Weekend Wrapup Returns

And it’s on to the weekend — and some quickie thoughts on subjects in the news:

Now that I'm done helping destroy NBC's prime-time schedule, I'll get back to putting you to sleep when I'm supposed to be doing it -- and not sooner

– Jay Leno is … the bad guy?  It’s certainly feeling like that these days.  In the sequel to the Late Night War that once saw Leno selected in a then-controversial decision over David Letterman to succeed the legendary Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show, it looks like Leno’s disastrous foray into prime-time will be coming shortly to a merciful end.  This occurred after ratings for Leno’s five-night-a-week-suckfest cratered so badly (NBC was expected a ratings hit, but nothing of the magnitude that Leno “delivered”), that affiliates across the country — possibly as many as a quarter of them — were preparing to issue NBC an ultamatum of their own: lose Leno’s show, or be prepared to watch them abandon it themselves for reruns of Seinfeld and whatever else the local stations could program on their own.

Faced with an affiliate revolt, NBC had no choice but to pull the plug on the ill-conceived Leno vehicle — but the decision to shift Leno back into the 11:30 EST time slot — and to bump Conan back 30 minutes — has created more problems.  O’Brien has rejected the change in time for his own show, and now things are apparently headed for an ugly divorce between Leno’s heir and the network — which will possibly land Conan with upwards of $30 million, and should leave him free from his contract and available to pursue a show at a rival network, possibly FOX.

If nothing else, this drama has proven to be more entertaining already than anything Leno was throwing out there, and if early public sentiment is an indication, people are viewing Leno as the heavy (and NBC as the accomplice).  What does it mean for Leno’s ratings, if he returns as the host of the Tonight Show?  Probably not a whole lot, but if Conan ends up with a competing show, it’s almost certainly going to be pulling audience primarily from Leno; if you were watching Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel already, you’re likely not going to be watching Conan now — O’Brien’s audience will be what he takes with him from NBC.

The clear winner here so far is O’Brien, whose show has seen its ratings increase as this has played out.  Long-term, it may be Letterman who sees The Late Show cement itself as the top show in the late-night wars.  What can’t be disputed though, is that The Tonight Show isn’t what it once was, and the name doesn’t bring forth the feelings it used to (and hasn’t, even before O’Brien took over for Leno less than a year ago).  The Tonight Show that a lot of people grew up with ended when Johnny Carson stepped down — and now, after all of this current turmoil has passed, it’ll be a successor to Carson’s juggernaut in name only.

– For me, this week couldn’t have provided a bigger juxtaposition then that of the crisis that’s taking place in Haiti currently and the joke that was a number of Wall Street CEO’s in front of Congress defending, not only their massive irresponsibility in helping create the huge financial crisis we’re still in the middle of, but their own avarice in continuing to pay themselves massive salaries and bonuses, even when having their slimy hands picking the back pocket of the Amercian public that bailed them out.

As the horrors in Haiti unfoled, we saw poverty, despair, and destruction at a level that most of us have never seen before.  Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — and that was before the massive earthquake of this past week.  After this tragedy which has left tens of thousands dead and a country’s infrastructure in complete ruin, Haiti is in desperate need of any assistance it can get from the international community, in a race where every dollar or supply is literally to save lives that are hanging precariously in the balance.

Maybe some of that aid could come from some of those Wall Street Rip-Off Artists who showed an amazing lack of remorse over their actions which have crippled a large portion of the U.S. economy.  One of those men was Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, who in an incredible understatement said, “We did make mistakes and there were things we could have done better.”  You think?  That’s on par with Lindsey Lohan saying she’s made some bad personal decisions over the last few years and “could have done better”.

Those in positions of power with these mammoth financial institutions — businesses that currently hold far too much influence and control over the lives of the average American citizen — continue to live in a world that has no relation to the one that real people, like you and I, live in — and it’s because of that insulation for the real world and its consequences that we should have no faith that any of them are going to do anything but what’s good for their own wallets — and to hell with the damages they might cause to the general public or the economy itself.  President Obama is looking into new taxes on these banking companies as an answer to the latest reports of obscene profits and bonuses paid, but that won’t be enough to change the climate of greed that permeates these companies to their rotten cores.

The direction for the new Spider-Man movie wasn't really what we were expecting

– The announcement came this week that Spider-Man 4 is DOA, and that in its place, we’ll be looking at a complete “reboot” of the franchise, sending director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to the curb.  Apparently, disagreements about the future of the film series between Sony and Raimi were too much to smooth over, and the studio has decided to go into a different direction (though still somehow intending to release the next film in the summer of 2012, as originally planned).

I’ve got mixed feelings about this news.  I’d already detailed some of the earlier squabbling between Sony and Raimi and my concerns that the franchise was headed for cinematical disaster.  While I blamed Sony initially, now that there’s more details leaking out about the take Raimi wanted to do with the film, it’s starting to look like taking the series away from Raimi wasn’t such a bad call after all.  The plot (if you want to call it that) sounded like a bad rehash of the 2nd Spider-Man movie, and it would have in all likelihood been worse than Spider-Man 3 was.

But even if you get a new director — and a new star (as Maguire had said he was only interested in returning to the role of Raimi was in the director’s chair) — is that any reason to start completely over again?  If that’s Sony’s approach, then it’s going to be a huge mistake; a reboot of a franchise is only necessary if it’s strayed completely away from its core (Batman and Robin) or if it’s been a suitably long time since the franchise began (rebooting Bond with Casino Royale).  Neither applies to the Spider-man franchise, which is barely a decade old and, the mediocrity of the third film aside, has stayed as true to the vision of Spider-Man as this huge Spidey fan could have hoped for from a big-screen adaptation.  Certainly, there were missed opportunities along the way — and continuity changes for the movies that I wouldn’t have gone with — but, all told, the first two movies were about as good as it gets for superhero fare, and there’s no reason that Sony can’t continue along where the 3rd movie left off.  Cast a new Spidey, go with a new villian (Dylan Baker and the Lizard, for example), bring Dunst back for a well-paid cameo and bump her off (paralleling the loss of Peter parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy, in the comics) — and you’re off and rolling.

Instead, if the early reports are to be believed, Sony looks to be headed on an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the Twlight-phase and turn Spider-Man into some sort of teen drama.  If that’s their approach — and it won’t be surprising, since most movie execs have no respect for the source material or its target audience (which is why Marvel Studios, which does, had such a critical and commercial hit with Iron Man), then they’re going to find themselves with a once-golden franchise that’s been run into the ground.

He's a frog, you say? I can't believe it!

– And finally, there’s Mark McGwire’s “stunning” revelation earlier in the week that he’d taken steroids during his career — an announcement that, as a friend of mine stated, was about as shocking as Kermit coming out and announcing that he’s a frog.

There’s already been a lot of talk about the subject and what it means to McGwire, baseball, and the steroid scandals that have rocked the sport — so there’s not a whole lot I have to add.  Suffice it to say, I’m not surprised he admitted it, as in his eyes, doing so represents the only way he can lessen the distraction he would cause the Cardinals this year as a member of their coaching staff — as well as the only way (he thinks) he might still find election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame someday.

But if I had a vote, it still wouldn’t be coming to him.  It’s my opinion that he still isn’t telling the whole truth about what he used and why he used it, and it’s still clear to me that the whole reason he’s a Hall candidate anyway — the home runs — were in some way fueled by his steroid usage, which makes his entire career output suspect since we’ll never be able to quantify what he would have done without them.  I don’t feel a bit sorry for McGwire — who seemed to be fishing for sympathy in his interviews this past week — since he knew the price of taking illegal steroids (or should have known it) when he did so.  You lived the life of an sports hero for several years because you cheated, Mark (whatever your excuses might be) — now, you’ve paid the price.  As it should be.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone — and we’ll see you on Monday for a look back at the NFL playoff games from this week.

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