Worst media moments of 2008
* So I'm sitting in my office at 8 a.m., watching ex-Baywatch star Jeremy Jackson explain how fame turned him into such a pig that he obliterated a multimillion-dollar career as a teen idol on VH1's latest exercise in celebrity degradation, Confessions of a Teen Idol.
And I'm smiling.
That's the effect bad news can have on us cynical showbiz watchers sometimes. Good news is fine, but it's the bad news that gets the blood racing -- what we suspect is really going on behind the facade. So with that in mind, here's my list of Worst Media Moments of 2008 -- the stuff that got my blood boiling in good and bad ways over the year.
It's a little different from the list I did for print Sunday. And add your own in the comments section. That's the yin and yang of today's fragmented media scene; with so much TV, online, radio, print and music underfoot, there's plenty of awfulness to go around.
1) The Great TV Curse-Off. Forget about Paris Hilton or Bono. The celebrities who really needed a bleep button in 2008 were Jesse Jackson (threatening Obama's family jewels during downtime before a Fox News segment), Jane Fonda (using the c-word during a Today show appearance), Diane Keaton (using the f-word on Good Morning America) and Joe Scarborough (using the f-word on his own MSNBC show, Morning Joe). Next thing you know, Matt Lauer will be busting a cap in somebody.
This may not seem like much, but it felt to me like an apt metaphor for our culture in general. I'm hardly a prude, but I can still remember separate beds on the Dick Van Dyke show and Barbara Eden's covered belly button on I Dream of Jeannie. Traveling from there to the f-word before 9 a.m. feels like a long, strange journey.
2) The giants who left us. Two things I hated doing this year: writing stories about journalism layoffs and writing obituaries. Every year, a new roster of giants wind up leaving too soon, and in 2008, this list included music pioneer Bo Diddley, WTSP weather forecaster Dick Fletcher, comic Bernie Mac, R&B legend Isaac Hayes, political journalism legend Tim Russert and acting legend Paul Newman, to name a very few.
3) Criss Angel "escapes" a Clearwater building implosion. Remember when highly hyped magic tricks were actually hard to figure out? With this one, I had more trouble puzzling how 15,000 people were going to get off Clearwater Beach without killing somebody.
4) Heroes implodes. Like that hapless boyfriend/girlfriend who always looks like he/she's going to get it together but never quite pulls it off, NBC's struggling superhero drama flopped again this year, systematically destroying all the characters whom fanboys (and girls!) grew to love.
5) Writers strike blows up the TV industry. Who knew that a work stoppage ending in March would screw up the TV season for the rest of the year? But the Writers Guild of America's strike cut off runs of promising new series such as Pushing Daisies, hobbled established shows such as Heroes (which aired a critically drubbed, shortened season), forced the delay of other shows (such as 24 and FX's Rescue Me) and convinced another 10 percent of network TV viewers to find some other way to kill time during prime time hours.
6) Local media's Hulk Hogan fixation. Yeah, I've written my share of Hogan blog posts and stories. Which is why I'm qualified to say we've all paid way too much attention to these local celebrities behaving badly. Thanks for the gut check, Troxler.
7) Vanishing newspaper jobs. More than 15,000 jobs were lost in newspapers this year, and given the general state of the economy, there's hasn't been much sympathy. But even as advancing digital technology and changing consumer habits erode newspapers' economic models, the world has come to depend even more on the information they provide. My fear: Citizens won't realize how important those journalists are to democracy until it's too late.
8) Grey's Anatomy bites it. I've always thought this show was insipid. So I didn't realize it was drowning in outlandish story lines (Exhibit A: Katherine Heigl's dead boyfriend hallucinations) until fans began threatening to poke their own eyes out rather than watch another moment.
9) Cable news excess. Fox calls Obama fist bump a "terrorist fist jab." CNN spends thousands on useless hologram technology while laying off its science reporting staff. MSNBC hosts spend almost as much time sniping at each other as covering the Democratic convention. Remember when cable TV news actually involved reporting news? No wonder so many consumers thought so much political reporting was so bad -- the one place in television with a constant stream of reports on the election offered way too much noise and distraction. *