May 25, 2002


The End of the Affair (WALTER KIRN, May 26, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
Now that ABC has canceled [''Politically Incorrect''] (and announced that its time slot will ultimately go to Jimmy Kimmel, the frat-boy cutup of ''The Man Show'' on Comedy Central), it seems clear that Maher's comments doomed him and that there are still, and probably always will be, some things a person just can't say on television. The cause of free speech needs its martyrs, Heaven knows, but I wonder if there's not another story here, one that has less to do with network cold feet than with a national change in tastes. Could it be that the great role reversal failed and that the Hollywood-Washington nexus of the 90's that gave us George magazine, Bill Clinton rocking the vote on sax and the brief but curiously intense Warren Beatty-for-president episode has come undone at last? [...]

The folks in flyover country felt overflown by this swinging bicoastal encounter session. George magazine's best-selling issues -- till Kennedy's death created a spike in interest -- were its first ones, while the audience for Maher's program (on which performers, who in earlier decades might not have made the cut for ''What's My Line?'' were asked to give their opinions on welfare reform) failed to grow much and, ultimately, dwindled. What's worse, Barbra Streisand, the Clinton administration's West Coast ambassador without portfolio, never quite got the respect that she was angling for and finally fell silent on public policy -- around the same time that a gala for Al Gore the candidate had to be moved from the real Playboy Mansion, where, before the late 90's, it never would have been scheduled.

The whole fusion thing seems dated suddenly. [...] The Old Establishment, with its punctual cocktail hours, has a broader appeal now than the New Establishment, with its Renaissance Weekends and wild all-nighters. Indeed, it's hard to imagine today's Rumsfeldians staying up late enough to watch a show like Maher's. Bush's Washington is already in bed when Hollywood is only waking up, and that will make hanging out together difficult. A lot of folks, neither powerful nor glamorous, and wary of those who desire to trade places and take turns being both, won't mind a bit.

Here in cow country, we figure anyone who's still up at 11:30 and isn't watching SportsCenter must be some kind of deviant. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2002 10:12 AM
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