The people have spoken overwhelmingly. They phoned. They wrote. So once again, by popular demand, we give you The Gripe Line.
Really, though, all this negativity is getting to be alarming. We gripers simply have to get a grip on ourselves.
--Radio personalities who stop at nothing when it comes to self-promotion.
If you’re thinking of Tom Leykis, you’re right. Leykis is the KFI-AM (640) talk show host who publicly condemned the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death sentence against Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses.” Any sane-thinking person would.
But Leykis went even further by trying to organize--with the publicity help of KFI--a public burning of the works of Muslim Yousuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), the singer who has been quoted as endorsing the death sentence. Unable to pull off the burning, Leykis on Wednesday, in the presence of TV cameras, drove a steamroller over a pile of Yousuf/Stevens records, tapes and compact discs.
Was this a crass publicity stunt that, in effect, echoed the very terrorism of artistic expression that Leykis was supposedly protesting? Nahhhhhh, of course not.
This was fascism for freedom, for Leykis said he was sending a message to the singer and Khomeini that Americans oppose murder and support the right of “people to read, think and say whatever they want to.”
Everyone, that is, but Yousuf Islam.
--Sportscasters who consider themselves appendages of the industry they cover.
Do most Los Angeles sportscasters see themselves as junior Dodgers or what? Take genial Tony Hernandez of KCBS-TV Channel 2, for example. There he was the other day at Vero Beach, Fla., covering the Dodgers by being a Dodger, bat in hand in front of the camera, swinging away at pitches thrown by manager Tommy Lasorda.
It was lighthearted. It was for laughs. It was for the hometown audience. Even giving Hernandez all of that, did he have to wear a Dodger uniform while doing it?
--News anchors who don’t know when to stop laughing or when not to start.
On KNBC Channel 4 recently, Colleen Williams and Jess Marlow--yes, usually staid Jess--laughed and giggled up to and through Williams’ introduction for a story on earthquake danger. Surely there have been earthquakes that were funny, but none comes immediately to mind. Tornadoes--now they’re funny.
TV news “happy talk” used to be more rumor than reality in Los Angeles. It was a label misapplied to practically anything on newscasts that wasn’t funereal.
But now the real thing has finally arrived, for Channel 4, after struggling so long to overtake KABC-TV Channel 7, has literally chuckled itself to the top of the local news ratings. And that’s not funny.
--News exclusives that aren’t exclusive.
Exclusive is the most-used misnomer in TV news. How was it possible, for example, for a recent KCBS-TV Channel 2 interview with controversial jailhouse snitch Leslie Vernon White to be “exclusive"--as it was labeled--when “60 Minutes” had interviewed the same man two nights earlier? If Channel 2’s interview was exclusive, then this sentence is exclusive.
--Ads for lawyers in shiny suits.
You’ve seen them, touting the law “offices” of Joe Fixit. These guys will make your bills go away. They’ll make your bad driving record go away. They’ll make your whiplash go away. They’ll make your psoriasis go away. They’ll make your spouse go away.
If only they would go away.
--Reporters who identify the Soviet Union as Russia.
It hasn’t been Russia for 62 years. The Russian republic is one of 15--each with separate identities--that make up the diverse Soviet Union. Russians are only about 52% of the population. Estonians aren’t Russian, nor are Latvians, Armenians and so on and so on, any more than Californians are Texans.
Now, gripes supplied by readers:
-- Previews of a production immediately before it is shown.
They blow the story. The CBS miniseries “Lonesome Dove” was guilty of that, according to Thomas Letchfield of Northridge. “At the beginning of each episode, there were too many excerpts from scenes later in the episode. I don’t want to see these before they happen in the story.”
Nor does Ted Simon of Riverside: “ ‘Scenes from coming attractions’ is an old movie tradition, but when the real thing comes along, you do not usually show the advance publicity. PBS is particularly annoying in this way.”
--Too many close-ups and dancing heads.
“I don’t want to see individual whiskers on male interviewers,” Letchfield complains. “And I want to see feet at all times in ballet, not heads only.” Especially heads with whiskers.
Lillian Money of Manhattan Beach cites four that offend her. “Does anybody really refer to family and friends as loved ones ?” she asks. And about the expression gunned down, she adds: “People are shot. Is gunned down supposed to add some element of drama? Shooting isn’t enough?”
Money also rages at newscasters who say floods and forest fires are “raging out of control.” She says, “Fire and water are not capable of rage. They do a lot of damage, but they aren’t mad at us when they do.”
But she is mad at TV anchors who tease upcoming stories before a commercial break with the tag: “and much, much more.” “Sorry,” she says, “if they want to sell me something, they’ll have to tell me what it is they’re offering.”
“The Channel 4 people are especially prone to using these annoying ad-libs to demonstrate camaraderie among the staff,” gripes John Case of Los Angeles. “Keith Morrison is the single worst offender and should be stopped.” Keith--STOP!
--Anchors who say “We’ve got . . . . “
“Does anyone ever say we have ?” asks Margaret P. Polsky of Santa Barbara. “Perhaps Kelley Lange (of Channel 4) could eliminate that when she eliminates her other oft-used all right. “
On that merciless note, we have got to close. The Gripe Line next time will feature biased, vicious and malicious comments about broadcasting, as always.
And much, much more.