Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fall from Grace

Used Karr. Last night, Headline News' Nancy Grace made little effort to mask her contempt for the Boulder County (Colo.) District Attorney’s performance in first arresting John Mark Karr and then yesterday announcing she would not press charges after determining that his DNA did not match that found on the murdered JonBenet Ramsey a decade ago. Each night Grace proudly wears her "perspective as a former violent crimes prosecutor and as a crime victim herself,” accessorized with pearls of disdain. Monday’s target was Bolder DA Mary Lacy, who was somehow to blame for allowing Karr’s impromptu Bangkok press conference to launch ten days of round the clock speculation. Lacy, a relatively small-town prosecutor handed the crime of the turn-of-the-century, didn’t realize that what she thought were peanuts of disclosure would attract a thunderous herd of media attention. The empty story became the elephant in America’s living room for a week and a half, and Grace and her stern-faced far righteous experts got a boost in ratings as revitalizing as a stiff breeze at the condor roost. Not surprisingly, when the unsatisfying end came, Grace and her flock were pissed. But the jury is still out on whether Lacy erred. Later Monday night, DNA expert and Simpson Defense Team Member Barry Sheck ranted about media over-reaction to ‘Nightline’ host Terry Moran as if he were the team captain. On Tuesday morning, other anyalysts were crediting Lacy with taking the appropriate steps in a difficult process. The obviously put-out Grace would call it a "Colossal blunder." That might justify how – despite the story dropping off both CNN's Top 10 most important stories and Top 10 most popular stories, Grace would announce shows that looked into "the next step in the decade-old investigation" (Tuesday), "piece together 'what went wrong' in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation" (Wednesday), and an hour-special on the case September 1 and 4.
Photo: Putting the CNN in Nancy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

'24's' Heaven

Counter Television Unit. My one TV series indulgence fared well this Sunday when ‘24’ broke into the Emmy winner circle with its fifth season. Fans will no doubt be crawling all over the show’s elaborate Web site to digitally high-five each other and argue whether this was really the season deserviing such status. For my money, however, it was a good one. For starters, as a seasoned viewer, I thought that with Season 4 '24' had chosen to take its own life. It did not end with a cliff hanger so much as with a fatal, precipitous fall: there was no way our hero, Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland, who earned one of the show’s three awards for Lead Performance), could return after faking his death so he could change identity and disappear to avoid a vengeful Chinese official (Tzi Ma). All this made the Season 5’s 24-segment arc all the more severe, gripping, and – as any true fan will happily admit – ridiculous. Providing the biggest goose to the storyline was our friend Greg Itzin’s President Logan, who did a Shakespearean turn of changing from Dogberry to Richard III in one revelation, playing opposite Jean Smart as First Lady. Another of the show’s 12 nominees, Itzin lost to now-five-time winner Alan Alda. Logan will not be back next season, so we’ll be seeing Greg back on stage, where he has been missed. According to the cliffhanger that appeared to spoil last season's happy ending, Jack will begin Season 6 in the hands of the Chinese. That's right. It was less than a day before Mr. Ma’s character picked him up, taped him over, and tossed him in a holding cell until January. Photo: Keifer in Sutherland.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Once in Love With Emmy

It's Itzin's Hour. Tonight’s Emmy Award nominees include an old theatre colleague, Greg Itzin, for his role as President Logan in FOX’s ’24.’ Itzin was critical to ‘24’s’ breakout year, in which it received 12 Emmy nominations to lead the series category. When I ran into Greg at a recent Ahmanson opening, he was the only actor among a plaza full of them, posing for pictures with fans. When I joked that he had take well to being famous, he beamed and admitted – “Loving it. Having the time of my life!” His character, who changes from a forgettable vice president to a forgettable president with behavior that doesn’t mesh with a veteran of campaigning, is explained in a mid-season plot twist as the most conflicted character in the show’s history. Suddenly he – and his First Lady Jean Smart – were at the center of a Shakespearean maelstrom. As is the case with every moment of this show – the one series I know – the entire enterprise would collapse under its own cartoon logic if it weren’t for these great actors making their characters so believable. And Itzin's character will hopefully triumph over a final round of candidates – William Shatner of "Boston Legal," Oliver Platt of ‘Huff,’ Michael Imperioli of ‘The Sopranos,’ and Alan Alda of ‘The West Wing.’ This time, however, he shouldn't need to resort to subversion.
Photo: Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cut and Run

Post’ Traumatic. Freedom Communications, Inc., the publisher of ‘The Orange County (CA) Register’ is among the first to seek more readers by offering less to read. A snappy new six-day tab, ‘OC POST,’ is full of bite-sized stories and large ad, with ‘color on every page!’ The ad campaign for the launch – without reference to the Register or its other one-year-old weekly, SqueezeOC, includes billboards and bus shelters – without reference to the parents. In the television spots, a woman gets her first issue and becomes so excited about the concept of the trimmed news format that she immediately asks a stylist for equal treatment for her hair. However, the second tv ad suggests people may be justified in dismissing too demanding lengths in their art. After flipping through his new ‘Post,’ a male reader imagines a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that jump-cuts to the finale in minutes not hours – and still earns a standing ovation! This rush by papers to better compete with cable and internet news delivery seems ironic when, at the same time cable news is filling entire weeks with one story, and one story with only the faintest trace of factual news. This is, of course, the story of the self-confessed (and possibly insane) John Mark Karr, who, not surprisingly graced the cover of the ‘POST’s’ premiere issue.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cruise Control

Here's Your Back End, Sumner! So Paramount says it will not renew Tom Cruise's contract because of his 'behavior.' Excuse me!? Cruise has just been saving Paramount money by generating the kind of publicity Paramount used to need a bungalow of flacks to manufacture. No, it's not bonkiness killed the deal. 'Twas money. It's always money. If MI3 had grossed what MI2 had, so far it's short about $110 million, Redstone would have kissed both Cruise cheeks north and sound on the steps of L.A.'s City Hall rather than let him get away. More likely, Redstone needs to bury a contract that gives the actor too much up front and at the back end -- again, north and south. We'll see who laughs last. But a precedent might be another L.A. institution who dumped an overpriced star thought to have grown more outspoken than productive. That institution, the Lakers, sent Shaquille O'Neill to Miami. That's the same Miami that currently has the 2006 NBA Trophy in its offices. And Happy 28th Birthday (yesterday) to Kobe Bryant. [Originally published August 25, 2006]