The Emmy Blues

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So much TV, so little time. Except when you have too much time to extol the virtues of TV. Ha! As if the producers were attempting to show us or even talk about great TV.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what it was. A way to trend on social media and grab the “young people?” Not so much. The best line of the night was Larry David explaining how he dates, admitting he’s grown tired of saying to women, as a way of pretending he’s interested, tell me more about your niece. I wonder if Emmy has nephews. Not that I’d ever ask, or even pretend to.

LOL

LOL

Of course, there was also the moment when host Jimmy Kimmel’s faux arch nemesis Matt Damon came out eating an apple after Kimmel and his show lost for best something or other, and proceeded to rake him over the coals for three minutes. Kimmel took it like a champ and then slyly retorted: Thanks, Jason Boring.

Okay, I thought it was funny. But trendy or trending –- not so much. Again.

I don’t blame the host, who seems likeable, nice and game. And he’s certainly an improvement over Andy Samberg or the time I attended a few years back when we had the reality star trifecta-plus hosting skills of Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst, Tom Bergeron and god knows who else. Now that was quite an evening. Or three.

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

How do you do a show about the best that’s on television and not show one clip of what’s ON television? Check that, the In Memoriam segment did show two or three-second moments of recently deceased stars with nothing but the sound of Tori Kelly singing Hallelujah – one of the greatest and most misused songs ever consistently sung on awards shows. But what chance did it have? Henry Winkler started the segment pre-song extolling the many virtues of the wonderful and wonderfully talented, recently deceased king of perennial 80s comedy, Garry Marshall (Note: Okay, 70s, whatever) and we didn’t get a snippet of the Fonz, Laverne and Shirley or even Richie Cunningham.

That would have had a much better chance of favorably trending than the bit where therealJeb!Bush pretends he’s Kimmel’s limo driver and admonishes him for being…oh, who the heck remembers anything Jeb ever says anyway?

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

Point being there was a time when audiences got to celebrate the work of the honored actors, creators, directors and writers by actually watching clip packages of the real work being honored. This would seem even more necessary these days when absolutely NO ONE can possibly watch the entirety of more than 50% of ANYTHING that is being honored. That is, unless they themselves are a DVR and the networks are now going for the eyeballs of machines.

Speaking of the BIG FOUR networks – which thus far have been the ONLY hosts of the Emmy awards show in history – could they be the culprit? Well, perhaps. For why would they want to give free clip service to sub networks, streaming services and basic/pay cable channels like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, BBC America, USA, FX and PBS? Isn’t it enough that HBO’s Game of Thrones and Veep won best drama and comedy series? Or that Sherlock won best television movie? Or that American Crime Story’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson took best limited series? Yeah, FX is a subsid of Fox but, let’s face it, it’s not part of the big 4 profile – and certainly not the Big 3. Why give them any more of the free publicity they’re already getting??

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Everything in the entertainment industry is one part a business decision and another part creative decision. But are they ever EQUAL parts? Well, certainly not very…often? One is usually in the dominant position but if the other one is dragged along to success with that strategy kicking and screaming, at the end of the day everyone’s happy. Or claims to be.

You want to know the awards the (formerly) major networks won Sunday night? Well, NBC was the big victor with two – one for The Voice in the best reality show category and the other for the brilliant Kate McKinnon as best supporting actress in a comedy series for Saturday Night Live. Fox made the cut for best direction of a variety special for Grease Live and Regina King was awarded supporting actress for her work on ABC’s innovative American Crime. As for CBS, anyone? Bueller???

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

This doesn’t say much for any of the Big 4’s regular prime time, non-reality schedules, does it? And perhaps that is the root of the problem. For anyone under 30 ( and perhaps even 40) there is no regular prime-time schedule. There is little appointment television anymore and when there is it has to be great, or unusual or at least timely. That’s what award shows honor and that is why there’s been a reversal of big network dominance. Most of their schedules cater to very little of that.

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC #CominginDecember

It is also interesting to note that the night’s two most deserved and surprising winners were Rami Malek for USA Network’s Mr. Robot and Tatiana Maslany on BBC America’s Orphan Black for best dramatic actor and actress. Both do unusual, almost superhuman work and both play extremely troubled and disaffected people under 30.   They anchor two of the most current and trendy shows on television – neither of which would ever have a chance of getting on the air solely through the American Network Big 4.

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

This brings us full circle back to the mix between creativity and business. After all, it is the entertainment industry or show biz.

The problem with the Emmy awards is no longer what’s on TV today but who’s showing what on TV today. And for what reason. And for whom? You can almost hear the collective sighs of the Big 4 honchos every time one of the major award winners was read. Followed by grumbling, disgust, denial, anger, depression and fear.   But what they really need to do is get to the final stage – acceptance. It would make their shows, and certainly the Emmy awards show, a lot higher rated. And certainly more entertaining.

But what do I – an inveterate fan of Mr. Robot, Orphan Black and a host of many other nominees and winners, know? I’m only the audience.

 

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Grampy’s Grammys

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Music is a touchstone. But many young screenwriters I teach have confessed to me they have previously been instructed NEVER to put a song reference in a script because they will limit or confuse a reader who may or may not know the song or the group they’re talking about or will be taken out of the moment by a tune that will probably never wind up in the movie anyway.

The above advice is, of course, ridiculous. Music has always been a great connecter and the perfect evocation of a mood or moment in time that all the talk or visual images in the world can’t muster. It is true that if someone doesn’t know a song a reference to it will not put them in the mood or mindset you intend. But if you go with your gut and choose wisely that song most certainly will do the job when they get to HEAR it – which is the point of writing musical references to begin with. And besides, any artistic moment in time needs all the help it can get.

Which brings us to #GrammyAwards2015.

Hosted by LL Cool J - for the 2,000th time

Hosted by LL Cool J – for the 89th time

As a resident of the west coast who is not in the music industry and therefore not present at the actual live ceremonies, I was three hours late to the party thanks to the greed and hubris of CBS. As the official broadcaster of said ceremony, the network has decided that unlike the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes they have no public obligation to share the music simultaneously across the world – or at the very least, the country.

Knowing full well that the primary reason people watch a music awards show is for the performances and not the actual awards, CBS instead chose to delay their west coast broadcast in order to sell more prime time ads and create a greater revenue stream for itself. This is, of course, the network’s prerogative – but only for the time being.

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There is a power shift going on in how and where and when we get our entertainment. And that shift is going back to the consumer, which means that before long every event of any importance will be available simultaneously in most time zones. It might be five, ten or 20 years away but the corporate world – which these days includes entertainment and even politics – knows deep down that the party is essentially over and that changeover is causing major and minor freak outs as well as corporate and personal misbehaviors everywhere. These manifest themselves in little bouts of broadcast hubris as well as false and outrageous public statements from people, politicians (Note: No, they’re not the same thing) and various organizations about everything from vaccines to international terrorism, before segueing into mass media hysteria over the possible gender change of an Olympic gold medalist or the newsiness of just what the historical accuracy is of any number of Oscar nominated feature films this year whose only real sin is failing to announce loudly enough its claim that it is merely “based” on a true story.

On the flip side, which of us hasn’t found it a little bit more than fun to live in an age when political gaffes and cultural injustices aren’t events so easily handled?   Truth be told, there is some infinite joy in knowing that eventually Twitter, YouTube and Instagram will provide the real images, observations and videos of said events or thoughts rather than the pre-packaged or approved ones we’ve mostly been previously granted by the gatekeepers.

Enter: Olivia Pope. #ItsHandled

Enter: Olivia Pope. #ItsHandled

I guess I’m gloating but it can be quite entertaining to watch more than a few members of the status quo squirm as their grip on power unwittingly gets pried out from behind our necks. Still, the new scandal du jour of something like NBC anchor Brian Williams exaggerating being shot down in Iraq during the previous decade or fictionalizing a case of dysentery in order to make his Hurricane Katrina reporting more dramatic during the Bush, Jr. presidency is almost quaint at this point. I mean, the one thing we all know these days is that EVERYONE exaggerates a bit – it’s just a lot easier to get caught.   Yes, it’s true – the public already does know that even if the bosses in power don’t.   This is not to excuse the lie or the liar or even to condone that mode of behavior.   Only to acknowledge that we mostly understand that we – most of us – are, in at least some occasional cases, a bit hypocritical, indelicate with our opinions and guilty of bending reality ever so slightly and more – whether national, international or not – whenever the mood hits us.

The new normal today is the degree of the lie. Which is why awards shows are so terribly fun to watch – even when a power broker like CBS doesn’t allow you to view them live along with everyone else.

The craftsmanship of a successful artist’s image is often painstakingly and precisely planned, executed, buffed and shined before you and I get to experience it. But how the famed act in public when they have to be themselves onstage at a live event cannot be any of the above by its very nature. Oh, a person can sort of present a terribly rehearsed version of themselves but on a live show the rehearsal is often fodder for the real show on social media. Sure, he or she or even they can do a bit better fooling us when entertaining live – if indeed that is their profession and they’re good at it. But on the other hand, those who have been auto tuned, or have had their public images sculpted up a bit too brightly become as transparent as an overexposed X-ray held up to the light. Which is more than apt since the people we’re talking about have often been far too overexposed anyway.

Or a little underexposed if you're Sia.

Or a little underexposed if you’re Sia.

Watching this year’s Grammy awards I couldn’t help but feel like I’d be a bit like the star of Gramps Goes to the Movies – catching up with what the young-ins are doin’ and listenin’ to or watchin’ it three hours after the fact or perhaps even a year after my own figurative children’s children had first gotten wise to it.

But then I look up at my TV and the 1970s hard rock band AC/DC – a group I managed to avoid during most of my natural adolescence – are doing a five minute opening number.

What year is this? Am I a teenager again? And what time is it? Don’t I still have math homework to get through? Or perhaps it’s CBS again – playing a cruel trick on the left coast and switching programming back 40 years in order to appeal to its key heartland demographic where presumably they all still do listen to that group.

Performing at next year's Grammys

Performing at next year’s Grammys

As it turned out it was none of those. Only that the actual Grammy broadcast was clearly not hip or even unhip. It actually simultaneously managed to be a hybrid of both and neither. There was something for those of us in or moving into AARP range, others who are indeed still teenagers and the rest of you who fall somewhere in between. In its own odd way, its musical acts, award choices and onscreen behaviors amounted to nothing consistent or at times even decipherable.

This is not say to it wasn’t infinitely entertaining at points or that it failed to reach some quite high moments in others. It is only to note that try as they might to manage it all into something slick and pre-packaged it was actually all kind of a big, engaging mush of truth, fiction, fabulousness and confusion. Sort of like sifting through Twitter or Facebook for too long – but then realizing you’ve both enjoyed and wasted three and a half hours of your life in what seemed like 33 and a third minutes. Not to date myself.

That Zuckerberg

That Zuckerberg

Those of you who didn’t watch along with Grampy Chair or Great Uncles AC/DC can certainly revisit the highlights on the social media platform of your choice. Though I can save you the time with a few thoughts and links to some bottom line highlights.

  • You’ll want to marvel at who thought about having Tom Jones and Jessie J duet You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling as a tribute to famed Brill Building songwriters Cynthia Weill & Barry Mann. No, I didn’t say it wasn’t good. I’m just sayin’…
  • You’ll want to slap your head when you realize CBS is actually choosing to bleep out some song lyrics and words from country superstar Miranda Lambert’s live performance. SHE’S too racy for your core audience? Really? Or do you just think the left coast can’t take a bit of sexual innuendo?
Seasonal allergies be damned!

Seasonal allergies be damned!

  • I want to applaud Katy Perry’s Cover Girl commercial where she frolics amid pink flowers while managing to sell me makeup. Though you might want to boo. But as Taylor Swift, all sleek and tall in Grammy blue once both wrote AND sang: Haters gonna hate.
  • Critics might love groaning when Madonna does her new single about the power of love but I thought it was fun and, more importantly, SHE was once again having fun. You can choose to not think so but you’d be wrong. And no matter what you say anyway, here’s my answer to you in the form of a tweet from GregvsMatt: Roses are red, violets are blue #Madonna is 56 and looks better than you.
Werk it, Material Gurl

Werk it, Material Gurl

  • CBS proves it is once again infinitely unclever by having Fox/American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest introduce NBC/The Voice’s Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani performing their single, but all the network proves is it doesn’t have a tentpole TV reality singing show nor can it even make a lame joke about the others.
  • Matthew McConaughey’s confounding Buick commercials, particularly the one with the bull, will short circuit your brain before you even realize that the revenue it produces is what this three-hour delay is really about. (Editor’s note: It’s Lincoln, not Buick, Chairy. #powerofadvertising)
Annie kills it.

Annie kills it.

  • Sixty-year old Annie Lennox stops the show cold with the best performance of the night both by igniting Hozier’s tired performance of his own Take Me to Church and then electrifying us all with her own rendition of an almost 60 year old song – I Put A Spell On You. If nothing else, the reaction confuses those who live and die by the age demographics of corporate market research. #HelloCBS.
  • I manage to consider that Kanye West’s two onstage collaborations with Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett’s jazz turn with Lady Gaga center stage might disprove every bitchy phrase myself and every other baby boomer has ever uttered about what people, or even corporate networks, will promote those days.
Prince digs into Maude's closet

Prince digs into Maude’s closet

  • I then reconsider the above stance when Kanye steps onstage to try and Taylor Swift Beck’s unexpected win for best album (Note: Presented by Prince in the orange chiffon number your Aunt Esther was gonna wear to your bar-mitzvah but didn’t) and instead pulls back at the last minute even though Beck asks him not to. Then I have to admit to myself that just because one loves a Beatle doesn’t mean one necessarily has or evokes any taste at all.   Though at the same time, I have to also admit Prince looks far better in that getup than my Aunt Esther ever could have, not to mention she’d never be smart enough to publicly state: Like books and Black lives, albums matter.
  • You, if you were indeed watching, probably listened in awe as Sam Smith dueted with Mary J. Blige on Stay With Me – a simple love song/video about a gay guy who isn’t good at one night stands. And you would be right to marvel at both that and the fact that he went on to win four Grammy Awards. #WhoWouldHaveThoughtWayBackWhen. Though it would have really been something if he had dueted with say, Rufus Wainwright. #JustDreamin2025.
Hot damn we love those soulful Brits!

Hot damn we love those soulful Brits!

  • No, it was all of us who kept rewinding Sia’s performance of Chandelier facing away from us while funny woman Kristen Wiig mimed and dance with Sia’s diminutive ballerina all through the song and didn’t so much get a laugh but prove that she is actually also a real live performance artist.
  • You will thank me for advising you to consciously uncouple from Chris Martin and Beck in the fourth hour, almost finale when they duet on one of the songs from what was just voted album of the year. What year, I’m not sure.
I mean.... we get it.

I mean…. we get it.

  • And, though I am in the minority and hesitate to say this – I continue to wonder how Beyonce – clearly an extremely talented and driven woman – can somehow manage to make the finale of the evening – the spiritual Take My Hand, Precious Lord, from the soundtrack of the movie Selma, so beyond grand and indulgent while Common and John Legend sung the hell out of their original song for Selma – Glory – and closed out the show with sincerity. I’ll take a guess. It probably had to do with the fact that they didn’t have a wind machine, flowing white chiffon or enough lighting effects to buff their imagines into a perfect shine.

But hey – that’s just me. And this year’s Grammys. Three hours late. On the west coast feed.

Time to Pass the Torch

It strikes me as the height of irony that the Olympics are all about competing to be your best yet NBC’s coverage of the event is a monopoly that has allowed it to be its worst.

I thought this on Friday night as I sat watching the opening ceremonies “live” from London, a full half day after they happened –- which as it turned out was as quickly as any human being in Los Angeles (except those who work at NBC) could get them.

This would have been bad enough had the opening ceremony not gone on to include duds like:

  1. The real Queen of England and the real actor playing James Bond exchanging pleasantries in Buckingham Palace, followed by their (presumed?) stunt doubles jumping out of a helicopter into Olympic stadium.
  2. A floorshow featuring an odd pastiche of agrarian, industrialized and social media-ized Great Britain over the course of several centuries, interspersed with very brief verbal recitations by Kenneth Branagh and J.K. Rowling while hundreds of extras danced in period costumes to the point of distraction.
  3. And a finale of Paul McCartney singing a slightly off tune “Hey Jude” (why that of all his songs?) that made one wonder WWJLD (What would John Lennon Do?).  In answer to the latter I say something welcomingly naughty, but one can only IMAGINE on that score.

What is happening here??

Call me crazy ( or even “maybe” since its Olympic-related) but all this activity made me rethink if being a little desperate and hungry is a good thing (as opposed to starvation and “The Hunger Games”), and if perhaps a few rounds of good old, level-playing field, REAL competition in the world might not just be the better answer for at least some of the things that ail us.

These thoughts surprise me since I’m not much into sports and certainly don’t think unfettered, free-market capitalism is the answer to anything but 21st century greed.  Still, you have to wonder when a corporation like NBC is able to shell out $4.38 billion (yes, that’s a B!) in order to hold you captive to its whims, ratings or otherwise.  One could argue that for billions of dollars a corporation (who the US Supreme Court recently ruled is indeed human) has earned/bought the prerogative to do exactly as it pleases and, legally, one could argue that one is right.  Except – if you toss out legalities and use common sense – is it???  And is it wise for us?

The Olympics are about excellence, humanity (the non-corporate kind) and grit.  Yeah, there’s money and sponsorship and opportunity thrown into the mix but, when it comes down to it, you can’t prevent a superior athlete from a war-torn country from decimating another from a large, rich industrialized nation and thus prove his or her superiority for all the world to see.  In other words, at the end of the day it’s not about how much money you have but how good you are at what you do.

This is not the case for cash rich NBC or for the rest of us who choose to watch the show and, as fans, expect to at the very least see the real version of a live event we elected to watch.

Despite Twitter, You Tube, Facebook and other streaming technology, NBC has figured out a way to block almost all immediacy of every match up and thus render its billion-dollar coverage pretty lackluster for world-wise consumers.  Yes, there is online streaming of each event but only if you are in front of your computer at the precise moment NBC’s cameras happen to be there in London time.  Otherwise, for the competitions geared to primetime (meaning all the ones you really want to watch), you have to wait 9-12 hours in order to raise NBC’s prime time ratings.

In need of a serious lift…

True, you can watch it some 9-12 hours later on your tv/tablet in high resolution and technically feel as if you’re there, both out front and backstage.  But that’s only technically – meaning high def, clear as glass pixel images.  What you might consider the best parts of the event STILL get cut or filtered by correspondents who you’d rather see serve as the actual bullseye in Olympic archery than pose as experts asking the questions you might never ask if given the opportunity to have been there live yourself half a day before.

For example, in its infinite wisdom, NBC chose to excise what was arguably one of the most emotionally moving segments of the opening ceremony – a haunting tribute to victims of the 2005 (7/7) terrorist bombings in London which occurred just a day after the city was chosen to broadcast this Olympics.  Instead, NBC decided American audiences couldn’t relate to worldwide terrorism and chose to run an interview by its new resident haircut Ryan Seacrest (who Deadline Hollywood’s Nikke Finke recently dubbed the “Viscount of Vapidity”) with uber Olympian Michael Phelps that could have won Olympic gold itself were they giving out medals in television blandness.

Am I sounding bitter and petty?  Then don’t take my word for it – judge for yourself.

The memorial tribute you missed

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vs.

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The Viscount of Vapidity barely distracting Michael Phelps on TODAY

(because all copies of the infamous Olympics interview has been removed from the Web)

Seacrest is an apt target of derision not because he’s uber successful and wealthy but because he is so clearly devoid of anything related to what the Olympics is really about – namely excellence and grit.  He is everything the Olympics isn’t.  As was NBC’s decision to use this interview instead of staying with one of the few planned emotional moments that director Danny Boyle (who also had little competition) created for the London ceremonies.   It makes one wonder whether the Olympic Gods actually decided to curse Phelps to fourth place and thus deny him a medal of any kind in his first race in London in retaliation.

Thanks Zeus!

Certainly this is life in the real world when everything, including all of us, are on the chopping block for a price.  But what the top 1% of the “job creators” need to know is that the changing platforms in world media will not allow them to gorge themselves with a diet of indulgent choices forever.  At some point, there is an Arab spring for everything – a “tipping point” where audiences turn off and, as they used to say in the sixties, “turn on” in ways their elders never imagined.  Ask the music industry.  Check in with the production heads at film studios.  Survey some of the smarter, more prescient business people in the world who make their money by inventing things and recognizing trends or potential needs.  You might want to even call some of the leading climate scientists who were being laughed at 10 or 20 years ago if the recent rash of heat waves across the country haven’t knocked out your phone service.

All of this is what makes the world a still somewhat pleasant, amusing and consistently wondrous place to live in.  There is indeed something called evolution, despite the very vocal minority of worldwide religious fundamentalists who to this day spend a lot of their capital (both financial and intellectual) trying to deny it.  Evolution is defined as “the development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.”  What that means is that try as one group might to make choices for you that you don’t want, eventually that one group will overreach and the world will change enough and evolve to something more complex that will accommodate the majority.

Oh I could puke.

There is no timetable on this, as much as one wishes there were.  But it will happen as sure as Seacrest will manage to annoy me sometime in the very near future (try today).  Because what it will come down to is a world that runs, and has always run on good old level-playing field, real competition – whether it be women’s volleyball, horse dressage or corporate indulgence (some might even go so far as to call it censorship) in any particular industry in any particular year.

Competition ain’t so bad!

The wisest among us, both individual humans and the corporate kind, will take the lead of the most practiced Olympic athlete at their peak performance and prepare for the race that will inevitably come.  The competition is long but ultimately there can only be one real winner.  Despite what we’re being sold.  Or told.   And both history, as well as evolution, have a way of making things right – or at least giving the least likely among us more of a fighting chance that we will run with.

Klown Kar

Load up the Klown Kars (yes, I know it’s spelled wrong). 2011 is coming to a close and clearly there is not room for every one of the klowns lurking about our public consciousness these days.  So with Klown kars being notoriously small in size, it seems like it’ll take more than a fleet to haul away all of the klowns in the news and on television and the lack of them in the movies right now.  Therefore, we must get ready since it’s very hard to haul away a lack.

You know you must be living in an alternative big top universe when the powers that be at NBC have confirmed they’re negotiating with Ryan Seacrest to take the place of Matt Lauer as the lead host on NBC’s morning news juggernaut – Today.   Can you see him interviewing Ahmadinejad?  Call 1-888- FALSE IDOL 08 to get your own question asked during the interview competition.

The joke's on us, America.

Or when Donald Trump resurfaces like the Sea Monster that he is from 20,000 leagues below the line of taste so he can insert himself once again into presidential politics – this time as a debate host and a potential faux competitor (so he says) if he deems the candidate field unacceptable at some future date.  Then there’s the 9-year-old boy who had the temerity to explain to tongue tied presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann at one of her campaign events that his lesbian Mom was normal and “doesn’t need fixing.”  (Note: he’s not a klown, merely explaining reason to an unsuspecting one).  Plus the release of the most depressing crop of Christmas films I’ve come across in a long time, suffering from a sheer lack of klownishness.  The one ray of sunshine: the trailer to   “Sister Act 2”  “Joyful Noise,” starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah as competing rival choir directors – a movie that is much glossier, entertaining and smarter than anyone now running for president because, well, at least it knows what it is, doesn’t try to be anything more than that and thus is willing to take the risk of letting the chips fall where they may.  But of course, that’s not coming out until Jan. 2012 – perhaps inaugurating the year when all of this klownishness will take a much needed break in action and go on permanent or at least semi permanent hiatus.  Or perhaps, get its own circus.  Heaven (or hell) forbid.

Even if we weren’t enduring the worst economic crisis since…uh…the last one…who could blame us for being a bit depressed? Similarly, who could blame any young person, particularly the ones in their early twenties, for either taking to the streets to protest a gamed financial system or checking out of everything all together when they surf the Internet, Facebook (it gets its own category), et al and see posts of both Rick Perry and Pat Robertson blaming the gays for God’s shunning of and a lack of Christianity in America (because you can’t have both).  Or advice from Newt Grinch-rich, the now front-running Republican presidential candidate (try laughing at that) to young people who come from poor families to work as high school janitors in order to save up money for their education instead of raising taxes a mere few percentage points on the RICH , I mean, job creators of America.

I happen to teach many of these kids of the emerging generation and I can tell you that, on the whole, they are every bit as smart, motivated and confused as any of us ever were.  But they are a bit more scared.  Scared of how they will make their livings.  Scared of the obviousness of global warming and why the world seems to not be getting that it’s not just a blip on the ecological radar when there are devastating tsunamis earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns at the same time it’s 80 degrees in New York City in November.  And rightfully so.  Because one of the scariest sights I remember from my younger days was of a circus when a klown popped up out of nowhere.  These days they’re popping up everywhere. In behavior.  In words.  And, worst of all, in actions.  Smiling all the way to a lucrative book deal; or lecture tour; or, perhaps, elected office.

It’s one thing to have klowns on a public stage for merely entertainment purposes.  Meaning, I suppose it’s fine for Donald Trump to be the PT Barnum host of a reality show like “The Apprentice.”  While it and he are certainly not my first choice for ringmaster, if I close my eyes or squint so I don’t have to look at the wispy wheat that is tortured backwards across his head to pass as split ended follicles of human something, I vaguely get the appeal.

But perhaps Joan Rivers put it more succinctly when she once famously (and tastefully) said of the powers that be who book guests on the “Tonight Show” – “they’d put Hitler on if he had 10 good minutes.” It certainly rings even more true in the circus we call TODAY.

But let’s not get political.  Let’s talk klowns.  Does anyone really want to watch Donald Trump as ringmaster of a public political debate with Newt Gingrich, sorry – Grinch-rich – in the role of Bozo?  (Especially when, if it were a movie, “Moneyball”’s Brad Pitt could be the star?)  Or watch Rick Perry Bozo commercials that accuse Pres. Obama of waging a war on “people of faith” because he is supporting gays serving in the military?  Or see the president act like Shakes the Klown and only seemingly come to real life when re-election is at stake and his public economic back is against the wall?  Uh – about as much as you probably want to watch Ryan Seacrest play Matt Lauer over coffee each morning as you head out the door to face a world in which you will be forced to deal with more real-life Bozos than an archivist at the Barnum & Bailey network. (Q: there isn’t one, yet, is there? A:  No, but perhaps it’s not a bad idea.  We have lots and lots of content now – both past, present and, as it looks in this foreseeable moment, the very foreseeable future).

It used to be you could go to the movies to escape – or at least for an uplifting message.  Having just watched a screener of “The Descendents” yesterday I can tell you George Clooney can act but isn’t much fun this Christmas.  Nor is the thought of spending the holidays with Margaret Thatcher by way of Meryl Streep particularly joyful (or even entertainingly klownish).  You could go see some movies about Hollywood like the tribute to Marilyn Monroe that is “My Week With Marilyn,” or the silent black and white homage to a classy golden era of Hollywood called “The Artist” but I fear that it will only ultimately remind you of how unglamorous and, well, klownish, contemporary life in the 2010’s really are.

I would like something to tell the kids (those humans in their 20s) this holiday season that will support the bromide that working hard and being persistent will cause favorable results in one’s favor.  (“Clarabelle the Klown goes to Washington?” Brad Pitt starring in a remake of “A Thousand Klowns” as a down on his luck father who manages to entertain his kids or, better yet, get them actual jobs?  How about we just give him the Oscar he deserves for “Moneyball” and for being our best sample of public genetic perfection who also manages to actually spend time in New Orleans building houses for the poor?).

Build me up, buttercup.

Of course  – showing it in a movie or lauding a celebrity for a vaguely real (reel?) life is certainly no guarantee of the hope or change we were looking for once upon a time. But when all the ringmasters of the world are offering us are new, old and recycled KLOWN acts it’s very hard not to take matters into your own hands.  And to not feel like the deck is stacked against a good outcome.  An outcome where more than our noses will continue to wind up in the red if we don’t clear the stage.  And make room on the road for the KARS that will KART the KLOWNS away.

In the meantime I’lll take my non-klownish self on the bus to see this on Jan 13th…