We watch... so you don't have to.

TeeVee Mailbag IX: Nine Times the Regular Mailbag!

Here at TeeVee, we like to think of ourselves as students on the human condition. Every day, when work is winding down here at TeeVee headquarters and we've finished screening the latest episode of The Pretender and we're done thinking up those clever references to Sheriff Lobo and Goodnight, Beantown, we hie ourselves hither down to the local watering hole to observe the human condition in all its wondrous forms. The beautiful young couple sitting by the pool table caught in the midst of a lover's tiff. The starry-eyed young waitress serving up drinks to a clientele of dead-eyed barflies, dreaming of a way out... out to fame and fortune and away from the cruel stench of whiskey and loneliness. The flaxen-haired young lass sitting at the opposite end of the bar, casually sipping her gin and tonic, totally unaware of our steady, lovelorn gaze as we dream of the unknowable heights of bliss we might scale were she just to...

We seemed to have wandered off topic.

The point is, we know people. We know their quirks, their hopes, their dreams, their special desires that they don't dare speak of, even to their closest friends.

And frankly, it's just about enough to make us sick.

Take mankind's strange obsession with the rich and famous. The average Joe and run-of-the-mill Jane may be perfectly solid citizens with good heads on their respective shoulders and a list of accomplishments that would do any mother proud. But even the most logical among us can fall into the trap of celebrity worship, turning a seemingly harmless respect for an actor's work into an unhealthy obsession that can fly in the face of logical, natural law and several anti-stalking ordinances. And when that happens, the results aren't pretty.

Let's say you're a fan of the searing 1970s urban drama What's Happening!, holding the work of Fred "Rerun" Berry in particularly high esteem. You admire his comic sensibilities. You marvel at how he can encounter all the problems dogging an inner-city youth circa 1978 and still remain a jovial, upbeat fat man. You dig his stylish red beret.

So you buy a Fred "Rerun" Berry poster. You begin tracking the most minute details of his career and life. And you form a fan club to meet other like-minded worshippers of Fred Berry. Perhaps, you, too, will buy a beret.

It's all in good fun, right? The letters to Fred Berry, the rambling haikus you find yourself writing in your spare moments, those late night drives around the perimeter of Fred's home... all because you think Rerun is just one hell of a guy.

And if anyone should ever think differently... whoa nellie! Say they argue that Rerun couldn't hold a candle to Raj or that they suggest Shirley Hemphill -- that bitch, Shirley Hemphill! -- was the heart and soul of What's Happening! You would attack them with all the ferocity of a cornered badger. Because you and you alone can understand the genius, the wonder, the glorious élan of Fred Berry, and you won't rest until everyone else does too... even if blood must be shed to drive home the point.

Which is perfectly understandable. After all, TV celebrities come into our dreary lives week after wonderful week to make us smile with their heart-warming antics. All they ask in return is that we swear dog-like fealty to them while crushing those who fail to make the same commitment.

We at TeeVee know this simple phenomena all too well. Seconds after we raise our hand to give some two-bit hack a well-deserved smack upside the head for offending our sensibilities, legions of dedicated fans of the hack in question are unleashing a torrent of vitriol in our general direction.

First, it was worshippers of Tori Spelling. Then, Tim Curry partisans. Soon, Bronson Pinchot's groupies -- all two of them -- were getting in on the act.

Now, we've awoken the wild-eyed devotees of relentlessly mawkish talk show host Rosie O'Donnell from their heretofore peaceful slumber. And it's safe to say fans of Rosie are something of a surly lot.

You see a while back -- back in the bygone days of early '97 -- one of our contributors, Andy Ihnatko, wrote up a review of the inexplicably popular Rosie O'Donnell Show in which Andy, ever the iconoclast, decided that while others might find an hour with the one time star of the short-lived Fox sitcom Stand By Your Man is time well spent, he found the talk show grating enough to set his teeth on edge.

So we ran Andy's piece, had ourselves a good little chuckle at Rosie's expense and pretty much figured that was that.

Well, it seems we figured wrong.

Because a few weeks ago, a couple of Rosie adherents stumbled across our archive and found Andy's valentine to the former star of the "Grease!" revival on Broadway. And while they may have been months late in griping their little gripes, they unleashed a torrent of fury at us that would have done Rosie proud.

j. howard was the first to let us know we were little more than pond scum.

i just finished reading your rosie bashing article, and you are an idiot! The Rosie O'Donnell show is the breathe of fresh air that the world has been waiting for. You must know the millions of dollars she has raised for countless charities, and the daily donations she gets for children's charities. Beyond that, she is the most likeable and normal person to be on T.V. She is refeshingly open and honest. If she is having a bad day, she will admit it, but life goes on. If she is excited about upcoming guests, (Tom, Barbra) she shares this with the audience. Why shouldn't she? She's a fan like everyone else.

You should take another look at this show, and realize that she has the ability to affect millions of people, and make them happy for at least an hour a day.

Yes. As does Prozac, we're told.

j. howard's point -- besides his argument that anyone who disagrees with him is wrong, wrong, wrong -- seems to be that since Penny Marshall's better half in those hilarious Kmart commercials does so much charity work, her on-screen product should therefore be exempt from criticism.

If that is the case, then we have five words for Jenny McCarthy: Give to the United Way.

Soon others would take time out of their Rosie-worshipping regimen to damn us to suffer in the hell of a Rosie-less world. Tim Jalonen dropped us a friendly note to let us know...


I read your piece on the Rosie O'Donnel Show and can't believe you would have the gall to spout-off about something so great! That's like breaking up with someone because their "TOO NICE"! What ever!!!

Timmy's argument hit us right square in the gut. Because, frankly, there's not a Vidiot among us who hasn't known the pain of a broken heart because someone thought we were too nice. Except, of course, for Boychuk, who is, deep down inside, a conniving, black-hearted fiend. But he dresses real nice, so what can you do?

Finally, Aunt Deb and Kelly finished off the Rosie O'Donnell counter strike with a particularly cruel Dickensian twist:

Oh, Bah Humbug to you. I think the Rosie show is fun! Besides, what other "talk show" can you watch with a seven year old? She's silly and that's just fine with us. :)

We're guessing the seven-year-old wrote the letter.

But hey, if Rosie inspires such devotion amongst her groupies, what kind of heartless fiends would we be to tinkle on their happiness? So as a way of extending the olive branch to the slighted Aunt Deb, might we suggest the next time the seven-year-old is over to pop in a tape of Rosie O'Donnell's magnum opus "Exit to Eden." The rip-roaring comedy and sado-masochistic subtext is family fun for all to enjoy!

We hope this settles that.

Not all the mail we received this month was calling for our respective noggins on a figurative silver platter for articles long forgotten.

Scott Rothstein, his body and soul transported back to the 1970s courtesy of Philip Michaels' vein-popping denunciation of Sid and Marty Krofft, wrote to let us know:

hey, Land of the Lost wasn't THAT bad, even if the Sleestak exuded the same degree of menace as Strom Thurmond tottering down Congressional hallways

Which, come to think of it, is pretty menacing. But in the midst of Michaels' rant and rave against nostalgia, Scott noted, the paunchy Lutheran had forgotten one important fact:

you didn't mention the most-used phrase on Saturday morning television in the 1970's:

"those meddling kids!"

Right you are, Scott! And as it turns out, Michaels really isn't a TeeVee writer at all, but really Old Mr. Feeney, the TeeVee landlord, donning a scary mask to frighten us away so he could keep all the gold for himself.

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you medd...

Aw, goddamnit, that's too easy.

Then there was Todd Wolf, who raised a Sid and Marty Kroft-related question far too insightful to make us think that it came from the likes of our readership.

On the Land of the Lost, was the character "Chaka", a soulful pre-human, based upon Chaka Khan, a soulful, fully-evolved human? After all, they have very similar hair.

Ha ha ha ha. That's very clever, Todd, but also very wrong. As everyone knows, the inspiration for Chaka is not one-time Prince protege Chaka Khan but rather one-time Prince co-star Apollonia. We hope this alleviates your confusion.

And if any of Apollonia's many fans out there write to tell us what bastards we are...

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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