Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jokes on a plane

And yet another big flap over nothing – all the irate complaints to NBC over Conan’s LOST parody sketch that opened the Emmy egofest Sunday night. A commuter plane tragically crashed earlier in the day in Kentucky. Yes, the timing was unfortunate but there was certainly no malice on the part of the network or irresponsibility. And my guess is that those affected were not watching the Emmys (despite the promise of a Barry Manilow musical number).

People have to accept that sometimes these things just happen.

When I was on CHEERS we made a point never to make a name reference of someone who might be, well…in their “declining” years. We just knew that if we made a Rose Kennedy joke the night it aired there would be an interruption with word that she had just died. (And then of course there would be the Jewish guilt – surely the timing of our joke is what killed her.)

Also on CHEERS we had a big food fight in a Thanksgiving episode. Just as the show aired a big campaign to stamp out world hunger premiered. Ooooh, did we get shit. Of course, that episode has now rerun a gazillion times and there’s never a complaint.

And it’s worse when something is broadcast live. Every broadcaster has at least two anecdotes of unfortunate circumstances that led to embarrassing bloopers. One of my favorites is what happened recently during a San Francisco Giants radio broadcast.

The National Anthem is sponsored so they always tape it to play it back during their pre-game coverage. When their playback is done they just bring up the crowd mic. They were at Dodger Stadium one night, playing back the Star Spangled Banner while (unheard over the air) the PA announcer was giving the Giants’ starting line up. He got to Barry Bonds just as the anthem concluded. So the Giants’ radio audience heard this:

“And the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Either you send complaints to 50,000 people or laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Other than maybe radio shock jocks, no one purposely tries to be insensitive. If you want to complain to NBC about the Emmys Sunday night complain that it was boring. And that they never showed a close up of Kim Raver in that hot yellow dress. Don’t those heartless bastards care about their public at all???

17 comments:

DH said...

The fact of the matter is NBC was irresponsible in that the plane crashed in the early morning hours of Sunday and they had plenty of time to edit the opening of the show (it wasn't very clever to begin with), but chose not to. Do you think NBC would have gone with that same opening if the plane in question had been Dick Ebersol's where his son was killed back in 2004? You know NBC would have thought the show opening to be wrong in that situation and would have changed it. I suppose the forty plus deaths in Kentucky do not add up to a TV executive's son.

JE said...

Where is NBC supposed to draw the line for arbitrary sensitivity? Are they not supposed to mention cancer because someone (or a family member/friend/acquaintance) out there was diagnosed with cancer in the past day? Should NBC pull episodes of Law & Order simply because a murder occurred somewhere in the past day? Should Fox pull episodes of House every time someone dies in a hospital at a time proximate to the show's airing? Should the networks pull Almost Perfect because...well, bad example. That one's offensive to everyone.

And to the last poster: that's the most unfair form of argument I've ever witnessed. You presuppose a truth that may or may not be true, and then go on to comment and criticize as though that assertion was established fact. In fairness, we have no idea what NBC would have done with the Dick Ebersol plane crash so to criticize them for your hypothesis is just unfair. You can go ahead and have arguments with yourself all you like, but don't assert a hypothesis as truth; its just not productive or fair.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the world looks perfect. Nothing to rearrange. Yet sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change.

No matter what the odds are this time, nothing's gonna stand in my way. This flame in my heart, and a long lost friend, gives every dark street a light at the end.

Standing tall, on the wings of my dreams. Rise and fall, on the wings of my dreams. Rain and thunder, wind and haze, I'm bound for better days. (Ahhhhhh). It's my life, it's my dream.

Nothing's gonna stop me (from making plane crash jokes in front of Dick Ebersol).

-Conan O'Brien, 8/28/06 - Said to a lobby attendant at the Emmy's.

Damion Schubert said...

I love these stories. My favorite (which is only funny in retrospect) is the flap over "Another One Bites the Dust" playing on a radio station shortly after one of the DC sniper attacks.

Of course, the stadium employee that played "Rock You Like A Hurricane" when the New Orlean Saints visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Autumn is probably going to hell. http://sticksoffire.com/2006/01/05/rock-you-like-an-insensitive-galoot/

ChrisO said...

I would wager that less than 1 percent of the audience outside of Kentucky even thought about the plane crash while watching the opening.

And DH, in addition to your over the top outrage, as a practical matter, do you really think they could have just killed the opening without affecting the show? In addition to the fact that a chunk of time was scheduled for it, how much effort do you think had to go into filming bits with the casts of several hit TV shows? I doubt the critics would have thought the piece was so dispensable if he'd had anything to do with producing it.

DH said...

What I was doing was speculating what NBC might have done under the circumstances of the Ebersol plane crash.

By a show of hands it seems that you folks would agree that if Ebersol's plane had crashed and NBC went on to air a spoof of a plane crash that same evening, then it would be wrong for NBC to have dropped the piece because: 1.Few people would have been aware of the story 2.Ebersol most likely would not be watching TV that evening 3. A lot of hard work went into producing the piece.

Anonymous said...

If you go around looking for reasons to get offended, then you're going to find something. The Emmy spoof had absolutely nothing to do with the plane crash on Sunday. Seriously, if you have nothing better to worry about, then consider yourself lucky.

Julie Goes To Hollywood said...

Ken, Ken, Ken. Kim Raver is a bag of bones. I would have taken you for a Mariska Hargitay man. Oh how the might fall.

VP19 said...

The National Anthem is sponsored so they always tape it to play it back during their pre-game coverage. When their playback is done they just bring up the crowd mic. They were at Dodger Stadium one night, playing back the Star Spangled Banner while (unheard over the air) the PA announcer was giving the Giants’ starting line up. He got to Barry Bonds just as the anthem concluded. So the Giants’ radio audience heard this:

“And the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why do Dodger fans hate America?

On Nationals radio broadcasts, the announcers tell you who performed the anthem (a bit that is sponsored), but you never actually hear it played. Weird.

Anonymous said...

DH is one think skinned pair of initials, in't he?

It would be a better world if some crybaby mothersqueezers would just DEAL with stuff like this, instead of having to bawl their eyes out at even the most slight and accidental upsets. Jesus! Rub dirt in it and walk it off.

Marty McKee said...

I don't know how much play the Kentucky plane crash got in L.A., but it's quite possible nobody involved with producing the Emmy telecast even knew about the crash until late in the day, if at all.

Mary Stella said...

I love the Cheers food fight episode. Just when we thought we would finally see Vera's face . . . Splat!

David J. Loehr said...

As someone living in the Louisville, KY area and thus inundated with non-stop news coverage on the local level, I still didn't find anything wrong with the opening sketch. Yes, it was a tragic story, it was bad timing. But it was not malicious, it was not a sketch about understaffed towers or pilot fatigue or out-of-service runway lights or any of the many things that are apparently coming together in this story. It was a sketch about a show that began with a plane crash, an Emmy-winning best drama that had been shut out.

I suppose I could be offended every time I watch a procedural and think about the real people who are murdered in identical fashion every day. The "ripped from the headlines" aspect of some makes that easy. Is one life lost any less of a tragedy because of the circumstances of the loss? Should I stop watching "House" because someone I know died in a hospital? Should I stop watching "Lost" because planes crash? Or maybe because people get stranded on weird islands every day? Or should I stop because I'm bored with every serial but "24?" Tough questions.

Context is everything. (If quoting, that's the only line here worth taking out of context...)

Toby said...

I saw a similar situation about well-known people in their "declining" years happen in the comic strips a few years ago.

On the same day that Mother Theresa died, "The Piranha Club" showed her spending her retirement bungee jumping.....

The Master said...

It's quite clear how we're supposed to be nowadays. If one person in America has something bad happen to them, no one else in the entire country is allowed to enjoy themselves! 49 people died in that crash. We're all sorry about that, but the MILLIONS of people watching the Emmys get to still have their lives. I know I was supposed to spend the rest of the day - or is it a week? - being depressed about all these people I never met or know, but you know, people die in trgedies every day all over the world. You can lock yourself in a box and brood over it, or get on with life.
On the other hand, the previous week, I stubbed my toe, yet AMC still had the insensitive gaul to air "Misery", in which Kathy Bates smashed James Caan's foot with a sledge hammer. And they ran the movie twice. What an outrage. I'm so offended.

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John said...

The only think NBC probably should have done is given a heads up to their affiliate stations in Lexington and in Atlanta, the origination and destination points of the flight, to let then know what's coming, which would have given them a chance to opt out of showing the first minute or so of the broadcast if they thought there would be problems (so many of the smaller market stations often blow show starting times by 10-30 seconds to cram in an extra spot or news teaser that the viewers probably would have simply accepted it as a techincal glitch if the station dropped in as Conan was dropping in on The Office).