Celebri-spiral™: Enough Already

Our culture is in a celebri-spiral. We're conflicted over our ridiculous, growing celebrity culture consumption via magazines, websites, and TV shows. In 2007, my love/hate conflict made me take to the blog-o-sphere. All writing on this site © Dave Singleton 2009.

Monday, March 5, 2007

March 5, 2007: Barbara Walters, Larry King, and the Big Q of Celebrity Media Coverage

The big question of celebrity media coverage is "why do those in charge choose to focus the spotlight on certain topics and not others?"

I asked myself this question while I watched Larry King interview Barbara Walters
, appearing to plug The View and her TV specials. Now, it's no secret that I love Larry King. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, he had me at little old man. I know he asks banal questions. He reads questions off of cue cards, often without feigning interest in the responses. The hunched shoulders, suspenders, and Broadway!!!! lights behind him are too much. But his show keeps a laser-like focus on celebrities who peak our curiosity, often fanning the flames until there's a brush fire of coverage. Laci Peterson might be exhibit A. Anna-Nicole-a-thon is certainly the most recent example.

Larry gets roughly 1 million viewers, which is peanuts next to Entertainment Tonight's nightly audience of approximately 9 million, but huge for a cable talk show. In the last three weeks, 90% of his shows have been devoted to Anna Nicole.

I still can't get over the joint appearance of these two media titans who, between them, have about 100 years of television experience. They are groundbreaking legends. Their focus last week?

A debate about Anna Nicole vs. Britney coverage, with a dash of Donald Trump.

Larry asked Babs about the Rosie vs. Donald feud, and she was evasive, choosing to avoid the topic. Score one for Barbara, I thought. She started it and now she's ending it.

Then Larry asked her what she thought about Anna Nicole's death and the ensuing hysteria. Barbara stiffened and said that they really don't talk about it on The View, as if they chose instead to limit conversation to viral cancer cures, reasons for national educational standards, and sound options for the US withdrawal from Iraq.

Barbara offered reasons why Britney's coverage is different than Anna Nicole's. While acknowledging that Anna Nicole's death has all the elements of soap opera- including a baby in flux with the real daddy a question mark, two untimely deaths at young ages, and tons of money at stake-she said that Anna had accomplished little for her fame and was over (I.e. dead), while Britney can reinvent, contribute to culture, and symbolize hope for young girls who, presumably, are at risk of head shave and meltdown.

Her tone indicated that Anna Nicole is a subject beneath her, while other celebrity tabloid tales have social merit. Um, sounds like a stretch to me.

The most fascinating exchange was this:

KING: Why do you think so many people are following (Anna Nicole)? Why do you think there is such a fascination with it?
WALTERS: I don't know. Why do you? You do it every night. (zing!)
KING: We do it, but I can't figure it out. I know I do it, the producers book it, I do it, we talk about it. But what is the fascination of it? (I have no idea, I just do what they tell me.)
WALTERS: I don't know, either.

My first reaction was "Not know?!? How could they not even have a theory?" Then it dawned on me that maybe they know, or have theories, and just don't want to admit the reasons. Their livelihood is at stake.

Do I really expect that these two will agree on air that the majority of viewers want mindless, cheap entertainment...and they're happy to provide it to them as long as the ratings are good?

That's like expecting McDonalds to admit-on its own with no prompting from Morgan Spurlock-that french fries are bad for you and those who buy them are idiots.

I guess the answer to the big Q of celebrity media coverage is obvious. It has nothing to do with mutable standards of "news fit to print," or air. It's ratings, pure and simple. They have a vested interest in not exploring the psychology of viewers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You like Larry King? Really? I wouldn't put him ion the same league as Barbara Walters.

Monday, March 05, 2007 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute site. Spot on as to why Larry King has joined all the other networks in endless Anna Nicole blather...but why not discuss the nascent democratization of celebrity where America is creating its next singing sensation on American Idol? Were you one of the 32 million Americans who cast a vote for Lakisha or Melinda or - my personal faves - Blake or Chris? After one of these fabulous singers is crowned, it's only a matter of time before we see them walk down the red carpet at the Oscars a la Jennifer Hudson......

Monday, March 05, 2007 2:01:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Singleton said...

Cute. One of my least favorite words in life. But thanks I think. Speaking of cute, the American Idol kids and hosts lack that cute factor for me, this year.

However, this phrase "nascent democratization of celebrity" will find it's way into something I write very soon.

Monday, March 05, 2007 2:28:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Singleton said...

Actually forgot I wrote two posts on American Idol, from earlier this "season":

2-21-2007: http://celebri-spiral.blogspot.com


Monday, March 05, 2007 2:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara Walters and Larry King could mud box or jello wrestle and make more of a contribution to pop culture.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:18:00 PM  

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