Round up the usual suspects for column media blitz

YOU’VE WRITTEN LETTERS ASKING FOR it. You’ve made phone calls demanding it. So we’re preparing it for you. No frills, no amps, no wah-wah pedals: It’s the all-acoustic version of Reel Life.

“Reel Life Unplugged” will be released in homevideo in the standard version, the unrated version and the director’s cut. However, the letterbox edition will be only available on laserdisc; comments from the columnist, the managing editor and confused readers are available on separate audio tracks.

What has caused this flurry of excitement, you may ask. Well, Reel Life has hired a publicist, business manager, personal manager and, most important, a law firm, because we’re tired of being ignored. It seems so unfair: Dave Barry writes a column and suddenly it’s turned into a sitcom. If only Reel Life had acted sooner, Harry Anderson could be re-enacting wacky fictional events of our life. And then there’s Art Buchwald and “Coming to America”; Reel Life dreams of being on Court TV, making witty remarks about studios stealing our ideas.

It’s good to branch out, but those two writers have not begun to tap their full potential, as Tony Robbins would say. What’s the point of having any talent in this town unless it can be exploited and exploited until it’s run into the ground? It’s not enough to be able to do one thing. Once you have made a name for yourself, you’re expected to become a conglomerate, as the business manager explained; it’s all packaging, it’s all deals, it’s all a question of using as many familiar names as possible, to become a familiar name yourself.

REEL LIFE’S DREAM IS TO BECOME a household name, someone who becomes as familiar to TV watchers as the Olsen twins. Then to move beyond that point and be on TV so often that the audience gets tired of seeing you, like Mr. T. Then — the ultimate triumph — to move beyond that point: to get to be so ubiquitous , so unavoidable a TV presence that viewers just sigh and accept you with a quiet resignation, like Regis Philbin.

The people who helped build the pyramids, the Parthenon, and LAX spent years working on structures that would last for centuries — and yet it never occurred to them to put their names on these things. What a bunch of dopes! In the 20th century, people have learned to put their names on everything, whether it’s an exercise video, a designer wallet or a scarf. And so, taking this cue, the team hired to create a higher profile for this column has come up with a wealth of opportunities.

The Hollywood Bowl will be the site of the all-star “Jerry Herman Salute to Reel Life,” with Carol Channing, Rita Moreno, Michael Feinstein, Lee Roy Reams and Leslie Uggams, concluding with a fireworks extravaganza. Along Comes Mary will donate catering for this worthy cause, with Mandy Patinkin as honorary chairperson.

However, the Smith-Hemion TV version, “The Ford Theater All-Star Salute to Reel Life,” will be edited down to an hour, with direction by Jeff Margolis and featuring special material by Buz Kohan and Bruce Vilanch, and an opening number (choreographed by Debbie Allen) featuring Rob Lowe, Teri Garr and the Reel Life Dancers. Bob and Dolores Hope will sing “Silver Bells.” Roy Christopher will be art director and Bob Mackie will do costumes.

To plug a planned novelization of the columns — Fabio has agreed to pose for the cover art — Reel Life will hit the promo trail, appearing with Jay, Dave, Arsenio, Mo, Phil, Joan, Sally Jessy, Jennie, Geraldo, Ricki, Conan, John & Leeza, Richard Bey and Howard Stern. On “Oprah,” Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Ruth and Suzanne Somers will attempt to explain the Reel Life phenomenon. (Somers then will perform “I Honestly Love You” and instruct everyone on uses of the Thigh-Master.)

Linda Yellen has gathered a group of actors who will improvise a TV movie based on the novelization of the columns, which will star Michael Tucker, Jill Eikenberry, Patty Duke, Melissa Gilbert and Jeff Fahey.

A benefit for Heal L.A., to be held at the Beverly Wilshire, will be highlighted by a reading of Reel Life columns by Maya Angelou. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee will present a special award to Danny Glover, who will in turn present an award to them, then all three will present an award to Edward James Olmos. Along Comes Mary will donate its catering for this worthy cause, and Mako will be honorary chairperson.

ROBINSONS-MAY HAS LINED UP A series of in-store appearances to promote the new fragrance Reelization, while the Beautiful Reelity cosmetics will be hawked on QVC. As a year-round attraction, Snoopy’s Reel Life on Ice will be presented at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Daily Variety memorabilia will line the walls of the Planet Reel Life restaurants, and a chain of stores will carry merchandise such as Reel Life plush toys, mugs, T-shirts, action figures, key chains and bedsheets.

However, despite all this attention, Reel Life has been feeling lately like something is missing. The publicist has suggested adding an exclamation point to the title, and she may be right: There’s a world of difference between “Reel Life” and “Reel Life!”

As with “Hello, Dolly!” E! and “Vicki!”– it just adds such excitement. When audiences see that exclamation point, they know they’re in for fun. You know, “Fun!”

But back to the business at hand.

A Dec. 1-15, 1994, syndication window is set for “A Branson Christmas Salute to Reel Life,” featuring Johnny and June Carter Cash, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt , Trisha Yearwood and the Sid & Marty Krofft puppets, with the entire cast joining in for the “Achy Breaky”/”Silent Night” finale.

Wowing the crowd at Chasen’s for the Friars Roast of Reel Life will be Milton Berle, George Burns, Jack Carter, Andrew Dice Clay and Red Buttons, doing his “I never got a column” routine.

The only small hitch is that so far, nobody knows the content of any of these things. It doesn’t matter. Because there are audiences out there hungry for entertainment. And Reel Life is only too happy to help fill that deep, deep yearning for something meaningful. And different.

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