AT THE END OF DAVID LEAN‘s “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” a doctor surveys the mayhem beneath him and despairingly mutters “Madness. Madness!”That scene echoed in my head while scanning headlines, watching TV and listening to radio last week, wondering if the media world had suffered its own viral outbreak of craziness. Just consider the following items, unspooling like an old newsreel under Variety headlines:
- FAUX FOX FLUNKY FLOPS: Fox has done a bang-up job transforming its anxiety about Nielsen Media Research’s shift to People Meters into a civil rights crusade, fronted by something called the Don’t Count Us Out coalition. That said, the company might want to find a slightly more convincing ally than National Hispanic Media Coalition chief Alex Nogales.
- NO GIPPER AT SMARTY PARTY: NBC’s Belmont Stakes coverage informed viewers how many oats favorite Smarty Jones consumed but conspicuously skirted any mention of Ronald Reagan’s death less than an hour before the broadcast. No crawl, no referral to MSNBC, no “Tune in to NBC News after the race,” nothing, zilch, nada.
- ‘PRACTICE’ CZAR GETS REAL: Writer-producer David E. Kelley, who both within his programs and in interviews has accused unscripted TV of causing every conceivable ill short of gout, is developing a legal “reality” show along the lines of “The Practice.” Kelley admitted he was “suspicious” about getting in bed with the enemy, as it were, but he got over it. As one of his “Ally McBeal” characters might say, “Bygones,” but personally, I still like lawyers better when they’re fictional.
- USA TAKES JOY ‘RIDE': At a time when everybody is crazed over the prospect of viewers zapping through commercials, USA network ran a two-hour commercial for the Pontiac GTO, “The Last Ride,” which the network passed off as a movie.
- LAKER LACKEYS MUFF MAY MADNESS: Is it too late to dig up the late Lakers announcer Chick Hearn and prop him up in front of a microphone?
- BOFFO BUCKS FOR MEL & MINDY: Mel Karmazin bolted Viacom last week, and reports indicate his cushy cash settlement won’t be that much fluffier than the golden parachute afforded E! Networks prexy Mindy Herman, whose exit plans were announced a few days earlier.
- AILES CLOCKS TIMES KEEPER: Never one to pull rhetorical punches, Roger Ailes blasted back at Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll for his tart op-ed piece that derided the “pseudo-journalism” practiced by Fox News Channel. In his retaliatory Wall Street Journal broadside, Fox News’ chairman somehow managed to equate Carroll’s negative appraisal with how the paper treated “the terrorists who recently beheaded an American.”