Recent headlines on the TMZ gossip site would indicate that TMZ frontman Harvey Levin and his kiddie staff are moving full speed ahead with their crude, unwitty and unschooled style:
George Michael Starts Servicing the Community
Richie's Baby Daddy -- Get the F**k Outta the Way!
Ivanka Gets Stuff'd
Estella Warren's Piece
Kim K – I'm Just a Flat-Assed Waif!
And recent TMZ posts, including an inexplicable, out-of-the-blue physical comparison of Disney star Orlando Bloom to the late porn actor John Holmes (left) this morning, would indicate that Harvey and his gaggle are deliberately and aggressively thumbing their noses at public opinion.
But as the debut of the latest syndicated celebucentricinfotainment show approaches, sources tell us that recent TMZ TV recruits are "freaking out"— and not only because untelegenic Harvey is itching to host. From staffers including producer Bryn Friedman, a “mainstream” news veteran with no tabloid experience, to tabloid TV pioneer (Hard Copy) Paul Nichols, who may be joining the show as director, there is real concern that the website’s popper-reckless, tweaking-angry and toy boy-amateurish stalkerazzi tactics are leading the show on a Lohan-style collision course. (Update: Bryn was fired last week.)
The line was drawn yesterday, in the hours after TMZ's baiting of and cyber attack upon gentle giant Brad Garrett, when respected and distinguished Hollywood Reporter columnist Ray Richmond called TMZ “The AntiChrist”, a “toxic, tactless, classless, unctuous, sleazy and extreme attack-dog slice of cyberspace, backed by boatloads of AOL/Time Warner corporate cash, that’s singlehandedly slicing a dagger through whatever credibility entertainment journalism had remaining and ruining things for those who are at least fighting to retain a measure of taste and sensitivity.”
And readers have responded.
Here’s sampling of comment responses to columns by Tabloid Baby, Ray and TV critic David Kronke:
This leaking stench from TMZ's sewer is elevating villains and addicts to HERO status, all for profit. In time it's going to make the high school degree look like a relic of the past. Why bother when self indulgence and lack of values brings fame, adulation and the big payday? Glad that Burt and Ray are putting this out for discussion...
…Tacky. There also seems to be a lot of anger and disgust even among TMZ's own readers (!), if you noticed a lot of the comments to this posting on their site. Some people stuck up for TMZ, saying, "Hey, Merv had a wicked sense of humor - he would have thought it was funny..." Well, perhaps, if they would have done it in slightly better taste. Besides, when did the all-knowing staff of TMZ (likely too young and clueless to even grasp the contributions or significance or pure wonderfulness of Merv) have such an "inside read" on Merv's sense of humor? Give me a break... As someone so aptly put it, "maybe TMZ shouldn't give their 'weekend guys' so much creative control... TMZ, here's a new message for your board: TMZ IS DEAD TO ME…
The great vulnerability of TMZ is also its greatest strength: it is Time Warner, and Time Warner is a nice fat target…
They're trying to compete with a guy who (allegedly) uses agency photos without payment or permission, and then (not-so) allegedly draws coke boogers in celebrities' nostrils and semen running out of their mouths. Meanwhile, what of the long-delayed TMZ D.C., and what will it be like? Will Beltway stalkerazzi be positioned outside Capitol Hill watering holes, trying to provoke Olympia Snowe or Russ Feingold into throwing a haymaker at the camera? I'd love to hear Harvey Levin's vision for the thing.
There is real media out there, but they are drowned out by the cheap and easy thrills of shoving a camera into someone's face and watching what they do. Any normal person would have handed the camera operator (or whoever made the comment) their ass and it wouldn't have been an issue. But because its a celebrity (or in this case, Brad Garrett) it somehow means more...
We've watched as tabloid television devolved from something truly revolutionary and funny-- a cultural and political force-- to a corrupt, celeb-kissing, product-pushing, epileptic fit-inducing irrelevant waste of airtime. If he really wants to succeed, Harvey should take the advice from people who know: the audience.
And the audience is speaking.