TeeVee Mailbag XXVIII: Name That Tune
We're talking America, reveling in its new-found status as King Shit of the post-War world -- just as President Kennedy's motorcade makes its way to Dealey Plaza. Or the Boston Red Sox, who decide to celebrate their third World Series title in four years by trading a promising left-hander by the name of George Herman Ruth off to the hapless, titleless New York Yankees for a sack of baseballs. Or there's the cast of ER, taking time out of polishing their Emmys to welcome brand new cast member Erik Palladino.
To those wretched ranks, we add the dot-com industry circa 2001, when would-be J.P. Morgans and easily cozened day traders finally realized that mounting losses, declining revenue streams and no short-term hope of profitability was not a blueprint for financial success.
They say that Alexander the Great, after his last battle, wept -- for he had no more worlds left to conquer. But tell us: what would Alex have done if the start-up he founded reported eight straight quarters of losses, the VC money had dried up, and the company's burn rate left him with just enough cash on hand to turn out the lights before the office door smacked him in his ass on the way out?
He'd probably do what we did -- sob into our now-worthless stock options.
Yes, the dot-com downturn has hit your TeeVee friends like a Hasim Rahman jab to Lennox Lewis' glass jaw. Back in the before time -- 1999 -- people couldn't give us their money fast enough. And while we tried to exhibit some fiscal prudence, there was just too much lolly floating around not to blow it on a handful of extravagances. Like the mandatory steak dinners in the TeeVee cafeteria. Or our now-foolhardy decision to build the TeeVee Break Room entirely out of milk chocolate. And, of course, keeping Boychuk on staff -- wasted money, every last red cent of it.
And now, we're gripped by the Fear. People walk around with their heads drooping and their eyes downcast. Those skinflints at Whirlpool repoed the Editor's Jacuzzi after just a few measly missed payments. Last payday, a couple of the junior staffers opened their envelopes to find they had been paid in bottlecaps and string. And it's only a matter of time before the layoffs begin. Sort of like when we fired Collier... only this time, it may be someone valuable.
Someone like your old pals who heroically staff the TeeVee Mailbag.
We try to be good team players. When Michaels is stuck trying to come up with a joke -- an all-too-frequent occurrence, believe us -- we gladly let him steal our best material. When Rywalt enters the building, we don't act like most people and ask, "Who let you in here?" We just nod and smile and pretend to know what it is he does for us. And Lisa Schmeiser -- we're always staring at her, you know, to make her feel pretty. Turns out we've been creeping her out, as TeeVee's legal counsel has just patiently explained to us.
The point is, we've tried to make ourselves a valuable asset to TeeVee Enterprises Unlimited and all of its subsidiaries. But as it turns out, we are -- as that snippy English woman likes to tell dullards who can't properly answer trivia questions -- the weakest link.
We saw the writing on the wall a few weeks back when TeeVee Editor Jason Snell -- Bastard, to his friends -- posted an irate letter from an Erik Palladino fan defending the honor of the much-maligned thespian, who could just possibly be the worst actor on the planet.
We have to admit, that took us aback a little bit, when the bossman muscled in on our territory. Hey, we thought -- we don't try and do Bastard's job. You'll never find us handing submissions back to people and saying "Can you make this funnier?" or hiding under the desk every time Boychuk starts heading in our direction -- that's what Bastard does, and we respect his bastardesque abilities. So why doesn't Bastard treat us with the same respect?
But then, after fuming about this galling turn of events for a while, we were cool with it. Snell wants to do our job? Fine by us -- more time to play Quake III Arena on the company's dime, we say. All we would want is for him to come up with the kind of life-affirming mockery and good-natured abuse that has made TeeVee Mailbag this Web site's sixth most popular recurring feature.
Which is when we noticed that Snell didn't write a blasted thing. He just slapped the letter on the Web page with nary a witty comment and called it a day.
And that hurts. Bad enough to discover that our services are considered completely expendable by the powers that be. But to be told by your employer that "I would rather publish nothing than the unfunny swill you jokers are likely to produce"... well, even NBC treats the writers of The Weber Show better than that.
So we decided to show our cruel masters what's what, prove to them they couldn't just toss us aside like a used orange peel or an extra cast member of Law & Order. We would tear into the cards and letters readers have thoughtfully sent to TeeVee with the ferocity of a cornered and frightened badger, producing wondrous, job-saving comedy that would force Bastard Snell to emerge from under his desk and say, "Job well done, fellas. Why don't you spend the rest of the afternoon playing Quake III? After cashing this generous bonus check, of course."
So firstname.lastname@example.org, step forward and take your punishment:
OK, so maybe this letter wasn't the best one to pick right out of the gate. This poor woman is obviously delusional, and the less we mock her pitiable condition, the better off for all concerned.
So let's move on to the pointlessly named User@Prodigy.net, who's writing to us about... um... FreakyLinks:
Probably about the same time Fox hires us to make all of its programming decision. Which is to say, never.
But thanks for writing.
We received maybe a half-dozen other letters extolling the merits of FreakyLinks and begging the powers-that-be at Fox to give the long-forgotten show one more chance before it's cast out onto the mulch pile that is Fox's Friday night programming catastrophes. But the thought of publishing any more FreakyLinks correspondence gives us a rash. So onward and, hopefully, upward to this e-mail from Lone Gunmen fan Dave Clark.
Guess User@Prodigy.net was right -- weird stuff does happen out there. Nevertheless, Dave Clark -- who, we're guessing, is no relation to the frontman of the British Invasion pop band of the same name -- isn't done pestering us with minutae yet.
If we answer correctly, do you promise to get out of the house more?
Perhaps reader Cathy Verwaerde can raise the tenor of debate...
...or perhaps not.
Geez, maybe Snell is doing us a favor by handing us our walking papers. Of course, then we wouldn't be treated to brain-teasers about The Lone Gunmen or this puzzler from TV reader George:
What do you know about her?
Um... that she doesn't have half the rabid following that Erik Palladino enjoys? That she was the only one to bring flowers to Agent Scully? That she hates her job as much we hate ours right now?
Really... we're drawing a blank here.
We can't help but think back to another time -- a simpler time -- when readers sent us letters that a) had a point and b) didn't require hours of lab analysis and futile search engine queries just to figure out what they were talking about. We used to receive tome-like missives from our readers, point-by-point rebuttals that questioned our arguments, our intelligence and our ancestry. Back in those days, our readers gave no quarter and asked for none in return.
And now? Erik Palladino fans send us e-mail that look like they were proofread by e.e. cummings and spell-checked by Prince.
Speaking of royalty, reader Siobhan Doran has a question from across the pond:
Siobhan, if we knew, trust us, we'd have already applied for jobs there. Their hate mail probably features better spelling and grammar than ours.
Needless to say, the first batch of letters that we came across didn't do much to bring us out of our job-induced funk. And our mood only worsened when we came across this e-mail from a young Czechoslovakian woman, whose name we're withholding for reasons that will become all too apparent in about three paragraphs:
Now our first thought when reading this was: Collier, we don't care what crazy persona you're adopting this week, you still can't have your job back.
But then it hit us: what if this is a legitimate letter from an actual Czech who actually dreams of coming to work for us? If that isn't a stinging indictment of the costly legacy of the Cold War, we don't know what is.
We shredded the letter. We had to -- the way things are going around here, Bastard Snell might actually hire this woman to replace us, thinking that he could pay her 6 cents a day. We hear that's how Boychuk got hired, at any rate.
Well, that just about convinced us to throw in the towel. Type up the resignation letter, let Snell hire the Czech broad, and we can move on to a more life-affirming line of work like retail or PR or telemarketing. Thankfully, just as we were putting the finishing touches on our updated resume, we stumbled across this e-mail from Scott Peace.
Now, folks, we didn't rise to the lofty heights we have in life without having a few instincts. And our first instinct after reading Scott's letter was to mock him viciously. "Life must be pretty dull and desultory on islands off the coast of Washington State if TV theme music is what passes for scintillating tavern talk," we wanted to tell Scott. And then we would mock him some more and tell him to beat it, and then send him crying back to mammy while we chuckled amongst ourselves about his shocking naivete.
Yes, that was our first instinct. And that's exactly what we did, what on account of our poor impulse control.
But then, after crumpling Scott's letter into a ball and tossing it into the incinerator, we came across this e-mail from TeeVee reader Chris:
So that's two letters about TV theme music in the span of just a few minutes. Our keen journalistic minds spot a trend.
And that's when it hit us -- a way out of our dead-end Mailbag jobs. Instead of making fun of the people who take the time to write us with questions -- an admittedly fun though surprisingly unprofitable line of work -- we could instead try to help them. Oh, not try very hard, mind you -- that might cut into nap time. But it seems like there's a demand out there for information about TV theme songs, a niche so small that it could only be filled by someone with modest ambitions and a command for the trivial.
Sounds like a job that's right up our alley.
So, unknown TeeVee reader, the theme song of Gideon's Crossing is, in fact, a bluesy cover version of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap." Andre Braugher is apparently a huge Angus Young fan.
And Scott -- we don't know what the name of the first TV show without any theme music was. But we do know that the most recent TV show to air without any theme music was Chevy Chase's late night talk show -- it opened with Chevy's muffled sobs and nervous coughing from the studio audience.
Oh, and Scott -- life must be pretty dull and desultory on islands off the coast of Washington State if TV theme music is what passes for scintillating tavern talk.
Sorry. Old habits die hard.
William Jones had a TV theme-related question of his own:
Around the TeeVee offices, William, we believe the theme for Boston Public is entitled "Blood Curdling Scream" by Philip Michaels, followed by "Frantic TV Remote Clicking" by the same artist. Hope that helps.
Say, it's TeeVee reader Shadoz! Looks like he has a question, too!
Just try noodling around on a Casio keyboard, Shadoz -- you'll stumble across the tunes eventually. Be sure to throw in plenty of wocka-chickas.
In a trend that alarms us as much as it intrigues us, Shadoz's letter wasn't the only inquiry we got about Real Sex this month. TeeVee reader KiKi had a question about the HBO series as well -- and it wasn't about the theme music.
Yes. You can write to them care of TeeVee Mailbag, San Francisco, California.Be sure to include plenty of samples of your work.
You know, in case this TV theme music scam dries up.
Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.
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