Would Viewers Truly Miss ‘Carnie’?

It’s considered impolite to kick someone who appears to be down.

Yet no one merits kicking more than the host of shrill, obnoxious “Carnie,” whose ratings--despite being best among new daytime talk shows this season--still may not ensure its survival, so high are audience demands and fiscal stakes in this arena.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Dec. 07, 1995 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 7, 1995 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Emmy winner-- HBO’s “Indictment: The McMartin Trial” won the Emmy Award this year as best TV movie. Another HBO movie was incorrectly cited as having garnered that honor in an article Monday about the CableACE Awards and again Wednesday in Howard Rosenberg’s column.

The show’s distributor says its fate is still undecided. Yet word from “industry sources,” reports Broadcasting & Cable magazine, is that “Carnie” will be yanked by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution at the end of February in favor of a less acidic talk show hosted by comedian Rosie O’Donnell.

If so, bravo.


“Carnie,” which airs here on KCBS-TV Channel 2, symbolizes a brand of low-IQ talk shows that traffic in combat, deception and banality. On Tuesday, for example, an interracial couple claimed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to have been guests on 17 separate daytime talk shows since 1992, each time concerning a different topic.

Although billed as an alternative to usual talk nonsense, thundering Carnie Wilson and her series immediately joined “Jerry Springer,” “Sally Jessy Raphael,” “Ricki Lake,” “Jenny Jones” and “Montel Williams” atop TV’s scum list of talk shows.

“Carnie” got there with bellowing half hours designed to humiliate seemingly naive victims and to spew venomous, low-brow topics that have dysfunctional guests--some of whom appear to be acting for the camera--screaming at each other and Wilson bellowing at them to the delight of hooters and hollerers in the studio audience. Why, this crowd hasn’t had this much fun since Roller Derby.

Monday’s “Carnie” topic was typical: “Get outta my head and into my bed.”


Best-case scenario: A fallen “Carnie” would help nourish a trend away from talk shows being both stupid and disgusting and back to the way they used to be when we really loved and cherished them.

Just stupid.


MORE LOOSE LIPS. This just in!


KCBS-TV Channel 2’s “Action News” at noon last week described Linda Sobek as a “murdered model.” The messenger was anchor Larry Carroll.

Carroll presumably was reading copy written by someone else in the continuing gridlock of coverage of photographer Charles E. Rathbun and his alleged victim, whose death the local media have chosen to memorialize with relentless coverage that elevates it above other deaths, apparently because she was blond and beautiful.

However she died, her death was tragic. But as one complaining caller asked: “What was she, President Sobek?”

Although the “murdered” mention did not typify coverage, it was probably inevitable given the tone and sheer weight of the reporting, all of which reaffirms just how much of an abstraction is that old saw about suspects being innocent until proven guilty.


You could say this brand of frantic journalism--let’s include the frenzy over alleged “serial killer” Glen Rogers, too--is residue from the O.J. Simpson case. But you’d be wrong. TV news, especially, bore that tabloid imprint long before Simpson was charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Let’s see, now. Rathbun is charged with murdering Sobek. But he maintains that he killed her accidentally by running her over with a van during a photo shoot. Thus, by saying Sobek was murdered, Channel 2 was saying Rathbun was lying, even though there’s been no trial.

Except on TV.



SECOND CLASS. Take it from Super Fan: HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” not only deserved the best comedy CableACE Award that it got last weekend, it deserved the Emmy Award that it didn’t get last September.

Starring Garry Shandling (also a CableACE winner), this is an extraordinary, extraordinarily funny series whose appeal surprisingly extends well beyond show-biz sophisticates and others you’d think would be most attuned to its insider humor about the entertainment industry.

Just recently I met a family from Ireland who had been in the United States only three years. Amazingly, their favorite TV series is “The Larry Sanders Show,” whose subtle whiffs of wit about the neuroses gripping a late-night talk show and its host they quote extensively. Obviously, blarney travels far.

You couldn’t blame these recent emigres for being less clear, though, about the crush of redundant awards shows on TV. That returns us to the CableACE Awards, which were originated 17 years ago at a time when cable programs were excluded from the Emmys.


That is no longer the case--and hasn’t been since 1988. Even though NBC’s “Frasier” received this year’s Emmy in the comedy series category, for example, “The Larry Sanders Show” was nominated, too. As were scores of cable programs in other categories, with HBO’s “The Burning Season” getting an Emmy for best movie or miniseries (another HBO movie, “Citizen X,” got the CableACE in that category). HBO, in fact, won more nighttime Emmys this year than ABC.

Awards shows traditionally draw large audiences. Yet by continuing to stage a separate, segregated televised awards competition that excludes the rest of TV, the cable industry appears to be conceding, true or not, that its own fare compares poorly with noncable programs.


NOT THIS TIME. Has there ever been a news conference that omnipresent CNN did not cover live? Yes: Tuesday’s press conference by ABC announcing its plans to form a 24-hour news network in direct competition with CNN.