Thursday, April 01, 2010

Interview With Superintendent Gus Sayer, RNC Gets Even More Hilarious, Investigating Scientology Part IV, & April Fool's 360-Style

Hi everyone. I hope you all made it through April Fool's Day without too much annoyance. I'm not really a fan of April overall, so there's that. We're kicking things off tonight, as usual, with Anderson Cooper giving us a preview of the forthcoming Scientology piece. Then we're on to our real top story: bullies and the heartbreaking suicide of Phoebe Prince.

Strangely, Anderson begins by somewhat defending their coverage of the story: "Now, I know some people say look there's always been bullying and kids just have to suck it up." Who's saying suck it up? Please tell me people aren't emailing that. He goes on to say that the advent of the Internet age has made bullying all that more intense, which is a good point, and one I didn't think of in my muddled headache-y state last night when I blogged some ponderings.

Also, remember last night how I said I wasn't sure I could think of anything worse than for a parent to find their child hanging? Says our anchor: "Phoebe hung herself in the stairwell of her family's apartment building. Her younger sister found her, if you can imagine the horror of that." I stand corrected. God almighty.

Like clockwork, we're taken to the Magic Wall where we find a timeline of the events surrounding the bullying that Phoebe endured. I have to say, it's a little creepy. I can also tell you that I know I am not the only person who had that initial reaction. This is one of those times where I think our CNN friends got too caught up in the mechanics of their job and didn't really stop to think about what they were doing. It was very off-putting.

Moving on to a live interview with Gus Sayer, superintendent of South Hadley Public Schools, which is where Phoebe Prince attended. This is one of those 'what did they know and when did they know it' kind of situations. Anderson presses pretty damn hard, but this guy is all over the place. I'm not even going to bother picking out all the contradictory statements, but at one point he denies seeing the district attorney's report (an investigation of the incident was performed) and then goes on to talk about what the report contains.

Maybe the guy is just a really poor interview and doesn't explain himself well. I don't know. I found it pretty distasteful to speculate that Phoebe didn't kill herself due to bullying. I'm not going to completely deny the possibility, but you can't tell me he didn't throw that out there just to save his own ass. Skeezy. Also of note is Anderson pointing out that the school's investigation was done by the principal...who would be the guy who would be directly at fault. That's a page from the Bush Administration playbook there.

For his part, the superintendent is not happy with this line of questioning. He accuses Anderson both of not letting him finish and of being unfair to the principal. For a second I thought our anchor was going to apologize, but when the defensive rant from Sayer ends, he just wraps up the interview. Good for him. He did a really good job here. After this interview there's discussion with Lisa Bloom and anti-bullying consultant Barbara Coloroso.

Transitioning now to a huge bizarre graphic accompanied by a voice booming: "Dispatches From Planet Washington." Oh, WTF? Are they kidding me here? So anyway, what comes next is some hilariousness courtesy of Congressman Hank Johnson, who is apparently very concerned about Guam becoming so overpopulated that it will tip over and capsize. Now, normally I would never believe that someone could say something quite so stupid, but this a member of Congress, so no, I am not shocked.

For his part, Johnson claims he meant he was concerned that adding marines to the island could result in a tipping point for its infrastructure. Right. Yeah, that is totally what you meant. By the way, when they were playing that clip, they had it split screened and Anderson was for some reason scribbling random numbers on the Magic Wall. Don't go Glenn Beck on us, Silver Fox. After this train wreck, we get that loud big-ass graphic again. Seriously, that was an April Fool's joke, right?

Keeping on our Washington theme, we move on to the news that the RNC is getting more and more hilarious by the day. Remember how I was a bit underwhelmed by their bondage-themed strip club scandal and was hoping for a little something more to up the amusement? Well, ask and ye shall receive! Now one of their fund-raising mailings directs people to a sex line. Awesomeness. Although to be fair, sex line mishaps can be bipartisan. Hillary Clinton knows what I'm talking about.

Even worse for the RNC and head Michael Steele, their troubles don't begin and end with the subject of sex. They've got bigger fish to fry, like being shunned by Sarah Palin and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Not the Family Research Council!! For discussion of all this, we're joined by James Carville and Michael Gerson. Nothing hugely of note here, though James does accuse Tony Perkins of being a hypocrite because he endorsed David Vitter and now he's clutching his pearls over the bondage club.

Vitter, you might remember, had a bit of an infidelity problem. Less widely reported is the rumor that he likes to wear diapers in front of his prostitutes. Oh yes. I actually checked out the sourcing of this rumor back in the day and found it to be a bit sketchy, so I've always been hesitant to do any repeating. Carville is not so hesitant and totally throws Vitter under the bus. Dayum. Also, Anderson starts to ask a question that he says he's asked of "a lot of people," but then Carville interrupts and suddenly the segment is over. Well, great. Thanks, James. Now we will never know what he was going to ask!

Scientology time! See my prior posts for all the background. Tonight's segment mostly focuses on what happens when one leaves the church. Anderson speaks with Jeff Hawkins, who claims he was abused by leader David Miscavige and subsequently left in 2005. I've been trying not to be ultra judgy up to this point, but what he's describing sounds soo much like a cult. When he left Scientology he had no job, friends,...he even divorced his wife.

Plus he was given the label of "suppressive person," which is how church members describe Scientology enemies. According to Hawkins, the church has a policy of "disconnection," meaning to basically break ties with anyone deemed to be suppressed. His ex-wife calls this an "absolute, utter, total lie." She should really try not to be so subtle. The church calls it a lie too, but adds that a Scientologist wouldn't want to be around anyone who disparages their religion anyway. Another former member, Chrisy Collbran describes it more as a manipulation than any official policy. Like I said, culty.

Finally tonight, Anderson throws it to Tom Foreman to give us some headlines before the "shot, but who does he find instead? Rick Sanchez! "Oh, my good lord. Rick Sanchez," exclaims our anchor. Bwah! Exactly. That is how everyone should react to unexpected Sanchez. I actually had a slight inkling that something like this was coming since a little birdie made a tweet, though no details were given. Anyway, Mr. Twitter King is here because he has a beef with the Silver Fox--that beef being the absolute glee our anchor gets playing the taser video over and over. Also? Rick Sanchez is very bad at acting mad. Yeah, you know what's coming: April Fool's! (Update: video!)

I enjoyed the little trip down memory lane that Sanchez gave us: "You sent me on all these wild and crazy stories. I went out in the middle of the ocean. I went in a boat. I got sunk in a canal. I did the tase thing. And now you make fun of me." Don't forget about the time you were in the fire! For those unaware, Rick actually used to regularly contribute reports to 360 and they made him do some massively messed up things, leading to this bit of awesomeness from Jon Stewart back in 2006.

I cannot tell you how much time other long-time viewers and I spent mocking him in those days. Our theory was that CNN was secretly--or not so secretly--trying to kill him. But if it wasn't for Rick I wouldn't know that a single candle can heat a freezing car to 50 degrees. So there's that I guess. Anyway! Back to the Silver Fox, his trauma of the night is more than just having to endure Rick's presence. It's time for clips of Anderson looking stupid! The whole time this is going on, Sanchez is bizarrely trash talking him in this over-the-top accent, causing a puzzled look on our anchor's face that is pretty clearly saying, "WTF is going on right now?"

The clips start with Anderson's big Indiana fail, where he can't identify the state on a map. "Duh," says Rick. Dude, you thought the Galapagos Islands was Hawaii. I wouldn't be getting on that Geography high horse. Our anchor once again claims he was tired. At least he's sticking to his story. The next clip is the Silver Fox's momma stopping by to embarrass him on his birthday. I like her ability to make him go from 40 to 12 in under 30 seconds. Finally, there is Anderson's recent Jeopardy disaster. "Cheech, Cheech. I hear that in my sleep," says our anchor. Yeah, I'm not touching that one.

So...that was fun and hopefully not too traumatic for the Silver Fox. For those who actually wanted to see the "shot" that was previewed and subsequently never shown, you can check it out here. Single Ladies devastation! Aww! I love the look on the middle girl's face. It totally says, "oh way to go, dad." But he was very sweet about his blunder and not "horrible" at all.

I found the show pretty engaging tonight throughout, which these days can sometimes be a rarity. It really does make a difference when the anchor is actually invested in what he's reporting. There are still clear problems with the show overall (as with the network), but it'd be a lie to say they're not making any changes. There is a noticeable difference from where 360 was last year at this time when it resided in Suck Town.

Regarding the network overall, they haven't had a good week press-wise. Everyone and their mother is writing about their ratings problems and how to fix them. Many of these links you can find on my Twitter page if you're interested. Tonight The Daily Show did another rather brutal take-down, giving CNN a new slogan: "CNN: We have no idea what the fuck we are doing." Ouch. I'll try to remember to tweet the link tomorrow. That'll do it.

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Anonymous Sammy said...

The show remind me how April Fools day is not that much of a disaster. Because what ever happen to me is not as embarrassing at people being fools on cable television for millions of people to watch (quoting Jon Stewart: may be 5, but still a lot of people)

2 take downs in one show. Never seen so much awesomeness since soo long. He seem passionate about all the subject he is working on. At least, no infidelity scandal. Yesterday show remind me why I love the show so much. Can't wait for Haiti next week.

I love the fact that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report is giving CNN the good cop, bad cop treatment. While Jon Stewart continued to criticize CNN's method, Stephen Colbert gave a shout out for our anchor and go a step further in drawing the conclusion that CNN doesn't have the ball the make. These are all the proofs that I watch entirely too much news.

12:45 PM  

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