Anderson Cooper is the answer to everything

I suppose I DO care a bit about this, since I’ve been watching JEOPARDY! with Trebek or original host Art Fleming for more than half my life.

The NBC-TV morning news?/entertainment show Today has only been around for 61 years. The program, envisioned by Sylvester (Pat) Weaver, Sigourney’s dad, has had its controversies with staff, such as when Deborah Norville replaced Jane Pauley as co-anchor in 1990, to disastrous ratings until she herself was replaced by Katie Couric.

In the current drama, Meredith Viera as co-host was replaced by long-time newsreader Ann Curry. The ratings went down, Curry left, after giving a painfully personal farewell. Many blamed her ouster on co-host Matt Lauer, for no good reason I’ve read. So the scuttlebutt now is who will replace Lauer, even though no announcement of his departure has come from the network.

This generated this unscientific Parade magazine readers poll about who, if anyone, should replace Lauer:

Matt Lauer should stay on ‘Today’ 25.59%
Anderson Cooper 44.44% (CNN anchor of multiple shows)
Willie Geist 11.17% (former FOX news anchor now on NBC)
David Gregory 5.23% (host of NBC’s Meet the Press)
Ryan Seacrest 6.85% (host of FOX’s American Idol, and NBC contributor)
Other: 4%

I don’t much care myself – I’ve been watching the CBS Morning Show, when I watch anything at all at that hour – except that a choice of Seacrest would be proof positive that Today should be run by the entertainment division, not the news.

Further speculation is that Lauer would replace Alex Trebek as host of the game show JEOPARDY! when he retires, presumably in a couple of years.

From an Entertainment Weekly poll, equally unscientific:

Ken Jennings 42.32% (won more games on JEOPARDY! than anyone)
Anderson Cooper 25.15%
Other 7.79%
Seth Meyers 6.69% (from Saturday Night Live -SNL Weekend Update)
Tom Bergeron 5.98% (co-host of Dancing With The Stars and a number of other shows)
Andy Richter 3.59% (Conan O’Brien sidekick)
Rachel Maddow 3.34% (host of an MSNBC news program)
Meredith Vieira 3.31% (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire host)
Matt Lauer 2%
(Did any of these people actually show an interest in the job?)

I suppose I DO care a bit about this since I’ve been watching JEOPARDY! with Trebek or original host Art Fleming for more than half my life.

(A sarcastic Ken Levine suggests How Matt Lauer can save his career; some language may offend.)

Anderson Cooper also appears regularly on the CBS News program 60 Minutes and has swum with man-eating alligators.

Former SNL cast member Jimmy Fallon is scheduled to replace Jay Leno as host of the Tonight Show, also originally created by Pat Weaver near 60 years ago. I didn’t watch Johnny Carson much over his 30 years (1962-1992) on the show, or his successor, Leno. I tended to watch talk show host Dick Cavett (1969-1975), and later, the news program Nightline (1980-2005).

To the degree I care at all, I should note that Fallon went to the College of Saint Rose in Albany. NY, about four blocks from my house, and grew up only 40 minutes south of here, in Saugerties, NY. He is bringing the show back to NYC, after four decades in Los Angeles, thanks in part to some tax incentives doled out by New York State. Who will replace Fallon on the show that follows Tonight? Hey, why not Anderson Cooper? Apparently, he can do it all.

Movie Review: Quartet

Incidentally, I discovered that there was a 1981 movie called Quartet, also starring Maggie Smith.

The Wife and I decided we wanted to see a movie Sunday afternoon, which was a bit ambitious since church tends to run long on the first Sunday. The Daughter and we fairly bolted out the door, picked up the babysitter – no, make that child watcher, per the Daughter’s instruction – dropped them at home, then got to the Spectrum at 12:47 to see the 12:55 showing of Quartet.

There is a home for retired musicians in a lovely part of rural England. Every year, there is a concert to make sure the home will be solvent for another year. The director of the production, Cedric (Michael Gambon), imperiously decides who is in and who is out. Reginald (Tom Courtenay), the musician who sees parallels with opera and rap, is in, as are the lecherous Wilf (Billy Connolly), and the increasingly addled Cissy (Pauline Collins). Then Jean (Maggie Smith), someone from their past moves into the home; Reg is particularly peeved by this turn of events. Jean, proud and sad to be forced into this situation, has her own issues with yet another resident.

I enjoyed this film by 75-year-old first-time director Dustin Hoffman, who tells a pleasant tale about aging, fear, and complicated personal histories. The characters were engaging, and I found myself caring for them a great deal. I also enjoyed the minor characters, many of whom you find out more about in the end credits.

Oddly, this film has been compared, generally unfavorably, with the depressing film Amour. One example by Matt Pais of RedEye: “Unlike the devastating portrait of aging in Michael Haneke’s Amour, Quartet favors cheeky over honest.” Well, I sure hope so! Quartet is primarily a comedy, its dealing with the ailments of getting older was meant to suggest that one perseveres anyway, while one can.

A couple weeks ago, Maggie Smith was on CBS News’ 60 Minutes. She HATES doing interviews and it showed; she’s indifferent to the fame the British TV series Downton Abbey has suddenly foisted on the 78-year-old actress. However, she was most effusive with her praise for director Hoffman. For his part, he appreciated her being “difficult” because it was always about creating a better movie.

Incidentally, I discovered that there was a 1981 movie called Quartet, also starring Maggie Smith.

Gotcha journalism

What occurred to me is that the notion of “gotcha journalism” has been turned on its head.

The first big story I noticed when I was out of town last week was the death of CBS News’ 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace at the age of 93. He was one of those old-fashioned hard-nosed reporters who irked politicians, the powerful, and occasionally his own network with his investigative television journalism from the show’s debut in 1968 until his retirement in 2006, and even to his 2008 piece on Roger Clemens. Here is the New York Times obit, and his story in The National Memo. His interviews with Ayatollah Khomeini, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and cigarette company insider Jeffrey Wigand, among many others, were legendary.

One of the trademarks in 60 Minutes reporting, used by him, but not exclusively, was the use of the hidden camera to ambush some person changing the odometer on an automobile or making some unsubstantiated medical claim. One of my favorites and I don’t recall the reporter, involved a black couple in Illinois going to see if a property was available for purchase, and told it was not. Then, a shot later, a white couple would show up, and the property would suddenly be available again. Next, the reporter would come in and expose the duplicity. While effective, CBS tended to shy away from the technique, dubbed as “gotcha journalism.” It was my contention that the hidden camera reporting should only be used when no other way would expose the fraud.

What occurred to me is that the notion of “gotcha journalism” has been turned on its head. When Sarah Palin complained that the “lamestream media” was using “gotcha” questions, it wasn’t a hidden camera trying to entrap her over some wrongdoing. It was an open and aboveboard question over what newspapers she read or why she would be competent to be President if John McCain had been elected, and then later was incapacitated.
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The next story I read about was the Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen getting in trouble for something he said; not that unusual. But I didn’t really catch what the content was until he apologized for saying it and was suspended five games. What the heck did he remark? The Venezuelan told Time magazine he loves former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for staying in power so long. But he claims his intent was lost in translation: “I was saying I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive,” Guillen told folks at the follow-up news conference. My inclination is to believe him, and the calls in the Little Havana community to fire him I find a bit troubling. This may be more of a public relations problem than a substantive issue.

See also: the website QUESTION

I can watch the 60 Minutes story on TV, for instance, without going to the website, and feel as though I have a complete enough narrative.

When I have a subscription to Newsweek, which I get when they’re desperate enough to make me an offer I can’t refuse, one of the features I’ve enjoyed most is when they bring together a group of actors for which there is potentially Academy Awards buzz. But this year’s issue was lackluster, and I know why: some of the best stuff was excised and placed on the Daily Beast website. I’m sitting, reading my magazine, and the last thing I want to do is turn on some electronic device. Especially if I’m reading a week-old magazine and am having trouble FINDING the related piece.

Worse is PARADE magazine. On the page right after the cover, there’s a box with a quote, and we’re supposed to guess which celebrity said it. But the answer is not within the pages of the magazine. No, I have to go to Wonderwall.com. I don’t FEEL like going to Wonderwall.com; I’ve been there, and it’s cheesy and a slow-loading site to boot, which I find difficult to navigate.

Of course, lots of TV shows do the same thing. Jon Stewart on the Daily Show will have an interview run long, and he’ll throw “the complete interview up on the web.” But this bothers me less, because there is a limit to a 30-minute commercial show, and usually I’ve gotten some substance from what HAS aired, so if I don’t get a chance to go online, it usually still has value. And it’s so much easier, now that the website has a dedicated link for the extended interviews.

News networks often have more on the websites: 60 Minutes Overtime gives behind-the-scenes info for some stories. The difference, I guess, is that I can watch the 60 Minutes story on TV, for instance, without going to the website, and feel as though I have a complete enough narrative; the website merely enhances it. While the PARADE example, I either go to the website or I simply can’t answer the question; I’m FORCED to go online.

Does any of this bother you the way it bugs me?

Andy Rooney

Rooney has made a number of unfounded comments about government and politics that made me grimace.

There was a time when I used to actually enjoy Andy Rooney, the long-time 60 Minutes commentator who retired in October 2011, and died less than a month later. It was even before I knew who he was. I remember watching a series of CBS News specials called ‘Of Black America’, back in the days when network television would/could broadcast such things, and as it turns out, Rooney wrote two of them. He also penned ‘Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed’, which won him his first Emmy.

Then he did a bunch of quirky shows in the 1970s and early 1980s, such as ‘Andy Rooney Takes Off’, ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Work’, ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner’, and the Peabody Award-winning ‘Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington’, which Mark Evanier linked to.

When he got his regular gig on 60 Minutes in 1978, he was seldom profound but often entertaining enough. But even then, he played the part of the crotchety old man. I always remember this segment, pre-Thriller, of who was famous. Paul McCartney was famous; Michael Jackson was not, even though he had led the Jackson 5ive and had a hit album in Off the Wall. He never, in my recollection, gave contemporary music any credence.

Still, his observation about fame has stuck with me. Who IS famous, these days? Media being as diffused as it is, a Real Housewife of Schenectady might be well known in certain circles but totally invisible by lots of others.

His schtick and delivery became so well known that he was often parodied. And lots of quotes were attributed to him, not all of them accurately. He DID say, The French have not earned their right to oppose President Bush’s plans to attack Iraq. What was often left out is the next line: “On the other hand, I have,” referring to his service as a war correspondent during WWII. And he DID suggest that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson were “wackos.”

However, he did NOT start a commentary with I like big cars, big boats, big motorcycles, big houses, and big campfires. Nor did he write an essay ‘In Praise of Older Women’ or advocate in favor of prayer or give tips to get rid of telemarketers or the ramblings cited here or here.

In the last decade, Rooney has made a number of unfounded comments about government and politics that made me grimace. A person who read as many newspapers as he purported to peruse would have known some of the things he proudly announced he didn’t know. I kvetched about him in this blogpost here over an ill-informed observation about the Census.

Still, he always was proud of growing up in Albany, and he summered in the county, in Rensselaerville, and I liked that. I’d hoped that he would have had a chance to enjoy his retirement. But, true to his seeming contrarian nature, he didn’t have that chance.
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My old buddy Steve Webb writes about Andy Rooney, Howard Hunt, Bob Dylan, and Steve Ditko, among others.