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TeeVee Mailbag XVI: Mailbag With Cranberry Sauce

It's safe to say we've always been a melancholy lot here at the ol' TeeVee Mailbag. Maybe it's because we have the collective soul of a poet, a grim world-weariness tinged with a bit of sadness. Maybe it's because we've been wearing black turtlenecks since high school and weeping softly as old Morrissey CDs play in the background. Maybe because we've only just realized that no matter how many hours we spend in the Internet chat rooms, we'll never find the love of a good woman.

Whatever the reason, we're a bunch of gloomy Gusses.

But every now and again, when we're feeling a tinge of sadness brought on by ceaseless flow of time or the depressing state of the world or because some smart aleck went and fiddled with our lithium dosage, we try and look on the bright side of things. Sure, the waning years of the 20th Century can seem like an empty, godless time, full of fallen heroes and broken promises and Internet chat rooms that promise the occasional thrilling sexual encounter but instead wind up providing heartbreak and public scandal. But on the other hand, we have so much to be thankful for.

Sure, times are tough. The stock market's all jittery. Mankind seems to have lost that last spark of human decency and kindness. Children sass back to their parents. All in all, we seem to be spiraling further into the Abyss with each passing day. But hey... at least The Secret Lives of Men has been canceled. For that alone, humanity should let out a shout of gratitude.

Say you're Warren Littlefield. Sure, you've shackled a once sleek schedule with ankle weights like Jesse and Wind on Water and Encore! Encore! Yeah, you've invested years in Brooke Shields and have nothing but heartache to show for it. And yes, petulant Web sites are forever making impudent cracks about your beard. But if nothing else, you can be thankful that you're head of programming at the number one network in the land, and no one -- no one -- can take that away from you.

OK. Bad example. Let's try again.

Say you're Bill Clinton. Sure, you're a lame duck president, whose rudderless policies have been completely subsumed by your own ineffectual administration and arrogant lusts. And yes, you've jeopardized your post as the most powerful man in the western world for a third-rate tryst so puerile it wouldn't even make the final cut for "Penthouse Forum." But you can always be thankful that your inexplicable popularity makes it A-OK to perjure yourself, obstruct justice and otherwise finger-paint a big "Kick Me" sign on the Constitution. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Pass the yams!

And, believe it or not, the folks here at TeeVee are thankful for many things too. Like sunsets. And the laughter of children. And Pepsi's new "One" soft drink, which has the low calories of a diet soda, without that diety taste.

But most of all, we're thankful for the e-mail we get here at the ol' TeeVee Mailbag. Because what else would we use to stoke the fire in our wood-burning stove during these cold, winter months?

Not to harsh on your mellow, kids, but lately we get the feeling that you're not putting the usual effort into your correspondence with your TeeVee pals. Yeah, you manage to get all the subject and predicates in the right place and most of the words are spelled right. But the love just isn't there. It's like you don't care anymore.

Take this offering from John Tarro, who took a deep breath, peered into the darkest recesses of his soul and wrote:


Now, how exactly are we to react to that? Honestly. We're here putting as much as 22 minutes a day into crafting high-quality entertainment to brighten the otherwise joyless lives of the masses. And the only encouragement John Tarro can offer us is some half-baked chattering about a show that was only on the air for three months back in 1984? Besides, anyone who actually saw the program knows that Brenda Vacarro and Larry Linville stole that show from right under Morgan Fairchild's pretty little fingers.

OK, so maybe John Tarro is just one reader -- another poor, dumb kid whose admiration for Morgan Fairchild soon grew into obsession, alienating him from society and keeping him out of all the best cocktail parties. Things like this happen. But surely, not all of our readership is made up of would-be stalkers.

Then along came #1 FAN OF HENRY WINKLER to burst our bubble:


Oooh! Sorry there, #1 FAN. We were all set to send you the address when attorneys for Mr. Winkler dropped by the office with a copy of that pesky restraining order that's been bedeviling you for all these years. Better luck next time, Potsie!

So it's come to this. In spite of our best efforts to seem hip and tuned in and with it, you folks out there think of us as little more than an electronic Tiger Beat or Dynamite!, sitting around with nothing better to do than to forward your fan mail to Kate Jackson or arrange that dream date between you and Ron "Horshack" Palillo.

Or -- if you're reader P.D. Huerta and you've just stumbled across our months-old Entertainment Weekly parody, believing it to be the Real McCoy -- you may have another, more sinister view as to what we do here at TeeVee.

Could you advise me where I may purchase a video of one of Dr. Quincy, M.E.'s television programs. It ran on A & E last week and involved adult literacy. I was unable to view the entire episode. However, it began with a young man who was killed in an industrial explosion because he could not read danger signs and light an acetylene torch.

Subsequently, Dr. Quincy researched the problem of adult literacy. Ironically, the police officer investigating the case was also illiterate.

Ah, that Quincy. Always thick with the irony, him.

And then there are the vampires... the goddamn vampires. You see, years ago, our own Ben Boychuk wrote a piece about a group of teenaged misfits who fancied themselves vampires and -- in one of those wacky pranks teens are so wont to do -- beat two innocent people to death. Ben's conclusion? That the vampire teens and their ringleader, Rod Ferrall, were sick, little puppies. Thankfully, reader Robin Gibson was there to set us straight.

Rod really wasnt that bad you potray him as a bad guy but he was really compassionate and cared about people!

Yes. Of course. That's what Ben meant to say about Rod. Rod is just a swell guy who would give anyone the shirt off his back. Right after he finished brutally beating them to death, we mean.

Never one to let sleeping dogs lie, reader Pura Ruthven also gave us what-for, vampirewise...

I just have to say that those vampire kids take things way too far. If one weren't born a vampire or turned into one, they have no thirst for blood. I am a vampire but by choice, I share blood, I do not kill or steal the blood I take. It's a bond with those you are close and nothing more. I would never hurt an animal or even eat one! It makes us decent vampires look like complete fools.

Well, that and the costumes. But we get your point, Pura. And thanks for reading!

But you see what we're up against. Obsessed fans of '70s sitcoms. People baffled by the Byzantine twists and turns of a Quincy episode. And vampires... the goddamn vampires.

Is it any wonder, then, that we cringe each time a letter wings its way through cyberspace and into our mailbox? The TeeVee Mailbag staff -- once comprised of dozens upon dozens of fresh-faced, idealistic college graduates -- has shrunk to microscopic size, all because of the tedium of having to read through your soul-crushing inanities. And those staff defections are before our houseboy, Keiko, handed in his two week's notice last Wednesday.

Even the junk mail we get lately seems to eat away at our once robust bliss. Take this offering from Josh Stevens who schmoozes:

Dear TeeVee,

I just came from your unique, bitchy site. As Publicity Coordinator of World Events Productions, I wanted to let you know about our newest animated series, VOLTRON: THE THIRD DIMENSION. The show will air September 19/20 in syndication in over 90% of the US.

I'm writing to offer a press kit and copy of the first episode, "Escape from Bastille 12." We welcome any coverage or reviews on Voltron in your web site.

Bad enough that Josh sent us a Voltron press release when we here at TeeVee are on the record clearly as partisans for Star Blazers. But he sent the release as a Word document, forgetting to use the "Save As" function before sending. That allowed us to look into the document to discover that Josh's seemingly sincere offer was also made to Cine Media, E! Online, Wired News and TV.com. And he called those sites "spectacular" while we are merely reduced to being "unique" and "bitchy."

We know a euphemism when we see one, Josh.

Well, that note was just about enough to drive the final stake into our collective heart. A world where publicity coordinators for long forgotten cartoons can call us "unique" and "bitchy" without fear of retribution is not a world care to live in. We were ready to scrap TeeVee, to tear down the site and replace it with a Web page of poems that Wrenn's written to his pet mynah bird, Fidel.

Thank God, then, for reader DDix1, whose simple yet poignant e-mail reminded all of us why we got into this crazy business in the first place.

I think Phil Michaels isn't worht a dollar. His reveiws directly contridict those of the tv viewers. I especially disliked his reveiw on King of Hearts. The show is that of a real persons life. Phil maynot realize it but what he called "velveeta" is what a real mans working life is like. He may not have the ability to relate to the show but me and my buddies at the steel mill see ourselves protrayed in the show and we love it. We also have a poster of the show and one of leah remini in our shop. Phils views are just not that of the working man. I wish all I had to do to make money was give a bad opinion about a show.

DDix1 is right, of course. Not about Phil Michaels not being worth a dollar -- a lavish personal services contract negotiated by his agent allows Michaels to sometimes clear as much as $2.75 for one of his hateful screeds. But the part where Michaels' reviews seem to contradict the opinions of TV viewers -- especially salt-of-the-earth blue collar types like DDix1 -- well, that's spot on.

We called Michaels into the office the other day to confront him about the increasingly bourgeois tone of his articles. He showed up in an Armani suit, a Dominican cigar jutting cruelly from his twisted lips.

"You wanted to see me, comrades?" he asked, innocently enough.

"What's with the anti-worker cracks in your review of 'King of Hearts?'" we demanded of him.

"Well," said Michaels, in between bites of a buttered scone and sips of his Starbucks mocha, "the show is actually called King of Queens and I..."

"Silence, Crypto-fascist!" we screamed. "Your ruling class mumbo jumbo doesn't fly around here!"

Suffice it to say, the meeting went downhill from there. We ended up beating Michaels -- savagely, you'll be glad to hear -- and shipping him off to a re-education camp, where hopefully, he learn the wonders of the glorious workers' revolution that you and us and DDix1 all believe in. And let us assure you, DDix1, that Michaels will never be allowed to right again until we're absolutely certain that his views don't contradict yours.

And for that, we can all be thankful.

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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