The idiot box

That’s what my mother (and maybe yours) called the television set — the idiot box — and begged and then nagged me to turn it off already, go outside, go play. Her point was, there’s a whole world out there! I’d get out there, barefoot in the grass, have a look around, and then wonder, what’s on?

Mom, I’m sorry to tell you that today I was made a television critic by the Washington Post. They asked me what I’d be most interested in doing next, and it seems like I’ve been in training for this since, well, since Mister Rogers first told me I was special. Here’s the deal, which went out in a Post memo today and got picked up by media blogs.

imagesI do want to say something about Tom Shales, who has been the paper’s TV critic since 1977. The man’s a genius and made so much possible for TV and pop-culture critics today, and I am nervous about stepping into his place, and glad he’s sticking around with a weekly column and other contributions online and in print.

And since the subject of this blog is so often (or supposed to be) Christmas-related, let us just enjoy one of the things Tom did so well — the annual torching of the Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special! Finally Kathie Lee admitted defeat. Take a moment and just savor this wassail:

What’s the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special? Twenty-three hours. The actual title for this year’s exercise in false piety, faked sentiment and aerobic grinning was “Kathie Lee Gifford: Christmas Every Day,” an appalling prospect any way you look at it. This is the kind of television to be watched not from the couch, as it were, but while peering out from behind it and using it as a shield, as if perhaps an air raid or some other sort of massive bombing were in progress.

“Kathie Lee: Home for Christmas,” Kathie Lee Gifford’s second annual CBS Christmas special, is perhaps even worse than her first — a sickeningly saccharine vanity production that should really have been titled “O Come, Let Us Adore Me.” That ghastly Gifford grin, ear to ear and back again, seems steeped in self-esteem and almost blinding in its show biz phoniness.

Kathie Lee Gifford sings songs like she’s mad at them. What did they ever do to her? Maybe she was frightened by a song as a child. And by Christmas, too, because each year on television she wreaks a bit more revenge.


  1. Nicole on July 29, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Congratulations!!!! You will be brilliant. And just THINK of the swag!

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