RSS

Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Where Have All The Good Hosts Gone?

TV - Mike Douglas, James Earl Jones, Ray Charles - 19740204

Does anyone remember Mike Douglas? Not Kirk’s son, but the singer, or more to the point the talk show host. If you’re old enough to know what the dial is in “don’t touch that dial” you remember talk shows. There were the urbane slightly sexy late-night variety, that is still offered, though diluted, today. Mike and his contemporaries; Dinah Shore and Merv Griffin were on during the daytime hours. They had each been singers during the big band era and were all incredibly affable.

Each weekday, Mike, Dinah and Merv would host guests, sing a little tune and perhaps perform in an iffy sketch. But it was the guests one really tuned in for. The known and unknown would flock to the couches (and chairs) to chat. Maybe they would perform a bit, but mostly they were there to chat. There was nothing being sold or pitched or positioned. The host (whether M, D or M) would engage the guest (as a good host does) and entertain us with their conversation. The guests were incredibly varied and included political and controversial figures (they also included dancing dogs.) Many of the guests were boldfaced names of Broadway and Hollywood. Others were simply great conversationalists. Some guests were clearly friends of M, D or M, some just dropped by while passing through town. The guests would not then reappear spouting the exact same quips on the couch of the remaining M, D or M. There wasn’t a circuit being run guided by handlers.

Daytime television has changed much over the decades. The popular rhetoric is that people are not home during the day to watch television. But of course this does nothing to explain the spate of news-lite talk shows. For at least a decade the networks, and others, have filled their morning programming with chattering, relatively unscripted talk shows. There are usually a gaggle of hosts sitting around drinking out of large mugs and perhaps a guest drops by to sell his/her wares. There are a small handful of afternoon talk shows built around a host. Every pilot season a new “oh is that what happened to him/her?” celebrity is packaged and (hopefully) sold as a talk show host. Some find their groove some do not. It hardly matters for the guests are exactly the same on each and every show. The questions asked are the same (as written and contracted by handlers) the answers and ‘ad libs’ are the same. The movie, book, show, image, is pitched, the host fawns and everyone goes home happy. You could spend a week clicking the remote and see and hear the exact same thing on each and every show. There is no longer a place for Tiny Tim (look him up), Norman Mailler, a yogi, Martin Luther King Jr., Liberace, Truman Capote or Spiro Agnew (look him up) on the couch, unless of course they were selling their reality show.

Is memory rose colored? One would desperately hope. Who wants to spend their later years remembering anything but hazy romantic perfectly lit moments? But even if the memories are completely faulty and that of a child, even if Minnie Pearl was in fact selling a line of hats, wouldn’t it be grand to have Mike, Dinah and Merv back on the air? How much more entertaining would it be to hear extended conversations without being sold anything besides soap and canned soup? Wouldn’t it be fun to see stars of yesteryear and the yet undiscovered side by side? How interesting would it be to hear from actual writers and artists and even politicians? And to have all of it delivered with a thousand watt smile and a song? Don’t touch that dial.

Merv Griffin Show Theme Song

Advertisements
 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We, The People

45th President

Our 44th President of the United States celebrated his (second) inauguration today. An African-American president (re)elected to the highest office in the land is something to note. That today is also a federal holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is poetic. Hopefully the overwhelming significance of this occurrence is lost on the youngest generation of Americans. But for some of us it is simply breathtaking. If you are old enough and young enough you were taught about the civil rights movement by teachers who were in the fight. You listened to a scratchy recording of the I Have A Dream Speech played by a teacher who had been there. You may have witnessed (through child’s eyes) the placards and marches for E.R.A. and the first stirrings of gay liberation. To have one’s first understanding of civics to be that of exclusion and assassination is profound.

Fast forward to today: a day when the Vice President of the United States was sworn in by Justice Sonya Sotamayer (an Hispanic woman), the inaugural invocation was given by Myrlie Evers (the widow of Medgar Evers) and the inaugural poem was written and read by Richard Blanco (an openly gay Cuban.) The master of ceremonies for this great event was Senator Chuck Schumer (a Brooklyn Jew.) Have we covered all hues of the rainbow?

It is easy and human to be frustrated by what often feels like glacially slow progress. We know what is right and grow impatient seeing it become a reality. But today, and perhaps only for today, all things seem possible. That a president of the United States of America would mention Stonewall in an inaugural address is simply awesome. That Stonewall is (finally) said in the same breath as Selma and Seneca Falls is remarkable. That it was said by a 51-year-old President is not surprising. My guess is that he too was taught about the fights of the 1960s by those who had fought. I’ve often wondered what happens to a generation born into a rash of assassinations, college takeovers, and fire hoses. Today I finally have the answer: they grow up to lead the free world.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A New Year’s Resolution

confetti

January is not the cheeriest of months. Unless you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in an exceptionally festive manner, there’s not much to break up the long cold dark month. February has Valentine’s Day, March has St. Patrick’s Day and (depending on the year) some festive religious holidays. April has hope that the winter is over, and so on. But January is tough. It lands right at the shortest day, longest night time of the year and after months of anticipation of frivolity. Depending on the degree of anticipation or frivolity, January 2nd can be quite the bummer.

The noisemakers have hushed, the streamers swept and the glitter has flaked from our party hats. The decorations have been put back or tossed and it’s just the same old home again. Gone are the pretty distractions and “I’ll think about it tomorrow”-ness. We look around and the world (our own and the larger one) is crying out for our attention. Our work misses us, as do the mundane chores of our lives. The world is desperate for our attention both internationally and right here. We wake refreshed from our New Year hangover having to give serious thought to realistic gun control, mental health policy and fiscal matters. We toss out stale holiday carbohydrates as we consider local lives still upended by disaster. It is all quite sobering particularly after weeks of festivity.

There are those (during any time of year) who choose not to face the sobering reality; their tolerance level cannot bear it. They tuck deeply into their work, focus on family members and/or employ their substance of choice and manage the best they can. But somewhere between being swallowed up by the world’s ills and responsibility for repairing them, and turning away (literally or figuratively) is a sweet balance. Humans are responsible for the world they inhabit. People are also responsible for their own happiness. There are people whose very definition of happiness is caring for others and/or repairing the world, and we are grateful to them. For the rest of us we are most happy when are lives are a mix of internal/external and work/play. There is no greater feeling than doing something (anonymously) for others. But going out to lunch with a dear friend can be a kick in the pants too.

As we go forth in this new year let’s commit ourselves to being near and far-sighted in our view of the world. Let us be kind to ourselves, but never at other’s expense. Let us find ways to repair the world; at home, in our neighborhood and worldwide. Let us also find reasons to celebrate regularly. Let the calendar guide you (a full-blown MLK birthday party) or just your mood (take-out pizza is only to be eaten in formal dress.) Every month (if not every week and every day) there’s a reason to celebrate the fact that we’re still here! And everyday there are countless reasons to help to create the world we want to inhabit.

Happy New Year!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Holiday, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,