Anchor Away: Marty Levin

May 27, 2010

Anchor away: 10 questions for newscaster Marty Levin

San Diego:   

Anchoring the nightly news in San Diego has been a big part of Marty Levin’s  life for the past 33 years. All that ends Wednesday (May 26). At 11:29 p.m., he’ll sign off for the last time from NBC 7/39.

 No one else has spent more years anchoring San Diego’s local TV newscasts than Levin, a University City resident. His current stint at NBC 7/39 began in 1987 and followed anchor gigs at KGTV/Channel 10 and KFMB/Channel 8. For a brief period in the early ’80s, he opted to leave San Diego for a large-market news anchor role in Washington D.C., only to return to his adopted home.

 Now that Levin, 64, has chosen to retire — by all accounts, he’s made this career decision entirely on his own, without pressure — he’s one of San Diego’s last longtime news anchors. Only Channel 10’s Hal Clement now comes close. In the tradition of Ray Wilson, whom old-timers fondly recall as San Diego’s Walter Cronkite, Levin has always been there.

 Through the years, he’s crafted a well-deserved reputation for anchoring a solid newscast. He was at his best when disaster or crisis struck. He was well-informed, reliable and believable.

 For him, it was always the news — not the newscaster — that mattered most.

 1) So how do you feel about leaving TV?

 I’d say it’s sort of a combination of apprehension and a feeling of, ‘Oh, my goodness, this’ll be great!’ I’m trying to stay centered and just wait and see how it goes. I’m trying not to over-anticipate how I’ll feel, one way or the other.

 2) What do you think you’ll miss the most?

 Well, the sad reality of this business is that the most interesting moments and stimulating times for us are the worst times for somebody else. So when there’s breaking news and I mean real breaking news —  not what everyone labels ‘breaking news’ these days, you know, when the fires are going on or there’s some really significant story — that’s what I’ll miss the most. That’s just the way I am.

 3) And what will you miss the least?

 Oh, the routine, the sort of daily redundancies. I think that’s true for people in almost any job. There’s a certain process and we do it three times a day for three different newscasts. And sometimes that gets a little tedious.

 4) How did you feel watching John Gardner get sentenced? What was going through your mind?

 My honest answer is, if I hadn’t been reporting it, I wouldn’t have watched. For me, it was anguish of the highest magnitude. I was very uncomfortable watching the suffering the parents were going through. It’s inconceivable that someone could commit those sorts of acts. I realize that’s strangely naïve. But it’s very hard for me to understand how someone could be that sick or have such a blatant disregard for human life.

 5) To my eye, you’ve always been straight-forward, no fluff, no Ron Burgundy, ever. Were you ever tempted to be pompous?

 Fortunately, I’ve never thought of myself that way. Last Saturday, we had a going-away party. And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Is this really for me?’ I never thought of myself as a TV ‘star.’ That’s just not who I am.

 6) Do you think people will say to you, ‘Didn’t you used to be Marty Levin?’

 I’m sure some people will. I think it’ll take a long time for people to figure out that you’re no longer on the air. I still have people who say, ‘I know you…You’re on Channel 10, right?’ That was a long time ago. Even Channel 8 is 25 years ago now. And they still confuse the stations. A lot of people, when they see me in jeans and T-shirt, they say they must’ve known me in high school or that I work at the local 7-Eleven. They’ve seen me but they can’t quite place where.  And that’s fine with me.

 7) Whom do you most admire in local TV news, either current or in the past?

 You know, there’s a pretty good list. We’ve had some awfully good people in this market. Names like Ken Kramer, Gene Cubbison, Adrienne Alpert, Susan Farrell, Joe McMahon, Hal Clement. And (Larry) Himmel and I have been friends for a long time. We’ve had this running contest about who could stay employed the longest. And it looks like I let him win.

 8) Are you concerned about the future of local TV news? Or do you care?

 I am worried about it because I think that we’ve done a disservice to the audience in ‘lightening up’ the product, in every way — ‘we’ being the collective we.  People need to know what’s going on in the city in which they live. And I don’t think they’re well-served by car crashes and crime stories. I think there’s a vacuum for serious news. I worry about people being uninvolved and I worry that, even at the national level, the news isn’t thorough enough and too opinion-based. People aren’t getting enough objective information on which to make sound decisions.

 9) What’s been your best asset through the years?

 Well, I do have what they call institutional memory. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve always tried for context. The thing is, nobody out there who watches regularly who could tell you whether I’m a Republican or a Democrat or liberal or conservative. Or how religious or non-religious I am. Also, when I’ve done programs when we’ve had two sides of an issue, I’m always most satisfied when both sides are a little angry with me. That’s because I probably played it right down the middle. That’s what I tried to do, be as provocative and as fair as possible. We’re not Fox and we’re not MSNBC. It’s a local news station. I’ve always had opinions about everything, but they weren’t part of my job.

 10) So Marty, you’re still relatively young to be retiring. What are  you gonna do next?

 Good question. I don’t really know yet. I don’t have a real plan. I thought I’d cruise into it and see how it goes. It seems like the right time to do it. It’s been long enough. The workload’s been big enough. I hope I’ll get to do something in television — some place, at some time — but it won’t be doing three local news shows a day.

Is San Diego’s ESPN Radio on Its Last Legs?

May 22, 2010

One of San Diego’s three all-sports radio stations is running on empty these days.

ESPN (98.9 FM), which airs only ESPN’s nationally syndicated talk shows and sports updates, no longer has a working staff. The station fired its six-member sales staff several months ago and the few remaining employees have not received paychecks since March 15, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

“The most insulting part is, no one in charge has come to us or even sent an email that says, ‘As you know, we’re having financial difficulties and we’ll get you paid as soon as possible,’ ” said the source. “We’ve heard nothing. It’s kind of sad because there’s so much potential here.”

ESPN Radio San Diego carries no local programming. It is owned by a Baja-based firm, MEC Network. There was no answer at the station’s downtown San Diego office.

Currently, ESPN Radio San Diego carries play-by-play of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The station switched its dial slot last September, moving from 800 AM to 98.9 FM, formerly a hip-hop outlet owned by the same company. The 800 AM position now carries ESPN’s Spanish-language sports.

ESPN Radio San Diego’s last local show was co-hosted by Dave Palet and Jeff Dotseth. It aired for about a year before ending in 2005.

The other two local all-sports radio outlets are XX (1090 AM) and XTRA (1360 AM). Both carry full slates of sports programming, including local talk shows.

Go Ahead and Tase ’em, Bro!

May 22, 2010

Last Monday’s night Padres game was marred – twice in the top of the 9th inning, in separate incidents within a minute of each other – by two “fans” who made fools out of themselves by running onto the field.

In a wise move, Cox Channel 4 did not show either incident, instead keeping the camera on Padres reliever Health Bell, who was obviously irked. The delays totaled nearly five minutes as Elite Security guards finally caught each intruder and reportedly placed plastic ties on each fan before hauling them off to custody.

None of this was shown on TV.

Always the pro’s pro, play-by-play voice Dick Enberg opted not to give any details of how each fan was brought down. Smart move by the Cox 4 San Diego crew – and likely the result of a strict policy not to air such on-the-field field antics.

The incident brought to mind a May 4 incident in Philadelphia during a Phillies-Cardinals game. After eluding security guards for a few minutes, a 17-year-old male was brought to his knees with a Taser gun, an electric shock that immobilizes its victim. Suitably subdued, he was dragged off the field.

So should that drastic measure be used – or at least be made available for use — on fans who race onto the field during Padres home games?

I say yes.

For me, the deciding factor rests with the unknown. As Bell pointed out in post-game remarks, what if either fan had brandished a knife? Or a gun? Usually, alcohol and drugs have triggered such behavior, which further heightens the danger.

The players, whose field should be a sanctuary, are left absolutely helpless. Their safety, health and livelihoods are placed in immediate jeopardy.

Anyone who’s followed sports through the years knows the dangers of fans racing onto the field of play. Several notable incidents have occurred in baseball, most notably in 2002 when Kansas City Royals base coach Tom Gamboa was physically assaulted during a game. The attack was made by a father-son duo for no apparent reason.

The most tragic sports-related attack occurred in tennis when Monica Seles was stabbed with a 9-inch knife in 1993 while resting on the sidelines during a match. Her career was never the same.

Point is, what used to be greeted by fans with laughs at first and then derisive jeers when the intruder is finally caught, now doesn’t seem so amusing.

On every ticket sold, a disclaimer informs the buyer that the team assumes no liability from objects – errant balls and bats, mostly – that sail into the stands. In other words, be advised that you’re taking your safety into your own hands when you purchase that ticket.

A similar warning should be added to each ticket, and made very clear via the video screen and the public address announcer, that any fan who enters the field is subject to being subdued by a Taser gun – if that action is deemed necessary.

You’d think such a warning would deter even the most daring idiot.

Baseball’s joys: Listening to Enberg and Coleman

May 21, 2010

John Freeman: Enberg and Coleman, Two of a Kind in Padres Booth

May 20, 2010, San Diego News Network

Listening to Dick Enberg do Padres games on Cox’s 4 San Diego is a nightly pleasure that grows more enjoyable with every game.

That’s the truest measure of what a play-by-play voice brings to his craft: No matter what the score, you feel like you’ve spent a pleasant few hours listening to an old friend talk about your favorite sport and favorite players, stirring a few memories along the way.

Old? Did someone say old? Heck, Enberg’s only 75, so he’s not quite as “seasoned” as his Padres radio counterpart, Jerry Coleman, who’s now in his 85th season.

Think of it: On radio, we have Coleman, who’s still filled to the brim with the joys of baseball as life. Sure, he utters a verbal miscue every once in a while and sometimes he gets a little too goofy – though for me, that’s his endearing charm and the beauty of listening to a living legend.

Same with Enberg.

How lucky we are, to have two genuine broadcast legends doing play-by-play virtually every night within earshot and eyeshot. It’s always been one of life’s recurring pleasures, April through October, listening to baseball over the radio. As ritual, it’s a slice of nightly nostalgia.

I remember listening to Al Schuss and Al Coupee do the minor-league Padres games on radio, back in the Westgate Park era of the 1960s. When Schuss called out, “And there it goes,” you knew it was way, way gone. And when the roar of the crowd voiced its approval, you knew that either the Padres had done something good – or the producer had goofed and hit the wrong button.

For the longest time, I couldn’t understand how the crowds for the Padres’ away games were always cheering for the Padres. Come to find out, those were re-created broadcasts, based on ticker-tape updates that Schuss and Coupee had to verbally re-create into pitch-by-pitch accounts as if they were right there.

With Enberg in the TV booth, that same sense of yesteryear flows from his telecasts. I love how easily he kibitzes with the irrepressible Mark “Mud” Grant, who knows it’s only a game. I love hearing Enberg’s unmistakable voice, flowing cadence and depth of knowledge and story-telling.

When I listen to Enberg, I can’t help but recall how I used to wait until 11:30 pm on Saturday nights to watch his taped-delay broadcasts of UCLA’s glorious basketball teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The games aired on KTLA, Channel 5 out of L.A.

 The picture came in a bit fuzzy. And the camera angles were from far away.  But if you had a strong enough antenna, you were there, if your parents allowed you to stay up that late.

There was no ESPN, nothing even close to 24-hour televised sports. Back in the day, we got our sports on TV in bits and pieces and we savored every game.

By coincidence, Jerry Coleman was also part of the KTLA sports staff of the early ’70s, doing pre- and post-game shows for the then-California Angels. This was just before he joined the Padres in 1972, where thankfully he’s been ever since.

Please know that I have the utmost respect for Jerry as a Hall of Fame broadcaster and war hero. He’s a kind, gentle man of integrity, humility and dignity. So forgive me, Jerry, for what I’m about to recall. 

I remember watching Jerry doing a sportscast on KTLA when all of a sudden he was bedeviled by a nasty case of hiccups. Can you imagine? It must’ve been awful for him. But as I recall, he made it through in good spirits, an easy laugh and a smile. As always.

Now we’re in 2010 and no matter what the outcome, every Padres game is a joy to behold. Not only because the Padres are off to a surprisingly feisty start, but because I love listening to Dick Enberg and Jerry Coleman.

It’s just like old times.

Watching “Wonderful, Fascinating Politics”

March 23, 2010

No matter how you followed it, no matter how many hours or minutes you watched, Sunday night’s decisive vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to reform health care was a momentous occasion. And whether you agree with the final vote or not, there’s no denying that the vote was politically historic, worthy either of unbridled celebration and unexpected relief — or dismay, disappointment and, for some outspoken House members, outright disgust.

 As CNN analyst John King put it, many hours before the vote was taken, “This is all wonderful, fascinating politics.” Or as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), a staunch Republican who was interviewed on Fox News many hours before the final vote, told anchor Neil Cavuto, “This is a spectacle of corruption.” Cavuto nodded in obvious consent as DeMint went on to praise Fox’s decidedly anti-healthcare reform bill stance: “Thanks for your coverage this week. At least our viewers know what we’re getting ourselves into.”

This was a day-long civics lesson, the longest we’ve digested in a long time. It was one of the rare times when C-SPAN watching wasn’t just for wonks, but for millions of viewers eager to track the House’s vote count. Watching the electronic vote totals click upward one-by-one via that stark, black-font C-SPAN graphic was reminiscent of the way watching Presidential elections used to be, long before exit polls spoiled much of the suspense.

For political junkies, this was their March Madness. No matter that the NCAA Basketball Tournament swallowed up virtually all of CBS’ airtime, no doubt causing Walter Cronkite to roll over in his grave. If you wanted latest on the vote, you locked into CNN, Fox, MSNBC and C-SPAN. For sports junkies doing double duty as politicos, clicking between hoops and health was the order of the day. Coverage of the House vote transitioned from punditry to passionate speeches and then vote counting as it moved into prime time.

 The crescendo was reached around 8:30 pm (San Diego time), after a series of votes finally made the bill a victory for the Democratic majority, 219-212, a bill passed without a single Republican “aye” vote. A few hours before the final vote was taken, a compelling, if ugly moment emerged that CNN was first to report. Minutes after an impassioned plea by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), a fervent anti-abortionist, that his fellow Democrats not support a Republican motion to defeat the bill because of President Obama’s Executive Order, CNN reported that a House member had yelled out to Stupak: “Baby killer!”

 The outburst brought to mind another unseemly remark, that of “You lie!” from Sen. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) during the President’s State of the Union address back in January. It wasn’t immediately clear who made the comment, nor was anyone identified in the hours that followed. Reports indicated it may have come from a Texas representative. Whatever the origin, the remark clearly unsettled CNN’s sitting panelists. Choosing to put a diplomatic spin on the outburst, Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s seemingly inexhaustible anchor, said it “underscores the raw sensitivities” of the moment. Indeed, impassioned rhetoric ruled the day and well into the night. 

Shortly after the final vote, on Fox, former House speaker Tom DeLay told Geraldo Rivera that what had just transpired was “the shredding and trashing of the Constitution and nothing but lies to the American people.” When the day began, it was still uncertain what the outcome would be. By the time President Obama had declared the final vote to be an “answer to the call of history,” all those raw sensitivities were on prime-time display. The result was a fascinating night of historic proportions.

 John Freeman writes about the media for San Diego News Network. He can be reached at jbbfreeman (at) hotmail.com; follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JBBFreeman ###

Morning sports guys gone, headed for KGB?

March 15, 2010

Devoted listeners of the “Scott & BR” morning show on XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) won’t hear the duo on that station Monday morning, 5 am to 9am, their usual time-slot.

A heated contract dispute with management has forced the sports talk team off local airwaves for at least one day, perhaps longer. According to insiders, it’s highly probably that Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith will next be heard on classic-rock mainstay KGB-FM as that station’s permanent morning show.

While the move has not been officially confirmed, it  coincides with a statement posted last Thursday on Kaplan and Smith’s personal website, www.scottandbr.com. In its entirety, the statement reads as follows:

“We are involved in a bitter contract dispute with 1090. As a result, we will not be on the air live Monday. Truth is, (we’re) not sure we will ever be on 1090 again. However, we are very confident we will be on the radio in SD within the next few weeks.”

Kaplan and Smith have co-hosted a morning sports talk show in San Diego since April 2001, when they debuted on XTRA-AM (690), a sports talk station that’s now a Spanish language outlet. Two years later, they moved to rival upstart XX Sports Radio, then known as “The Mighty 1090.”

If “Scott & BR” do move to KGB-FM, a move that’s rumored to take place within several weeks, possibly sooner, they will essentially replace the hugely popular “Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw” (DSC) morning show, which reigned the local airwaves for nearly 20 years.

That show abruptly ended its lengthy run in early January, when the show’s cast, which featured host Dave Rickards, Shelly Dunn and Cookie “Chainsaw” Randolph along with other on-air contributors, declined KGB-FM’s contract offer.  Since their departure, KGB-FM, part of the Clear Channel local stable of outlets, has aired a music-heavy format of   ’70s and ’80s classic rock.

Based on a web posting, it appears likely that Kaplan and Smith’s intended departure will face an aggressive legal challenge from XX Sports owner John Lynch.

A long-time local radio executive, Lynch is credited with launching the nation’s first all-sports radio format back in the ’80s with XTRA-AM. His current company, which also includes a classic rock station (The Walrus, 105.7FM) and a talk station (1700AM), is known as Broadcast Company of the Americas (BCA).

Just as Kaplan and Smith posted a statement on their website, Lynch’s sports station posted a statement on its website, www.xxsportsradio.com, which read in part:

We are very sorry to inform you that Scott and BR will not be on the air until a dispute is resolved. BCA is currently in a contractual dispute with Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith, as a result of Scott and BR’s attempt to terminate their agreements prior to its scheduled expiration in 2012. BCA believes that its agreements with both Scott and BR remain in full force and effect, and that their attempted early termination is in violation of their agreements.”

If Kaplan and Smith do wind up at KGB-FM, the move will mark Clear Channel’s first major programming hire since the forced departures of two morning teams from its local radio lineup.

In addition to the “DSC” leaving KGB-FM, another popular team, Jeff & Jer, left Star 94.1FM last August, when their lucrative contracts were not renewed by Clear Channel.    

John Freeman writes about the media for San Diego News Network. He can be reached at jbbfreeman (at) hotmail.com; follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JBBFreeman

 

No Oscar for Oscar telecast

March 10, 2010

Presumably snuggled up, just like co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, we waited three and a half hours for the night’s biggest surprise, which came when “The Hurt Locker” won Best Picture over heavily favored “Avatar.”

As Martin proclaimed in his sign-off, the show ran so long that “Avantar now takes place in the past!”

Up until the final awards, for Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture, it was a fairly pedestrian affair with few surprises. One early visual highlight lasted only a few seconds. That’s when Martin and Alec Baldwin were dutifully snuggled in bed together, as if they viewed the proceedings wearing red Snuggie blankets.

It was a predictably long grind, and not especially compelling, but that’s the problem with all these awards shows, even the grand-daddy. The Oscars’ 82th edition produced a few surprises, but the telecast again suffered from dispensing too many awards that no one outside of Hollywood cares about. Can’t it be shorted to two hours, sparing us the more technical categories? Guess not.

Surely we could do without last night’s wildly interpretive dance routine. Each routine was supposed to be aligned with each “Best Picture” nominee, but they all looked alike.

And we probably could do without so much forced repartee between Martin and Baldwin. They’re both veteran actors with comedic chops but they seemed strangely stiff and inhibited from the start. Neither really achieved the necessary aplomb often enough. Were their dead-pan looks meant to be funny? They came across as awkward glances, as if to say, “OK, what do we say next?”

Baldwin did get off one an amusing line when he proclaimed the Academy Awards to be “the biggest night since (pause) last night.”

According to ABC’s producers, this was supposed to be a sleeker, younger-leaning telecast. But it included too many disjointed, random elements, such as a ridiculously gory tribute to Hollywood horror films. Why? It wasn’t clear.

Fearless Ben Stiller, bless him, got wacky. As Best Makeup presenter, he appeared in “Avatar”-styled facepaint, replete with two tails, and he garbled whatever they speak on Pandora.

 A risky bit, but give him credit for trying. He even poked fun at himself, saying, “This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal.”

Best Director and Best Picture winner Kathryn Bigelow appeared stunned at first, but she recovered to gracefully pay tribute to those in the military who formed the inspiration for her under-funded, emotionally wrenching film.

The best speeches came from folksy Jeff Bridges (Best Actor), though “Crazy Heart” fans likely hoped he’d hoot and holler like Bad Blake. Best Actress-winner Bullock appeared genuinely touched.

“Did I really earn this or did I just wear you down?” she asked playfully.

Despite its late surprises, the entire show eventually wore us down.

Ana Ivanovic: Women’s Pro Tennis Returns to San Diego

March 5, 2010

Ana Ivanovic has come a long way from her native Serbia.

Friendly and outgoing, she’s not only one of the world’s best women tennis players, she’s one of the most popular draws for attendance because of her appealing good looks.

Still only 22, she’s a former French Open champion and former top-ranked player in the world, both attained two years ago. For those reasons, Ivanovic was showcased recently at a media event to promote the Southern California Open, a $700,000 tournament that’s set to return to La Costa Resort & Spa this summer (July 31-Aug. 8).

The event marks the return of the women’s pro tour to San Diego County after a two-year hiatus. Prior to 2007, the tour had stopped yearly in San Diego dating back to 1985.

After being known in recent years as the Acura Classic, the revived event lacks a title sponsor, an indication of the tight sponsorship market that afflicts pro sports these days, especially in golf and tennis. Tournament Director is Raquel Giscafre, who ran the Acura Classic for many years along with Jane Stratton.

Think of Ivanovic as bright, easy-going and refreshingly unpetulant. She’s like an equally photogenic Anna Kournikova who’s actually won a major event, something the now-retired Kournikova never did. They do share one major distinction, that of having been featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition.

Ivanovic’s photos appear in SI’s current swimsuit issue. She appears in several shots, one in which she’s laying down surrounded by an array of pink tennis balls, the other wrapped in a tennis net, each time wearing a bikini. The photos are meant to be seductive, and they are.

But Ana wasn’t all that impressed with herself.

 “I have to say, I wasn’t super-comfortable about doing the actual shoot,” she said in her fluent English. “I’m very judgmental about myself, so it was sort of embarrassing. There were just too many people around, several dozen people just hanging around. I’d rather have it just be me and the photographer. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad then.”

When the issue was published, though, she was “thrilled” with the results. As for her parents, who reside in her native Serbia:  “They were OK with it, even my father.  It is done tastefully, you know. But my grandparents, well, they weren’t so pleased.”

When it was pointed out that celebrated model Brooklyn Decker, wife of tennis star Andy Roddick, is featured on SI’s cover, Ivanovic  thought for a moment. She’d rather have her life as a tennis player.

“I’m not a model,” she said. “Right now, I’m happy being a tennis player, known just for my tennis.”

Same Lame Jay Leno

March 3, 2010

Trouble is, Jay Leno just isn’t that funny.

That was my prevailing thought as I sat through his barely amusing, often tortured return last night as host of NBC’s “Tonight” show.

I tried not to be too jaundiced. Leno’s never been my favorite. I’m a Letterman guy. For me, Dave’s simply more to fun to watch – edgy, witty, biting, caustic, daring, unpredictable – all things Leno wasn’t, isn’t and never will be, no matter what his time-slot.

That was reconfirmed last night.

Leno’s always been likable enough, a bumptious puppy that soils the carpet and wags his tail for approval. Surely, his studio audience howled at every utterance, no matter if made sense or not.

The show opened with a sepia-shot skit that posed Leno as Dorothy waking up at the end of “Wizard of Oz.” You know, where Dorothy awakens and declares: “It was the strangest place…And some of it wasn’t very nice….But you, and you, and you were there!”

Then doyen Betty White as Professor Marvel poked her head in the bedroom, took a look at the sparse furnishings and blurted: “NBC really did cut his budget!”

After slogging through the entire show, I had to agree. Budget cuts must’ve hit the writing staff.

Give Leno this much: He and his writers tried to be funny. But the result was an oddball assortment of lame skits, taped featurettes (his door-to-door search for a new desk was especially weak) and a strangely over-manic Jamie Fox guest turn that left me shaking my head. Not many laughs for me.  I felt like dosing off.

As Leno chided Fox at one point, “Take an Ambien and we’ll be right back.”

One notable aspect of Leno’s return was his attempt to be slightly off-color. That’s not his style. So it was surprising to hear him use the word “bastard,” then declare with his goofy jut-jaw smile: “Isn’t 11:30 a lot more fun?”

Well, no. 

                                                                      ***

The Bachelor Picks a Bride

 Call it “Jake’s Mistake.”

It took “The Bachelor” three hours last night for Jake to propose on bended knee to
Vienna instead of Tenley.

If these names mean nothing to you, you’re forgiven.

But millions watched breathlessly as the latest version of ABC’s fairytale reality series ended its latest rush to the alter. As widely rumored, Jake, the beefcake pilot, opted for the “bad girl” instead of the “good girl.” Go figure.

Toward the end, ABC shrewdly cross-promoted “Dancing with the Stars” by revealing its next cast, which includes the decidedly odd couple of Pamela Anderson and moon-walker Buzz Aldrin.

Jake, we learned, will also compete on “Dancing” – without Vienna.

Good luck with that, Jake.

John Freeman writes about television and the media for San Diego News Network. He can be reached at jbbfreeman@hotmail.com

The Lucky Bachelor’s Dilemma

February 23, 2010

Oh, the shame of it. I just spent two hours watching “The Bachelor: The Women Tell All.”

 “The Bachelor” thrives as one of those awful pseudo-reality shows that appeal to our worst voyeuristic, primal instincts, with cameras capturing every awkward, cringe-inducing moment. That’s why we watch.

Silly me, I thought Jake, the buff bachelor who’s just been treated to every guy’s ultimate smorgasbord, was finally going to choose between the two finalists – “bad girl” Vienna and “goodie girl” Tenley – and live happily ever after.

But hold on, buster. Not so fast. Last night wasn’t  quite the grand finale. Instead, we had to endure a series of icky “he said, she said” scenes, some so achingly bad they could’ve been hijacked from Jerry Springer.

OK, it wasn’t that bad. It was deliciously tawdry TV, the kind first spawned years ago by MTV’s “Real World” and taken to its ickiest (so far) by “Jersey Shore,” which happens to be one of MTV’s highest rated series — ever.

As for our buddy Jake, despite his misgivings that he rejected a few candidates too quickly, he’s a happy guy. Think of it: He started with a gaggle of hot babes, each trying to beguile their way into his heart and into his life for, like, forever. Or so we’re told. Their mutual wooing was capped by an exotic foray to the Caribbean. Fun stuff for ol’ Jake, a surprisingly straight-laced fellow who seems to possess virtues that would get him tossed from any other reality-TV romp.

But you have to wonder: All he’s got left are Vienna and Tenley? Ouch. Jake could’ve done better on his own.

One highlight of last night’s elongated show was the verbal confrontation involving Rozlyn, who was alleged to have had an affair with one of the show’s producers. She was booted off the show, as was he. Faced with her beauteous, cross-legged panel of accusers, she strongly denied any wrongdoing. Her former cast mates weren’t buying her story. Nor host Chris Harrison, who was  pointedly accused by Rozlyn of “hitting on” the wife of that same producer (yes, really). Harrison was not amused, saying “I won’t dignify that with a response.”

Meanwhile, the brash Vienna, who’s become a tabloid diva for her alleged dirty misdeeds, was branded in past episodes as “trailer trash” by several girls. Their collective tone was more muted last night, but it was clear Jake doesn’t mind her bad-girl persona. As for Tenley, she’s sweet and bubbly, everything Vienna isn’t, but she can’t seem to stop mentioning her ex-husband.

The betting here is that Jake picks Vienna. He can’t help himself. She’s a sassy, sexy, gold-digging temptress who appeals to his worst instincts, not unlike “The Bachelor.”

John Freeman writes about television and the media for San Diego News Network.