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TeeVee Mailbag XXVI: Summertime, and the Living Ain't Easy

Schoolchildren may not understand this, but your friends at the ol' TeeVee Mailbag just hate summer. For some, the months of June, July, and August are a godsend -- an unending series of backyard cookouts and lazy afternoons, a stress-free zone off-limits to the likes of homework, books, and all their teachers' dirty looks. But for us, it's three months of one indignity after another.

The mercury rises, and our Mailbag office -- untouched by the miracle of air conditioning -- begins to smell like a monkey house. Network TV takes a three-month powder, leaving a barren landscape of failed sitcom pilots, Harry Hamlin movies, and Will & Grace reruns that we couldn't be bothered to watch the first two or three times around. Everyone else at TeeVee goes on vacation, forcing us to fill in where needed. Fix the copier, fill in for the janitor, run down to the liquor store and pick up Boychuk's... um... office supplies.

All told, it puts us in a sour mood, worse than that time our request for an autographed headshot of Rue McClanahan came back stamped "Return to Sender." The sun shines brightly in a cloudless sky, and all we can do is shake our fists at the heavens and plot our revenge. The laughter of children from a nearby playground wafts by, and it stings like an ice pick in our spines. Ballgames are being played, sunbathers are frolicking on sandy shores, ice cream is being scooped and served by rosy-cheeked Good Humor men. And what are we doing? Spending our summer in a kiln-like office sorting through your mail.

Eddie Cochran was right. There really is no cure for the summertime blues. And now, because of that, Eddie Cochran is dead.

Think about it, won't you?

Normally, we're able to tackle our jobs with the utmost professionalism. Mail comes in, we sort through it, write some sort of witty rejoinder, and then it's off to happy hour at The Fireside for whiskey sours and Buffalo wings. We answer the burning questions, modestly acknowledge the heartfelt compliments, and the rest -- well, the rest we shower with abuse and scorn and public mockery to ensure that you'll never write us again.

A simple job. And we're just simple enough to handle it.

But this summer, combing through your letters and coming up with the scintillating quip has been nothing less than an ordeal. It's trying to get blood from a turnip. It's like pulling teeth. It's like trying to come up with a sitcom for Tony Danza that's both a ratings smash and a critical success. Sure, it can be done in theory, but in practice, you might as try splitting the atom with kitchen utensils.

Take this letter from Judging Amy advocate Jody Wilson:

i have only one dream...to just BE in a scene with tyne daly. i'm 67,have done bits in two dozen films here in florida...i know this is stupid and worthless..it's just my dream.i'm sag,aftra and equity and i'd PAY to do this FREE !!!! (i know ..here's another nut) and judging amy is a fine series...so there!!!!!!

If acting with Tyne Daly is your only dream, then you must... um... So you're in SAG, are you? Well, that's just... ah... heh... You'd pay to do it for free, huh? Gee, that's...

See? We've got nothing here.

After all, what has this poor woman done to deserve our scorn? All she wants to do is act with Tyne Daly. Isn't that the birthright of any 67-year-old Floridian who's done bit parts in two dozen films? And why shouldn't she declare her intentions to everyone -- embarrassed relatives, indifferent neighbors, startled passersby -- without fearing society's cold rebuke? What kind of monsters would make fun of such a woman?

Well, us, under normal circumstances. But in these lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer, we can't seem to work up the energy.

But then, maybe we've been wasting our lives. That's the hypothesis of Vanessa, the self-described Webmistress of the Dr. Dave Shrine. Apparently, Vanessa was taken aback by our decision to designate fish-faced mook Erik Palladino as the worst actor on television last year. Vanessa took time out of carving crude figurines of Erik Palladino from snack foods to write:

I'm sorry that you find scenes featuring Erik Palladino an "invitation to channel surf" but I think you are among the minority not the majority. Most people I have talked to think that Erik Palladino is a fantastic actor who portrays his multidimensional character, Dr. Dave Malucci, with incredible talent. After reading the misguided rant on your page I tried to think what would make you think that Erik was "boring".

The only thing I could come up with is that you're jealous of someone like Erik who gets to do what he loves, is good at it, gets paid a lot of money for it, and has the body of an Adonis. That, of course, is understandable because all you all day is write webpages that try so desperatly to be funny but fail at every single punchline.

You're right on two counts. First off, we are jealous of Erik Palladino. He probably gets to take summers off; we're stuck at the office reviewing back episodes of his hackwork. How'd we get the ass-end of this deal?

And second, we could be doing better things with our lives than sitting around and writing Web pages that desperately try to be funny. Come to think of it, we should be using our time and energy to better society... and ourselves. We should be using the Web to do something worthwhile and important and pro-active.

We've got it! We'll devote our time and energy to building a Web site heralding the work of the worst actor on television, using pictures and fan fiction to fuel an admiration bordering on obsession. And then we'll take to the Internet to hunt down our enemies -- and the enemies of our beloved hack actor! -- blasting them and their petty jealousies with the kind of zeal that usually lands you on the losing end of a restraining order.

Oh wait... that job's already taken.

But we definitely need to find new jobs. Because if we're supposed to be keeping our finger on the pulse of the TV universe, then Lisa Henderson has inadvertently exposed us as frauds.

You're probably aware that there is a media blitz currently underway to protest the imminent cancellation of the USA cable show, La Femme Nikita.

Lisa, believe us when we say we had no idea La Femme Nikita was still on the air. Tell us more about your original and sure-to-be successful Internet campaign on behalf of... um... what was the name of the show you're trying to save again?

Fans from 50 countries are writing, e-mailing, faxing, phoning and doing whatever is necessary to get the attention of USA Network and Warner Bros. TV. Sponsors are being contacted, radio and TV stations notified, executives at both Warner Bros and USA Network are being bombarded with pleas for a 5th season.

Dedicated fans have also begun a "Money from the Heart" campaign to save this outstanding show, with letters being sent to Mr. Chao, Pres. Programming-USA Network and Mr. Peter Roth, Pres. WB. One dollar bills are being enclosed in each letter with the option of either using it for their finances (as the negotiations stalemate is a 'money' issue) or donating it to one of the charities supported by the cast of LFN.

Hey, we've got a better idea. Just send those dollar bills to us. We'll make sure it gets to the folks who canceled... um... it's Xena, right?

Remote controls, tvs, etc. are also being mailed with messages such as "...won't need these anymore without La Femme Nikita on TV!"

Well, count us in. Any excuse to mail away our TV sets is good enough for us. And when the cause involved is saving a basic cable TV show from cancellation, well, then junking hundreds of dollars worth of audio-visual equipment seems a small price to pay.

We get the TV back if La Femme Nikita stays canceled, right Lisa?


All that's depressing enough, but this summer has also seen the departure of a valued member of the TeeVee family. He was there from the beginning, working with us side by side to build a great Web site with a unique point of view. For years, his work went unappreciated. It's only now, after he's gone, that his absence has been keenly felt.

Yes, Jerry the Snack Guy -- the man responsible for restocking the vending machines in our employee lounge -- has gone on to bigger and better things. We wish him all the best in whatever he does.

Oh, and Collier left, too.

Guess which departure eagle-eyed reader Robin Kenwood noticed?

I know you're going to be bombarded with "Please Don't Leave" emails, and this is no exception. Well, no, if you've found something you'd prefer doing, then you certainly should do so.

However, I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful writing, sense of humor, and insight. I enjoy all the writers at teevee, but must admit a preference for you. I've just loved your stuff and I'm saddened that it will be no more.

Are you going to write elsewhere? If so, could you have one of the remaining guys slip it in to one of their essays?

God, I'm gonna hate missing my Collier fix. I doubt I am alone in this.

No, Robin. Reader Andy from England feels much the same way.

how come you've lost Mr Collier? Of all your writers (yes, even including that Phillip Michaels guy) he was the best. One of those stalwarts that kept Teeveers from across the Atlantic, who wanted to know the hip put-downs for the excrescence that we import from your side before they even aired, logged on. (Excuse the long sentence, I know your attention spans aren't what they were.) So how comes you lost him?

Well, Andy, we're happy to tell you, even though it's clear you don't care for the rest of our work. (Although would it kill you to spell Michaels' name properly? That raving egomaniac has been sobbing for weeks because you butchered his first name.) James Collier left TeeVee because James Collier never really existed.

You see, we invented the character of James to liven things up here at TeeVee. He was our sassy character, the guy who would say anything no matter how outrageous. Why, when James was on the scene, anything could happen... and usually did!

Over the years, many different people played the part of James. The part was most recently held by Glenn Paulsen, who can now be seen playing the part of El Guapo in the road company production of "The Fantastiks," appearing next week in Flagstaff, Arizona.

But don't you fret, fans. The part of Collier has proven to be so popular with our audience that our crack staff of TeeVee writers are busy creating a host of wacky characters to step into the void. And we guarantee you'll find their antics to be just as madcap, zany, and revenue-generating as Collier's schtick.

In the next few weeks, you'll be meeting:

  • Mr. Jensen, TeeVee's cranky handyman!
  • Hector Suarez, a street-smart orphan whose sharp tongue will keep you in stitches!
  • Amanda Blaustein, a women's studies professor who'll bring down the house with her theories on the post-feminist ethos of Mama's Family!
  • Tran Nguyen, a mathematician with a genius-level IQ who just can't get enough of The New Hollywood Squares!
  • Col. Buford, the ghost of a Confederate soldier that only Wrenn can see!
  • and last but not least, Pete Ko, a wily Chinaman who...
Hmmmm? What's that, Snell? Oh.

Skip that last one.

At any rate, we're sure that you'll grow to love the kooky new additions to our TeeVee cast of characters just as much as we do.

And if not, well, misery loves company.

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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