Now… It’s Over

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 11.37.09 AM

Some idiot at MSNBC cancelled Now with Alex Wagner and I’m pissed off. Can one be angry at an idiot who doesn’t know any better? Or is it more appropriate to be p.o.’d at an amorphous thing like a network that doesn’t have any feelings? How much of an effect will that have? Of course, I’ve met a lot of idiots who don’t have feelings so perhaps I’d be better off going with the individual just to make it all feel more personal to me. At least there is some satisfaction in that.

Yes, I realize most of you don’t know who Alex Wagner is or have anything invested in Now. Make of the last part of that last statement what you will. And know that I will explain more about both AW and Now in a bit.   For now, just be aware it’s a mid-afternoon news/talk/opinion show – one of a block of three such programs MSNBC has axed in order to mainstream itself with a CNN-type breaking news kind of strategery. Yes, strategery.

STRATEGERY, my friends

STRATEGERY, my friends

Apropos of that — back to the idiots.

I’ve read this monumentally stupid decision was the brainchild of new NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, who is anything but new. Or news. He actually presided over NBC in its news heyday of the nineties when he helped take its anchor Tom Brokaw from #3 to #1 in the nightly race for ratings among the three major broadcast networks’ Nightly News programs. But does anyone you know watch the Nightly News anymore? (Note: Jon Stewart doesn’t count and in another week he’ll be gone too – waaaaa). Certainly no one reading these words. Or writing them.

No love for Davey?

No love for Davey?

Someone should tell the 68-year-old Mr. Lack that his plan to insert recently deposed NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams (Note: Yeah, the guy who was put on “leave” for fictionalizing portions of at least a few more than several news stories he reported on) into the slots occupied by the brilliant and effervescent Ms. Wagner (and others) is akin to me ordering my current film students to sit down in a room and watch Barbra Streisand movies from the 60s and 70s on a loop. Or replacing Jon Stewart with Bryant Gumbel. Well, now I fear I’ve really lost the under 25 crowd. My first instinct was to use the Olivia Newton John or Elton John or even Jimmy Stewart comparison but I doubt any of those would have fared any better.

... and good luck to the over 40 crowd in recognizing this guy

… and good luck to the over 40 crowd in recognizing this guy

I have an unhealthy addiction to what used to be MSNBC and Ms. Wagner in particular because like me they are smart, sarcastic and liberal yet also managed to be surprisingly fair and balanced. Again, make of that last statement what you will but, no, it is not an oxymoron in our current cable news landscape. Also, in Ms. Wagner’s case I suspect she’s a lot nicer than I am. Certainly, she’s more modest. As for MSNBC, up until now they have been one of the few news sources with commentators who are not constantly dumbing down the issues of the day for the “masses,” blanding it down to the point of snoredom or amping it up to the tenor of the Donald Trump parade hosted by Fox News. I was going to say Sarah Palin parade on Fox because I hate to give Trump any more ink at all. But then I realized that evoking Sarah Palin was as relevant as hiring Brian Williams to be the new face of change for a floundering cable outlet. Or giving zzz’s inducing Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd four more hours of daytime programming chores as your second new hosting face.  Kill me now.

Welp... it's about time for my mid morning nap  #snooze

Welp… it’s about time for my mid morning nap #snooze

What did/do I love about Alex Wagner? Well, for one thing she often referred to the 2012 Republican presidential nominee as Willard “Mitt” Romney (Note: His real name) and Donald Trump as the “Teflon Don” (Note: Too nice to be his real name). She could also speak as eloquently about Jay-Z as she could on Zero Based Budgeting, while on that very same show interview everyone from Ron Paul to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (Note: Imagine being fair with him???) to any bleeding heart liberal on the block with a combination of tough-minded accuracy and good-natured aplomb.

News goddess

News goddess

Oh, and did I mention she’s 37, of mixed race origin and is married to former Obama White House chef, close First Family friend, and now NBC’s newest Today show contributor Sam Kass? Not to be mercenary, but why would you want someone like that anchoring an afternoon chat show on your network in 2015? Instead, let’s contract with more straight, deep-voiced or doughy-looking white men because, god knows, they are the wave of the future. What’s an Obama Coalition, anyway?

I'll have what she's having

I’ll have what she’s having

One might surmise this is less about Ms. Wagner and MSNBC and more about the fact that… the Chair does not adapt to change very well. Hmm, that could be at least partially correct. One strategy to overcome one’s anger – aside from just letting it go – is to welcome change as an opportunity for something better. I mean, the chief message of Pres. Obama to the Obama Coalition was something like: We are the change we have been waiting for. Remember?

Well, that’s a nice thought but in this case it would seem to indicate that the answer to all of this would be for me to start my own network, find another program or, as a last resort, try to figure out a way to hang out with Ms. Wagner on my own. I’m not entirely sure which one is the most doable. Though certainly I could guarantee the one of the three that would be the most fun.

Oh, do not start your own network, honey.

Oh, do not start your own network, honey.

That is, I suspect, the real issue. There is not a heck of a lot of fun in media these days. Or – there is too much of it. It’s entertaining when it’s supposed to be serious/serious when it’s supposed to be entertaining. Is Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or even Fox News itself meant to be taken seriously? Have you ever tried to watch Fox and Friends? Every so often I tune in to the latter, one of several bizarre series on the top-rated cable network. Last week, when speaking of the surfer who got attacked and nearly eaten by a shark during a competition, one of the geniuses on that show wondered out loud why the surfing area wasn’t automatically cleared of sharks when there was a sporting event going on.

#Dowager4ever

#Dowager4ever

Yet on Ms. Wagner’s final program the Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart got it exactly right when asked about Thursday’s first Republican nominee presidential debate and the emergence of Donald Trump as its inevitable centerpiece. Mr. Capehart offered that the ratings would be high not because of a resurgence in political interest or a worry about the direction of the country. No, he said, it was mainly because it was a great potential entertainment event where you could sit in front of TV with a bowl of popcorn, a group of friends and play the drinking game of your choice as you watched Donald Trump eviscerate a stage full of – well, take your choice on what you want to call them, no partisanship here.

#srsly

#srsly

It is this kind of truth-telling that one seems to only get on shows like Ms. Wagner’s that I will miss. And yeah, I know I might be able to get it elsewhere. And it may even be better. Or it might not and I might be inspired to spend less time nodding my head at the television to people that I already know agree with me and being more productive in my life as a writer, teacher, husband and general citizen of the world.

As Gandhi once famously said – and perhaps this is where Pres. Obama got it from – Be the change that you wish to see in the world. In other words, don’t fight it.

#preach

#preach

Well, that’s a nice thought. But I’m still pissed off at MSNBC, Lack and the whole cabal for their misguided corporate stupidity. As such, in this situation I quite prefer the prose of Dorothy Parker, who many, many decades ago once wrote:

In my youth, it was a way I had,

To do my best to please.

And change, with every passing lad

To suit his theories.

 But now I know the things I know

And do the things I do,

And if you do not like me so,

To hell, my love, with you.

Or, in 2015 vernacular: Bite me, MSNBC.

Media Matters

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 1.45.21 PM

I was on national television this week. It wasn’t a big deal. Except it sort of is when you’re not a celebrity or someone that people are used to seeing on TV. This is because…well, just why is that exactly?

Not to mention, couldn’t they have interviewed me without showing my bald spot? Was that final over-the-shoulder angle really necessary? Plus, how come my face was shiny at points while the reporter asking the questions always had a perfectly matte complexion?  Well, the segment was called Rossen Reports so clearly Jeff Rossen takes precedence over me. Then there’s the fact that he has better hair. And a lot more of it. For now.

Anyway, these are the thoughts that linger. Much more than anything you say. Remember that the next time you call Barbra Streisand a diva or decide to make fun of Beyoncé’s demands. It really does take a village. For most of us.

Oh, I just woke up like this

Oh, I just woke up like this

Oh, and one final word about the looks department. I really do now understand why Nora Ephron entitled one of her last books I Feel Bad About My Neck. Men are secretly no different from women in this regard (despite the fact that the subtitle to Ephron’s book was And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman). We just don’t publicly utter the words. But for every male celebrity you think looks fantastic at any age, there is a closet Barbra or Beyoncé lurking and a Nora secretly thinking. So consider the veil lifted on that end because after many decades in the entertainment industry and my very limited encounters in front of the camera I now, more than ever, know this for Oprah sure. Yes, even George Clooney and Ryan Gosling have to give it some thought, despite the Jon Hamm of it all.

Of course, I’m straying from my original point. The national appearance was on Thursday’s Today show in the prime 7:30-8am period. This followed an appearance on the local KNBC 11:00 news two weeks earlier (and of course my blog post about it). And unlike Kimye, I would really have gladly exchanged the whole thing just for some piece and quiet.

Click here to see my moment of fame

Click here to see my moment of fame

As some of you might know, this all started with the inconsiderate asshat living above us. For the last six months he has been illegally renting out his house for many thousands of dollars per night to dozens of different patrons who host indoor/outdoor after hours parties. Of course, I like a party as much as anyone but, trust me, you don’t want to be living directly below the kind that start at midnight and go till 6 am almost every weekend and even on some weekdays. Unless it’s your house and your shindig. And even then.

When the police and local politicians get called, written to and lobbied dozens of times and do very little, where is one to turn in the age of more pressing issues like murder, death, drugs, campaign financing and ISIS? I’ll tell you where – the media. And if the cost of that is not coming across on camera looking and acting as you had always imagined – and know FOR SURE that you always do – well it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind (and quiet) that I now have in spades. Hopefully, it will last longer than my 15 minutes of fame.

NYerInternetFollowing Cartoon

Yes, that’s right – since I appeared on camera in these two reports there have been no parties blasting everything from “disco to Snoop Dog” and no more nightmare nights or entire weekends filled with “torture.” (Note: Did I really put it exactly that way? Was that the very best that I could do? I don’t think so. And I certainly would have denied I said it in that fashion had I not seen the footage for myself. Of course, it could have been doctored. I mean, I don’t really sound exactly that way. Right?)

Anyway, for all of the above, even the parts that I KNOW in my heart of hearts were doctored despite all evidence to the contrary – I am extremely appreciative to the media – especially KNBC’s consumer reporter Joel Grover, NBC’s Jeff Rossen and everyone who works with them. Nothing else matters but the peace and quiet because I know that a. they were doing the best they could with what I gave them and b. I would’ve done a lot more to once again only be haunted by the garden variety strange sounds circulating in my head on a daily basis.

I mean, I could have done more

I mean, I could have done more

Which brings up this question:

How do we address the truth about those issues and things we don’t know as well as ourselves, considering that the reality of our knowledge on the latter is limited?

Not very well, I’m afraid.

It’s time for us all, myself at the top of the list, to consistently remind ourselves that all we are really getting on TV (Note: Feel free to substitute, print, web, virtual information and/or entertainment sources) is that interview, appearance or performance in that moment in time. This even goes for any encounter you might have with someone on the public stage live and in person. I mean, would you want to always be judged by the snotty answer you spit back at a co-worker on the day your lover dumped you or the dirty look you gave to the person standing next to you in the elevator who was wearing enough cologne or perfume to seduce the Entire Seventh Fleet? (Note: Okay fine, truth be known I’m good with all the cologne/perfume looks I’ve ever previously given).

I never leave home without my gas mask

From the elevator collection

Taken one step further, how really reliable is any of the information we have on the more pressing issues of the day?   You can’t count on every slickly produced news package you see to have ME in them, telling you the absolute facts – throwing all caution to the wind about how I appear for the good of the issue at hand. There are a lot of manipulators, even liars in our midst, who will do a lot more, including making a lot more noise (NOTE: Trust me on that one) to get you to their side of the coin.

This week I couldn’t help but think of all the brouhaha about Hillary Clinton’s emails. I mean, do I really give a crap what server she used or what she did or didn’t say? At its worst it has to be better than most of the stuff that Dick Cheney and George W. Bush uttered publicly. Certainly, it’s a lot smarter. (Note: Yes, that is my opinion, which we’ve established is absolute truth).

Will we still get the puns when Jon is gone?

Will we still get the puns when Jon is gone?

Then I considered the openly public letter to the Islamic State of Iran written by a man who has only been in the Senate for two months – Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) – and signed by him and 46 other Senators while our sitting president is in the midst of secret nuclear disarmament talks with said country.

I mean, only the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. So it’s not wrong to wonder, what was the real meaning of this unprecedented (Note: Meaning it’s never happened) move? Treason? Political opportunism? Or true concern about the global realities that the universe has in store for us if their POVs go unspoken (nee unwritten)?

Oh.. they didn't send an email?

Oh.. they didn’t send an email?

The answers to these and other questions are, of course, above my pay grade – and probably yours. But if I know that my two recent TV appearances created the change I wanted in my limited world imagine how well both sides on the above issues could do in convincing you of their reality? All I had on my side was the truth. They actually have a team of experts you can trust. Or choose not to.

Think about that how you will. I myself will go ponder it in the new silence of my old home. Off-camera.