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Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news, personalities and trends from the world of pop culture.

Today: Conan O'Brien's out (temporarily) and Jimmy Fallon's in (for now, at least) in the great Late-Night Talk Show Shake-Up that begins its first phase next week. Soon, there may be seven network talk shows on each night of the week. Enough already?

Farhi is a reporter in The Post's Style section, writing about media and popular culture. He's been watching TV and listening to the radio since "The Monkees" were in first run and Adam West was a star. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Los Angeles, Farhi had brief stints in the movie business (as an usher at the Picwood Theater), and in the auto industry (rental car lot guy) before devoting himself full-time to word processing. His car has 15 radio pre-sets and his cable system has 500 channels. He vows to use all of them for good instead of evil.

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A transcript follows.

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Paul Farhi: Greetings, all...So, looking back and looking forward:

Back: Did we dig the Oscars? I thought it was one of the worst in recent memory. A giant blur of clips and a hodgepodge of incomprehensible musical numbers (what was Baz Luhrman thinking with that bizarre and under-inspired Hugh Jackman-Beyonce number? I actually liked Jackman's amusing opener and his presence as host. But I kept wanting a little more simplicity and retro-style presentation in the whole thing. Get rid of the giant TV screens (I'm already watching TV; I don't need to see clips on a TV screen within my TV screen). Clean up the graphics, too. And speed the whole thing up (hands, please, of anyone who wants to see sound editing and cinematography awards). And was I the only one who felt embarrassed for the best actor/actress nominees as the Ghosts of Oscar Winners Past made little speeches about them? Enough with the bar mitzvah speeches. Just get on with it.

Forward: The big NBC late-night talk show changeroo starts on Monday (actually, early Tuesday morning at 12:35 am) with "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Fallon replaces Conan O'Brien, who'll replace Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in June. Leno gets a primetime show (10-11 p.m.) in September. I'll have more on this in the good ol' paper later in the week, but in the meantime, your thoughts? Good news? Bad news? Neither, since you're asleep at those hours?

Let's go to the phones...

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Aurora, N.C.: Does Sean Penn and other lefties of his ilk realize that no civilization in the history of the world has institutionalized marriage between two people of the same sex? No president, from Washington to Obama, has supported homosexual marriage. Penn is the oddball. Not those whom he has so much obvious disdain.

Paul Farhi: Well, I happen to agree with Penn on the gay marriage issue, but that's neither here nor there. What's interesting to me is how predictable (and essentially timid) the political speechifying on the Oscars always is. Is there anyone in the room who disagrees with Penn? Probably not. Has anyone ever made a "brave" speech--one defined as "unpopular with the reflexive liberalism of Hollywood"--in the entire history of the Academy Awards? Can't think of one.

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Lowest-Rated Oscars EVER?!: I love the way Lisa de Moraes, Nikki Finke, et al, beat the drum in the months leading up to the Oscar telecast about how no one would be watching, it would be the lowest-rated telecast ever, and how no one had seen any of the Best Picture nominees. Nevermind that "Benjamin Button" and "Slumdog Millionaire" had both crossed $100 million at the box office by last weekend. Wouldn't want to mess with the preordained storyline!

Then the ratings come out. They're UP in several key demos, and overall. Nikki Finke eats a little crow, in her own way, over at her blog. Lisa de Moraes brushes past the news so she can comment that the telecast was still the THIRD-LOWEST rated Oscars ever. Go, Lisa! Don't acknowledge how incorrect your snarky comments for weeks and weeks proved to be. On to the next snarky remark! Readers just want to laugh and sneer, and you're the one who leads the way.

Sigh. I didn't much enjoy the Oscars; agreed with Tom Shales for a change. But I get so tired of the drumbeat mentality, especially when, proven wrong, those who beat the drum the loudest try to move on without any indication of their own wrong-headedness. Maybe Lisa and Nikki are the Bush-Cheney of media "reporters"?

washingtonpost.com: It's a Big Night for Oscar, as Long as You Ignore the Late Shift (Post, Feb. 24) and UPDATE: 13% Oscars Ratings Rise; Kudos Go To Larry Mark & Bill Condon; But Still 3rd Worst Viewed Academy Awards (Nikki Finke's Deadline Daily)

Paul Farhi: Well, it WAS one of the lowest rated Oscars ever, so they got that part right (and don't argue demographics; the Oscars are about MASS). They did get the box-office angle wrong, however. "Slumdog" is a modest-sized hit, as is "Benj. Button." And "Dark Knight"--featuring inevitable best-supporting actor winner Heath Ledger--was a gigantic hit, as was "Ironman," which starred best-supporting-actor-nominee-in-another-movie Robert Downey Jr. So that angle really is kinda weak. Bottom line: The Oscars have been slipping for years in the ratings. Their ratings depend only marginally on the blockbuster-ish nature of what's nominated.

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hands, please, of anyone who wants to see sound editing and cinematography awards: I'd like to see Best Best Boy or Best Key Grip award.

Paul Farhi: What about gaffer? (As Jerry Seinfeld once observed, you never hear people leaving the theater saying, 'He gaffed the hell out of that picture.')

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realize that no civilization in the history of the world has institutionalized marriage between two people of the same sex?: So we can't ever change that?

Paul Farhi: Uh huh.

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Oscar speech: Vanessa Redgrave's speech in '78 (the "zionist hoodlums" talk) certainly wasn't something looked on positively by the masses in the audience.

Paul Farhi: There you go. One. And 30 years ago.

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Ant-Liberal: I think Clint Eastwood made a remark about the Brando/Littlefeather speech. Something along the lines of how terrible it was that John Wayne killed all those cowboys in the movies.

Paul Farhi: I think that was ironic, no?

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Oscar Telecast: Paul, your comment on the late night changes reminded me that, even though I am not a Tom Cruise fan, I enjoyed the promo he did with Jimmy Kimmel. A highlight of Oscar night, IMO.

Paul Farhi: That was a knockout, yes. I couldn't help but think (as probably a few million people did), Tom Cruise is plugging Jimmy Kimmel? And Tom Cruise is hoping that Jimmy Kimmel dies in a house fire?

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no civilization in the history of the world has institutionalized whatever : How is that a rationalization for refusing to change? At some point, no government had illegalized slavery, but some visionaries were able to see past history and aim for more freedom and equality. How we've always done it is the worst excuse for bigotry, control and hatred.

Paul Farhi: Uh huh II.

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washingtonpost.com: The Jimmy Kimmel Live Oscar Promo with Tom Cruise (YouTube)

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Re: Seven Network Talk Shows: Hypothetically, that would result in a deficit of guests, with a need to spawn more celebrities to fill the seats. My theory is that the networks foresaw this problem years ago and created the reality TV boom as their solution.

Paul Farhi: Actually, the guest question is sort of real. By fall, there will be four network talk shows out of L.A. (Leno, Conan, Craig Ferguson, Kimmel) and two in New York (Letterman, Fallon). Sounds like we'll get into some serious celebrity supply-and-demand problems awfully quickly. And this is before you include Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on cable...

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Eastwood Irony: Yeah, that was my point...a liberal speech about how the movies portrayed Indians and Eastwood mocked it as a comment on it.

Paul Farhi: Right. I guess you can get away with saying something unpopular if you say it ironically. Maybe a little at least.

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The Kimmel-Cruise Ad: While I liked it, I have to admit I was kinda creeped out; found myself wondering about Katie and their little girl. Just a commercial, I know, but still..

Paul Farhi: Another thought: Cruise seems to be trying very hard not to seem like a remote, weird, couch-jumping movie star. His turn in "Tropic Thunder" seemed to be part of the Tom-Cruise-doesn't-take-himself-too-seriously campaign.

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Arlington, Va.: Was Iron Man considered an action movie or a sci-fi movie? And how is it that comedies continue to be left on the cutting room floor come award season? Are sci-fi's ahead of comedies now?

Paul Farhi: Or a comic-book movie, a la the Batman flicks, "Spiderman," "Fantastic Four," "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," and on and on. Does it matter, really? It's the kind of thing Hollywood does now (and has for year). But it doesn't seem (outside of technical and special effects awards) that the comic-book movies really ever win Academy Awards, any more so than comedies do.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Spain, Belgium, Norway, South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada aren't civilizations? Well, I guess I might give him that last one.

Paul Farhi: Reminds me of a great Onion headline: "Quirky 'Canada' Has Own Laws, Government."

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Alexandria, Va.: I loved the Oscars. As Hank Stuever put it, Hugh Jackman was "droolicious." Just put Hugh on stage and I'm a goner. Loved the gowns, "bar mitzvah" speeches and the little kids when they won the big Oscar. Good times.

Paul Farhi: All men should hate Jackman. He is a) handsome; b) supremely talented; c) rich; d) famous; e) People's "Sexiest Man Alive." But, you know, he's likeable and charming, too--which is ANOTHER reason to hate him. D'oh!

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Oscars: Every year someone like you (or you) says it's "the worst Oscar show ever". Is this some kind of requirement for TV journalists? This year's was better, especially HJ's opening number. Jackman's a better host than the last few. I could have done without the Beyonce thing, but it wasn't too bad. When they did the memorials, I couldn't see the first couple, they were not full screen, and I would rather have seen clips of the performances for the nominated actors, not the personal testimonials. But all in all, I enjoyed it. Do you think you'll EVER enjoy an award show, or is that just your nature?

Paul Farhi: Let me see...it's right here...Ah. From the "Journalists Groupthink Handbook," which we are all required to read and carry on our person: "All journalists will declare the Oscar telecast 'the worst ever,' every year. Also, the Super Bowl halftime show shall always be deemed 'decadent' and/or 'vulgar,' and/or 'over the top.'" Yep, you're right.

And don't make me read the chapter entitled, "Liberal Bias: Your Obligations."

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IHOP commercial: A few weeks ago, someone wrote in asking where he or she had heard a certain sound before. The sound was the sound that accompanied the pancakes reconstructing themselves after a man took a bite out of them. The ad was for the "IHOP Endless Pancake Special."

The sound was from the "$6 Million Man." You heard it every time he exercised one of his many bionic powers. It's a sound so deeply engrained in our 1970's TV DNA that it's hard, sometimes, to identify it.

Paul Farhi: Wow. Strong pull! I know exactly the sound you're referring to, but didn't make the association with "6 $Mill Man."

(And, by the way, wouldn't reconstructing a guy with bionic powers be a real bargain for $6 million? I mean, that's what a lousy hip replacement costs these days).

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Baltimore, Md.: No civilization in history has institutionalized gay marriage? This would come as a surprise to the following nations, which have approved same sex wedlock in the 21st Century:

The Netherlands/Holland, 2001. Belgium, 2003. Canada, 2005. Spain, 2005. South Africa, 2006. Norway, 2009.

Spain has gay marriage!! They were a fascist country 40 years ago and now they allow gay marriage! And we don't?!

Paul Farhi: Not only that, but Spain is a VERY Catholic nation, too. Or was.

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RE: part of the Tom-Cruise-doesn't-take-himself-too-seriously campaign.: A carefully crafted campaign to make you seem like you don't take yourself too seriously is definite proof that you take yourself too seriously! Right?

Paul Farhi: God, you people are so cynical. I like that about you...

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Or a comic-book movie: Paul, they call them graphic novels now.

Paul Farhi: Yes, "graphic novels." Because "comic book" is so adolescent. You have to like the name inflation there. Am trying to think of other, similarly puffed-up contempo names for stuff that used to be called something. Anyone want to play?

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NYC: Why is it that the media won't forgive Tom Cruise for hopping on a couch, but have all but forgotten (or maybe you have) about Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant. Tom Cruise may not be someone I want to go drinking with, but at least if I did I wouldn't feel the need to arm myself first.

Paul Farhi: You don't think Mel Gibson's career wasn't damaged enough by that episode? I don't recall Mel appearing in too many movies recently as the charming and loveable romantic lead...

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Rockville, Md.: From a group of longtime film students, filmmakers, film fans and fans of the Academy Awards: Many of us thought that this year's show was one of the best in recent memory. Hugh Jackman was excellent. The awards were presented in chronological order and mirrored the making of a film -- which was clever. The production numbers were excellent. The presentation was quicker, smoother, faster and more polished. What on earth is wrong with musical numbers that actually make sense, are entertaining and are fun?! Nothing! Jackman is a true performer -- he can actually sing, dance and act, and that was showcased. The show was actually shorter than many in recent years. The clips were great -- well thought-out, well-constructed, and meaningful. And even Jerry Lewis was classy -- with a brief, eloquent, heartfelt and classy acceptance speech. The entire show was excellent, well-produced, and well-written. Many people, coast to coast, this week thought it is one of the better Academy Awards shows in recent memory. And Hugh Jackman should be back on stage at the Kodak Theatre in 2010.

Paul Farhi: As we say around here a lot, others disagree.

And what's so clever about giving out the very boring tech awards in chronological order? They're still boring.

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Oscar In Memoriam: Were Robert Prosky and Eartha Kitt excluded from this year's Oscar In Memoriam? I didn't spot either of them, although the camera cut away several times during the sequence. (I DID, however, like Queen Latifah's singing accompaniment in her Dana Owens mode).

Paul Farhi: I don't recall seeing them in the montage, but in fairness, both were far more associated with TV than movies. I guess that doesn't matter too much, but maybe it does when the Acad is getting around to making choices for who gets in or doesn't.

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Mel Gibson: He was on Jimmy Kimmel's Oscar night show.

Jimmy appeared to be unarmed.

Paul Farhi: And let's give him whatever he's due: He's apologized for this about a thousand times.

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All men should hate Jackman: Just remind yourself he had one of those "variety" shows. It failed. What idiot does a variety show these days? A gorgeous one, for sure, but still.

Paul Farhi: Oh. Now, see, I like him better: He FAILED at something! Yes, I am a hateful, spiteful human being. I can't help it. And neither can you.

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Chicago, Ill.: "Has anyone ever made a "brave" speech -- one defined as "unpopular with the reflexive liberalism of Hollywood" -- in the entire history of the Academy Awards? Can't think of one."

Don't know if this counts, but Michael Moore got booed pretty good at the 2003 Oscars for his comments about a fictitious president and a fictitious premise for the war...

Paul Farhi: Hmmm. Interesting example. I mean, I sincerely doubt most people at those awards disagreed with what Moore said, and on that basis, it wasn't brave. But, yes, those were boos. So some people must have had a problem with it. A few, at least.

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D.C.: How were the awards presented in chronological order? The creation of a movie starts with the supporting actress?

Paul Farhi: Um, right. That's a leftover artifact, I think, of the East Coast Deadline and Boredom Quotient Factor. The Oscars have always put one of those glamour categories upfront in the awards show so that newspapers can get a shot of a well-known winner on their front pages by their early deadlines (notice how many papers had Penelope Cruz on A-1 yesterday; not that that's a bad thing). The other reason for this is that you'd lose about 9/10th of the audience for the first three hours of the show if all they did was give Oscars to costume designers and sound editors.

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Tysons Corner, Va.: Paul, can you tell me how Elliot in the Morning is doing ratings-wise based off the new Arbitron rating system? Is the show potentially on the chopping block?

Paul Farhi: Elliot was tied for 10th in the last book I saw among all listeners, and fifth in the 25-54 year old demo (I don't have numbers for the younger slices of the audience, say, 18-34, which would really be his target). So, no, he's not on the chopping block, unless Clear Channel wants to be pennywise and pound-foolish by hiring someone cheaper.

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Bethesda, Md.: Actually, a bunch of us watching at a party thought the presentation of the technical awards this year was just about the best presentation of the technical awards in 20 years, and no, none of us thought it was boring at all. The explanations were easy to understand and explanatory, the sets behind the presenters actually had to do with the award being presented, the montage of film clips was intelligent and, again, had to do with the awards being presented, and the entire set of technical awards made you appreciate the hard work that went into making these movies. This was indeed for many people one of the better awards shows, overall, and one of the best Oscar shows in many, many years.

Paul Farhi: In 20 years? You've been watching the tech awards that closely all these years?

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Chantilly, Va.: To change the subject here a little bit...do you have any idea what is going on in the world of talk radio? I keep hearing rumors of WJFK, local to Fairfax and running mostly "talk type shows" going to a new format and getting rid of the talk shows. If I happen to love talk shows, what am I to do? And is there any truth to these rumors?

Paul Farhi: WJFK has made no official announcements, but a format flip wouldn't surprise me. Reason: Station ranks 21st overall in the area, with a relatively expensive (local talent) lineup. Given the awful economy, it has to be harder and harder to hold the line on their current strategy.

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Columbia, Md.: Two points:

1) My only real complaint about the Oscar telecast was that with my vision, I could hardly see the names on the obituaries...bad visual design!

2) The only problem I have with the upcoming talk show situation is that I CAN'T STAND Leno. The thought of him being on five nights a week in prime time makes me want to boycott NBC altogether.

Paul Farhi: I'm not a big Leno fan, either, but he does have a huge following (he's beaten everyone at 11:30 for 15-plus years). NBC's logic, of course, is that his show will be inexpensive compared to filmed dramas like "ER." So, while fewer people will inevitably watch Leno at 10 p.m., compared to "ER" and its ilk, it's an economic proposition that NBC is willing to take.

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Best-film montages: I found it distracting, nay confusing, that the best film montages contained clips of other classic movies. The Oscars should definitely deep-six that idea for perpetuity.

Paul Farhi: I was confused about that. I know the idea was to make some connection between the current best pic noms and classic films, but the whole thing moved so quickly that I had a hard time figuring out what that connection is/was. The other weird montage moment was in the "tribute" to movie musicals. They had classic movie musical clips playing on the big screen behind Jackman, et al. It was jarring to hear a song from one movie (like "Grease") while seeing a clip from some totally unrelated film in the background.

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Sajak, Md.: Conan O'Brien's show was at its best when he was constantly on the verge of being canceled, and most critics either disliked or ignored him. In the early to mid 1990s, "Late Night" (back when Robert Smiegel) was head writer, was really inventive, and Conan hadn't yet developed a showbiz persona.

Now, he couldn't come across as natural on television if he tried. Every mannerism, look to camera and question seems so Vegasy and artificial. It's a shame.

That said, he's still funnier than Leno and (SNL-era) Fallon.

But maybe this is Carson Daly's time to rule late night.

Paul Farhi: My question: Why is Carson Daly on TV? His show is completely vapid, even by the very low standards of TV vapidity. Perhaps it doesn't really matter. Since he's on so late, the only people watching are zombies and vampires (and, um, occasionally, me).

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Anonymous: I missed the part of the Oscars where they show famous people who died in the past year. Was it a popularity contest again with the clapping. Man I hate that.

Paul Farhi: Yes, and as predicted, they saved Paul Newman--biggest applause getter, by far--for the end.

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Osc, Ar: Last night I caught a bit from Sean Hannity (with guest former Gov. Elrich) going on and on about how when they watch the Oscars, it's "family time" and don't want to subject their kids to that kind of discussion (made in the various speeches from award winners).

My question is, what kids actually watch these award shows? When I was a kid, me and none of my friends watched any of those award shows. The only people we knew who watched them were our mothers, that's it.

Seriously, how many families all gather around the tube to watch the Oscars, Grammys, etc.?

Paul Farhi: When you get 33 million people watching anything, you've got families, shut-ins, single folk, etc. watching. Admittedly, that's only about 11 percent of the U.S. population, but only the Super Bowl (and really good "American Idol" finale) does those kinds of numbers any more.

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Sean Penn: His 'political' acceptance speech really didn't bother me, mostly because he seemed genuinely emotional about the subject and not just controversial-for-the-sake-of- being-controversial(though I usually hate when famous people take up causes and use every opportunity to tell the world how great they are because they support whatever). And while everyone in the room may have 'agreed' with him, not everyone at home did. And generally people, on both sides, tend to be much more extremist and vocal about gay rights than like the enviroment.

Plus that movie was amazing and he was amazing in it.

Paul Farhi: I don't doubt for a second that Sean Penn was sincere, and that his comments were heartfelt (here I get to name drop: I've actually met Penn--very intense guy). And as I said, I happen to agree with him. But your point reinforces my point: Hollywood is a totally insular liberal community, which essentially says to hell with the many people who disagree with their causes.

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NYC: There won't be seven hosts for long. I'm pretty sure Fallon won't last beyond the winter thaw. I predict he's going to be awful. Remember Chevy Chase's talk show? Who thinks Fallon will be better? Not me.

Paul Farhi: Or Magic Johnson's, Joan Rivers', Dennis Miller's, Alan Thicke's, etc., etc. All had flop late-night talk shows. So, if Fallon failed, he'd have company. He's also the THIRD talk show of the night on NBC (after Leno and Conan). You have to wonder about viewer fatique.

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Late night: I like Leno and hate Conan, so I'm glad I won't be sucked into staying up late any more. Whether I end up watching Leno regularly or not will depend on what the show's like, though -- I like the monologue and "Headlines" (although the latter would get tiresome more than once a week). Conan can keep "JayWalking." The related Jeopardy for actual idiots bit is fun sometimes, though.

Paul Farhi: I'm interested to see what Fallon brings. He's a likeable personality. And you can't really judge by the first few shows. As Conan demonstrated, it takes months and months before these things really hit their stride.

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re: when they watch the Oscars, it's "family time": Mom and dad are watching, and the kids are in the same room but texting their friends about everything but the Oscars.

Paul Farhi: Funny you should mention that. My son was watching with us, but I use the word watching loosely. He spent most of the time on his laptop, glancing up occasionally.

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I have been watched TV for decades: and I just realized last night that NBC's peacock's feather colors are in the wrong order. The rainbow color order is Roy G. Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). But the peacock's feather color order is: yellow, orange, red, blue, violet, green.

Paul Farhi: Well, if you want to get literal about it, shouldn't the question be, what is/are the order of colors in a peacock's tail feathers?

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It's funny who Republicans will accept political speech from...: Rush Limbaugh was an unsuccessful top 40 DJ, as was Glenn Beck. Bill O'Reilly was the anchor of a Tabloid TV Show the equivalent of today's "TMZ on TV." God knows what Hannity was.

What makes these men more qualified to pontificate on political issues than Sean Penn or George Clooney?

Paul Farhi: Nothing, I guess; the First Amendment doesn't have a qualifications test (if it did, I'd be broke). But Rush, Hannity, etc. are paid to be political commentators; people tune into their shows with the expectation of hearing strong opinions, and in many cases, having their existing opinions validated. The same can't be said about Penn, et al. I mean, I'm not offended or anything, but I can see how some people would be. It's like watching a children's TV program and being hit over the head with a violent/sexy promo for another show. The audience has a certain expectation that is being violated.

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Washington, D.C.: It seems there's been too much lag time between Fallon on SNL and his new show. Will he be rusty? Will people have forgotten who he is?

Paul Farhi: Interesting question. One of many surrounding his show.

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Does Sean Penn and other lefties of his ilk realize : LOL, we don't have to take anyone seriously who uses the phrase "of his ilk"! Funny that someone making funny of Hollywood uses a phrase straight out of central casting for Casablanca.

Paul Farhi: Wait, you're saying "straight out of central casting for Casablanca" like it's a bad thing. Who wouldn't want to talk like Claude Rains or Bogie or Sidney Greenstreet? I WISH I were that clever...

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Atlanta, Ga.: Complaining that the Oscars are too long or that too many awards are given out to non-celebrities is like complaining that water is wet. At some point, the complainers have to come to the conclusion that the Just Don't Like the Oscars.

Paul Farhi: Hmmm. Where is it written that the Oscars must be 13 1/2 hours long? Where is it written that SOME tech awards get on the air but others are just too gosh darn boring for primetime? It's all very arbitrary. And in the interest of more entertaining TV, I'll take my arbitrary over someone else's. Apparently, so will you.

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Roy G. Bv: I suppose it's all relative, but "indigo" isn't really part of the spectrum. Isaac Newton needed another color because seven is a mystical number, so of course the spectrum should have seven colors in it.

Paul Farhi: Did not know that. You see? These chats are educational! And, oh, yes, there WILL be a final...

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Peacoc, KS: Surely the order of the NBC feathers has something to do with the old red-blue-green TV signal, right?

Paul Farhi: Surely, but I'm not sure at all.

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what is/are the order of colors in a peacock's tailfeathers: that would just be blue, green, teal, blue, green, teal...

Paul Farhi: Yeah, and that's not gonna sell color TVs (which is what I thought the colorful NBC logo was originally designed to do). Must have more colors!

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Penn's Speech: His first line about "you Commie, homo-loving sons-of guns" was an instant classic.

Paul Farhi: Liked that. Would have liked it even more if he'd used the word I think he was really thinking instead of "guns."

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The Airless Cubicle: I'll trade you a copy of the "Journalists' Groupthink Handbook" for a copy of the "Right Wing Conspiracy Merit Badge Book"!

Paul Farhi: Oh, I have that one, too. But super thanks for the offer.

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Anonymous: "He's apologized for this about a thousand times."

So what. It's unforgiveable.

Paul Farhi: Eh. The man was drunk at the time. It was way out of character (that we know of). I don't profess to know what's in his heart. But his apologies have seemed sincere. What else you want?

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Anonymous: Actually indigo was put so that we could make the name Roy G Biv, not Roy G BV

Paul Farhi: Haha. Maybe they should have put "ecru" in that slot.

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Anonymous: re: Penn speech -- yeah, or at least he could have said SOBs. Who says sons of guns? Oh no, mom and dad were guns!

Paul Farhi: SOB. Nice compromise. Earthy, without being vulgar.

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Jimmy Fallon: Cute as the dickens, but his best moments on SNL were doing Weekend Update with Tina Fey, who elevated his game considerably. He was sorta like Cupid, fluttering around with his quiver of arrows, while the true godess Athena regarded him with a skeptical, but affectionate, gaze.

Paul Farhi: Wow. Are you a humanities/classics major? I guess Lorne Michaels would be Zeus in this scheme. Who'd be Demeter?

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Arlington Gay: Massachusetts, where civil marriage has been available to all couples for years, has the lowest divorce rate in the country after (I think) D.C. The highest rates are in the southern Bible belt. Just sayin'...

Paul Farhi: Thank you for sayin'!

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Frederick, Md.: Speaking of staying up late...have you ever caught Red Eye on Fox? Opine please.

Paul Farhi: Are we talking about the Rachel McAdams movie? Pretty good up till the end, when it goes to pieces. Or something else? I haven't seen the something else.

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I Agree, Fallon Won't Last: Joel McHale (E's "The Soup" guy) would be an obvious successor. If he doesn't wind up at NBC, he'll land a CBS when they shuffle in a couple of years. (I know Letterman is talking about extending, but it seems to me, a longtime fan, that he has run out of gas and actually seems to be suffering weird memory lapses during the show.)

Paul Farhi: Love McHale. Show goes down easy with him on it. And, yes, he'd be a natural as host of a conventional network talk shows. But please don't take Letterman away. As he proved with the Joaquin Phoenix fiasco, he is still a National Treasure.

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"The man was drunk at the time": "The man was drunk at the time" is NOT an excuse for bad behavior. E.g., once upon a time drunk drivers used to get given a partial pass for that, but now they're held accountable. Same goes for Mel Gibson's drunken tirade (also Michael Richards').

Paul Farhi: Yeah, I hate the I-was-drunk excuse for horrible behavior, too. But difference between Gibson and Richards: Gibson was drunk and agitated and under arrest and in private. Richards was (apparently) not drunk and not in private and in fact in the middle of a performance that went on and on and on. Hard to call those equivalent circumstances.

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Anonymous: I have the odd sense that Hollywood supports gays, but not those in the closet. I'm formulating a theory as to why they didn't seem to embrace Brokeback Mountain as much as they did Milk.

Paul Farhi: Well, I'd like to hear your theory, but your comment is confusing. What or who was in-the-closet about Brokeback that Hollywood didn't "support"?

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Sean Penn's speech: I'd cut Penn some slack re his political comments because they pertained to the subject matter of his film. I think that makes a difference.

Paul Farhi: Yeah, not quite so jarring and out of left field that way. I sort of expected it, in fact. But that brings up another Hollywood vanity: The notion that because someone has played someone in a movie, they "speak" for the someone and/or his issues.

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Frederick, Md.: Wow, RedEye is a show on Fox News. Comes on at 3:00 a.m. Impossible to describe. You must give it a try. Very vulgar coming from a cable news site (well MSNBC at night can be considered vulgar).

Paul Farhi: Consider me tipped. And who among us doesn't love a good vulgar-news-show-at-3 a.m type of show?

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The "political speech" comment was intended more globally...: Than just the Oscars. I can see their point (to a degree, I would argue they wouldnt' care if it was a political point they agreed with), but more often than not (and several times in this chat) people have dismissed the opinions simply because these people are actors.

(sic) "I hate it when Hollywood types take up a cause and tell me about it."

That was my point - the qualifications for who is/isn't a credible source of political speech (in general) is largely arbitrary.

Paul Farhi: I've never had a problem with any actor or personality espousing a cause. That's their right. The problem (if it's a problem at all) is with the media. Why does the news media give Celebrity X a platform for his/her cause, at the expense of all the other worthy causes? Answer: Because it gets access to a celebrity that it would otherwise never have.

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Potomac, Md.: A couple of things:

Every single show on television and every single network on television has had its ratings drop, and it should be noted that that is across the board, morning, noon and night, broadcast and cable. So THAT argument about ratings is weak. Everything has weakened ratings -- everything. The previous poster is right: Enough with the snarky pre-show drumbeat of doom. Read Kenneth Turan's excellent piece today in The Los Angeles Times -- he says the exact same thing.

Hey, if you're not a film fan -- don't write childish, juvenile comments about the Awards. Same if you don't know anything about film -- just stay away. That's what Turan says today.

And everyone should know that you cannot make a film without editing, sound editing, sound mixing, cinematography, art direction, costumes, make-up, as well as lighting, camera work, electrical, props, accountants and special effects artists, as well as casting, location scouting, transportation and dozens of other filmic elements. Sound editing and cinematography are literally artwork -- and that is a fact. Really, people -- you can't make a film without good sound and good camerawork.

And have most people ever sat in an editing booth and tried to edit a film? No. Have most people been behind a camera and tried to film a complicated crowd scene or a complicated action set piece? NO? That's why everyone should try and appreciate the work that these artists do!

Making a film is a team effort -- and every part of that effort deserves to be recognized.

washingtonpost.com: Turan: Take your Oscar snark someplace else (L.A. Times, Feb. 24)

Paul Farhi: I'm fine with recognizing artistic contributions, all of them. Just not in primetime. Let's get real here: the Academy Awards are an annual TV show engineered to a) attract the largest possible audience, and b) to promote the movie industry. Everything else about them are up for grabs. If it were only about recognizing artistry, they wouldn't give out the technical/scientific awards two weeks before at a Holiday Inn in Santa Monica.

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Paul Farhi: Okay, let's let it lie there (I like it when I get the last word; so unlike real life!). But class will resume next week, at the usual time. Let's have at it again then. And if I were making an acceptance speech for this chat, I would say thanks to all of you. Until next time, regards to all! --Paul.

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