Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Looking back (already) at 2012

My final thoughts on New Year's weekend:

Your choices for watching the ball drop in Times Square were three variations of painful.

NBC had Carson Daly. I ask this every year? Why???? This guy has no apparent talent. He’s not funny. He’s not edgy. He’s not popular. He can’t sing. He can’t dance. He hasn’t won a reality show. He can count backwards. That’s pretty much it. And every year NBC goes with him and every year he gets slaughtered in the ratings. Why not let the cast from SNL host? Or an NBC Page. Anybody but a faint imitation of Ryan Seacrest. I didn’t watch this. I never do.

Option two is Ryan Seacrest. ABC’s NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ EVE. The big attraction here is Dick Clark – a once giant in television now crippled by a tragic stroke. It is impossible to watch him now without squirming. And yet, year after year he insists on appearing, and year after year the numbers go up. I guess ghoulish curiosity is a big ratings grabber. Do people tune in specifically to see a train wreck? We won’t know until the year he’s no longer on, but I bet the ratings plummet once he’s gone. Because otherwise, what do you have? A better Carson Daly vamping, idiotic correspondents conducting mindless interviews with goofballs in Times Square (where is Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog when we need him?), and musical guests that were taped last summer. I didn’t watch this either. Not this time. I figured, why go into the year hating myself?

Option three: CNN. This I did unfortunately watch. Oy. Poor Anderson Cooper. He spends years in the field, covering the horrors of Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda. He overcomes being the host of THE MOLE and rises to a certain level of journalistic credibility. He anchors the news for CNN and contributes to CBS’s 60 MINUTES. And then, every New Year’s Eve, he’s asked to put on a clown hat and co-host New Year’s Eve coverage with Kathy Griffin. Imagine if in the olden days CBS had paired Walter Cronkite with Gallagher or Edward R. Murrow with Judy Tenuta.

It was hard to watch. Kathy Griffin does say some funny things but a little of her goes a long way. And by a little I mean, two minutes. Anderson Cooper has no idea how to deal with her. Ad libbing and being witty are not his strengths. You could almost see the thought bubbles over his head. “What the fuck am I doing here?” “How damaging to my career would it be if I just hauled off and beat the living shit out of her on camera?” and “How much of a career boost would it be if I just hauled off and beat the living shit out of her on camera?” At one point Kathy stripped down to her bra. Class-eee. If only the big furry coat that appeared moments later was placed over her head instead of on her body I think CNN might have found the winning formula.

Since New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday, the parades and bowl games were held back to January 2nd. Why? Is there some religious reason floats can’t go down a street on a Sunday? Is it disrespectful to some God to stage college football games? The NFL didn’t seem to give a shit. They played a full schedule and to my knowledge no one in the National Football League went to hell, although Tim Tebow did lose to the Chiefs.

I wonder how many idiots in LA on January 1st got up at 4:00 in the morning and went down to Pasadena expecting to see the Rose Parade? 5,000? Half a million?

The actual parade was held on Monday.  The weather was glorious! Remember we get earthquakes out here. (SoCal is too damned crowded as it is.) But it was a smaller parade. The bad economy has taken its taken its toll. Some of the local communities like Long Beach did not enter a float this year – which was a first. But when cities are struggling to maintain decent fire and police departments it’s hard to justify several million dollars for roses and glue.

Like everyone else, I watched local channel KTLA’s coverage, hosted by Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards. I believe their feed was syndicated and many other markets received it as well. In Los Angeles, KTLA’s coverage beats everyone else’s combined. Bob & Stephanie are what Anderson & Kathy hope to be. They tease each other, they describe the scene, and they project the illusion of chemistry although I bet they don’t even know where each other lives. A few years ago KTLA booted Stephanie off to go with someone younger and the push back was enormous. The station claimed it had nothing to do with age but the male anchor wasn’t replaced, just the female. And the truth is, nobody – male or female – is as good a parade commentator as Stephanie Edwards. Not that that's such a marketable skill.

I always thought if I ever went on unemployment and didn’t want anybody hounding me about whether I made enough of an effort to find work that I would list my profession as “Parade Host”. If the state could find me a gig doing that, great!

Since when did the Rose Parade begin with a tacky production number? It’s hard to imagine the traditionally conservative planning committee saying, “We’ve got to do something. The parade is not gay enough!”

My favorite float was the one featuring the organ transplant survivors. That was very cool.

Least favorite: the Paramount Pictures float. The studio makes its secretaries pay for parking but spends millions on a stupid float.

It seems like every float won an award. Even the City of Long Beach won the coveted “Amelia Earhart Trophy.”

After the parade, Occupy protesters unveiled their float: a 70-by-40-foot octopus made of recycled plastic bags that represented Wall Street's stranglehold on political, cultural and social life, with tentacles "that reach into your pocket to get your money and a tentacle to get your house." I was hoping Miss Long Beach could hop a ride but alas there was nowhere to stand.

Tweet from my son, Matt: Twelve bowl games on TV today and all I can think is "when to pitchers and catcher report"?

As for the Rose Bowl -- it was 80 degrees outside and Brent Musburger was announcing. Who won?

New Year’s Day (or, in this case) the day after New Year’s Day is just not complete anymore without the Orange Bowl. It’s been moved to a later date. The Orange Bowl halftime show was always my highlight of the holiday season. So incredibly garish and over-produced, it is in its own way poetic. Imagine the Celine Dion Vegas show, Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, Snow White production number from the Oscars, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Kardashian wedding, and the best of every Lady Gaga concert all smashed together. That’s 10% of what the Orange Bowl halftime show is like.

Happy New Year to everyone. Bob & Stephanie – take the rest of the year off.


Jer said...

? Is it disrespectful to some God to stage college football games?

Um yes. It shows disrespect to the Great and Powerful God NFL - who DEMANDS his worshipers observe his Holy Day of Sunday and bow down before no other gods on that day. And so his High Priests among the Team Owners and the Media Corporations have Signed Agreements (possibly in blood - who knows?) to the effect that lesser gods like NCAA shall not be shown worship on the Holy Sundays when NFL is worshiped.

NFL cares little for the parades and floats, only the bloodsport in the arena itself concerns Him. But the parades and floats are part of the worship of NCAA and its year end festivities, and so they must be moved to accommodate him. Such is life.

Mike Botula said...

Amen, Ken. Amen. New Year's Eve in Times Square hasn't been the same since Guy Lombardo played "Auld Lang Syne."

Mary Stella said...

I'd never watched the CNN coverage before but I tuned in because they were also doing live bits from Key West. I've worked with the crew who were filming. Any town can drop a Waterford crystal ball. Only Key West lowers a drag queen in a giant stiletto.

Kathy Griffin needs to learn that less is more. She never shut up so on the rare times that she said something funny, I almost missed it.

For that one night of torture a year, Anderson definitely deserves combat pay.

RS Gray said...

I was going to go to sleep at ten. Nothing of what I saw from CNN or from Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve - Kathy Griffin, Ryan Seacrest, Fergie, animatronic overtanned Crypt Keeper Dick Clark, Dark Helmet Lady Gaga, the wack-ass Broadway Green Goblin (equal parts Grinch and Oogy Boogie), the never-ending ads for the incomprehensibly-not-cancelled-yet Workin' It - made me think I shouldn't have.

MikeFab said...

I agree with you Ken...spring training sure sounds good right now. These mostly boring college bowl games started about 3 weeks ago, (34 of them I think), and we still have another week of them to endure. And I actually like football, as long as it's not overdone like Kathy Griffin. And don't forget the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. And when oh when are the car companies going to quit playing Christmas commercials. Sheesh, It's January third. Give it a break.

Ahh...the sounds of balls on leather gloves and the crack of a wooden bat almost makes me giddy.

Anonymous said...

My only thoughts on times square coverage..pathetic & cringe worthy!!

Michael said...

First, the Tournament of Roses committee says the parade wasn't held on Sunday the first time that problem came up because the horses outside of the churches would have been disturbed. I have my doubts, but if so, I like that. After all, the Rose Bowl is older than the NFL.

Second, I didn't watch any of them, but I did go to You Tube and find two kinescopes of Guy Lombardo. He once said that when he died, he was taking New Year's Eve with him. As Ken's review shows, he did.

Chad said...

I guess my question would be why mark the coming of the new year by watching TV at all?

Tom Quigley said...

Ken said...

It seems like every float won an award. Even the City of Long Beach won the coveted “Amelia Earhart Trophy.”

I thought that award usually went to any float which disappears somewhere between the parade route and Pasadena High School...

Mark said...

I have to admit that Dick Clark jokes would be funnier if I didn't have a stroke survivor in the family.

It looked like Lady Gaga was performing live in Times Square when I tuned in to New Year's Rockin' Eve. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it did happen.

I know it's a joke, but did people really show up in Pasadena on Sunday morning? Because that is easy to believe.

BigTed said...

The ridiculous thing about the Times Square ball drop here on the West Coast is that they air it three hours after it actually happened. What's the point, then? It's bad enough that we don't get to see some live events that are filmed here in L.A. when they actually occur.

At least some cable channels give us live programming, presumably because they can't afford a separate West Coast feed. You could have seen New York in real time on MTV -- if you didn't mind spending an hour with 20-year-old rock stars who look 12, and who probably still have contracts with the Disney Channel.

Roger Owen Green said...

I DID see the CNN coverage for about 7 minutes this year at someone else's house. It was the first time, and it WILL be the last. Awful.

By Ken Levine said...


Show me in my piece where I make a Dick Clark joke. I believe I take shots at everything BUT Dick Clark.

ElizabethH said...

I watched the parade with Hal Roker, who is able to sound genuinely enthusiastic about every single float, marching band, mayor, dancing mascot and stupid, corporate-placement product he had to announce. He was paired with a gorgeous woman I've never seen before, who didn't have much to say except to comment on the weather. Which we all know was FABULOUS! Did you know that last year it was really, really cold? And they must have said 10 times that they had "the best seats in the house!" Well, yeah, you're supposed to. You're The Announcers, for pete's sake. At one point she mentioned "roses & lima beans," which Hal jumped in to cover: all the floats must use organic material, blah blah blah. Anyway, at one point, she seemed to be launching into a long commentary, only to stop short after "Isn't it amazing?", leaving Hal staring at her, grinning in anticipation, and then looking at the camera, speechless as well. It was hilarious. Meanwhile, every 20 minutes or so I'd announce that I'd had enough, but couldn't ever quite look away. But I somehow missed Lubbock High's marching band. A hometown band!

Tim W. said...

I've never understood why Kathy Griffin has ever had a successful career. Being loud and obnoxious isn't funny unless you also say funny things, which she doesn't. I remember when she appeared on Seinfeld and I wondered why on earth Jerry would think she was funny enough to give her a break.

As for the Rose Bowl parade, I've never understood how you can combine a violent sport like football with a flowery version of the Santa Claus parade. Personally, I've never understood the attraction to watching a parade. Look there goes someone I don't know! And why do the people wave? What's the point of that?

D. McEwan said...

There are people who actually spend New Year's Eve watching TV? This was my 62nd New Year's Eve, and it was the 61st New Year's Eve that I not spend watching a TV show.

(One year, I watched The Tonight Show on New Year's Eve for two reasons: 1. Dame Edna was their live correspondent in Time's Square, and 2. I wasn't watching on TV, I was in the studio audience, having gone to a lot of trouble to be there. Since they wanted to go LIVE to Time's Square, the show taped at 8:30 PM LA Time, hours later than usual, so we had a looooonnnnnnng wait in line. I had gone to that trouble because Dame Edna was on the show. Only when I got inside, after about 9hours in line - I wanted, and got, a front row seat, but it meant 9 hours in line - did I learn that Edna was in New York,not Burbank. Oh well, Phil Hartman was on the show too, and it was the only time I ever got to see him work live.)

Of course, I never watch fotball at all, New Years or any other time. As for the Rose Parade, the last time I saw it on New Year's Day was 1986. Four months later I got my first VCR, and although I always watch the Rose Parade, now it's always a few days or weeks later, on some slooooow TV evening. At least once, I didn't get to it until February. Who gets up the morning after New Year's Eve at about the time most people are going to bed to watch the Rose Parade, when it can sit on the DVR until a less-inconvenient time slot?

In 1971, for a Whittington-filling-in-for-Ralph Story gig, I got to share a dressing room at KABC with Stephanie Edwards, who was very nice, and quite pretty back in 1971.

WV: "tholdies" What a nostalgia radio station plays when it's running out of "e"s.

Anonymous said...

I like Kathy Griffin, and have for years…but I agree that the CNN NYE fest is painful to watch.

That freeform stuff is not her strong point - and quite frankly, it's not fun or compelling coming from anyone.

Part of it is that she normally has a "blue" act and when she has to keep it clean she amps up in other areas. Not working, though.

D. McEwan said...

"Mary Stella said...
Kathy Griffin needs to learn that less is more. She never shut up so on the rare times that she said something funny, I almost missed it."

But you see, in ad-libbed material, Griffin has to keep chattering, because the more she says, the higher the chances that something funny might get said, even if only by accident. As a stand-up doing written material, she can edit out the 95% of lines that don't work. But when improvising, she has to run her mouth, knowing that, if it's a good night, one remark in 20 might be funny. Hey, it's a higher average than Anderson Cooper hits. And after all, she knows she working for folks so bereft of a social life that they're home watching TV on New Year's Eve, so what does it matter?

Joey H said...

Don't forget that even Murrow had to host "Person to Person", including taking into the home of Eva Gabor.

te said...

Ken Levine said...
Show me in my piece where I make a Dick Clark joke.

I think this may be what he had in mind:

"Option two is Ryan Seacrest. ABC’s NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ EVE. The big attraction here is Dick Clark – a once giant in television now crippled by a tragic stroke. It is impossible to watch him now without squirming. And yet, year after year he insists on appearing, and year after year the numbers go up. I guess ghoulish curiosity is a big ratings grabber. Do people tune in specifically to see a train wreck? We won’t know until the year he’s no longer on, but I bet the ratings plummet once he’s gone..."

Maybe not "jokes" by some people's definition, but I can see why people living with stroke survivors might be taken a bit aback.

YEKIMI said...

Hell, dig up Guy Lombardo, prop him up in front of a podium with a baton in his hand and I'd tune in to that over these train wrecks that currently host these New Year's Eve/Day shows.

Matt Patton said...

Went to the gym yesterday morning, so I missed the Rose Bowl Parade -- sorry to hear they put in a ghastly musical number. What do they think they are are? The Macy's Parade? Beside, on a weekday, the only thing that we must watch (well, my mother must watch) is The Closer. Which is more fun that a parade, anyway.

Ref said...

Guy Lombardo ran that gig a lot longer than he had any right to. Big bands are dead. Not knockin' Guy, who I used to enjoy, but nobody would watch a comparable show today.

I don't care if she's not "young." Stephanie Edwards is still hot.

Cap'n Bob said...

Does the name Morty Gunty resonate with anyone? He did the sorriest New Year's Eve broadcast in the history of TV around 1965.

sanford said...

There is no way the Bowl games could compete with the NFL. I don't know what the per centage is for ESPN and ESPN 2 coverage in the country. What ever it is they would have lost viewers to the NFL. I am sure the Dallas - Giant game would have out drawn the fiesta bowl, even though that game was way better

blinkytoo said...

Who is Carson Daly?
Who is John Galt?
Who cares?

Maybe to keep the tradition alive they will do the head of Dick Clark like on Futurama.

Tamarack said...

Did you see the Pulaski WI marching band? After "On Wisconsin" they stopped in the street and did a rousing rendition of "Union Maid." The announcers didn't get it, didn't mention it, but it was fantastic.

pumkinhead said...

Okay, I'll admit it. I enjoy Kathy Girffin at times, although I can't really comment on how she is on CNN since I don't watch the CNN New Years show. I will say this much, however. Kathy Griffin is not really a joke-teller. She is a story-teller, and a really good one. When you see her live and she tells stories, she is very funny. Maybe the CNN show is not the best place for her particular talents, I don't know.

I did happen to catch a moment of her on CNN a year or two ago though. I recall she yelled at a heckler, "hey, I don't come to where you work and knock the dicks out of your mouth." I admit I found that amusing.

DyHrdMET said...

a few points about New Year's...

Credit NBC for at least trying. CBS didn't even try. I remember years when Leno and Letterman were both live (granted, not on a Saturday night). NBC should have gone with a live SNL staged in Times Square or outside at 30 Rock. I watch ABC just to see if they added subtitles for Dick Clark. He looked good.

I think the College Bowl games didn't want to compete with the NFL, but since ESPN took them all over, they hardly compete with each other (what, it ends in 9 or 10 days?). But NFL is God, and you don't compete with God. But it just didn't feel right to have "New Year's Day (observed)".

If Long Beach, CA, is struggling and can't enter a float, I'm sure if they sent a real live fire truck instead, they'd get a good ovation (my local parades always had that).

I do enjoy seeing Bob Eubanks (still looks the same as I remember him hosting game shows 25 years ago) for the 10 minutes that I actually watched the parade. I saw him on Hallmark Movie Channel (insert joke here). I'd like to see you and your writing partner hosting the parade on Comedy Central.

Paul Duca said...

The biggest challenge supposedly for Anderson Cooper was being raised by Gloria Vanderbilt. I read in a Truman Capote biography how Anderson's father confided to him that he feared for both his sons if he didn't see them to adulthood--he died when they were teens (it also said Gloria married him on the rebound, after she failed to snag Nelson Rockefeller).

And may I remind you, Ken, that it didn't bother Elizabeth Montgomery to work on Monday as co-host of ABC's coverage of the 1967 parade.

As for me, I rang in the New Year with RichBroRadio...instead of "Auld Lang Syne", it was "Get On Up" by the Esquires.
(those were nice comments about him you put on Reelradio).

Johnny Walker said...

Ah, the Rose Parade. It's been many years since I attended, but I feel very lucky I did it, at least once.

cshel said...

The only thing that would be more pathetic than those New Year's Eve shows would be me watching them, so I don't. I'm very sympathetic, but it IS intensely uncomfortable to watch Dick Clark now. He should just attend as a guest and say hi to the camera. If it were me, I'd hate to think I was putting people through that.

I like Kathy Griffin, I think she's funny, but I have not seen her on that show, and I totally get that people could find her incredibly annoying. But Anderson Cooper likes her.

I also don't watch the Rose Parade, so I had no idea it was held on Monday instead of Sunday. Although I was glad Stephanie got her job back, whenever that was. People could just tape the parade once, and watch the same one over and over every year. I bet they would not even remember the queen and her court, until about the fifth year.

Anonymous said...

Didn't watch the parade. I usually like to see if the St. Louis float is a good one and won an award. Unfortunately, for the first time since 1953, the Clydesdales were not in the parade. So I said screw it.

Pam aka SisterZip

VP81955 said...

At one point Kathy stripped down to her bra. Class-eee.

Some of us might deem Kathy Griffin funny (although, like Betty Hutton, a little of her goes a long way), but sexy? 'Fraid not. If she's invited back next year, hope the weather in Times Square is a few degrees colder and Kathy, using common sense for once, decides not to give us a glimpse of her lingerie.

wv: "shref" -- in which a certain beloved ogre decides to explore Wolfgang Puck's turf.

Tyler said...

The NCAA and the NFL have an agreement that college games aren't played on Sundays once the NFL season starts. Since the last week of the NFL regular season fell on Sunday, the NCAA was required to move their games to Monday. That's why the bowl games were played on the 2nd istead of New Year's Day.

Anonymous said...

My favorite float was the one from Donate Life, too. My sister works for them as a volunteer coordinator here in Washington. You can check their website if you want to know more about the families. It's a really awesome experience for them. I'm very proud of my sister and her work.

Anonymous said...

Re: Rose Parade - Am I the only person who saw actual LIVE elephants in the KTLA broadcast? There were 6 or 8, and the last two were pulling a float. When I watched the recroding the next day that footage was no longer included. Bob Eubanks was explaining that the eephants had to be kept away from the horses because the smell frightened them.

Please, someone tell me they saw this too- they were NOT PINK elephants! Please tell me the name of the float, or something! I was surprised to see real elephants since PETA had protested Glendale's float featuring a pretend happy circus elephant!

Curt Alliaume said...

- One of Walter Cronkite's first big gigs -- around 1955 or so -- was hosting a CBS morning show with a puppet named Charlemane. Thus inaugurating a long, ignoble history of unsuccessful CBS counterprogramming to "Today."

- I agree about Bob and Stephanie. They're both experienced at ad libbing and reading a script without making it sound like they're reading. In NYC, we didn't have the KTLA feed as an option until the early '90s, but we usually went with NBC (hosts who could make conversation) rather than CBS (readers).