TeeVee Mailbag XVII: Make Love, Not E-Mail
Reasonable people -- folks who could once agree that two plus two is four and that a body in motion tends to stay in motion -- are now squabbling like cats and dogs over the issues of the day. The spirit of bipartisanship has been bound and gagged and replaced by its evil twin brother, partisan sniping. Instead of friendly debate and agreeable disagreements, we're saddled with the politics of personal destruction, ad hominem attacks and divisive wedge issues. And all because Fran Drescher announced that this would be the last season for The Nanny.
People also seem out of sorts about this business with the president diddling some fresh-faced harlot.
How else to explain the nasty tone, the snide style, the snappish sentence structure of the cards and letters that have been pouring in to the ol' TeeVee Mailbag. At least once a day, one of the many TeeVee interns charged with sorting through your correspondence bursts into tears, unable to bear another predicate of your abuse. When it comes time to check our mailbox, we gingerly open the door and quickly jump back, lest the outpouring of your bile somehow stain our loafers.
It just doesn't figure. Sure, we may have a rough, hard-bitten exterior, grousing about this or that. But the gripes, the curses, the stinging put-downs... they're just to keep the pain out. They're to hide our Pillsbury Doughboy-soft insides. They're to make sure that you never ever suspect that five out of the six Vidiots sobbed like schoolgirls when Leo DiCaprio met his maker in the icy waters of "Titanic." And the sixth had already fled from the theater, blubbering after the scene where our Leo is deflowered by that hussy Kate Winslet.
So you can imagine our puzzlement when we get a letter like this one about The Dukes of Hazzard from the shy, retiring Matt "Lightning" Overstreet, who writes:
Well, Matt has us there on several points. Bo and Luke Duke were indeed cousins, not brothers, though, this being a show set in the backwoods of Georgia, it's easy to understand our confusion. And while the sheriff's last name was indeed spelled Coltrane, Matt drops the ball when he insists that Rosco is the correct spelling. Our check of The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows -- revised sixth edition -- indicates that "Roscoe" is, in fact, the name of the lovably corrupt constable portrayed by James Best in the seminal '70s redneck dramedy (Who's the stupid cocksucker now, Matt?).
Of course all of this spirited debate ignores one simple fact -- we're talking about the Dukes of Freakin' Hazzard here! Is this the sort of thing to drive a man to send scathing e-mail to a bunch of complete strangers whose only goal in life was to make an amusing little TV Web site and, in the process, meet chicks?
In the mixed-up crazy world of Matt "Lightning" Overstreet, the answer appears to be "yes."
OK, so Matt "Lightning" Overstreet is a cruel and demanding mistress. But surely our other readers -- those without nicknames, we mean -- could cut us a bit of slack.
Try telling that to Michael DeVore, who sent his one-sentence poison pill letter under the heading "James Collier Sucks As A Writer."
Oh, God, have we tried, Mikey. We've changed the locks on James when he goes out to lunch. The tricky bastard just sneaks through the window. We casually drop hints under our breath like, "Doesn't it seem a bit crowded in here lately?" or "Boy, wouldn't it be great if James Collier -- yes, that James Collier sitting right over there -- were to just up and leave?" He doesn't catch our drift. The other day, we stuffed him in a sack, drove down to the river and tried to drown him like a troublesome house pet. No dice. Turns out he can swim.
Finally, Mike-a-rino, we launched an extensive search for a high-quality writer to replace our James. But, as it turns out, all of the applicants kept using the word "dork" in their cover letters. And that's just the sign of a hack.
Oh, not every letter this month was as cruel as the cutting words wielded by Mike "No Lame-Ass Nickname Like 'Lightning' For Me" DeVore. But e-mail like this one from a reader calling himself Sice left us feeling icky all the same.
Only if you mean "funny" in a sad, ironic way, Sice.
Still, there must have been a reason why we found ourselves on the receiving end of a steady deluge of hate courtesy of you folks. We had to have wronged you in some way... killed your dog, messed up your credit rating, something. How else to explain the bile of Matt "Lightning" Overstreet? The sneering disregard of Michael DeVore? The quiet, joyless longing of the clearly troubled Sice?
Leave it to reader JoAnn McKnight -- who insisted on calling herself Anonymous in Alabama in spite of the fact that her name was clearly visible in her e-mail -- to set us straight. JoAnn read an off-handed reference to infomercials in one of Philip Michaels' unstructured, meandering rantings and just about had kittens.
Good Lord. Had we actually been so foolish as to cross the all-powerful infomercial syndicate? Did we think we could tamper with forces beyond our understanding and get away with it? And what exactly is a "nitch" anyway? Is that some sort of Alabama thing?
Oh merciful spirits -- save us from the vengeance of those that wield cuisinarts and flowbees! Save us from ourselves.
So we were already on thin ice, karmically speaking, when "Bandit" warned us of another violated taboo, this one in our April Fool's Day parody.
Needless to say, after reading Bandit's words of wisdom, we were just red-faced with embarrassment. Except, of course, for Boychuk, our staff albino. But you get the point. Here we were -- a bunch of goddamn punks -- trampling on the memory of Jack Klugman, of Oscar Madison, of Quincy, M.E., of Juror No. 6 in "12 Angry Men." When the guy we really meant to make fun of was that bastard Jack Warden.
Well, we want to make amends. To Jack Klugman. To fine infomercial makers everywhere like JoAnn McKnight. To readers like you.
If we can reach out a heal the breach -- add a little pinch of bipartisanship to a nasty, partisan world -- then maybe, just maybe, we can bring that loving feeling back to the ol' TeeVee mailbag. Your cards and letters will be warm and inviting once more. You'll send us cookies and baked goods like you used to. And we won't even have to run them by our official taster first to check for clandestine razor blades.
Our first chance to turn over a new leaf came when Patricia Jackson -- one of the many Hyperion Bay fans who are rapidly overtaking Tim Curry devotees in the Most Annoying Band of Zealots sweepstakes -- tried to pick a fight over Pete Ko's big thumbs down to the Mark-Paul Gosselaar/Carmen Electra soap.
In most cases, the Vidiots -- the evil Vidiots -- would have chuckled amicably before ripping poor Patricia Jackson a new orifice. We would have made fun of her simplistic punctuation and pointed out that she may very well have set a new land speed record for most logical fallacies in a single paragraph (To wit: ad hominem attack; fallacious appeal to authority; prejudicial language; false appeal to popularity; inductive fallacy, hasty generalization; inductive fallacy, false analogy; inductive fallacy, unrepresentative sample; inductive fallacy, slothful induction; causal fallacy, post hoc; causal fallacy, complex cause; irrelevant conclusion; and, last but not least, denying the antecedent.)
No, that was the old, grumpy TeeVee. We're TeeVee: The Next Generation. The Love Generation. The Kum-ba-ya Generation.
And with that in mind, we say: Right you are, Patricia Jackson! Us critics is dumb!
Boy, that felt good. Our faces -- long since twisted with hate and ashen with despair -- began to brighten. One of us even cracked the glimmer of a smile. And all because we made a reader feel good.
Imagine our added joy when reader lstilles wrote to us, asking for help with a very complex question.
Well, lstilles, we're glad to help. Just follow these five simple steps, and you'll be sucking off the swollen teat of free cable TV in no time.
STEP ONE: Cast aside 2,000 years of Western philosophy regarding the immorality of theft!
STEP TWO: Buy a cable splitter!
STEP THREE: Use the cable splitter to siphon off the signals that law-abiding cable customers are paying their hard-earned dollars to receive!
STEP FOUR: Make sure when asking Internet sites how to steal cable, you don't send an inquiry to a site where one of the regular contributors has a day job in law enforcement!
STEP FIVE: Drop us a line from prison!
Yes, gentle reader, it's a new era for us here at the ol' Mailbag. It's morning again at TeeVee! No more snide replies to your earnest inquiries. No more volleys of abusive e-mail aimed at the poor, dumb sap whose only crime was to catch us in a bad mood. You can e-mail away, secure in the knowledge that any feedback you have for us will be received with all due respect and attention.
Unless you piss us off again. Then all bets are off.
Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.
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