Sunday, January 24, 2010

Later That Same Evening

I'm not much for the late night talk shows--I don't even watch Jon Stewart when he comes on, preferring to let my DVR work its magic. (Not to mention that there have been more occasions than I care to discuss where Jon was--there's no gentle way to say this--a bit of a douche.)

So I really haven't cared too much about the Leno-O'Brien freeforall on NBC; I have better things to worry about than which middle-aged white guy is going to bore me at 11:35 PM. I haven't watched Conan O'Brien since I was in college, and Letterman since I was in high school--and the odd times I have caught Dave since then have just proved that what played well to my 15-year old, kinda-sorta guy self is pretty crappy nowadays.

And as for Leno, his show has always been an unwatchable piece of trash--he turned hard into the gutter back in 1995 with the Lance Ito dancers and has gleefully wallowed there ever since.

But one thing that I have noticed about this whole fiasco is how often the principals have descended to lady-hating and other associated misogynies. I said noticed, not "surprised at": Leno has frequently been a public prick about women, and Dave...well, Dave built a frakking bedroom over his set so that he could not-quite coerce his not-quite interns with not-quite threats about very, very realistically killing any chance of a career in the business.

So no surprise as well, as Liss noted, that Leno is a contemptible misogynistic jerk:
He takes a swipe at Letterman's marriage that, in trying to hit Letterman, sprays collateral buckshot all over Regina Lasko, who is married to Letterman. And that's not a bug of the joke; it's a feature. Leno's the kind of nasty bully who will take aim at another guy in a way that hits his wife, too.

It's a construction that treats Lasko like Letterman's property, which is why this jibe has the same cowardly feel as a guy who keys another guy's car in the dark parking lot of a bar, instead of taking a swing at him.
 But wait! It's not just the principals in this mess, it's also the feakin' commentators:

Now, Seth Myers has always been pretty douchetastic; it's his shtick, and it has been ever since he started co-hosting Weekend Update with Amy Poehler. But for fuck's sake, comparing hosting a TV show to being married to a woman, and the process of changing hosts to divorce...and...and...the whole way it just assumes that women are commodities to be traded, is special even for him, and a further sign of SNL's two-decade decline into pointless wankitude. To think: this was the show that started out with Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, and Laraine Newman, launched the career of Julia Sweeney, and gave as Tina Fey as well as the aforementioned Amy...well, sigh.

Of course, it's a woman's fault to begin with, because a woman fucked up the Tonight Show 17 years ago.

That woman was the late Helen Kushnick, the woman who had discovered Leno, served as his manager and personal friend for his entire career, and engineered his takeover of Johnny Carson's well worn seat. And right away there were nasty stories about her: she was most notorious for her vindictive policies of shitlisting guests who had dared to appear on Arsenio instead of The Tonight Show. NBC, tired of her bullying ways, fired her after a few months of heading up the gabfest, and Leno sadly had to let his friend go before she destroyed the career she had built.

Or wait! Maybe that's not what happened, mostly because Leno is a huge douche and misogyny is a recreational sport in Hollywood. To wit, from a 1996 EW profile:
Kushnick's story is well-known to those who follow the late-night TV wars. She was portrayed as an abusive tyrant in The Late Shift, Bill Carter's 1994 book about Leno and Letterman, and in last February's HBO movie; and the image was no exaggeration. In the end, many who had been her supporters, like former client Jimmie Walker, and even NBC executives, found her impossible to deal with. Her stepdaughter, Beth Kushnick, 35, still calls her a ''ghastly monster.'' Even her only sibling, Joseph Gorman, 48, had been estranged from her until shortly before her death at age 51.

But what is not so well-known is the story of Kushnick's final years — years spent out of the media eye, years that ended in a kind of redemption and, for her daughter, Sara, 16, in a reconciliation with Leno. ''Maybe she did have to be a bitch to get where she did,'' says Sara, Sam's surviving twin. ''But when she started out, women were supposed to be secretaries. She did things with anger because it was the only way she knew how.''

''They called her a bitch,'' says Mitzi Shore, owner of L.A.'s Comedy Store, ''but if she were a man, she wouldn't be called a bitch. There are managers in town who are 10 times worse than she was and they don't call them bastards.''
 And if you needed any more confirmation about Leno's jerkiness, consider this from the same piece, about  Kushnick's daughter:
She grew up with Leno, called him Uncle Jay, considered his parents her grandparents. ''He came over for dinner the weekend after my mom got fired,'' she says. ''We had chicken wings — we always had chicken wings. I sat on his lap and he said everything would be okay. That was the last time I saw him.''
 And there's another way to look at the Kushnick story, as Rudy Panucci explains in a sweetly vitriolic piece on the whole late night mess:
Kushnick was dying of cancer while Leno was explaining that he had to fire her and ban her from the studio lot because he was shocked, shocked, to discover that she had lied to him about planting the rumors that hounded Carson into early retirement. The truth is, Leno threw his long-time manager and personal friend under the bus when it became clear that The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was a poorly-produced, barely-watchable disaster. After eighteen months of coming in second to Letterman, even though NBC had a strong prime-time line-up, Leno’s manager took the fall, and then the large-chinned wonder let NBC revamp the show to rescue it from cancellation.
So there you have it, folks--the kyriarchy in a nutshell, brought to you by a bunch of rich white guys who are barely even funny. I think I'll just go to bed early.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Awesome post, C.L.

    (And thanks for the link!)

    ReplyDelete