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Jenny McCarthy: One Big Bust

Say this about the 15 Minutes of Fame Alarm Clock. When that sucker goes off, you can't just hit the snooze bar, fall back to sleep and keep dreaming those happy little dreams about the unquestioned love of an adoring public.

Because when the Fame Clock reads "0:00," no extensions will be granted, no exceptions will be made. Get your ass out the door and take the tattered remains of your once promising career with you. We have to clean up the room before the fresh meat arrives.

Jacko knows all about the Fame Clock. A decade or so ago, the muscular Australian made a series of well-received commercials for Energizer. Americans became enamored with his flashy, blonde mohawk, his devil-may-care grin, the enchanting way he shouted "Oy!" Soon, Jacko was starring in a TV show, The Highwayman as the sidekick to Sam Jones... Flash Gordon his own bad self. The world, it seemed, was Jacko's vegemite sandwich.

And Jacko has now dropped off the face of the Earth.

Vanilla Ice is biblically familiar with the Fame Clock. Round about 1990, you couldn't turn on Top 40 radio without hearing Vanilla rapping about... um, himself, actually. That bold insouciance captured a grateful nation's imagination. Now, dorky looking white kids had a rap idol to call their own. And Vanilla was rewarded in abundance. He recorded a live album, starred in a motion picture, made in a highly-anticipated cameo in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze." Vanilla's life, it seemed, was number one with a bullet.

And now, Vanilla's face may as well be on the back of a milk carton.

Mayim Bialik could write a doctoral thesis on the Fame Clock. During Blossom's four-year run, America was riveted to its collective TV set, thrilling to each Very Special Episode in the life of the big-schnozzed Blossom Russo. She melted moviegoers' hearts in "Beaches." Mayim's life, it seemed was nothing but champagne dreams and caviar wishes.

And the other day, I think she bagged my groceries.

Jacko. Vanilla Ice. Mayim Bialik. All had their moments in the sun. All are now out in the cold. And hundreds upon thousands join their ranks each year.

Which brings me to Jenny McCarthy. Because right now, the former Playmate's Fame Clock is gonging like Big Ben at high noon.

In case you didn't hear the sighs of a grateful nation, NBC suits wised up last week, dragged Jenny McCarthy's self-titled sitcom out into a dimly lit Burbank alley and beat it lightly about the neck and shoulders until it gave up the ghost.

NBC didn't officially cancel the show, in the same way that Kruschev wasn't officially hauled off to that worker's farm after he, like our good friend Jenny, fell out of favor with the powers that be. With only 10 episodes inflicted upon an otherwise innocent populace, Jenny could always resurface later this year. But if I were Jenny McCarthy, I wouldn't go betting my lifetime supply of peroxide on that possibility.

And so we come to mourn Jenny in all its banal splendor. If only the show had premiered before the public's giddy titillation with Jenny McCarthy had whipsawed around into snarling animus... If only McCarthy would have had the good sense to get naked when ratings began to flag... If only, as the show's star, she possessed a modicum of talent.

Ah, if only. Then the series might have made it to a dozen episodes before NBC dropped the axe.

Because even a six-year-old -- Jenny's target audience if the writing was anything to go by -- could have deduced that this project was doomed from the moment the premise was conceived. McCarthy played a drop-dead gorgeous blonde who makes the trek from Utica, N.Y. to Hollywood and, in a Lucille Ball-like twist, decides to stay out here to "make it" in the oft-cruel world of show business. And each week, the audience roots for Jenny to do just that as she bungles her way through one hilarious misadventure after another.

While you contemplate the glaring logic in that premise, I'm going to go fetch a snack.

Why should I or you or anyone outside of Jenny McCarthy's immediate family care for one second whether Jenny's character makes it in the oft cruel world of show business? I mean, think about it... would you really watch Jenny and sympathetically murmur to yourself "Man, I hope that Jenny strikes it rich in Hollywood. That would sure make up for the rotten hand Life's dealt her, what with her drop dead gorgeous looks, drop dead gorgeous pal, fabulous beach house and gravity defying snoobs. How long must this poor woman suffer before things finally go her way?"

Besides, if art really does imitate life, all the title character in Jenny would have to do to succeed in Hollywood would be to pose naked for a widely read men's magazine and then lounge around the hotel pool while slobbering network executives parked dump trucks full of money at her feet.

Though I'll admit, that seems pretty far-fetched.

I don't think you can really blame NBC for this atrocity -- not Warren Littlefield, not the fine men and women of the NBC publicity department, not even the kid who lays out the condiments on the craft services table. You might as well find fault with Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle, Leatherface's chainsaw, Mike Tyson's teeth. The Peacock Network was merely the tool Jenny McCarthy used to wrong humanity.

Because, if you remember, NBC won a fierce bidding war to air Jenny McCarthy's very public self-immolation. That means there were other networks who would have been willing to step up to the plate -- six-figure checks earmarked for McCarthy in hand -- had NBC taken a pass.

Which just proves the age old truth once more -- Hollywood suits are a bunch of chuckleheads.

But Jenny's reasonably quick and painless demise proves another age old truth -- the folly of star-driven vehicles. We didn't want to watch a marginally talented former Playmate cavort with her wacky pals in Hollywood any more than we want to watch a marginally talented former Calvin Klein model cavort with her wacky pals at a San Francisco magazine or a marginally talented former boxer cavort with his wacky kids. And yet shows like Jenny, Suddenly Susan and The Tony Danza Show keep finding their way to my TV set, as programmers delude themselves into believing that star power will draw people to the shows like moths to a flame.

We'll take Kirstie Alley and stick her at a lingerie company! We'll cast Gene Wilder as a beleaguered father with a couple of precocious kids! We make Dan Aykroyd a zany priest who can talk to the young! Who needs to worry about plotting, story lines and characters with premises like that?

Think back to some of the best sitcoms on TV -- M*A*S*H, Cheers, Seinfeld. Those shows weren't built around stars, or in the case of Seinfeld, stars that anyone knew anything about. They drew audiences because they were well-written, well-acted and genuinely funny half-hours of television.

Unless, of course, when Cheers debuted, you were heard to exclaim, "All right! At last a show starring that guy who gets killed by James Woods in 'The Onion Field!'"

But it's not like networks will wise up any time soon. NBC just inked a sitcom deal with Nathan Lane, admittedly a talented man. And of course, Lane's sitcom is about... uh... ah... oh geez... well, the rest will really write itself.

But that's enough introspection for one evening. Jenny is dead, and it's time to plant the corpse six feet under before we start attracting flies.

I hate it to appear like I'm reveling in another person's misfortune. Heaven knows I'm just a peach of a fellow who's kind to kids and pets and just about everyone. I want to like Jenny McCarthy. I want her to lay her head on my shoulder whilst I offer soothing, comforting words.

And then I read things like this in the L.A. Times:

"Playboy playmate turned-TV star Jenny McCarthy has sued HarperCollins and ReganBooks, alleging that sales of her autobiography, 'Jen X,' floundered because the publishers failed to promote it properly."

No, Jenny. Sales of your book floundered because you're just not very interesting.

Now, take your things and clear out of here. Don't let me catch you on my TV again... not even on one of them Dick Clark blooper shows.

And on your way out, could you wake up the Spice Girls? The Fame Clock's about to start ringing for them too.


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