Monday, September 19, 2005

Jon Stewart, doin' the impossible

I hate televised award shows. Loathe, revile, detest, really kind of don't like. I often go out of my way to avoid them. The Academy Awards® for me is a great opportunity to have a night on the town — you can walk in and get a table at the swankest restaurants, have an almost private screening of any movie in town, and walk right up to the counter in any bar foolish enough not to have the Oscars® on its 738-inch [18.7-metre] screens. However, last night, I watched the Emmys®, albeit with more than a little help from my TiVo®'s fast-forward button.

What on earth could prompt me to watch an awards show? In a word, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, plus Ellen Degeneres, plus Real Time with Bill Maher, plus a genuinely moving and sincerely heartfelt tribute from David Letterman to Johnny Carson, plus Jon Stewart's tip of the hat back to Letterman, plus dah dah Dah DAH...

Yes, all of that was even worth sitting through yet more of Doris Roberts (Everybody Else Loves Raymond). I'm sure she's a very nice person, but I think she's about as funny as eggplant parmesan. (Full disclosure: I don't like eggplant or parmesan cheese, much less the two together.)

I love S. Epatha Merkerson. I loved her in Terminator 2, I love her in Law & Order, and I even loved her way back in She's Gotta Have It. On the Emmys® last night, though, she was so flustered that she lost her notes for her acceptance speech. In all of its disjointed nervousness, the speech she gave was one of the best I've ever seen. It was the sort of reality we seldom see on television, whether on a show like Law & Order or on so-called "reality TV." As the music began to swell, she ended with, "Please wrap it up? OK. Thank you!" Perfect.

The best of all, though, was the bit that Jon Stewart pre-recorded for his slot as a presenter:
Hi, I'm Jon Stewart. I want to take a moment to talk about Hurricane Katrina. There were many stories of heroism and courage, but there's something I'd like to say to the government officials in charge. Fuck thank you, all of you! Local, state, federal local and state — the most incompetent, unacceptable, shockingly inept response ever! And bastard hero FEMA head Michael Brown — he didn't know people were stranded at the convention center! Turn on the television and watch [blanked out] Two and a Half Men, every Monday on CBS. Brown quit, but what he really deserved was to have his balls cut off and his throat [unintelligible] to be given delicious fruit, sliced straight from the vine. It's not just him: the whole organization: [unintelligible fast-forward]. So I take it back, because that's an insult to the mentally challenged. So to the Democrats, let's see, I have a little something for you: boop! [middle finger] [puppy] To the administration, I think there might be something here. [middle finger pointing down] [upside-down kitten] Can't hear it? Perhaps I could "turn it up." Oh, and, uh, George Bush hates Black people Sabbath.
Yea, verily and forsooth, he who hangs out with deaf folk may know how to lipread, at least a little.

The tribute to network news anchors was also timely, since it is our news media who have the fire to put to the feet of our elected officials and bureaucrats. We bloggers are, I believe, an integral part of that tradition of muckraking, but let's face it: even a blog with a thousand times my hit count is outreached by a single night's newscast on ABNBCBS. The American people must continue to expect nothing less than serious journalism from anyone who purports to bring us the news. The Daily Show reigns supreme in fake news, so it's about time for the also-rans to try real news.

It's not apropos to the Emmys®, but go see Good Night and Good Luck, in a theater near you October 7th; it will inspire anyone who appreciates the value of solid journalism as a cornerstone of democracy.
We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. — Edward R. Murrow, 1954-03-09
I will say that the great majority of the nominations were well-deserved, with only the occasional glaring exception. The greatest travesty, though, was the "Emmy Idol" award to Donald Trump and Megan Mullally for their performance of the theme from Green Acres. It was easily the fourth-best of the four entries. Seriously, Conan's rendition of Charles in Charge was far better.

Oh, well; Jon Stewart actually made me want to watch the Emmys®. Whodathunkit?