It was a sheepish question from an actor I actually admire.
"You don't like our show much?" Playboy Club co-star David Krumholtz asked me back in July, as we both bellied up to a bar in a swanky hotel NBC had commandeered for a press party, hours after I savaged the show during a contentious press conference. "You sounded a little skeptical."
How to tell the guy, fresh off a turn as math savant Charlie Eppes in CBS' hit drama Numb3rs, that the truth was even worse?
That every decent critic in that room could see The Playboy Club was a train wreck looking for a crash site, an aimless series centered on a controversial nudie magazine that felt like a bad rip-off of Mad Men — a series which, much as everyone talks about it, only about 2 million people actually watch, anyway.
In that moment, I wished for the power to use my critic's knowledge to keep scenes like this from ever happening again. I wanted to be the King of TV.
Then I could have decreed that The Playboy Club would never have progressed from a joke written on the back of a cocktail napkin. And the idea of a Charlie's Angels reboot would have remained a black smudge on Drew Barrymore's film resume, never to darken ABC's door.
Looking back over the year in media, there's lots I would have handled differently. Here's a quick peek at the TV world we'd all be living in, had King Eric the First been handed the scepter early enough.
, Al Jazeera English would be available on every cable TV system.
It is an enduring tribute to the spinelessness of American cable programmers that the U.S. branch of one of the most prominent TV outlets covering the Arab Spring can't get onto most of this country's systems. No doubt, AJE covers such news from the perspective of the Arab world, which feels different and less objective to American sensibilities. But as revolutions from the street change the balance of power in Egypt, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, AJE is required viewing. It is shameful and sad that most American cable viewers can't take it in, unless they look in from the Internet.
, Matt Lauer would stay where he is; Ryan Seacrest would be the new Regis.
If you believe the latest rumors, American Idol host Seacrest is in talks to join Today, should Lauer make good on noises about stepping away from the A.M. shift. This would, of course, be disastrous for all, forcing Seacrest to leave Idol and making the nice but overmatched Ann Curry Today's top anchor. Lauer, who makes the difficult task of balancing news and fluff look deceptively easy, should accept he was born to host Today and take his inevitable, multimillion-dollar pay hike. Seacrest should go where he's really needed, into the co-host seat beside Kelly Ripa on the now Regis-less Live with Regis and Kelly.
, CBS would have hired anybody but Charlie Rose and Gayle King for its latest Early Show revamp.
No disrespect to Charlie and Gayle, but they are not what CBS needs to make a dent in mornings. Viewership for such shows is a habit not easily broken or changed. What CBS needs is a team that can offer attention-getting work over a very long haul; two years at the least. Rose, who turns 70 four days before the Jan. 9 debut of the network's revamped CBS This Morning, doesn't seem like a great candidate for long-term tenure. King, likable as she can be, has struggled as host of both a syndicated TV show and a morning show on pal Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable channel. This seems like a marriage destined for a short shelf life, and it's the last thing CBS needs.
, Instead of a lame remake of Prime Suspect, NBC would have rebooted the BBC's Luther, with Idris Elba in an Americanized role.
Okay, I know the BBC still is making new episodes of Luther, Elba's compelling crime drama about a genius-level police detective with serious emotional issues. But this story about a hero cop only slightly less screwed up than the criminals he's chasing is a much better fit for our times than the argument against '80s-era sexism that was the early Prime Suspect. And if TV networks can do British and American versions of Dancing with the Stars or X Factor with the same stars, why can't U.S. TV do an American version of a British drama starring the same actor? (Also, I would have spared Suspect, which just started to transcend its awful pilot episode when NBC gave it the axe.)
, Al Sharpton would get a co-host and Pat Buchanan would be banished from MSNBC.
He may be getting decent ratings, but the Rev. Al Sharpton still seems stiff and uncomfortable after months hosting his 6 p.m. show PoliticsNation. As engaging as he can be, his preacher's cadence and constant self-awareness feels awkward. I would have given him an experienced co-host from day one.
And it is hard to fathom why MSNBC continues to employ Pat Buchanan, the former Nixon advisor whose latest book connects America's economic decline and social ills to its rising ethnic diversity (one chapter, "The End of White America," provides an alarmist take on the impact of affirmative action and Great Society programs). He hasn't appeared on camera since October, but MSNBC also hasn't responded publicly to protests about his presence. Perhaps it's time for Uncle Pat to take a permanent hiatus from the channel.
, There would be no more Kardashian spin-offs.
Because I don't want to face God and have to admit I let that sort of abomination happen.