flounced across a baby grand piano, making goo-goo eyes at – yes, you guessed it – Elton John.

If you didn’t know better you’d think the media was dominated by gay or gay sympathizing liberals who had nothing better to do than to gang up on straight America and subvert their traditions by showing them just how much fun you can have by not insulting the minority of your choice and, in fact, being inclusive.

NPH knows

Of course, the bigger message of the photo is, much like a fantasy sports league, it gets you to thinking of the dream teams of your choice in all kinds of areas and just how they might rescue you, or us, from the doldrums of Zoom chats and quarantine.

For instance, can you imagine if we could bring back Marie Curie and Jonas Salk to a medical cocktail party of choice with, say, Anthony Fauci, recently demoted vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright  and well, let’s throw in Albert Einstein for the hell of it.  What might they all come up with, aside from witty chatter and medical cures, or even talk about?  If not a cure or a shot, at the very least I’d bet they’d have plenty to say.

You know he’d be good at parties

And how about a political confab with Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Golda Meir mixing it up with Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, okay I’ll say it, Donald J. Trump?  Trump says Lincoln was his favorite Republican so he’d make it, right?  Or would we have to invite Hitler Andrew Jackson?

Personally, I’d much prefer an afternoon run at a dog park I’d rent exclusively for Lassie, Lad-A-Dog and Nana because I’d get to bring my Jack Russell Rosie, my sister’s Havanese mutt Louie and several other friends’ pooches if they could make it down here in time.  Not to mention, well, every other pooch I and any of my friends and family once owned and loved as part of our family in our pasts.

Sorry not sorry

Which is sort of the point of a dream team, isn’t it?  Or even a tic-tac-toe board of celebrities on The Hollywood Squares.  To bring out the best of us by coming up with exactly the right answers to all the top problems and/or questions of the day.  And to make us feel a bit better in the process.

There was a time when a game show could do it with just a team of good writers and a handful of well-known performers.  The U.S government generally accomplished  this with a small Cabinet and a handful of clever appointees through  every single Administration in the last century while also managing to avoid the most severe consequences of several severe global pandemics.

Don’t mind me as I weep

These days, um, we have Zoom chats, the Gang that Wont Shoot Straight Under Any Circumstances in the White House and Operation Warp Speed to do the deed.

I hate to say it but not even a cocktail party with every LGBTQ star in the history of the world, can take my mind off of that.

Sorry, Entertainment Weekly.

Aretha Franklin – “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”

Breaking News

Hashtag News

Hashtag News

The 24/7 news cycle ramped up through social media is one of the BEST things to happen to society in recent decades. Don’t believe that?  Then you’re not paying attention.

Twitter, Facebook or  (fill in platform of choice) enables information to be dispensed to massive numbers of people in mere moments.  Television stations like MSNBC (my addiction), CNN (no one’s real addiction) and Fox News (unfortunately, too many people’s addiction) are forced to cover and convey information on stories way beyond the mere half hour networks used to devote to their nightly news broadcasts.  People in general are engaged and MORE informed (no, the more is not a typo) on world issues than they ever have been at any time in history, partly because they can’t help but not be.

PLUS – two terrorists were brought down within days after blowing up hundreds of people at the annual Boston Marathon (3 dead, scores of others with severed limbs) in part due to the massive dissemination of information through these means.

Busted through broadband

Busted through broadband

That would be information on a story you wanted to know about but, after a bit, also wanted to turn away from.   Except nowadays you don’t have a choice.  You can’t. Every time you turn around someone is telling you something you don’t necessarily want to know.  But probably should.

We can never be sure how much television news and social media contributed to that key person in Watertown, MA being so acutely aware so continuously of this massive manhunt that they couldn’t help but notice that there was blood on the tarp of the boat behind their house – a boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19 year old bombing suspect was hiding after managing to escape from the police showdown where his 26 year old accused fellow terrorist brother Tamerlan was killed (some say by the car Dzhokhar was speeding away with).

But what we do know is this:

In the world of police work and reportage one clue leads to another, information begets information, and it is the piecing together of all the facts by dogged reporters and investigators that in turn leads to the solution of a case and the satisfactory completion of a story. 

There is no telling what the alternative ending would be if you removed any of the steps along the way that led the person to go behind the house, and check out the boat, and notice the blood, and look further in to see the guy moving in the boat, and walk back out without going further to call the police at the number that was posted everywhere you looked, to tell them about the things that they saw before the guy had enough time to regroup and flee.  If there were a way to predict such things, Back to The Future, a film that cautions against playing with the sequence of events that have already occurred, would not still be a perennial piece of movie wonderment that held any meaning at all among my young twenty something students (and, I can assure you, it still is).

Twitter as the new flux capacitor

Twitter as the new flux capacitor

Why is it then that much of what I heard in my informal survey during the last week were endless complaints of the sensationalizing of a situation on TV that couldn’t get any more sensational, of the news gone amuck, and of a society that was being encouraged to fixate on this latest unfortunate event of world terrorism the United States was currently enduring instead of fixating on…. well, what I’m not sure.

Of course, I have NO IDEA why people incessantly posted on sites that the 24/7 news cycle is trying and taxing and sensationalistic.  This IS life.  This IS what the world is about now.  This IS the connection technology has wrought – for both good and bad.

Perhaps I’m wondering aloud now but here’s a question to ask ourselves — what should television instead be showing? More episodes of Ready for Love  (cancelled after just two) or The Bachelor (which, like Celine’s heart, will go on and on and on) — is that what we’re missing?  What SHOULD be broadcast instead of 24/7 news?  How many more game shows? Soap operas?  Local news about the weather or perhaps chance of bad weather?  Or maybe a 24/7 obsessional show about bad weather (Intervention: Doppler Edition?).  Maybe more reruns of I Love Lucy or Cheers or The Cosby Show?  Or Friends?  Maybe more Dr. Phil?  How about an extra episode of Smash? (Yes, it’s still on).  I mean, I do love Mad Men, but the current number of episodes on the air (all 10,000 of them, including reruns) is just right, thank you very much.

Though I would be in full support of all day re-airings of episodes of Baggage. (petition to bring back the show on next week's post)

Though I would be in full support of all day re-airings of episodes of Baggage. (petition to bring back the show on next week’s post)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not even close to saying that the cable news stations or their network counterparts are getting it right all of the time or are necessarily in it to make the world a better place.  You couldn’t possibly think that when you see something like this on CNN right after the terrorist face off:

The only thing Zooey likes about this... is being mistaken for 19

The only thing Zooey likes about this: being mistaken for 19

No, our New Girl had nothing to do with this.  The best anyone can figure is that the computer auto correct of Dzhokhar is Zooey.  Also, Zooey has forgiven them.  And if you want to know how I know it’s because Joel McHale from Community and The Soup tweeted it to Ms. D via Twitter and she tweeted back and those tweets were both run on a website I frequent and all of it was then reposted on Facebook by my most intimate of Facebook friends, who never lies to me about such stuff.  So there!!

But if the Zooey mishap and too many human interest stories related to major crime scenes that seem neither particularly human or even very interesting is the price to pay for being that much more aware of the world around us, I say we should keep ponying up.  See – the networks have realized even before us that breaking news is not only much cheaper to produce than fictionalized drama but that it is inherently more….dramatic.  Even better, technology has enabled them to present it in a way that is not dissimilar to a fast-moving hour procedural drama, albeit over an eight-hour period of time.

Yeah, I'm looking at your Caruso.

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Caruso.

Here’s what I got watching television all day Friday:

A major American city on lockdown.  A fugitive at large who might have a bomb (or two or three) in one of the most densely populated areas in the US.  Not enough clues to figure out what happened and a metropolitan dragnet and cast of characters better than any of the ones in any of the 23,432 Batman movies.  Jigsaw puzzle pieces of info on the shooters, the victims and the families of each and endless speculation of too many talking heads about all of it (really a show all on its own).

Then suddenly at the all is lost point at the end of act two, (screenwriters will best understand this), right on cue we get new gunshots fired in Watertown, MA. They think they have the shooter surrounded. Wait!  Weren’t we just told live by the police chief that it was more than possible the suspect had fled the area and that you couldn’t keep the entire city locked indoors any longer?  Well, maybe that was a ruse to smoke the guy out?  Or perhaps it wasn’t and time was just running out?  Oh, who cares.  This is real life. Not TV drama. (Or is it?)  Wait, now there’s spontaneous cheering from a crowd on the streets.   Then a firefight around a boat behind a house.  Followed by a lot of silence.  Followed by reports of a suspect bleeding.  Or not.  Then reports of a fire, which could be from the shots.  Then background on a woman who reported blood on the boat in the back of her driveway which, thanks to Google maps, we can see a visual of as we get reports that the bleeding suspect has been apprehended and now is in police custody.  To which we then hear thunderous rounds of applause from hundreds and then thousands of people gathering around on the streets of Boston to thank law enforcement.  A spontaneous show of affection that many on the air are saying is a first.  Or at least the first in a while.  Cue end of scene and end of story.  At least for now.

Freddie said it best: Is this real life or is this fantasy?

Freddie said it best: Is this real life or is this fantasy?

Since this took place over the approximately 8 hours I was watching television, I suppose I could be making this seem more exciting than it was in real 24/7 news time.  But if you want to live in the real world and see how real life happens this is it.  The reporting of stories is not what it is in the movies or on series television.  Neither is police work.  It happens in actual time and it doesn’t have three or five or seven act structure that will induce you to stay tuned in through the commercials or network IDs.

My time in journalism school and my early years as a reporter taught me that working on a story can be almost as slow and tedious as the “hurry up and wait” feeling you get being on a movie set that I experienced as a screenwriter – only 12 times as frustrating.  This is because eventually the scene you are waiting for on a movie set will be filmed.  Yet there is no guarantee or even likelihood a story will ever get written or aired if it doesn’t pan out.  And most times they don’t.  Except when they’re newsworthy.  That means that eventually….some do.  One way or the other.  And living in 2013 we are all lucky enough to be there watching it live.  If we so choose.

There are lousy journalists and great journalists.  That’s what we’re getting.  And we’re really, really fortunate to get it.  If we don’t like what we’re getting – we can TURN. IT. OFF.  But we have to stop complaining.  That includes you and me too – because given another particular issue – I’m no better than anyone else.

As a public, we’re already amped up.  The news doesn’t make it worse.  Information is power.  The lack of it is when we get in trouble and the bad guys win.  Or worse – take over when our backs are turned and we’re not paying attention.