T Dog’s Think Tank: The joke’s on us

In a recent column in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Dahl wondered what the country – and the world – thought of Illinois thanks to Patti Blagojevich (former Governor Rod’s wife) appearing on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! He said it gave Illinois a Hollywood feel, but a Third World one at the same time.

Of course, we Chicagoans are used to embarrassment: the political scandals, racial strife, Al Capone, the Cubs, Mancow, etc. It’s a freak show element 24 hours a day up in here.

But you can’t help but feel if Dahl was also taking a shot at the television industry as well – given much of the programming produced has a third-world feel. Just as embarrassing as Mayor Daley and Governor Rod has been to the city and state, shows like My Mother, The Car and Viva Laughlin (and a lot of programming in between – some of which you can find right here in The T Dog Media Hall of Shame) have been just as embarrassing to the medium. And if you want something embarrassing to both TV and Chicago, two words: Jerry Springer.

Which brings us to Celebrity. In this revival of this failed ABC series from the winter of 2003, ten “celebrities” of the D-list kind are dropped into the Costa Rica jungle to survive in what can be described as Survivor meets Fear Factor. The series has had greater success in Britain, and this what spawned NBC to revive the show for American television.

And so, the program premiered June 8 with Spencer Pratt going insane, his wife Heidi crying, and Patti Blagojevich eating bugs. And to top it all off, Spencer and Heidi (both from MTV’s The Hills) proclaimed Rod and Patti the Spencer and Heidi of politics.

Wow, what a compliment. And this from two idiots who act like they just escaped from a mental institution.

But it gets worse. The Pratts quit three times – and then asked to return to the show, even though their replacements have already been chosen and already playing in the “game”. NBC execs said the decision would be made with the cast voting them back on the show. They didn’t do that. And so, the Pratts were put in some kind of “torture chamber”, then there were reports that Heidi was rushed to the hospital, only to find out it wasn’t true (she lied about it.) And so, they quit again – for a fourth time – and meant it.

But in the back of your mind, you know they are not done torturing us. They’ll be back for the finale at least.

And then there’s the rumors going around of this drama is being staged. A phone call made by Mr. Pratt to NBC Entertainment Chairman Ben Silverman who told him, “I’m too rich and famous to be sitting here with these people… this cast is devouring my fame” – a line so brazen you’d think it was created by the WWE writing staff. And who is responsible for this mess? “Party All The Time” Silverman, who has screwed up NBC beyond repair with his idiotic decisions. As James Hibberd pointed out last week, why would he take a phone call from this asshole, but not an agent, manager, or writer?

And what about Patti Blagojevich. Yeah, what about her. She said she’s doing this for her family and to present a better image than the profanity-spewing person she has been portrayed in FBI wiretap conversations.

Yeah, I guess eating tarantulas and comparing Janice Dickinson to Judy Baar Topinka is really projecting a positive image (though I think Topinka is more comparable to Joan Rivers – both are old hags who don’t know when to shut up.) It’s sickening to think people actually are hailing this person as some kind of hero.

If you think the antics regarding Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag were staged, you wonder if this entire competition is, too. It reminds yours truly of the quiz show scandals of the 1950’s when producers fed answers to contestants – for example, Charles Van Doren became a celebrity on Twenty-One when he went on a prolonged winning streak. But when it turned out to be a staged farce, his stature plummeted and so did the game show genre. The FCC investigated and Congressional hearings were launched. Laws were passed, prohibiting fixed game shows.

But you won’t see any Congressional investigations with Celebrity. Today, most audiences – particularly younger viewers – wouldn’t care if a game show is staged or not. As long if it’s for “entertainment”. And the FCC and Congress would be criticized if they did launch an investigation, instead of focusing on more important issues.

Young audiences are pretty much used to scandals – they grew up in the era of Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson, Tonya Harding, and here in Illinois, R. Kelly, Silver Shovel, and any politician you can think of. To the 18-49 crowd – the one advertisers cater to the most – these scandals are no big deal. It’s little wonder the Illinois legislature did not pass one single ethics reform in the recent session. Even after all that has gone on with Governor Blagojevich, the public still didn’t care enough for it to happen. Only the Tribune has bitched about it, and as we all know, nobody under the age of 110 reads newspapers.

But when you think about it, it’s all about giving people “what they want”. Many media executives are slimy pieces of shit, egged on by their Big Media bosses, who contribute to just-as-slimy politicians’ campaigns, who let their companies get bigger and bigger and eliminate independent voices in the media. And pieces of shit like Ben Silverman keep their jobs and get rewarded for doing absolutely nothing. No wonder television, radio, and newspapers are dying mediums. Of course, their slimy politco friends will come to the rescue with a governmental bailout. There’s no doubt about that.

And they will continue to celebrate the sleaziest morons in society. From Jon & Kate to Mancow’s ridiculous waterboarding stunt to “Speidi”. And the humanoids lap it up each time because “it’s entertainment” and makes “great TV and/or radio”. Big Media’s job is done here. They succeeded to dumb down the population and only pretend to care about “ethical issues” so they can boost their pathetic sales of their pathetic products (like the Tribune’s phony “State of Corruption” and “Tribune Watchdog” campaigns – areas independent news sources like The Chicago Reporter do a whole lot better job at.)

They are all the same. Politicians. Media executives. I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here brings together the worlds of Illinois politics and the media business.

And both need cleaning up.