Thursday, September 13, 2007

TMZ TV: Goodbye, Mr. Levin

It opens with a dream sequence.

Harvey Levin is a buffed, bronzed, dyed and pumped Mr. Chips, presiding over a class of pretty young boys at a West Hollywood version of a British boarding school. As Harvey stands with a pastel marker to scrawl celebrity names on a wall of glass, the young pretties compete for his approval by pitching him gossip stories. There’s a beautiful Death in Venice twink with a mane of streaked blonde hair, straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Harvey fixes him with a smoldering, come-hither stare that has little to do with the story the boy is teasing...

And Monday's premiere of the televised version of the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com was underway! Who’d have predicted that the nastiness, kink and coprophiliac sleaze of the website would be replaced by pure camp? While the website is a stinky cesspool, the TV show is a boys-only bubblebath—the television equivalent of that purple TeleTubby used by TMZ.com to mark the deaths of famous gays or conservatives.

But it was in the cards from the beginning. Aside from the queeny asides like "It's bewildering, Bitch!" (note to producers: a male co-host should not utter that line.), the frenetic, whiplash-inducing ride through rehashed video, movie clips, animated cut-outs and vaporous, wispy, dated stories, TMZ the TV show takes its cues— and replays many of the same stories-- from its mothership, Extra!, and the other infotainment shows that replaced storytelling and content with fast-paced fluff about ten years ago. Add the blurry TMZ.com video shot by its cut-rate kiddie harassment squad and the on-the-cheap graphics, and the show and look are a lot closer to the low-budget one-hour pop culture specials that clog and kill time on VH1 and the E! channel.

Harvey, with this Roy Cohn-meets-Barry Diller countenance, popped up throughout the first episode, but his putative co-hosts, all bent noses and too much pancake makeup, were hard to find. A dour Teresa Strasser, looking the worse for wear after months of battering by the execrable Adam Carolla on morning radio, literally got about three seconds of airtime near the end. Two of the pretty young boys had already appeared twice on the show before she and the other hired female made an appearance.

Boys, Boys, Boys

Harvey’s younger male counterpart, the left-leaning Hollywood scion Ben Mankiewicz, didn’t show up until Day 2, by which time someone in the hierarchy had demanded that executive producer Harvey add some females into his locker room opening. So two young women were hauled out to pretend to pitch Harvey stories. But the boy toy male model again returned for a cameo.
(Do we see a gossip item in the making?)

Ben was placed in the sequence to appear as if he was watching from the sidelines like a bemused Rafael Abramovitz. He followed up by pissing all over the TMZ concept by embarrassing the celebutard crowd Harvey has been elevating, with a “Jaywalking” segment meant to prove that they don’t know the year of the September 11th attacks.

Too bad that the 9/11 Q&A shtik has been done before, to greater effect, not only on Leno’s show, but on other television shows and more than once on YouTube (check out a version here that was posted in May). You're a copycat, bitch! Even so, it was a statement, a clear sign that Ben thinks he’s above the fray and that the clock is already ticking until the day he walks off the show in high dudgeon (we say it was in the cards from the day he was hired).

Gay code?

It was about six minutes into that second show that Harvey’s fetish object Matthew McConaughey finally made his first appearance in a shirtless paparazzi shot. Oddly, poor Teresa Strasser was made to read what was an apparently some kind of coded message signaling that McConaughey is gay:

“Adonis-chested Matthew McConaughey blew a fan…”

(long pause)

“...off last night…”

The line “Matthew McConaughey blew a fan” was definitely left hanging there, deliberately, long enough to get our attention-- and to have us think for a moment that he'd actually favored some lucky fan with oral gratification! Was that an in-joke among Harvey, Jim, Paul and the boys? Or did Teresa and Carolla's other boss, Jimmy Kimmel, give her the line reading?

Who cares? No one else noticed, apparently. And to be honest, we stopped there. After fast-forwarding through a lot of Episode 1, we didn’t even make it to the second quarter of Show 2, let alone Show 3. Everything we needed to know about TMZ the TV show was in that first 35 minutes or so. As it stands, the show is Harvey’s ego trip, and the gay meter is blowing… its top. Expect big changes ahead. Expect Ben to be gone. Expect a Rachel Dratch-Jane Krakowski-style female talent switch, and expect Harvey Levin to be shunted to the sidelines, Mike Walker-style, for his own good.

The stain of TMZ.com has spread indelibly across the Internet. TMZ the TV show is already irrelevant. Right now, it would fit in well at 11 pm on E! or the TV Guide channel and get that expected audience. But in the mainstream syndicated television market, it’s already time to count the little Harvey heads to cancellation.


Anonymous said...

I searched for days to finally hear someone say exactly what I was thinking. I just don't have a blog to say it on. That show blew the big one. I also fast forwarded through the whole first ep, and who gives a rat's ass about any of it? It wasn't even good gossip. And if you live on the west coast, it's all on the stupid TMZ website before the show airs. Pointless. The whole thing is an ego trip for harvey. About the gay thing...There's a rumor that it's almost mandatory his newsroom be stocked with cute gay boys. And if they're cute and not gay, they better pretend they are. If not, axe. Let's see if they ever show the real Harvey, the one who yells and screams and carries on like a child when he doesn't get his way. Now that would be good TV.

Anonymous said...

TMZ has a DNA that just soils your tv screen.

Anonymous said...

I too noticed, the young, beautiful blond boy - but your Death in Venice reference is too smart and freakin' hilarious - though those kids would not know Death in Venice - well, maybe Death in Venice Beach... anyway, your comment on Matthew McConaughey "blew a fan", well, I laughed out loud. I think your review was accurate and truthful.

It is a terrible show. I'm really shocked by it. I cannot believe that this is the show they came up with - and in NY, they are taking over the time-slot that Geraldo's syndicated show owned. How long will this stay on air - it just can't stay on like this - or can it?

Anonymous said...

hey tabloid baby, you're fugly and your mom is a whore.

good day sir

Anonymous said...

Take back what you said about Teresa being ugly.

Anonymous said...

You are totally correct. He makes all of us regular jews look like him, and throws us back to the age of anti-Zionism. I tried to tell him this on the TMZ blog but apparently they allow every 4 letter word but not the three letter word jew. It was deleted. Losers. That show is the lowest form of money whoring. In the case of Teresa. Or pimping in the case of Harvey. Makes us all look bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to assume this website is aware of its absurd hypocrisy and is, in actuality, the lazy masturbation of a performance artist fresh off mescaline. Go back to pouring calamari remnants all over your easy bake oven while you quote Habermas-- it would be a bit more subtle.

db said...

omg. tabloid baby. YES! you nailed it. levin has a lot to answer for RE: his website and television program. i believe he and his office crew and his photographers are at least partially responsibility for causing Britney Spears' recent break with reality. i know he is not directly involved in her day-to-day business affairs or life, but an individual, celebrity or not, is only able to "take" so much of this INSANE level of personal invasion of space and privacy. levin is truly, truly a scary man. he actually seems to relish the mental illness and anguish of another person---it apparently, no, it obviously amuses him. being mean-spirited is one thing, but being souless is another. very, very frightening, indeed.

kyle said...

You know what guys, i don't know where you guys get off talking shit about Harvey. I was an intern over at TMZ and he can be high stung and bossy but that is his job. He runs a fast operation over there which is why he is the king of Celebrity gossip.You gotta understand that when he isn't in work mode, he is a really nice guy. He even wrote me an Awesome letter of recommendation to college. Booyakasha to me main man Harvey and everyone over at TMZ.

downtownJim said...

To Harvey Levin ONLY :
"downtownJim" is thinking about doing a one man reality show with a lipstick lens in his hat because a film crew would inhibit the reactions from the plebs. For instance I go up to an LOL and ask her a question, and she replies with "what ?" I re-ask the same and she replies "what ?" Soooooooo
I ask her if she has such a hard time hearing WHY don't you get a HEARING aid. "WHAT ?" COMEDY GOLD ! James McQueen mcq@usa.com

denise said...

all i can say at this point is, God bless you, for writing this particular blog. wish we had a counter-show to air the contents of your article. TMZ should be ashamed of itself. they know better. "what goes around, comes around." tsk. tsk. for shame. for shame.

legit_newsman said...

This reply is for Kyle. I can only imagine why on earth you would want to intern with TMZ and what experience you would hope to glean from working for a show that gets off in showcasing public figures at their worse.
I attended the University of Oregon, graduated with a degree in magazine writing and would rather work the rest of my life at a small-town, rural newspaper (which I do) than become a part of the mass media douche bag machine that profits from other people's misery.
I won't comment on Harvey Levin from a personal standpoint as I don't know the man, but his program is a travesty.
I pity all the dipsh*t young people filling the room, all eager to make hackneyed quips about celebrities for the sake of their moment on TV. True media whores, by definition.

Anonymous said...

Well, here we are, 2 years after your predictions and neither Harvey nor the show has gone away. In fact, its more popular than ever. In my home town, its airing opposite all the local news shows and gets a substantial audience. Care to try another prognostication?

Laurel said...

Yep its still on the air...I just discovered it, last month. I am a Discovery Channel/Nova/PBS type but one night awhile I go I stayed up and caught this show (11 pm here) Toronto. I enjoyed the comments; something endearing about Harvey (did not know who he was, just googled him). Last nights was good and that is when I decided to google him. Had to ask my daughter what/who was TMZ.com. Anyway, I like the pace; personalities; I get a giggle and Harvey really works standing up there.

Anonymous said...

Yup, to all you pathetic haters, TMZ rules!!!!!!

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