Italic Anxiety

Monday, March 29th, 1999

When the lotto jackpot creeps up above $70 million the concept that people are buying lottery tickets suddenly drops into the brains of assignment editors and out of their mouths as if it were actual news, deserving of Dedicated Determined Team Coverage You Can Count On. Get those crews out there! Bring us those familiar pictures of hands, cash registers, money and tickets. Unleash those anchors, enabling happy talk on the order of “gee, I guess I should get my tickets. Time for sports. Bill, d’jou get your tickets yet?”

When Bill Gates cranks out another book of public relations tripe about e-mail, the Internet, and how corporations can be rejuvenated by installing Windows-based machines by the hundreds, who at Time magazine stands up and says “we should put this brilliant man on the cover”…? Did we hang onto every word of Henry Ford decades ago when his basic message was “the world will become a utopia if you buy enough of these basic black cars?” Well, hmm, maybe so.

And just when exactly did Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw discover that they were more than pretty-boy anchors—why, they’re authors, qualified to pontificate in print on the meaning of the century, or of the generation past? If they had so much extra time for authoring, why didn’t they instead snag a camera crew and go out and find some actual news?

Yes, these are just rhetorical questions. And no, don’t get me started. Uh-oh. Too late for that.

Did they hire Tom Skerritt to shill for Aleve because the guy looks like he’s in perpetual headache agony? I’m standing in front of the mirror, scrunching up like crazy, and no, I can’t make my face do that.

Is there some sort of gender thing going on when they counterprogram Ice Dancing Championships with Die Hard 2, or the Final Four with Something to Talk About?

Is Craig Kilborn going to tank as the new host of the Late Late Show because he refers to himself as “frat-guy fun” and “charming” in interviews?

If they pick Joel Siegel of Good Morning America to replace the late Gene Siskel, will we tune in one day to find Ebert’s hands around Siegel’s throat?

If the Supreme Court outlaws camera crews riding along with cops (as they kick the doors in of America’s shirtless and blurry-faced), will the Langley-Barbour series Cops be able to survive with only eleven years worth of reruns to syndicate? (or gee, will the Supremes require them to erase those tapes?) Maybe they’ll just require the producers to blur out the entire program.

When a station tells you that something is “New at 11,” what exactly do they mean? Are they operating from the NBC Zen Theory of Reruns that says (and I quote), “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you?”

Do the producers of Jeopardy! wail on Alex Trebek during commercial breaks when he’s spent too much time doing funny voices, helping out Canadian contestants, or pointing out the failings of hapless guests? (Seems to me as if right after he does that, we come back from break, and he’s much more subdued.)

And will I get my runaway italics corraled before next week?