Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Channel guide

Well, one by one they are leaving the television  - Oprah's daily show will end this fall, Larry King finally gave up his nightly CNN show, Regis Philbin is leaving his morning gabfest by year's end, and Keith Olbermann got his hat handed to him the other night, although leaving in the middle of a four-year, $30 million contract is not exactly like being shoved out the back door of the factory by a couple of beefy security guards, is it?

I was working midnights when Larry King's overnight talk show on the old Mutual Radio Network was on.  Some of the most fascinating people in the world are up and about and heating up water for instant coffee at three in the morning, and it made for some interesting conversations.  One of them was a guy King called "Numbers Man."  This was a fellow who would call and say, for instance, "The Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 4-1 last night, and in the Fourth Chapter of Leviticus, Verse 1, it says..." and then he'd go into some after-the-fact explanation of a current event.  In other words, 41 people were sickened by eating tainted banana bread in Peru, and the Mariners' win over the Rangers had presaged that.  He would never give predictions in advance, however, no matter how much King begged him to.

Not Larry's best day
Larry was an inveterate name-dropper, and he loved his connections to the showbiz and bizbiz bigshots.  For years, upon request, he would spin the tale of how he and his high-school buddies drove a hundred miles to a Carvel Ice Cream place that featured dozens of exotic flavors, and then when they got there, the guy who had raved about the place ordered vanilla.  Da hook in da story was dat one-a da Brooklyn guys who made da trip wit young Larry was Sanford "Sandy" Koufax, who later went on to great fame with the Dodgers.  King told that anecdote over and over until finally a reporter asked Koufax about it, and Koufax said he did not know Larry King, never traveled for ice cream, and had no idea what the reporter was talking about.  

Whoops.  He did it again.  It made me sorry for Larry that he had to claim to be friends with people who did not know him, but I guess it was insecurity.  At least, that's what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett told me at lunch the other day.

Oprah, of course, has gone on to operate her OWN cable channel, and anyone who wants in on the Wide World of Oprah can tune to channel 41 and watch it 24-7.  A lot of FOOs - Friends Of Oprah - have their OWN shows now, such as Gayle King and Suze Orman.  

One of the stories going around was that Regis was asked to take a pay cut and he retired, instead.  The guy is what, 70-some, and he still needs to work, with all the loot he has?  I mean, he's still as good as he ever was, but to me, one of the reasons to work is to build up a nest egg to retire with, to enjoy life a little before being tagged out at home plate.  

Different story with Keith Olbermann, who is just into his fifties.  He was just too much of a loose cannon rolling around the deck of MSNBC, so they say.  I expect he'll be back after sitting out a no-compete clause in his buyout, which is the technical way to say MSNBC has to pay him off and part of that is, he can't be on any other TV show for a certain period of time.

That Dr Phil guy is still on, though, and doing very well.  I guess plenty of people feel that the best way to cure a psychological problem is to appear on a nationally-syndicated show, be browbeaten and humiliated ("What part of 'cheating on your wife with her sister is WRONG' don't you underSTAND?") and then subjected to scorn and shame from a live studio audience.   I hereby offer NOT to watch Dr Phil for the rest of my life, in return for a cash buyout.

I'm also making this offer to the producers of "Sesame Street" and "The Big Bang Theory."  

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