Paul Farhi on pop culture: Michael Jackson's 'This Is It,' poll, Bill Cosby wins Twain Award, more

Paul Farhi
Washington Post staff writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today's Topics: Michael Jackson may be gone, but the hype lives forever. Sony Pictures is touting his would-be concert film, This Is It, as a potential blockbuster, and the Hollywood press has been all too willing to play along. They've got to be kidding. Plus: Bill Cosby takes the Twain Prize (VIDEO), joining comedy's Mt. Rushmore.


Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and thanks for coming by...So, like every other semi-conscious mammal on the planet, I've had my fill of Michael Jackson and would be happy to ignore the release of "This Is It," his non-concert documentary film. But like everything associated with Jackson, the hype on this film, which opens tonight, has been so fascinatingly grotesque that it's hard not to pay attention.

Sony/Columbia, which reportedly paid $60 million for the rights to Jackson's rehearsal footage, is marketing "This Is It" like something out of an infomercial. Its message might be summarized as follows: Limited time offer! Act now while supplies last!

Sony has put the film into a "limited" two-week release--an old show-biz trick to create a sense of urgency and artificial scarcity. And so far, so good: The studio has gotten lots of ink from credulous Hollywood press outlets about all the sold-out "special previews" tonight. But of course they're "sold out." There are so few tickets available in the first place--a whole 3,000 for the VIP screening in Los Angeles--that a "sell-out" (wonder how many are actually freebies) was all but guaranteed.

Not much else is sold out, however. Go to any online ticket seller (Fandango, Moviefone, whatever) and plug in a Zip code for Los Angeles, one of the selected "preview" cities. You'll find lots and lots of tickets available, as my buddy Mark pointed out to me. Next, try finding a ticket for the "wide" release starting tomorrow. No problemo! Despite reports that "1,600" showings of the film are sold out, it's not exactly difficult to score a ticket to any show in any city (the 1,600 sellout figure, by the way, has remained suspiciously unchanged for a couple of weeks now).

Nevertheless, no less an eminence than Deadline/Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke bit hard on the big hype. Finke passed along predictions by unnamed AEG executives (AEG was promoting the Jackson concerts that never happened) that the film would make $250 million during its first five days of release. Puh-leeze. Here are a few reasons why it won't come close to that:

1) The most avid moviegoers--young people--tend to think of Michael Jackson as just a creepy weird dude. 2) No concert movie has ever approached those numbers. And "This" isn't even a concert movie; it's a rehearsal-for-a-concert movie; 3) It's a deadly time of year to release any movie (which is why studios release their schlockiest stuff right around now); 4) The film hasn't been screened for critics--a sure sign that something's very, very wrong.

One more question: If "This" were going to make that kind of money, why would Sony keep it in theaters for only two weeks? (Answer: Because "Two Weeks Only!" sounds better than "Two weeks only unless someone still wants to see it after two weeks, in which case we'll run it as long as we can").

I'm no prognosticator, but I feel pretty safe in venturing the following: MJ fanatics (and there are still a few out there, no doubt) will run to see this. But you won't be able to subpoena anyone else (as Jack Valenti used to say) to buy a ticket.

One more thing: Releasing this film less than four months after Jackson's sudden death is what people in Hollywood like to call an "homage." It's what you and I just call it "exploitive" and "ghoulish."

Your thoughts? See our handy-dandy online poll.

In other news: Bill Cosby received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center last night. Hard to question that; Cosby belongs on the comedy equivalent of Mt. Rushmore. My only question: Billy Crystal wins this thing before Cosby does? And Whoopi Goldberg wins it before either of them?

Okay, let's go to the phones.


Baltimore, Md.: Your poll doesn't really apply to me. I'm a huge MJ fan, but I have no desire to see this movie. I'm content with the playback in my head of the Jackson of the old days. Also, it's just too soon for this! The man has barely been laid to rest and here is a movie cobbled together of stuff we probably weren't supposed to see.

Paul Farhi: Good point. That's why it's called a rehearsal. It's practice. Would you want to see the Redskins' workouts instead of the games? Okay, bad question...Um...


Posting Early from Florida: Hey, Paul -- Next time you want to proclaim how NPR is middle-of-the-road, read this hilariously lily-livered Ken Rudin apology:

Weighing In On White House Vs. Fox News: An Apology (NPR, Oct. 22)

The guy had the audacity to call Obama's jihad against Fox News "Nixonesque" (which is very nearly perfect, by the way) and had to reverse course like the Ghost of Clinton Portis, just because the NPR audience didn't like it. How dare they be exposed to diversity of thought!

Paul Farhi: Well, it is Nixon-esque, so truth was/is a defense here. But again, I rise to NPR's defense. We're talking about NPR's audience, not NPR, per se, here. And NPR DOES have a large component of liberal listeners, who predictably took offense at the characterization of Obama's reaction to Fox News. But NPR ALSO has a very large fraction of conservative listeners, too. So, I won't defend Rudin's apology. But I still won't say NPR is liberal because of it.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: According to Elizabeth Taylor, the new Michael Jackson movie "is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen."

No question. Just putting this out there.

Paul Farhi: What's Liz Taylor's deal with MJ? Why were they such close friends? Never understood it. Was it the lost-childhood bond?


Washington, D.C.: Paul,

Any word on how the new WJFK sports-talk format is doing? How about the whereabouts of Mike O'Meara, et al? I stopped listening to the station. I can't imagine listening to hosts prattle on hour after hour with inane sports talk. I would much rather hear host prattle on hour after hour with inane pop culture talk.


Paul Farhi: Yes, the ratings suggest that WJFK has gotten more men to listen to the station since switching to all-sports in July. Which is good for its advertising sales. But overall, it (and ESPN980, the Dan Snyder-owned sports-talk station), is no more popular now than it was before it changed formats. Both stations are pretty static in the ratings, before and after.


Not at Fedex: I know somebody asks this every year, but why is it so hard for Redskins Radio to get synched up with the team's TV broadcasts? Heck, the radio network isn't even synched with itself -- the various (low-power) stations all seem to be on their own schedule, several seconds behind the TV picture. Why is it so hard to synch it all up? Is there some NFL rule against it? Some weird technical issue? Or is it just more Snyder incompetence? It just can't be that hard to get the words and pictures synched up.

Paul Farhi: Well, I've taken a run at this several times before, but I'll throw it out to our more technically minded chatters. Simple answer is that each broadcast/cablecast/satellite-cast has its own delay characteristics, depending on the nature of the transmission. And I guess we could extend that to the various radio stations--perhaps higher-powered stations (980AM) have a better/stronger transmission path than the lower powered stations in the network.


Baltimore, Md.: Paul: Loved the Bill Cosby piece, especially Cos asking you "Are you drunk?" when you asked him if he saved his granddad's quarters or spent them on ice cream. I know you mentioned I Spy, but I wonder if you talked about the show any further with Cosby? It was a real landmark -- first network drama with an African-American male lead. And I always understood that his friendship with Robert Culp endured -- I remember Culp guesting on The Cosby Show at least once as an old friend of Cliff's. Thanks. Bill Cosby's gift of gab: In his genes via a sock (Post, Oct. 26)

Paul Farhi: Thanks. He didn't, though mostly because I didn't ask him. But "I Spy" clips were featured prominently last night during the actual awards ceremony. Carl Reiner, one of the presenters, told a great story about auditioning Cosby for a guest spot on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," to play a black neighbor of the Petries (I think Cosby was on the show, but Reiner didn't say). Anyway, Sheldon Leonard, who produced the Van Dyke show AND "I Spy" asked Reiner afterward if Cosby could act. Reiner said yes. The rest is history: Leonard cast Cosby as Culp's co-star.


Washington, D.C.: Obama "Nixonian?" I believe that's the preferred adjective, or it was when I was growing up. Anyway, there is absolutely nothing Nixonian about what the White House is doing. Nixon and his cronies drew up a secret "enemies list" of media targets and planned to turn the FBI and IRS on them -- Watergate sort of short circuited that. By contrast, this administration has been very open in its contempt of Fox. And when you consider that this news organization spent an entire day covering, as news, Tea Party protests that were facilitated and in some cases hosted by its "opinion show" folks, I think the idea that they are a "fair and balanced" news network without an ideological axe to grind is risible beyond belief.

Paul Farhi: Fair point. There's nothing secretive about the Obama Administration's "war" (too strong a word, obviously) on Fox News. But why are the representatives of the most powerful man in the world picking on ANY news organization? Whether you agree with Fox News' coverage or not, it just seems wrong on many levels, and completely counter-productive. Ignoring Fox, or "correcting" whatever misinformation you think they're reporting, would seem to be the better response.


Norma Desmo,ND: I'm pretty sure the lovely Miss Taylor and the um, lovely Mr. Jackson, were engaged in one of the great logrolling partnerships of our time: "You're so beautiful!" "Well, you're so talented!"

Paul Farhi: Sure. But that seems to describe every relationship among Hollywood people. I mean, who disses anyone in Celebrityville? It violates the Famous People Code of Ethics. There is, or was, something more to the Liz-Michael relationship.


Nixonesque?: Really, Paul? Nixon's enemies list was secret, and he did things like using the IRS against them, among other illegal activities. Do you really think that compares to Obama publically calling out Fox and then snubbing them once? (After they snubbed him.) Please, let's save the -gate ending for a scandal that really merits it.

Paul Farhi: Right. Agree. As I said, "Nixon-esque" is over the top. Let's try a new coinage. "Peevish"? "Penny ante"? "Counter-productive"? "Stupid"?


Woodbridge, Va.: Have you seen the corny PSA on television that shows some fake looking 1960s hippies talking about osteoporosis prevention. The baby boomers sure have come a long way.

Paul Farhi: I feel bad for the Baby Boomers (and I'm sort of one--tail end). After cultivating the cult of youth (or having the news media and popular culture force that cliche on them), they are now being called out for getting old. Well, yes, Baby Boomers ARE getting old. What's the alternative?


Interested in working in the entertainment industry: Our child is interested in the industry so our viewing is more what goes into creating a concert and the jobs that are involved in creating a concert. Most people see "the concert" but never realize the grueling work that is involved in the back and the hundreds of jobs that are the backbone of any concert.

Paul Farhi: If they missed that message, they ought to have gone to FedEx Field for the recent U2 concert. Talk about a production! It took dozens of trucks and hundreds of people to haul in and set up the enormous set and video screens. But I wouldn't really get my hopes up about seeing the really mundane aspects of producing a concert in the MJ film. Mostly, it's going to be Jackson dancing and singing. The mundane stuff is going to be on the cutting-room floor because, um, it's boring.


Glen Burnie, Md.: How can we trust whatever Jackson ticket receipt numbers are put out? If distributors, sponsors, etc., distribute freebies, they'd likely pay for the tickets, take the charge-off as business expenses and report everything as gross sales. It might be equivalent to the sports practice of paid vs. actual attendance, except in this case you'd only show paid attendance.

Paul Farhi: Aye. Complicated subject. I've always been suspicious of reported box-office figures. First off, they are estimates and projections (the "weekend" figures come out on Sunday morning). Plus, there's always "Hollywood accounting" to make anyone skeptical. But cynicism aside, there IS some independence in the reporting. For one thing, theaters collect the money, and they're independent of the studios. The theaters and studios split the receipts so there are going to be people peering over other people's shoulders. And the studios have a reason to keep each other honest; they don't want to lose bragging rights ("The No. 1 film of the week!") to some movie that claims it did better business, without real proof. Even so, I'm still suspicious.


Albany, N.Y.: Crystal before Cosby -- This happened because Cosby declined the award for years; apparently the folks who honored Richard Pryor, the first recipient, threw around lots of profanity and Cosby said, "I will not be used, nor will Mark Twain be used, in that way."

Paul Farhi: Yes. But as I pointed out this morning, Cosby must have missed the award to George Carlin last year. Plenty of profanity there. Didn't seem to stop him from accepting this year.


Leesburg, Va.: Because lord knows no Republican presidents have ever railed about the "Liberal Media" before, right Paul?

This whole thing is silly, it's only a "big deal" because Fox won't shut up about it, and they won't shut up about it because it's good for ratings. "the news the president doesn't want you to hear!" etc...

Some aide made some off-hand comment about the legitimacy of one cable channel. It's not like there is some sort of concerted effort on the part of the administration to "take down" Fox News. Pretending like this is even close to anything like Nixon is laughable in its hyperbole.

Paul Farhi: Seems to me all presidents (and CEOS, and failing football teams, and anyone else who is constantly getting bad press) turn on the media at one time or other. This is the same thing. And, yes, it pays to keep it in perspective. Moreover, there's no doubt that this helps, more than hurts, Fox News. If the administration says there's smoke over there, people are going to hurry over to see the fire.


Marketing Department, Fox News Channel: Hi! We just wanted to thank the president for having his people talk about us so much. We just saw the new ratings, and now we're going to go roll around naked in a pile of money. C-Ya!

Paul Farhi: Yep.


Chicago, Ill.: Could the Dick Van Dyke episode have been the one where Greg Morris played the father of a baby Rob was (wrongly) convinced had been switched with his own at the hospital? I've read where Morris's appearance, and the fact that it got such a good reaction from the audience, led directly to Sheldon Leonard's being able to cast Cosby as the first black lead actor in a TV drama, I Spy, a year or so later. And Greg Morris wound up on Mission Impossible at about the same time.

Paul Farhi: Right. It was Greg Morris, not Cosby, who was cast in that Dick Van Dyke episode. Well, in any case, Cosby was on Reiner and Sheldon Leonard's radar screen from a very early date. And Cosby, who was already an emerging star by the time he was cast on "I Spy," benefitted enormously. The less talented Greg Morris benefitted somewhat.


nor will Mark Twain be used, in that way: Did Twain hate profanity?

Paul Farhi: Not that I remember. I think Cosby was essentially saying, "I won't let crude modern sensibilities trash a great American icon." Nice idea, but it seems kind of like a non-sequitur to me. I mean, Richard Pryor wasn't a great artist, too, because he used profanity?


Watergate Hotel: RE: "Nixonesque"

When Obama starts having FBI and CIA agents plot to murder journalists he doesn't like, then and ONLY then can you call him Nixonesque.

Presidents throughout history have had their feuds with news outlets, and that doesn't make those fueds improper, For example, FDR was famously unhappy with the Hearst newspapers in part because they used their near-monopoly to bury the story of a group of very prominent businessmen (of whom Hearst may have been one) trying to forment a military coup against FDR.

Did that make FDR "Nixonesque" ?

Paul Farhi: Whoa. Nixon plotted to murder journalists? He certainly used (or planned to use) the government to harrass journalists, but I don't recall anything about murder.


It might be equivalent to the sports practice of paid vs. actual attendance, except in this case you'd only show paid attendance. : Is this how the Skins can get away with saying the fan base is still strongly supportive?

Paul Farhi: I think the fan base IS strongly supportive, though extremely frustrated and angry. By all accounts, there was a full (or near-full) house last night. People 'round here love the Redskins. Even with a crummy team and a much-dislike owner, it's really tough to kill that loyalty and affection. Even this 2-5 team hasn't done that. Yet.


NPR isn't liberal: They had a feature called "This I believe" where people read essays about their beliefs, 99 percent of which were Christian.

Paul Farhi: How is being Christian tantamount to being liberal? Or conservative? I don't think Jesus registered his party affiliation.


Cos and cursing: I seem to remember Cos railing against the general trend of comedians relying on obscenities to get laughs. Not sure if he's against all profanity on principle.

Paul Farhi: I know he hated the first Twain Prize ceremony, not because of Pryor himself (Cosby always said he was a big fan of Pryor's), but because of all the swearing by the presenters. I'll note that the ceremony was carried on Comedy Central that year (it subsequently moved to PBS), and Comedy Central has a different, um, aesthetic than PBS. I guess Cosby's objections were a little hypocritical (he liked Pryor, but not profanity?). Maybe the only way to reconcile it is to say he objected to profanity from people less talented than Pryor. Or something like that.


Albany, N.Y., again: "Cosby must have missed the award to George Carlin last year. Plenty of profanity there. Didn't seem to stop him from accepting this year."

(a) It wasn't the profanity of the honoree so much as of the honorers. (Pryor was known to use a profane word now and again, but he didn't object to Pryor, only to the comics.)

(b) Obviously he changed his mind about it. (That 1998 event didn't get any less profane with the passage of time.) Is that hypocritical? Maybe, but that wasn't your question.

Whoopi Goldberg, I'm guessing, got her award for her Comic Relief work. Plus she was actually funny in her early standup days.

Paul Farhi: Yes, Comic Relief was a big part of it, but neither Crystal nor Robin Williams got a Twain Prize before Whoopi did. And to her credit, Whoopi made some popular comedies around the time she won ("Sister Act," for example). But my (unproveable) theory is that she won because the Kennedy Center needed to have a woman in the prize lineup. Whoopi and Lily Tomlin are the only women who have won the award in 12 years. Unless you want to give it to Joan Rivers, I guess there aren't many other female candidates.


re: Leesburg: "Some aide made some off-hand comment about the legitimacy of one cable channel." Actually WH aide Anita Dunn spoke with the Post's own Howie Kurtz for about 9 minutes (on Kurtz's weekend gig on CNN) about the shortcomings of Fox. Administration spokesmen have been repeating each other's lines on this for 2 weeks -- there was nothing off-handed about it.

Paul Farhi: For sure. It's a talking point of the Obama people. It comes up again and again. It's obviously important to them, because they keep talking about it.


The Airless Cubicle: Paul, before my late manager and friend passed away, I used to work weekends as a box office guy at an independent theater. The distribution companies (such as Sony) would charge us a flat fee up to X people and a percentage of the box office for X + Y. To double-check our figures, they would have 'counters' come and count the number of people sitting for one show and compare it with our box office report. At night we would send the figures to the companies. The companies would, in turn, provide the data to independent Web sites such as Box Office Mojo.

There really is no incentive to fiddle the figures. Everyone, including the theater chains is interested in how much the movie grossed, and if a company inflated its figures, then the movie theater chain bookers would take that into account in negotiating the next film.

Of course, with many companies, there was always horse trading between the local studio reps and the bookers: you take "Stinkeroony IV" for two weeks, and you can have "Hit III" as well.

Paul Farhi: Thanks, Airless! But I wonder: Given that "talent" works on a movie on a percentage basis (their salary is tied to a movie's gross, or net profit), isn't there a HUGE incentive to fiddle with the numbers? While bragging rights are important to a studio in the weekly box office rankings, so is the money they'd have to pay out if a film generates a certain amount at the box office. Plus, after the infamous Art Buchwald lawsuit, isn't everyone just a little skeptical about the way studios report their receipts?


This is it: They're using "Two Weeks Only" so they can save "Held Over!" for later. To be followed eventually by "Final Week!" (and perhaps "Held Over!" again).

Paul Farhi: Exactly! No point in taking Sony/Columbia to task for this, really. Someone invented this long ago. I bet the ancient Greeks were marketing their plays this way ("Aristophanes' Greatest Work! Last XVIII Performances!").


How is being Christian tantamount to being liberal? Or conservative?: I agree with you. But When Limbaugh types criticize NPR by calling it liberal, they fail to acknowledge that NPS airs lots of varied views. That's why I posted about the "THIS" feature, to show that their stories run the gamut of different beliefs and philosophies, NOT just limited to one. Dittoheads say NPR is god hating and that's NOT true.

Paul Farhi: Limbaugh's program isn't news, so you can't hold it to the same standards as NPR. But if it's diversity of thought, news and opinion you want, there's no contest. NPR every single time.


Paul Farhi: And the latest on today's poll: 70 percent don't care about Jackson's film; 22 percent are sort of interested, and the rest don't care. Also: Jackson is running way behind Sarah Palin in the 2012 Iowa straw poll.


Net Profit: No such thing, baby. Always take gross points.

Also, the studio marketing people pay dearly to the "Entertainment News" shows to have their movies lead the bandwagon effect: "Everybody's seeing that, so let's go see it."

Paul Farhi: Thanks. In all my movies, I've taken net. This explains my current financial state.


Twain on Profanity: "Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

Paul Farhi: Nice! Strong pull...


This Is It: Nevermind the hype, I can't get the Kenny Loggins song out of my head.

Paul Farhi: Oh! Didn't think of that. Now you've got me doing that, too...


Washington, D..C.: The Redskins had a full house last night because most tickets were purchased before the season started and some people will still take any opportunity to get stinking ugly drunk. As a former season ticket holder (and someone who doesn't mind a few drinks), that is a fairly accurate description of a large chunk of the upper bowl and the main reason I gave up my seats.

Paul Farhi: I have to agree with you. The atmosphere at NFL games (not just Redskins) is really ugly, even menacing. The yahoos act like THEY'RE on the team and seem ready to start butting heads. I know it's all talk and bluster, but it ain't that much fun. And I know it's just a few drunken cowboys, but I don't recall any other public event (sports or otherwise) that has such a crummy vibe.


Alexandria, Va.: "Supportive Fan base" -- I don't know about you, but I saw a lot of Eagles jerseys in that crowd last night. It seems to me that the supportive fan base sold plenty of tickets to out of towners supporting their team....

Paul Farhi: The guys on sports-talk radio this morning were buzzing about that. Their guesses were between 20 and 25 percent of the crowd were Eagles fans. I don't know what's typical. Is that high or low?


Alexandria, Va.: Did you see that today Microsoft pulled its ads from "The Family Guy" because it presented the wrong image that they wanted to be associated with? Had no one in the company or the ad agency ever actually seen the show? Surely they must have know what they were getting into!

Paul Farhi: Can't imagine why they suddenly got religion. Family Guy has been on the air since 1999.


Baltimore, Md.: Cosby and Pryor: In fact, according to a book on standup I read a few years ago, Cosby may have actually saved Pryor's life in Vegas when, in a manic state, the younger comic managed to get very much on the wrong side of some organized crime folks. Cosby, who was already a fixture in Vegas, said that he would make sure Pryor didn't do it again and so the wise guys eased off.

Paul Farhi: Wow! Interesting, if true. I just read Richard Zoglin's very good book about comedy in the 1970s, "Comedy at the Edge," and I didn't see that story in there. Nevertheless: Wow.


Savannah, Ga.: After the MJ movie has had its limited 2-week run (followed by the inevitable "3rd week added!"), it can go on a neverending "last dance" tour with Cher.

Paul Farhi: Haha! I hear Cher is planning her 42nd farewell tour. One decade only!


The Airless Cubicle: Paul, the Buchwald case was about profits, not box office revenue. Buchwald was promised a share of the profits for "Coming to America." Those never appeared. There's incentive for stars to get their money from box office receipts, but to cheat others with creative accounting. I wonder how they'd react to an IRS audit?

Of course, based on my experience, there was a strong correlation between box office figures and fannies in seats (and feet on top of seats). Another correlator would be the number of kids who tried to sneak into a film if it were R-rated.

Paul Farhi: Good distinction. The grosses reported each week have nothing to do with "profits," which, as the Buchwald case demonstrated, are a slippery thing in Hollywood.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Nixon killing journalists

G. Gordon Liddy, back when he had a radio show here (see? I knew we'd get back on topic) talked several times about a plot he was involved in to coat Jack Anderson's steering wheel with LSD in hopes that

A) he'd have a (hopefully fatal) car crash and B) the Toxicology results would permanently discredit his reporting.

Like Most of the "plumbers" actions it apparently never got beyond the planning stage, however.

One other point, Fox new's ratings are NOT going up, the are stagnating or actually shrinking depending on how you measure them. This meme about their "soaring" ratings seems to be wishful thinking rather than truth.

Paul Farhi: Well, whatever was Liddy cooking up in his fevered mind does not constitute a government plot, which is what we were talking about. And there's no record (that I know of) that Nixon was aware of such a crazy scheme.


Minnesota: Now that Kate Gosselin has given her "last" J and K + 8 interview from the you think these two exploitive idiots are going to "die" out of the public eye? Then again People magazine says Kate wants to become an actress now! (SOS, PLEASE)

Paul Farhi: I would have thought the media would have grown tired of Jon and Kate's not-very-interesting soap opera long ago. But I'm wrong. Probably because I know nothing about the soap-opera-craving demographic (and you know who you are).

_______________________ This Is It: Kenny Loggins (YouTube)


Baton Rouge, La.: I know it's all talk and bluster, but it ain't that much fun. And I know it's just a few drunken cowboys, but I don't recall any other public event (sports or otherwise) that has such a crummy vibe.

How about a health-care town hall?

Paul Farhi: Ha! Well, you didn't see them on TV, but MOST of those town halls were civilized, thoughtful, important and dull (which is why you didn't see them on TV in the first place).


Ugly NFL crowds: Used to be that way at British soccer matches. Then they raised the prices (mid level seats are $100), which got rid of the thuggish crowds. And, they banned beer in the stands.

Paul Farhi: Banning beer at NFL games would solve about 97 percent of the thug (and vomit) problem. But then, NFL teams would lose significant revenue (only $8 a beer! what a bargain!). So we can't have that, can we?


Harrisburg, Pa.: It could also mean that "This Is It" could be spun as 'going according to plan', in that even if it underperforms (which it probably will), it will still be pitched as a hit b/c of the VIP sellouts, and the real money will be made in packaging it to Viacom. The heirs will still make their coin, ratings will be big, and a certain columnist can still say "TOLDJA!".

Paul Farhi: But they've already raised expectations for it to (probably) unsupportable levels. If they're talking about $250 million gross in five days, and it doesn't do that, then it's not "going according to plans" no matter what.


And there's no record (that I know of) that Nixon was aware of such a crazy scheme. : Was Nixon even aware of the Watergate break-in during the planning stage? I thought he was just involved in covering it up after the fact, but the he wasn't involved in planning it.

Paul Farhi: Fair enough. Did Nixon try to cover up Liddy's alleged plot? No record (again that I know of) of that.


Fox "News" Isn't: Have you ever seen the morning show there, where is labeled as "news"? The hosts on the couch spent 8 years just parroting Bush administration press releases and saying what wonderful things would come about as a result of them, and then they would report what the Democrats were saying or doing and just sneer.

Paul Farhi: I don't think Fox News hides its conservative opinions...on its opinion shows, which "Fox & Friends," the morning show, apparently is one. Its news reporting, on the other hand, is mostly defensible. Its reporters do play it reasonably straight.


Twin Cities, Minn.: RE: SNL being the stalest (sp?) show on air...TRUE has been (no pun intended) since it was actually last broadcast LIVE, or when Carvey, Murphy or Myers were last a part of the cast. Stick a fork in SNL its been done for at least 1.5 decades.

Paul Farhi: Disagree. The same thing has been said about SNL every year for the past 30-plus years: It's not as funny as it used to be. Well, it isn't. Until it is. The great thing about the show is that something great always comes along sooner or later. Sometimes it's later, rather than sooner, but they do get there. That's why I keep watching.


Paul Farhi: Folks, that's all the time I have for this week. But there's more to come next week. In the meantime, someone please do us all a favor by seeing the Michael Jackson movie (preferably in ultra-hideous IMAX format), and report back in. We'll be sure to take your word for it because most of us aren't going. In the meantime, as always, regards to all!....Paul.


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