Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RIP Heath Ledger, Post-Debate Fact Checking, And More Marine Coverage (Tuesday's Show)

Hi everyone. We begin tonight with the really shocking BREAKING NEWS that actor Heath Ledger is dead at the age of 28. Anderson Cooper tells us he was found in his apartment and we're shown a live shot of all the vultures now congregated outside. There's even a video of his body being removed. That's just...unnecessary. We then go to Jason Carroll, who has joined the masses in the celebrity death stakeout. He tells us that Ledger was found by his housekeeper and massage therapist, who unsuccessfully tried to revive him. A deputy says there was prescription medication found in the room, but these are all very early reports, so don't be surprised if things change. It is reported there was no sign of foul play. Anderson asks about the reaction to the death. Jason tells us about various celebrities that have commented and then proceeds to tell us about some woman that texted her daughter during a movie and made her cry. Um, is this news?

On now to a Gary Tuchman piece that is basically a cable news version of Heath Ledger's Internet Movie Database page. Of course "Brokeback Mountain" is brought up, since that really heightened his profile. But Ledger had actually been around for a while. There was the teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You," which was a take-off of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew;"the big war epic "The Patriot"; and more indie fare like "Monster's Ball." He only has a small part in that last one, but wow, he leaves a very upsetting impression. Not mentioned in Gary's piece is "A Knight's Tale," which I think brought him onto the scene more than his other movies of the time. It's a cute movie and I know it made my sister quite the fan. Anyway, we also learn that he met Michelle Williams (of Dawson's Creek-fame) on the set of "Brokeback" and they got together and had a daughter, who has now lost her father. Very sad. Speaking of sad, next we see video of Ledger's father making a statement about his son's death, ending with: " Please now respect our family's need to grieve and come to terms with our loss privately." Okay media, ball's in your court.

Next up, we're joined by Dr. Drew Pinsky for exploitive discussion. Argh. He seems like a decent man and everything, but I really do not like what he does. Have you seen his reality show "Celebrity Rehab"? I caught it a week or so ago and had to flip off after about 10 minutes because it made me feel like a voyeur. A dirty voyeur. I mean, these are not the crazy-but-happy-go-lucky Osbournes here; these are people that could very well die, and I don't see how showing that to the whole world helps anyone, especially them. Anyway, Drew and Anderson then go through all the things that could have happened. Anderson: "I don't really want to go down the road of speculation, but..." Too late! They then get into how maybe Ledger had bipolar disorder and Drew says, "we are into wild speculation now." No kidding. They keep saying they don't want to go into speculation, but is that not basically the point of this segment? Then Drew pimps his research. Good lord.

Jarring subject transition now to tonight's "What Were They Thinking?" It seems Republican hopeful Mitt Romney is more than just a really wax-like rich white dude--he's a man of the people who knows who to get down. At a recent Martin Luther King event he showcased this "downness" by inexplicably and without prompting saying, "Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?" while posing for a picture with event participants. That's Mitt Romney, totally on top of the pop culture from 2000. At least he didn't say "wazzup." But oh, it gets better. Later he starts admiring a child's necklace and I'm literally sitting here going, "don't say bling. Don't say bling. Don't say bling." Says Romney: "You have got some bling-bling here, too." Bwah! Is that how he thinks you're supposed to talk to black people?

On now to politics and Anderson Cooper gives us the usual rundown of what the candidates did today. I'm assuming this was the lead prior to the Ledger news, but more on that later. We then move into a Joe John's "Keeping Them Honest" piece regarding some of the statements made during last night's debate. Basically there was a lot of context left out of both the charges and defense of those charges. Obama accused Clinton of sitting on Wal-Mart's board (Wal-Mart is evil, fyi) and Joe tells us this is true, but last night she left out how she promoted things like environmental issues and gave back their campaign contributions. What's interesting to me is Joe words this as "she says" she did these things, which leads me to wonder if CNN just talked to her office. Anyway, Clinton accused Obama of working for the slum lord Rescoe. He says he merely worked for a church that partnered with him on a project. But he left out the part about a land deal and some other stuff, but it's all a little confusing and since his name didn't even come up in the investigation I'm not going to worry about it. As for all those votes of "present" when he was in the Illinois legislature? Apparently that's pretty common.

Next up, we have "Beat 360," which I usually don't mention, but it sort of annoyed me. The staff quote makes a funny at Mike Gravel's expense and that's fine, but this from Anderson kind of bugged: "Julia is referring to former Alaska senator, Democrat Mike Gravel, who is also allegedly running for the White House. " Yes, admittedly the dude is crazy, but this brushing off of everyone but the front runners or media favorites is uncool. I mean, Ron Paul (another crazy one) has beaten Giuliani in some of these races, but it's like pulling teeth for him to get serious media coverage. I don't support these people. I don't want them to win. But I also don't want the media choosing for me.

Moving on to a Tom Foreman "Keeping Them Honest" piece on the candidate's promises. First up, the economy, which sucks, in case you haven't been paying attention. The democrats don't like Bush's stimulus plan, but Tom tells us that his plan is larger in sheer dollars and he's "signaling he will discuss ways to include those folks that candidates insist are being cut out." Oh, well, if he's signaling then I guess we're saved. Because if anything, Bush is a man of his word. Try again, Tom. Also, Tom tells us the democrats are all changing their timeline for getting out Iraq, but you know what? I kind of feel like I need more context or another source on this because this piece very much feels like they were trying to find a gotcha. And that's not how you keep people honest.

For discussion, we're joined by Candy Crowley, John King, and talk radio host Joe Madison. Anderson wonders if the issues are getting lost in all this campaigning. Um, you think? Candy basically says that the issues come out in town hall meetings and whatnot. I guess those of us that don't get to go to those just get the bickering. Apparently John McCain's name came up in the debate last night and we're played a response from him that includes the following: "I'm always flattered to be mentioned in a Democrat debate." Did you catch the insult? Classy. We also learn that Fred Thompson dropped out. Oh, what a shame. Dun-dun!

Next up, we have a Candy Crowley piece on how Bill Clinton is in major campaign mode for his wife. In fact, it looks like she's quietly conceding South Carolina, but she's leaving Bill behind. They're a force to be reckoned with, those two. After Candy's piece we have Randi Kaye live with news on Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean...and I really didn't pay much attention.

The Shot tonight is a picture of what looks like a guy walking around on Mars. Hm. Anderson then proceeds to say the word "Sasquatch" an insane number of times, because that's what he thinks it looks like. Heh. The show tonight was sort of disappointing. They broke their consistency and led with celebrity news. Celebrity news that was shocking and absolutely deserved to be covered, but celebrity news nonetheless. Before the show aired, I was talking with a friend online and said, "I guess we're about to see if 360 has really changed. Because the old suckier 360 would totally lead with Ledger's death." So, I guess they haven't changed. After the show, this same friend and I got into a debate about it, she of the opinion that they had to in order to keep people from fleeing to Greta.

Now, I don't get all their many ratings numbers and whatnot, so maybe she's right, but if they're the kind of viewer that would flip so quickly, didn't they just flip right after the coverage was over? For contrast, Countdown covered it as the last story of the broadcast, but it was included in the rundown, so you knew it was going to get mentioned. As I said to my friend post-show: "If someone watches a program consistently and is comfortable with that host, they will stick around to hear it from him/her rather than go to another network. The people that would have migrated to Fox are the people that are only tuning in to see that story in the first place. These are the people that only watch the news when something happens. CNN has a bad habit of catering to these people instead of building a loyal viewership. Fox has loyal viewers. Their viewers would not leave them for CNN."

When big news happens, most people who don't normally watch the news tune in to CNN. And that's great for them. But when big things aren't happening they routinely get their butt massively kicked by Fox because Fox has a large loyal viewership that watches when things aren't happening. Much has been made of their ideology and that attracts conservatives no doubt, but the simple fact that they have an identity and know who they are I think also draws in the viewers. CNN tries to be everything to everyone, and their numbers reflect how well that's working. It's sad since their resources are unbelievable. Anyway, I've gone on way to long about this. Like I said, I don't know what their numbers tell them. All I know is human nature. People like routines and consistency because they're comforting. If viewers know what to expect from a show because it's consistent, they're more likely to grow attached to it; and attached viewers do not flip to Greta.

Back to the topic of celebrity death, man, I guess nobody cares about poor Brad Renfro. They didn't even mention his recent death in the Ledger coverage. He wasn't as well known, and his history of drug abuse make it not as shocking, but he was still tragically young. By the way, I highly recommend "Telling Lies in America." I first heard about his death on a message board, and because I believe nothing I read from people on the Internets, I clicked on the link and found myself being taken to TMZ. You might find it shocking, but it was the first time I had ever been there. Next to the blurb about Renfro's death was a box where one could check "yes" or "no" as to whether the media was to blame for this young actor's passing. As I sat there staring at that box, I thought about movies like "AI" and "Minority Report"--movies set in worlds that seem surreal...or off somehow. Sitting there, I suddenly felt like I was in a scene in one of those kind of movies. We now live in a time where, by a simple click of the mouse, we can vote for who is to blame for a young man's death. It's the real world, but it feels off. What are we doing?

The show gets a C+


Blogger Peter said...

"Jason tells us about various celebrities that have commented and then proceeds to tell us about some woman that texted her daughter during a movie and made her cry. Um, is this news?"

I cried when I first heard the news of Heath Ledger's passing. I was glad to see other people feel the same way. I know many people may be just gawkers, but there are also out there people who feel sad, and I am sure many people in that crown outside Heath Ledger's apartment were very sincere. Seeing his body put in the ambulance was hard, crude, but I also felt I had one last chance to glance at not only a great actor, but also a great, great person.

Mr. Ledger passing was reported and made me feel I am not alone in this awful tragedy.

To answer your question: Yes, this is news!

3:00 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Peter-Of course the fact that he died is news, but a second-hand (third-hand?) story about a random fan is really stretching it (that's what I was specifically referring to). A soundbite or two from distraught fans on the scene would maybe have been a different story.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Jenny Margot said...

It's true that speculating about the mental health of someone you've never know is wild. So I will just say that I when I read the interview with Heath Ledger in the New York Times (last year, November, I think) where he says he was sleeping two hours a night despite taking two Ambien, where his mind kept racing...I went cold. This is EXACTLY what happened when I became manic, leading to a diagnosis of Bipolar I. But I only lost my job. Poor Heath. Maybe the doctor who prescribed these pills wasn't asking the right questions.

3:25 PM  

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