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Apr. 29 2010 — 10:53 pm | 247 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Conan O’Brien goes old school with ‘60 Minutes’

Conan O'Brien on "60 Minutes"In a “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft — his first since the NBC late-night debacle that forced him out — Conan O’Brien says he wouldn’t have done what Jay Leno did to him.

“He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know…I know me, I wouldn’t have done that,” O’Brien says. “If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well and then…six months later. But that’s me, you know. Everyone’s got their own, you know, way of doing things,” he tells Kroft.

Asked by Kroft what he would have done, O’Brien says, “Done something else, go someplace else. I mean, that’s just me.”

And you know, I believe that. Throughout the whole mess, this is a guy who stood on principle. Even when he was fighting for his job, in that statement about not going quietly into the good night, he talked about how moving the “Tonight Show” back would hurt the franchise, so at least in principle it wasn’t all about him. He ended up with a legion of fans on “Team Coco” not only because he was getting the shaft but because he wasn’t a dick. Even Reggie Watts, the nutjob who’s opening for Conan on the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” noted as he wrapped up his set the other night that this tour and the new gig is the kind of thing that happens when you’re a nice guy and treat people decently. He seems like a good egg — and not one to hitch his wagon to the victim role because it’s good PR.

I’d also like to commend O’Brien for kicking it old school and choosing “60 Minutes” — and Steve Kroft no less — as the venue to break his (sort of) silence. Kroft and “60 Minutes” tend to be the g0-to guys for people both trying to do rescue their reputations:

Or build them:

There’s a reason for that. The show doesn’t get O’Brien’s hipster demographic, but it does bring weight and substance,  it’s a beautiful counterpoint to the tour antics on the road, and a way to clear the air before embarking on new madness on TBS. Besides, no talk show gets much in the way of Conan O’Brien’s viewership demographics, unless you count “The Daily Show,” and given the new head-to-head basic cable rivalry that O’Brien’s move sets up (and, frankly, Stewart’s somewhat conspicuous silence while Jeff Zucker’s decision-making was hitting the fan), that’s not bloody likely.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Conan for not going the Barbara Walters route (it’ll be bad enough to have to listen to them talk about the interview on “The View”), and for not giving Oprah the full franchise on the whole episode. There’s plenty of talk show air to go around.

Conan: I Wouldn’t Have Done What Leno Did To Me (CBS)

Conan O’Brien: I Would Never Do What Jay Leno Did to Me (People)

Conan O’Brien on ‘60 Minutes’: NBC relationship turned ‘toxic’

Apr. 28 2010 — 12:20 pm | 1,041 views | 2 recommendations | 11 comments

Sandra Bullock schools everyone on how to survive a scandal

I used to think that the best marital disaster/living-well-is-the-best-revenge story belonged solely to Nora Ephron, whose “Heartburn” is nothing short of genius. But I think Sandra Bullock, with the new story in People magazine detailing her secret adoption of a baby boy and filing for divorce from Jesse James may have it topped.

Bullock and James started the adoption process four years ago, according to the story and People editor Larry Hackett this morning on the Today show. They reportedly got word that there was a baby ready for placement in January, and Bullock wisely decided to keep things under wraps until awards season madness ended. As if anyone needed more proof that she’s got her priorities straight.

Then when the tattooed nightmare hit, she told People, she grabbed a bag, took baby Louis and got the hell out of Dodge, keeping out of sight while the Category 5 storm swirled around her. And it sounds like her organizational skills in planning how she’d stay out of sight are nothing short of remarkable.

She’s reportedly filed for divorce, saying she was totally blindsided by the scandal. Jesse James has reportedly given up parental rights to little Louis, and she’ll finalize the adoption as a single parent, though she’ll continue to co-parent James’ three kids. James reacts to the story with a statement that’s unsurprisingly repentant and actually pretty eloquent.

People magazine once again proves to be the venue of choice when releasing critical information and doing industrial-strength damage control. Good luck finding a copy when this one hits the newsstands.

As for Bullock, whose life has taken a turn it would have been impossible to predict, I say thanks. It’s not often we get to see such a huge display of character in Hollywood. And it gives us a chance to focus on something other than the Kardashians or the implosion of Lindsay Lohan for a day. Best of luck.

Apr. 27 2010 — 3:21 am | 609 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Conan O’Brien makes my face hurt

I caught Conan O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour on Saturday night in L.A., just 400 yards from where he used do his show every day before NBC gave him the big heave-ho. It only took a few hours for my face to stop hurting from all the laughing.

By now everyone’s seen the video of the “Superman” duet with Jim Carrey (who I’ve never been a big fan of, and who for some reason seems to have stolen Jackson Browne’s hair), which was great, but by far not the high point of the show. In fact, it might be hard to choose just one high point out of so many:

  • The intro video, showing a morose O’Brien lying among pizza boxes, putting peanut butter on his toes so the dog will play with him, sporting a giant beard and horrible hair extensions just barely this side of “Cast Away”, and listening to his young daughter tell her mother that “daddy smells like pee.”
  • Conan’s recitation of the eight stages of grief for late-night talk show hosts who’ve lost their shows (including denial, anger, blaming yourself, blaming everyone else, and buying everything Amazon says you’d also like)
  • O’Brien’s wardrobe change from his customary suit to a version of the lavender leather suit that Eddie Murphy wore in “Raw” (it’s worse than you could possibly imagine).
  • Conan’s thoroughly decent musical talent, especially on the blues song recounting his relatively happy childhood and stable upbringing in an upper-middle class family in Brookline, Mass.
  • Andy Richter — particularly with his fake horse.
  • The introduction of the Self-Pleasuring Panda.
  • The video message from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (yes, that was me texting “More Smigel!!” on the Verizon giant screen)
  • Conan brought a bunch of his celebrity pals on stage to help play “Chuck Norris, Rural Policeman Handle” (the “Walker, Texas Ranger Lever” is NBC intellectual property), including Jonah Hill, Jack McBrayer, Aziz Ansari, and Jon Hamm. The bit remains brilliant, and I repeat: Jon Hamm.

In fact, before I go any further, here’s a list of the bold-faced names I saw in the audience: Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt, Katy Perry, , David Spade, Kevin Pollak, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari and the wonderful Jack McBrayer.

A cynic might wonder if, by brining so many elements of his well-established crew, O’Brien might be showing himself as something of a one-trick pony. Is the TBS show going to bring something new to the table, or is it just a change of venue?

A not-so-much-cynic might also wonder where the ladies were in this scenario. Besides Conan’s two back-up singer/dancers, the Coquettes (and the little girl in the opening video) there wasn’t a woman to be found anywhere in this production. Of course, O’Brien can do what he wants, but after the Letterman fiasco, the microscope that ended up focusing on late-night writers’ rooms turned up less-than-flattering truths about what some people think are the demographics of funny. With his resurrection on TBS, O’Brien could be looking at a real opportunity to change things and — gasp! — put some women on stage. But from the looks of this traveling circus, that’s not likely to happen.

And an O’Brien fan who thinks he had a rough go and suffered an unfortunate short-end-of-the-stick combined with a big-boot-up-the-caboose would come away impressed with Conan’s aplomb, and his willingness to make fun of himself and his situation with a lot of grace. It makes my head spin to think of how big a pity party this could’ve become. The guy is, of course, a comedian. If he can’t make you laugh at him in the aftermath of a hideously uncomfortable situation, then he’s not worth your 60 bucks, much less your nightly ratings.

O’Brien’s great gift, even as the rest of us commenced with our hand-wringing and Jay Leno began his “we both got screwed” campaign, has been not taking himself too seriously. Even when everything came crashing down in January, he had the sense to have some perspective, at least publicly. Walking away with more than 30 million reasons to keep that perspective doesn’t hurt either.

Now that I’ve seen what he’s legally prohibited from doing on television, I can’t wait for O’Brien to get back on the air.

Apr. 21 2010 — 1:59 am | 384 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Kate Gosselin gets the ‘Dancing’ boot

Kate Gosselin Dancing with the Stars

Not exactly burning up the dance floor: Kate Gosselin was eliminated from "Dancing with the Stars." (Photo credit: Adam Larkey, ABC)

Well, now at least Kate Gosselin can go from talking about her kids to try and drum up votes on “Dancing with the Stars.” She got the heave-ho on Friday, despite a full-on begging rant asking friends for their votes.

Which, based on today’s “The View,” (yes, I DVR it in hopes of getting material for this blog — I’m not proud) will make Whoopi Goldberg nothing short of ecstatic. I’m eager to see the dance that Whoopi does when Kate heads back to “The View” as a guest host when she’s out pushing her two new Discovery Channel shows, “Twist of Kate” and “Kate Plus 8.” You can read all about that at her Discovery Channel blog. And if that doesn’t give you enough nausea, you can check out the (delusional?) pro-Jon masses at Gosselins Without Pity.

Well, at least now we have to turn to basic cable for this particular flavor of nightmare. Until she hits the Today show for another exclusive.


Apr. 19 2010 — 9:05 pm | 76 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Larry King Divorce Day 5: Moving out of splitsville?

Larry King during a videotaping of his Larry K...

Image via Wikipedia

TMZ reports today that Larry and Shawn Southwick King have postponed their divorce proceedings and are undergoing counseling to try to put things back together. King apparently said he was worried about how a divorce would affect their two young sons, and over the weekend the couple was snapped being affectionate after their son’s little league game.

I say bravo. Sure, this is Hollywood, where controlling your public image is a full-on contact sport and people lie through their teeth about their happy/healthy/non-botoxed lives an instant before it all comes crashing down. But it’s possible that this time some common sense prevailed.

Maybe filing papers in court is the world’s greatest wake-up call — particularly when there’s no prenup involved and a lot of money at stake.

Maybe they’re fueled by a healthy fear of looking ridiculous. Pop Eater’s Joel Keller offers his take on why an eighth divorce isn’t exactly an image enhancer for King.

Maybe they just wanted to cool off a little bit before things got even more heated. Because once the horse — and by that I mean the allegation that your husband may be having a thing with your sister, or that your wife might be having her own thing with your kids’ baseball coach — is out of the barn, it’s pretty hard to get it back in.

Maybe they really do want to see if they can keep it together, both for themselves and for their kids. I think it’s awfully hard to argue with either of those motives — divorce can be pretty hellish for anyone, much less anyone with paparazzi on their tails all the time. And you have to admit it’s refreshing to see people making a choice, at least temporarily, to try to stand by one another rather than tear each other apart.

I for one hope it works out for them. Bringing a family back from the brink is well worth losing all the snarky jokes that could’ve come from a split. Best of luck to you, Kings.

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    I've always been obsessed with pop culture and celebrity, even as a political reporter by day at washingtonpost.com and ABC News. Even after leaving journalism for media relations and consulting (Need help with press releases, brochures, annual reports, or media strategy? E-mail me -- lisa.celebjungleATgmail.com.), I pretended to be mildly appalled by the antics of the beautiful and famous -- then gobbled up tabloids and all the gossip I could find. To date, I've preserved my amateur status as a celebrity news analyst so I could compete in the gossip Olympics, but now I've decided to go pro. As a recent transplant to Los Angeles, or Celebrity Ground Zero, I'm learning to live among them as they roam unfettered over the landscape -- while praying that a behind-the-wheel Lindsay Lohan stays out of my neighborhood.

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