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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

News items good fodder for comics

Are we maybe giving the brilliant Jon Stewart a little too much credit these days?

Read these two actual news items, then try telling me the Comedy Central "newscaster" doesn't have days where all he has to do is get out of bed, drink coffee, and shoot fish in a barrel.

●The producers of a reality porn show that has taken Europe by storm are now in negotiations with U.S. broadcasters to air the program on the other side of the Atlantic .●.●.

The Private Stars show gives five "real world" men a shot at a contract with the company - the winner being the one who performs best on television with one of Private Star's top female performers.

●The liberal-leaning United Church of Christ said CBS and NBC rejected a national advertising spot that highlighted the denomination's open-armed policy of acceptance. By implication, the ad made it clear that inclusion extended to gays and lesbians.

"Jesus didn't turn people away," the ad said. "Neither do we."

The networks said the spot was too controversial.

Cerebral whiplash. Even Comedy Central couldn't make this stuff up. CBS, hashing over its decision, wrote:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast .●.●."

Meanwhile, NBC makes money off Will & Grace, a prime time sitcom that trafficks in stereotypes of gay culture, and CBS honcho Leslie Moonves cracks wise with reporters that just maybe the post-Dan Rather evening news should be anchored by the cast of Friends.

"People are going to have to look at news differently," warned Mr. Moonves (in a more serious mood after his Friends joke), "and certainly we are."

But Mr. Moonves mixed up his tenses. People already look at news differently - especially advocacy groups. While CBS and NBC nixed 30 seconds worth of welcoming by the United Church of Christ, yesterday's Washington Post noted some groups are producing entire TV dramas to get their message out.

The National Threat Initiative, a group that worries about "unsecured nuclear material," is financing a one-hour TV movie starring former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson as an American president facing terrorists who somehow got their hands on nukes. The Post quoted the show's writer-director saying that such programming "could well become the next rage in TV lobbying," a prospect nearly as scary as free-floating nukes.

Would this be a good time to mention that the airwaves are supposed to be publicly owned?

Well, at least books remain sacred. Oops. Wait.

Publishers Weekly just honored America (the Book), a Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. As Jon Stewart himself might say: "A mock textbook I wrote was just named Book of the Year. That's [pause] a book, written by a [pause] TV guy.

"It's [pause] book of the year, for God's sake! Yeah, I can't figure it out, either."

(Truth? It is a great book.)



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