Saturday, June 3, 2006

Civilization Finishes Second

The time-period premiere of "Gameshow Marathon," 5.8 rating /10 share, put CBS on top at 8 p.m. ABC was second with the live (tape-delayed out West) final rounds of the National Spelling Bee, scoring a 5.0/9 for the hour. A repeat of "So You Think You Can Dance" was third for FOX at 3.8/7. Two episodes of "The Office" averaged 3.4/6 for NBC. A "Smallville" repeat on The WB topped UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Love, Inc."
It was close, but the Bee was second. Still, 9% of the sets in use were being used watching it (approximately 5.5 million viewers), while the precious American Idol usually gets around 25% and 17 million viewers. So, any ideas Simon had of asking contestants to spell the titles of the songs they're singing went right out the window.
Thursday's top 4 shows represented 32% of the sets in use. What are the other 68% watching? Judging from all the chatter, you would have thought that more people were watching the spelling thing. I hate to question the accuracy of the sainted Nielsen people, but ya gotta wonder.

Friday, June 2, 2006

The End of Civilization

WASHINGTON - Spellers took to the stage minutes before the television broadcast, huddling and chanting "1-2-3, Spell" before taking their seats. Their parents sat on stage, too, across the aisle.
The broadcast had the flavor and style of a sports program, opening with a montage of the competitors and including a short profile of the first speller before he got his word. Profiles of other spellers followed during subsequent commercial breaks, and each pause in the competition brought a groan from the audience. Each word or grimace by spellers triggered a blast of camera shutters, and the live TV camera followed the losers into the arms of comforting parents.
Even gamblers got into the act, putting money down on questions including whether the final word would have an "e" in it and whether the winner would wear glasses. Simon Noble, CEO of, said his offshore Internet sports betting company had received about $70,000 in wagers on seven propositions about the bee as of noon Thursday.
I watched the television show for a grand total of about 3 minutes. The opening montage featured one young competitor with what the commentator described as his "game face on". It was at that point that I recognized that if I didn't turn off the television, I would have to explain my actions to God at a later date. The people who are gambling on spelling will have many more issues to account for.
As it turned out, the show would have been turned off for me, ironically, by God, as a huge thunderstorm blew through the area, knocking out the power at what would have been a half hour before the thrilling competition ended - if I was still watching at the time. So, my early exit spared me the frustration of missing the ending.
We have now elevated spelling to the level of Little League by having youngsters subject themselves to self-inflicted pressure on national television, as they do for the grueling weeks of the Little League World Series.
As I watched the opening minutes, I wondered if we have not, as a society, completely numbed ourselves to the presence of media. Young teenagers are now regularly being exposed to National media, and seeming to be none the worse for it. Is it possible that such exposure is welcome and even expected?
Presumably, millions of Americans tuned in to watch kids spell words we don't even use, or know, for that matter. It was supposed to be captivating TV, but I don't get it. I cannot use ursprache in a sentence, or give you another word for icteritious. If someone used the words maieutic, poiesis or tmesis in front of me, I would ask which language they were speaking.
But, there it is on the TV, so we watch.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


This little blurb recently appeared on ESPN's web site, which I believe is, but I'm guessing:
You know it, you love it ... that's right, it's the National Spelling Bee, a spectacle that ranks alongside the Adult Video News Awards and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as the most secretly captivating telecast on TV.
Pardon me if I don't share that viewpoint, but I just can't conjure up a lot of enthusiasm for kids who spell better than my Microsoft spell check program. Counted among the "spectacles" are such compelling choices as poker, cooking and the weather. They're all on TV somewhere, and it's 24/7 excitement for couch veggies everywhere.
There are so many channels on cable that I can't count them. Mostly because they skip over a lot of numbers, but otherwise, I just lose track. Usually, my attention is diverted somewhere near the Spanish channel, where even the most dramatic medical show can feature a large-breasted girl in a low-cut top doing something in Spanish that makes me wish I spoke the language - or needed a hernia operation.
But this isn't on cable - it's on ABC, June 1 at 8:00pm - right there in prime time! A real network with options for entertainment other than spelling, including Jim Belushi. Bee director Paige Kimble, who is also the 1981 National champion (oooh ... the goose pimples), says spellers like to think of themselves as "the original reality television programming." So, now we know whom to blame. After 12 years of low-key airings on ESPN, Kimble says America is finally ready for spelling bees in prime time. Maybe there's a reason the airings on ESPN were low-key?
To the boys at ABC, kids spelling on TV is why God made microwave popcorn. I'm sure it's in the Bible somewhere - right after he created cats and sunscreen. Last year, Anurag Kashyap clinched the title by managing to spell the word appoggiatura - which means melodic tone - correctly. Interesting, since most people in the audience couldn't spell the winner's name, let alone the word he spelled.
Second only to the Spelling Bee is the U.S. Paintball Championship. I don't know which is worse - the fact that there is a U.S. Paintball Championship, or the fact that the U.S. Paintball Championship is on television. Throw in a Spanish nurse in a low-cut top and it's Must-See TV. Just don't get any paint on the good parts.
ESPN promotes the spelling bee by telling us: "You learn dozens of words that could never be used under any circumstances. The tension during the contest becomes unbearable at times." OK, so I need to know how to spell words I will never use, and I'm supposed to watch something that is unbearable? Wait, while I inflate my air-cushion hemorrhoid donut so the constant sitting doesn't inflame my ass. If that's the best thing they can think of to promote a show, maybe it shouldn't be on TV in the first place. And to think, the "E" stands for Entertainment, and they're owned by Disney and ABC. Go figure.
For real drama, check the ratings on Friday. The spelling bee is on opposite the NBA playoffs on TNT, the NHL playoffs on OLN and the Yankees/Tigers on ESPN, not to mention the train-wreck So You Think You Can Dance on Fox. Chances are, the spelling show doubles the ratings for any of that other stuff, including the Cosby Show repeats on Nickelodeon.
Meanwhile, I'm busy checking to see which channel the Adult Video News Awards show is on. Now that's a spectacle!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Latest Act of Indiscretion

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania state Gaming Control Board employee was suspended without pay a day after he was arrested for a scuffle with police outside a bar. Town Tavern manager Aidan Kiernan said the incident began when Justin Husar showed his agency badge to a bouncer, asking to be admitted to the second-floor dance club without paying the $5 cover. Husar was let through, but began arguing when he insisted his friends also be allowed in free and the bouncer refused, Kiernan said. Husar is the fifth board employee to find himself in trouble with the law.
Kevin P. Eckenrode, 25, a former press aide, was allegedly dangling girlfriend Rachel Kozlusky, 23, by her wrists outside his Harrisburg high-rise when she slipped and fell to her death Feb. 25 in what authorities have characterized as alcohol-related horseplay. He is charged with criminal homicide. Two employees were charged in connection with separate fights and disturbances outside Harrisburg bars last year. Last month, an investigator was arrested after officials learned his college degree came from an online diploma mill.
The gaming industry in Pennsylvania is off to a rollicking start! Favoritism, "alcohol-related horseplay" and fraud. It sounds like they're going to do an even better job once the casinos open their doors. I've been involved in some alcohol-related horseplay in my life, but none of it involved dangling a girl by her wrists. I guess I've led a sheltered life.
When state governments run out of ideas or ways to tax people, they invariably fall back on casino gambling or a lottery. The concept of instant riches for little or no effort is one that is an easy sell to a lot of people. Some of those people are our elected officials. Why else would someone spend a million dollars to get a job that pays $50,000 a year? For the perks, favored treatment and the ability to dangle a woman out a window and have it called "horseplay".
Gambling has its place, I assume, but I wonder how much better off we are in New Jersey since casino gambling came into our lives in 1977. I voted against it then, and I would vote against it now. The winners are the casinos and the losers are the people who will always be losers. As I have said before, I don't like big business taking advantage of people, and perhaps nowhere is it more evident than in the casino.
Call me "sick", but I don't believe it is the state government's responsibility to oversee lotteries or casinos. Legalized numbers-running and sponsored crap games are taxes on the poor, and God knows there are enough of them already - both taxes and poor - without allowing the government to make more of either.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

One Nutty Sherpa

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association urged the government Saturday to take action against a sherpa who reportedly stripped on top of Mount Everest. The Himalayan Times had reported Friday that the Nepali climbing guide, whose name it gave as Lakpa Tharke, stood naked for three minutes in freezing conditions on the 29,035-foot summit of the world's highest peak.
So, I guess that would make 2 peaks? I don't know if the photo (above) illustrates anything or not, although I would imagine that, in freezing temperatures there would be considerable shrinkage.
And to think I was such a huge fan of Lakpa on that Taxi show. Fallen on hard times, I guess. Or maybe not, depending on your view.