Cathy's World: Media Moments, 2002

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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 1 (UPI) — Here are my favorite media moments of last year, although I admit I enjoyed most of them only in the deeply cynical way I used to watch “The Partridge Family” back in the olden days.

THIS JUST IN: POLITICAL TENSIONS HIJACK AIRPLANE: Blogger and former San Jose Mercury News columnist Joanne Jacobs noticed a ridiculous headline in her old paper in March, after a Muslim mob attacked a train full of Hindu passengers: “Religious Tensions Kill 57 In India.” Running with the absurdity of the Merc’s blame-avoidance, National Post columnist Mark Steyn wrote: “Ah, those religious tensions’ll kill you every time. Is there an Ex-Lax you can take for religious tension? Or an extra-strength Tylenol, in case you feel a sudden attack coming on? I haven’t looked at the Mercury News for September 12th, but I’m assuming the front page read ‘Religious Tensions Kill 3,000 in New York,’ a particularly bad outbreak. If I were an Islamic fundamentalist, I’d be wondering what I had to do to get a bad press …”


SPEEDY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE: Fans began clamoring last April to bring back the Looney Tunes south-of-the-border mouse to Cartoon Network, which had banished the Speedy Gonzales character because of ethnic sensitivities. Jon Stewart noted on “The Daily Show” about Cartoon Network’s Speedyless programming: “They needed to make room for ‘The Pepe Le Pew “No Means Yes” Hour.'”

GET READY FOR “THE BACHELOR” MEETS “BLUE’S CLUES:” In May, Nick Jr.’s “Blue’s Clues” introduced its pre-school audience to the cartoon dog’s new best pal, Joe, played by actor Donovan Patton. (Tots were told that Joe’s older brother, Steve, played by the departing Steve Burns, went off to college.) Nickelodeon execs were very excited about the hottie-factor of the new “Blue’s Clues” guy — maybe a little too excited. “Our teenage moms are gonna LOVE Donavan,” gushed one at the press conference. Well, that’s always a socially valuable demographic to keep in mind.

DEPARTMENT OF DESPERATION: NBC President and Democratic Hollywood honcho Ted Harbert sent out a weirdly capitalized invitation to attend a June fundraising dinner for House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, and also “to stop the Republicans from destroying the Environment, the Economy and our Education system and 38 other things … $500 for you Young Professionals.” This was followed a short time later by another, rather frantic notice: “You can come to the June 9 Gephardt Event AND Still Be Home In Time for the Lakers Game.” Plus: “The REVISED COST for a “Young Professional” contribution … is $250 per person.”

INK-STAINED, MAYBE; SELF-RIGHTEOUS, ALWAYS: Some reporters at the PBS press conference in July were outraged at the news that “Sesame Street” had decided not to add an HIV-positive Muppet to the cast after all, even though the South African version of “Sesame Street” has one.

THERE’S LOW RATINGS. THERE’S CRASHING-THROUGH-THE-FLOOR RATINGS. AND THEN THERE’S PHIL DONAHUE ON MSNBC: “Well, I feel like a very lucky duck and not too many folks get this chance,” the talk show host said at an MSNBC press conference, just before his much-hyped but (as it turned out) little-watched new cable show premiered last summer. “All throughout my career when I failed, when other people failed, it was predictable. They would say, ‘Well, they didn’t promote me.’ I can’t make that argument at MSNBC. I’m on the side of every other bus in New York City. The promotional has been sensational. And I really couldn’t ask for more support.” No, but a few more viewers would have been nice.

THE UNBELIEVABLE BOFFONESS OF “AMERICAN IDOL”: Robert Thompson, head of Syracuse University’s Center for the Study of Popular Television, told CNN in August that the talent show is much, much greater than anything that had come before: “This is to ‘Star Search’ what modern quantum physics is to Newtonian gravitational equations.” NOW LISTEN TO THE STORY OF A MAN NAMED JED, A POOR MOUNTAINEER TRYIN’ TO KEEP HIS FAMILY ON TV 24 HOURS A DAY, EVEN IN THE BATHROOM: CBS announced in August it plans to resurrect “The Beverly Hillbillies” as a reality series.

THEY NEVER SAID YOU WAS HIGH CLASS: In a deal being investigated by Department of Justice anti-trust lawyers, the nation’s two largest alternative weekly chains — Village Voice Media and New Times — agreed in October to shut down New Times in Los Angeles, leaving a market monopoly for the Village Voice-owned L.A. Weekly, in return for the Village Voice closing its Cleveland paper and leaving the market clear in that city for the New Times-owned Cleveland paper.

Of course, L.A. is much bigger than Cleveland, so the Village Voice also agreed to paid New Times $8 million. When a reporter from the L.A. Weekly working on a story about the closures called New Times founder and executive editor Michael Lacey for a comment, Lacey yelled “Go f— yourself” and slammed down the phone.

SNARKORAMA! This is the year that the indispensable website came into its own, complete with a big respectful article in the New York Times magazine in October about how showrunners increasingly pay attention to what these online kibitzers think. I became a fan of TVw/ during “American Idol,” when one of the site’s episode recappers noted that Justin made Paula Abdul’s uterus fall out.

Here, just for a taste, is the TVw/ recap of a November episode of “Everwood”: “As the writers scratch off #476 in their Handy-Dandy Handbook of On-Screen clich