09 January 2008

I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills

Happy new, bitches. Let's get down to binniss. It's been about thirteen seconds since my last self-righteous rant, after all.

Okay, so the writers' strike rages on. Kind of. What really seems to be happening now is the picket lines shuffle on outside the monsters' headquarters, and late night television has been the first real prostitute of the stalemate between the WGA and NAMBLA* AMPTP.

About 80% of the shows I give a shit about and watch with any regularity are considered "late night," so I took note when Carson Daly's show came back to air in December, despite the strike being fully on and poppin'. "Took note" does not mean "gave a shit," because, let's face it, no one watches/likes Carson Daly or his show. Nonetheless, I assumed it was an anomaly and actually sort of figured it was the producers' way of preventing people from getting laid off, more than anything. No big deal. Even with writers, it's not like Last Call is the cream of the crop in late night, anyway.

So, I was pretty mothersucking cockshitting surprised when Conan announced his return, sans writing staff, and was rendered speechless (almost), when my other two heroes, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart announced the same, shortly after. I assume that all of these betrayals were a direct result of AMPTP pressures on the talk hosts, much like a pederast pressures an 8 year old into undesirable rumpus room shenanigans with chidings about "not being a very good friend."

At the same time, my curiosity was piqued, and I was interested to see what I naively imagined would be 98% improvised versions of my favorite shows. I will announce, at this point that, that I am not addressing Leno in this tirade because, apparently, my self loathing is in fact not bottomless, as I have not subjected myself to a in medias strike episode of The Tonight Show.

Well, I've seen the so-called "unscripted" versions of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The A Daily Show (with the definite article altered, apparently in acknowledgement of the show being not-quite-the-same without its precious and beloved writing staff), and The Colbert Report (now pronounced phonetically, apparently in acknowledgement of the show being not-quite-the-same without its precious and beloved writing staff). I hereby call bullshit.

The only show that gets a pass is Letterman's, in this late night strike-sabotaging revival. He struck a deal with the WGA to come back with his staff, a luxury afforded only to him and his other show, The Late Late Show, admittedly. This is the kind of thing, though, that I think could help the strike, by galvanizing the suits to offer a fair deal to the writers through an almost grassroots (in ideology, at least), spread of progress through smaller companies making shit happen, the way Worldwide Pants did.

However, the others, my heroes, came back 100% as scripted as Letterman and lied about it. The main difference is that they are scripted poorly. The shows are nearly identical to the product put out before the strike, aside from obligatory and sheepish references to the strike by the hosts, and a clear fall off in the quality of the jokes. Basically, the shows are back. They're just wack. Jokes fall flat. I swear to God I have not been watching Seussical.

The hosts are clearly torn between putting on a good show and remaining loyal to the strike's cause (which equals putting on a shit show that was written badly to mask that it was written at all?). My feeling is, though, once you're back on the air, your loyalty has been forfeited-- particularly if you're keeping up a farce of putting on an "unscripted" show.

Indeed, Stewart and Colbert both decidedly do not have their customary scripts with them at their desks, to scribble on and shuffle pages for comedic effect. That means fuckall, though. I can see your eyes moving over the cue cards, man. The jig is up.

Some might say that I'm being unreasonable in expecting these guys to adhere to the tenet of having an unscripted show, that of course they're expected to be prepared for their shows. They do have an audience to entertain, after all. Well, I say to you, sir, there is a big difference between preparing and rehearsing, between planning and writing. What these shows are doing is so clearly the latter, in all cases, that it is simply insulting to try to claim otherwise. Face it, the only honorable move is to refuse to come back without a fair deal for your writers. Also, I add to this argument, fuck your mother.

*I am aware that this NAMBLA joke is a rip-off/reference to one of the first jokes that Jon made during the first episode of A Daily Show. I'm trying to be poignant, douche.

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