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King for a Day

Posted: August 20, 2002

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

Does anyone out there read USA Today? It's okay, you can tell me; you're among friends here. Well, anyway, you probably remember that hawk-nosed serial matrimonialist and CNN talk show host Larry King used to have a regular column in that national paper's LIFE section, where he'd hold forth on a wide range of topics in bite-sized nuggets of non sequitur nirvana. Well, since I have a few different and mostly unconnected things to get off my chest today (more out of Attention Deficit Disorder than the early-stage Alzheimer's King's columns suggested he suffers from), I wanted to ape Larry's style, and so have been looking for his column. Imagine my surprise to learn that Mr. King vacated that post last September, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. And imagine my outrage when the USA Today website told me I'd have to fork over some cold hard credit card to peruse a column or two in its vast online archive. Not in this reality, thank you not at all.

So anyway, if you have any idea of what I'm talking about, just try to imagine these random outbursts in Larry King's mock-solemn croak. Or better yet, think back to Norm MacDonald's brilliant parody of Mr. King on Saturday Night Live. Much more entertaining that way.

In fact, that gives me an idea of how to start this thing. Here goes...

For my money, Norm MacDonald is the most under-appreciated comic mind working in showbiz today. It doesn't get much funnier than that, folks...

Is anyone as revolted by The Anna Nicole Show as I am? I'm all for public humiliation of celebrities -- and especially wannabe celebrities, like the unending parade of desperate morons that traipses across every so-called "reality" show on the (never more aptly named) boob tube. Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but why do people find this perpetual motion machine of base bottom-feeders so entertaining? From Survivor to Big Brother (truly the bottom of the barrel; how desperate for attention do you have to be to go out for that gig?) to American Idol, to Fear Factor, to The Osbournes, the great unwashed viewing public just can't seem to get enough of the antics of the crudest, basest and most vapid elements of civilized society. C'mon, folks, could we get any more Lowest Common Denominator than the cretins on Real World or those low-self-esteem airheads on The Bachelor vying for the affections of some keg-suckling frat boy who thinks Dave Matthews is the new Bob Dylan and that that cute waitress at Hooters really is coming onto him? Heck, these shame-deficient morons probably think "denominator" is the presenter who reads the list of Best Actress contenders on Oscar night.

And while we're on the subject, just what "reality" are these shows supposed to be reflecting, anyway? I'll tell you which one: The cold hard truth is that when faced with the prospect of winning a little cash or -- even better -- getting our ugly mugs on TV for 15 seconds of the very worst kind of fame, even the stoutest of heart and purest of spirit among us devolve into gibbering baboons in less time than it takes to tick off Madonna's lasting contributions to popular culture. But even a baboon or a chimpanzee or any other primate given to defecating into its hand and flinging the results at passersby shows more tact, class and self-restraint than most of the scheming, sniveling hogs frantic to get their fill of the muddy, virus-infested trough of prime-time programming "fame." That's the reality these documentaries of dumb drive home. Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Okay, so that was more Dennis Miller than Larry King. Anyway, back to Anna Nicole. Now, as far as I'm concerned, most of these wastes of meat and bone on "reality" TV deserve all the humiliation and attendant complete and utter lack of hoped-for fame they've got coming. (So far, the only contestant who seems to have made something of herself is Colleen from the first Survivor, reduced to appearing in Rob Schneider movies and ABC Friday night lineup sitcoms. Oh, yeah, there's fame for you.)

But Anna Nicole Smith, the "star" of E! Entertainment Television's Anna Nicole Show...well, I'm not sure about her. Yes, she's been as bad as anyone else about grasping blindly for the straws of fickle fame, but I, for one, can't fault her for appearing in Playboy, because she happens to have been, at one time, a strikingly gorgeous and discomfitingly voluptuous woman. And granted, that whole marrying-the-two-hundred-year-old-rich-guy thing was creepier than Lisa Marie telling Nick Cage he's a less satisfying "partner" than Michael Jackson.

But still, it's hard not to watch The Anna Nicole Show without feeling sorry for its subject. In fact, it's hard to watch the show, period, because it's becoming increasingly obvious that the poor girl has some real problems. Now, I'm no doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but it looks to me like she might be borderline autistic. At the very least, she seems to be operating, mentally and emotionally, on a pre-adolescent level.

The celebrity-obsessed star-fuckers at E! have always seemed pathetic, like those (literally) maggot-eating buffoons on Fear Factor, but now they've crossed the line into a ghoulishness far worse even than that fat naked guy who won the first Survivor. It was glaringly obvious from the outset that whoever thought up this program knew that Anna Nicole's elevator lets off at different floors than ours, and whatever creep green-lit the show in the first place deserves a whole new wing of Chinese hells erected for his enjoyment. But the fact that the powers that be haven't yet pulled the plug on this mean-spirited train wreck of a show adds whole new layers to the definition of reprehensible. The sickening tag line used in the channel's revolting promos -- "It's not supposed to be funny...it just is" -- tells you all you need to know about the loathsome necrophiliac vultures at E! Embarrassment Television. It's a sure sign of the impending apocalypse when the ghastly Joan Rivers looks like Mother Theresa compared to the rest of the network. Just say No, already. Enough is enough...

Is it just me, or does that HBO produce some damn fine quality dramas? That show The Wire is pretty damn good, actually. And it stars that guy who smuggled drugs to Sandra Bullock in 28 Days and who played the lead guitarist of Steel Dragon in the criminally overlooked Rock Star. How cool is that?...

As it happens, Steve Earle has a recurring bit part on The Wire as a drug counselor. Who says the art of the segue is dead?...

So Steve Earle has written a song about John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban." And apparently some deep-thinking pus bag of a Nashville radio personality has gone off on an embarrassing tirade about how treasonous ol' Steve is so desperate for attention that he's stooped to martyring the very spawn of Beelzebub himself. Yes, sir, and I hear he don't even make his music all purty like that Faith Hill or Shania Twain, neither.

Well, listen, you maladjusted right-wing wing-nut -- you work in frickin' radio, remember? Who the hell on God's green Earth are you to be casting aspersions at anyone? You're a proud member of the medium that amounts to flakes of rust scraped off of the entertainment industry food chain. Now, I don't agree with all of Steve Earle's politics, but it's a sure bet I agree even less with your Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the U.S.A.," homogenous, whitebread, SUVs and picket fences version of America. Yes, Steve Earle can get a bit kooky sometimes, but if he wants to explore whatever mixed-up impulses led a California kid to hitch his wagon to a bunch of cowardly, hateful, blinded and misdirected terrorists, I believe that pesky First Amendment allows him the freedom to do so. I mean, what could it hurt to actually stir up a little debate about what drives one of our own into the fold of our enemies?

Or is that what you're afraid of? Anything that questions the utter moral supremacy of God's Favorite Country is like kryptonite to John "Jackboots" Ashcroft and his "Our Way or the Highway to Hell" brigade, right? And if it hasn't escaped your attention, Earle long ago gave up trying to cram his square peg into the virginal round hole of mainstream country music radio. But even if he hadn't, the only thing dumber than a country artist hoping to score a hit by writing about Lindh would have to be the mental giant intellectually club-footed enough to accuse him of such a thing...

Damn, Larry King usually kept these much shorter, didn't he? Okay, onward...

Why do people use "slim chance" and "fat chance" interchangeably? Seems to me, they should really mean two entirely different things...

Here's a bit of movie theater etiquette for you: Don't talk loudly during a movie. Don't, for the love of humanity, talk on a cell phone during a movie. And please, out of sheer decency, please don't sing aloud, be it before, during or after a movie. I went to see "Signs" the other day, and the theater's piped-in pre-show programming included Avril Lavigne's bubblegum hit "Complicated." Now, the song on its own is bad enough...kind of like Alanis Morissette tackling KISS's "I Love it Loud"...but some socially retarded kid sitting directly in front of me decided to sing along, moving his two index fingers from side to side for emphasis. Unfortunately, it was stormy outside, and the power went out a couple of times, and every time it came back on whatever system was running things defaulted back to the same song, and every single time this doofus did the same thing. Kid, there's a reason she's getting paid the big bucks and you're not...actually, wait, bad example. There's no reason she should be getting paid anything. Instead, let me just say: If you ever do that in front of me in a movie theater again, I will introduce those fingers to a region of your anatomy in such a way that it will require very, very "complicated" surgery to remove them...

This just in: Back on the subject of HBO, I officially declare Oz "a laugh riot!" No, really...

Note to music journalists everywhere: A band is either an "it" or a "they." Preferably, unless the band name is a plural (the Rolling Stones, the White Stripes), it's an "it" -- which is to say, it gets a singular pronoun. That's in a perfect world. But in this world, if you're going to abuse that rule, at least be consistent about it. Don't refer to a band as both an "it" and a "they" in the same sentence. Hell, it took me five years to graduate high school, and even I know that much...

Speaking of "Signs," I think my reaction to that film can best be summed up by way of another Saturday Night Live reference; in particular, the vintage sketch wherein Bill Murray and Steve Martin continually stare agog at something off-camera and intone "What the hell is that?!" (Before I go any further, decorum demands that I tell you crucial plot points are revealed past this point.) So let me get this straight, Mr. M. Night "The Next Spielberg" (according to Newsweek), King of the last-minute O. Henry plot twist that throws everything you've seen into a whole new light Shyamalan: Since there's no such thing as coincidence, you're basically saying that aliens invaded the Earth just so Mel Gibson could regain his faith in God? Wow, talk about your extreme solutions! And if there's no such thing as coincidence, why, then, does Gibson's annoyingly precociously cute daughter leave half-full glasses of water lying around the house? It's never adequately explained, and as it stands, it's nothing but pure coincidence, given that the aliens prove vulnerable to said water.

And, um, not to get all scientific on you or anything, Mr. Next Spielberg, but if these aliens don't like water, what the fuck are they doing invading a planet almost completely made up of the stuff??!!!!! Now, I don't want to say Shyamalan's overrated or anything, but that movie had more holes in it than Courtney Love has track marks...

Note to Jason Priestly: Get well soon, Teen Priest. You were great in Tombstone...

Okay, class. That's all for today. Hope you took notes, because there might be a pop quiz tomorrow. Until next time, keep your powder dry....

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November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
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September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
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January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
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June 11, 2004: World Without Heroes (Bill Murray and Garfield)
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April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
Mar. 17, 2004: Copping Out
Feb. 27, 2004: The Passion of Howard Stern
Jan. 30, 2004: Sex and the City
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Aug. 17, 2003: Those '70s Shows
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Nov. 8, 2002: Near Wild Heaven (Nirvana)
Oct. 21, 2002: Happy Birthday to Us
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Aug. 20, 2002: King for a Day
July 9, 2002: Bill of Rights
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Nov. 3, 2001: Who We Are