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Friday, February 28, 2003

Requiem For "The Donahue Show"

I thought I posted this last November, but I can't find it, so I scraped it off a hard drive. A friend of mine appeared on "The Donahue Show", and, lacking a train wreck to gawk at, I tuned in. A review is offered below:

From Dusk To Donahue

Phil Donahue and big time comic Kevin Meaney battle three Comedy Vampires intent on sucking the humor out of every segment of "The Donahue Show".

This Friday night, Phil Donahue either advanced the frontiers of subtlety with a brilliant parody of every awful talk show ever aired, or set a new standard in unwatchability. Phil's guests included professional comedian Kevin Meaney, and three faceless, nameless drones who could neither smile nor shut up.

An early segment was devoted to the lawsuit against McDonald's brought by three obese teenagers. Donahue smiles as he introduces it. There is lightness in the air, and in his mood. However, any hopes for an amusing segment are quickly dashed by the guest who delivers a three minute monologue on beef fat, cooking oil, French fries, Hindu customs, and strict Vegan dieting practices. Fortunately, viewers at home get a comic payoff when the camera scans the studio audience. Folks out there are desperately grabbing for their remote controls, and the looks on their faces as they realize that THIS IS LIVE AND THERE IS NO ESCAPE make the preceding minutes of pain worthwhile.

A now-somber Donahue is desperate to get Kevin Meaney, designated funnyman, involved, so he introduces the next segment:

"Our following piece covers the tragic death of 200 people in riots connected to the Miss World pageant. This is a terrible, terrible incident. There is nothing at all funny about this - two hundred people are dead. Two hundred. Dead. Terrible. Unimaginable. Your thoughts, Kevin?

Kevin was probably wondering whether he should expand his resume to say "comedian and grief counselor", but he bravely offered a non-quip, and the Comedy Vampires took over. Sexism! Racism! Exploitation! One woman in the studio audience slumped forward from boredom and hit her head, so we watched her receive medical treatment - she seemed to be gesturing for a general anesthetic and wisely resisted all attempts to restore her to full consciousness. Cut to a commercial.

Finally, the big finish. Phil introduces a new guest, and she is the shapely Victoria Sinclair of Naked News, evidently a pioneer in broadcast journalism. With degrees in law and journalism (or something) and a model's hot bod, this young lady's claim to fame is her Canadian show where she reads the news and presents video clips while undressing. [Totally safe link here] And why not? That's Entertainment!

She walks on the Donahue set, tastefully attired in a Chanel suit and matching scarf, and Phil introduces, by video hook-up, yet another guest, evidently meant to reinforce the efforts of the Comedy Vampires.

This new guest is a classic big-haired bimbo from a lost corner of television "journalism", and she is screaming at Miss Naked News! "Do you have any idea how hard we work to develop our credibility! We train for years, and struggle to overcome the stereotype that we are just a bunch of pretty faces! Sexism! Exploitation! The horror!"

Gee, and I am sitting at home wondering whether Victoria Sinclair is even as hot as any of the news bunnies on MSNBC, not to mention the many news-babes that clearly are in front of the camera due to something more than their doctorate in International Relations. I tune back in to the screaming: apparently, Ms. Sinclair has recently come out of retirement.

"You quit because you were ashamed of your so-called work! Why not admit it?"

And Kevin Meaney joins in. "I don't know if we should make that assumption. She was filming in Canada - maybe she just got cold."

Laughter from the audience! Hope at home. The Comedy Vampires are at bay!

But only briefly. The candle of hope flickers and dies, and the drones regain control.

So, could a show be this memorably awful by accident, or is it a clever post-modern deconstruction of all that is wrong with broadcast "talking head" shows? Beats me. But I have a hard time believing that there is a steady market for this.

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