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A&E yesterday suspended the "Duck Commander," Phil Robertson, from one of the most popular "unscripted" series on TV, "Duck Dynasty" - which you already knew but here's something no one does know about: How exactly will this work?
How does one "suspend" a character from a putative "unscripted" series where everything is putatively "unscripted" - this is "reality" TV. One doesn't suspend "real" people, does one? Can "reality" be changed by a simple suspension? Does "reality" work that way?
(And how confused will people be when "Duck Dynasty" returns next January, with Phil still very much a part of the series - because it was pre-taped long before his comments to "GQ," or the subsequent suspension?)
Needless to say, all of this sounds like a problem without a solution, and in fact, I suspect it's a problem within a problem - one problem that will beget another problem because none of this is what A&E signed up for, or thought it was signing up for: That a core character on one of the most popular series in its history - make that the most popular - uses words, terms and ideas that are anathema to discourse or the perception of what a TV network is supposed to be, which is all-inclusive, and not anti-gay.
Fact is, this is just one problem facing A&E - which I am convinced had hoped this would all go away, and which now hopes people will forget about this entirely in a few weeks, when he will be "re-instated." That's right: Don't expect this suspension to last long, which is a reason A&E called it "indefinite.' "Indefinite" could mean anything - a day from now, a century from now. The word is utterly meaninglessly, and as such offers A&E an escape hatch.
"Oh he was suspended for months..." it might say upon reinstatement. Of course, the show hadn't taped over those months.
But let's say this is no hollow suspension - one of those slaps on the wrist. What then? Well...you have a show that features a family of Robertsons, with one of them - one of the most important of them, the Commander for crying out lout - somewhere off stage.
"Where did the Commander go?," Si might muse?
Don't bet on it: Si will say something but it won't be "happy, happy, happy!"
The idea of "Duck Dynasty" absent Phil is ludicrous: It's "Keeping up with the Kardashians" without Kim...it's "The Bachelor" without the bachelor.
The other problems seem obvious to me - but are not so immediately apparent. Since fame and fortune have descended on the Robertsons, people want to know what they have to say, and Phil has had plenty to say - about Jesus,the Lord, salvation... (Willie's been out there too.) He has strong beliefs and has made no effort to hide or disguise them - which is something A&E doesn't really want people or viewers to know about either. See the clip below, about Phil in a candid moment - about how some of these beliefs have been edited out of the show...His comments here seem to me to indicate that the Robertsons have had plenty of other comments that never made the air...and it seems impossible to believe that he first expressed his repugnant thoughts about gays to GQ for the first time either.
(Phil, by the way, does point out here one of the great paradoxes of reality TV - the cast of "Jersey Shore," for example, can talk about having sex in ways that beggar the meanng of the term "having sex" - but if Jesus or religion is mentioned, the comment hits the editing floor faster 'n a duck hits the water...)
Robertson's absence on the show - and as mentioned, I very much doubt there will be much of an absence at all - could hurt "Duck" and A&E in another fundamental way: That he has been excised because of his beliefs.
I have long suspected that "Duck" has been such a huge hit - besides the fact that it can be amusing - because this show is about people who live in The Rest of America: Those who believe in absolutely everything Phil Robertson believes in, up to an including how the perfect duck whistle should be made, and who believe that sin and evil have consumed popular culture...with this one exception.
So yes, A&E has a big problem, and is hoping - praying, yes praying - that all of you forget about it as soon as possible.
Newsday app readers please head on over to Newsday.com/tvzone...
Now this: James Gandolfini will finally get his HBO tribute this Sunday at 8 p.m. HBO describes it this way:
In this special presentation, more than two dozen friends and colleagues remember the three-time Emmy® winner, who died June 19, 2013 at age 51. Along with first-person reflections, the special features clips of Gandolfini’s work, as well as behind-the-scenes footage.
The title: "James Gandolfini: Tribute to a Friend."
And here's a brief look. Newsday app readers please go to Newsday.com/tvzone:
There's a prominent report in the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday morning that says CNN chief Jeff Zucker has approached Jay Leno about a late night show after his "Tonight" reign ends early next year. No surprise -- it's been speculated about often, and an approach by Zucker makes all the sense in the world. (I'm kidding, kidding. Can't you take a joke?)
After all, CNN is a news...Read more »
TCM Remembers Joan Fontaine 6:30 a.m. – Blonde Cheat (1938)Joan Fontaine 7:45 a.m. – The Women (1939) 10:15 a.m. – Born to Be Bad (1950) Noon – Ivanhoe (1952) 2 p.m. – The Constant Nymph (1943) 4 p.m. – Suspicion (1941) 5:45 p.m. – Rebecca (1940)
TCM Remembers Peter O’Toole 8 p.m. – Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Midnight – Peter O'Toole: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011) 1 a.m. – Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969) 3:45 a.m. – My Favorite Year (1982)
Every year at this time Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating" list arrives, and - on a vastly more modest scale - so does my list, of TVs most fascinating....
It's a modest little list, this list, but what it does offer - in my humble opinion - is a quick shout-out to a few who have done something genuinely interesting and not some who have just mastered the twerk...
We...Read more »
Interesting bit of news from Nielsen's annual Top Ten list, released Tuesday morning: "Dancing With the Stars" edged out "American Idol" as TV's most viewed unscripted show last season. "NCIS" remained TV's top draw overall.
It's not earth-shattering news by any means -- "Idol," consistently TV's most watched for a decade, has been in an inexorable slide for years now, but "Idol" has usually been the superior in terms of numbers; in 2012, for example, "Idol's" Wednesday show edged out "DWTS" (15.1 million viewers to "DWTS's" 15.0 million.)
But ... Nielsen's numbers show a drop of about 1 million each for both shows.
Here's the list and you'll be shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that football remains preeminent.
1. NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (NBC) 7.4 ... 21,734,000
2. SUNDAY NIGHT NFL PRE-KICK (NBC) 5.3 ... 15,708,000
3. THE OT (FOX) 5.0 ... 14,753,000
4. NCIS (CBS) 5.0 ... 14,692,000
5. DANCING WITH THE STARS (ABC) 4.7 ... 13,862,000
6. NFL REGULAR SEASON (ESPN) 4.6 ... 13,446,000
7. AMERICAN IDOL-WEDNESDAY (FOX) 4.6 ... 13,384,000
8. BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) 4.5 ... 13,217,000
9. AMERICAN IDOL-THURSDAY (FOX) 4.5 ... 13,136,000
10. DANCING WITH THE STARS RESULTS (ABC) 4.5 ... 12,890,000
Data from 12/31/2012 - 12/08/2013. Regularly scheduled English and Spanish-language programs on Broadcast and Cable. Primetime. Persons 2+ estimates include live and same-day timeshifted viewing. Excludes breakouts, specials, programs less than 5 minutes in duration and programs with less than 4 telecasts. Read as: NBC Sunday Night Football averaged 21.7 million viewers who watched live or via timeshifted viewing within the same day. Source: Nielsen
After suffering the slings, arrows, barbs and -- worse -- dismissal of the critical horde and that horde that hands out awards (though in the case of the Golden Globes, forget about seeking rhyme or reason), "Homeland" ended the third season Sunday night proving all of them wrong. Moving ...and provocative -- or provoking at least this question: Where now? -- the finale was a classic reset.
But...Read more »
"Family Guy's" Brian Griffin died three weeks ago, but thanks to the miracle of modern animation he lives yet again.
That's right: Millions of fans who actually took seriously the idea that one of the most popular cartoon characters on TV was actually dead can now take solace in the fact that they were ... suckered.
Here's what Seth MacFarlane tweeted after the miraculous resurrection:
“And thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash.”
But really, how easy was this? So easy that all it took was a warp in the space time continuum that allowed Stewie to rescue Brian before he was run over. Watch and weep with happiness -- or at least weep for those gullible enough to believe Brian really was gone for good.
Great actors - like Peter O'Toole, who died over the weekend at age 81 - rarely confine their work to the stage or screen, and O'Toole was certainly no exception. He eschewed series TV, with one exception - Showtime's "The Tudors" - but not miniseries. There was a recent starring role on the BBC ("Casanova," with David Tennant) but U.S. viewers probably best remember "Masada,"...Read more »
No one needs to be reminded what happened exactly one year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School; certainly no one in Newtown, Conn., where no memorials are planned Saturday, and no TV cameras are welcome. As the snow piles up — 7 to 12 inches expected to cover this town of nearly 30,000 by Sunday morning — TV news will have no familiar easy hooks for anniversary stories; no ceremonies, no reflections,...Read more »