Friday, October 11, 2013


Generally on programs I like to watch, the commercials are for health products for the elderly, interspersed with “Personal Injury” attorneys promoting “Class Action” suits” against those health products that, despite an overwhelming litany of disclaimers concerning their side effects, overlooked a possibility that made you unexpectedly sicker. 

PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY:  “If this pain relief medication made your nose fall off, call this number, and we will get you a new nose!”

Recently, however, I have found myself offended in an entirely new direction. 

There’s a break in the action on Law & Order: SVU, as time is running out on finding an imprisoned youngster before they succumb. 

We are then presented with an actress I am supposed to recognize but don’t, hired primarily, it would appear, because she has the biggest, saddest eyes in physiological existence. 

This record is instantly shattered when they cut away to a large, forlorn-looking dog whose humongous eyes, if possible – and it apparently is – are even sadder than hers are.

The viewer is now left, looking at this dog and listening to this actress, whose quivering voice matches the hopelessness in both of their eyes.

What the actress is asking is that we send money to the ASPCA, so that these dogs can be fed, and consequently not have to go through the “door” that they showed us in Lady and the Tramp.

My immediate response is not to reach for my checkbook, but, instead, to remote away to another channel, to catch a snippet of a ballgame, or some ripsnortin’ action on the Westerns Channel.  I would even settle for House Hunters International anything other than watching a sappy woman making me feel bad for not feeding a dog.

Calculating when this unbidden moroseness will be over, I switch back, hoping to see Olivia with a flashlight entering an abandoned warehouse going, “Miranda? Can you hear me?”, only to discover that the “Save the dog” commercial is still running. 

I have forgotten that cable stations have longer commercial breaks than their network counterparts, whose interruptions, over the years, I have conditioned myself to avoid.   (I pride myself in switching back precisely when the program is coming back on the air.) 

Cable “commercial blocks” are different.  I have experienced them going up to five minutes, touting the virtues of a more flexible garden hose.  This completely messes with my timing.  In this case, come back too early, only to be re-accosted by a still talking “Sad Girl” saying,

“No dog should be treated this way.”

Accompanied by a canine prisoner with desperately pleading eyes. 

I feel ambushed.  There I was, being thoroughly entertained by a sex crimes story, and suddenly, there’s this terminally sad dog monopolizing my television screen.  With a woman telling me that, if I don’t do something to help him,

It’s my fault!

This is not the first time I have found the “guilting” approach to  fundraising to be eminently counter-productive.  I recall receiving a solicitation-for-money letter from an “Anti-Gun” organization which began,

“Bobby was alone in the house…”

Well we all know where that’s going, don’t we? 

Dead Bobby.

And again, it is less than subtly implied, if I don’t send them money,

I may as well have pulled the trigger myself!

I have to tell you, despite the possibility of seeming uncaring, for me, this strategy does not come remotely close to hitting the target.  In fact, its effect is exactly the opposite than the one I am certain was intended.

Out goes the “Gun Control” letter.  

No money for the weepy dog. 

(I don’t know if they put drops in their eyes, or find dogs without hope.  It does appear they use big dogs because, the bigger the dog, the bigger those urgently imploring eyes.)

Bottom Line:  I resent people shaming me, and telling me how to feel.   A more productive alternative:  Give me the facts, and let me think for myself.  

Okay then, think for yourself.  Just because a solicitation for money is gratuitously manipulative, does that mean you have to take it out on the dog?


What does “………………………………” mean?

I’m thinking about it.

You did not see that coming?

Though I am in here with you, I can honestly say that I didn’t.


YEKIMI said...

re: “No dog should be treated this way.”

After seeing this PSA [which is actually a commercial for the ASPCA] about 14 gazzillion times I think the tag line should be changed to "No VIEWER should be treated this way"

Johnny Walker said...

Sorry for only chiming in for a request, but I'm re-watching (and LOVING) Taxi. What a show that was.

And something this 35 year old cannot seem to discover is why Randall Carver and Tim Conaway left the show.

Which isn't to say I can't guess: Carver's character, while being perfectly executed, really didn't fit in with the show. I mean, the character was perfectly "fine". I liked him, and Carver did a good job, but Burns never grabbed your attention the way Louie or Latka did. It was probably already difficult enough to write for Danza and Conaway, and Burns seemed even less ripe for good jokes.

Possibly a prime example of how you can imagine a character will open lots of doors for you, only to find that, in practice, they're a dead weight.

Conaway is less clear, but I can see similar problems with his character. In the first season it seems a lot of Bobby's storylines relied on the fact that he was a struggling actor. Sometimes they worked (when he gave himself a deadline), sometimes they didn't (when he pretended to be Louie), but they often seemed to rely on Bobby (and thus Conaway) giving a brilliant "performance" -- which seemed to stretch Conaway's talents in the wrong direction.

It seems to me that rather than try and make him into an undiscovered DeNiro, that he would have been better suited as more of a caricature: Vain and self-involved. But even on the shows were they did try that (like when he lets Tony down) Conaway's performance seemed to limit the story. Plus, how do you get stories from a character with only one trait like that? Don't ask me.

Of course, I'm guessing all this was discussed from every angle in the writer's room. So I was wondering: Why was Conaway let go?

Johnny Walker said...

Hmm. Maybe I should have checked Wikipedia first. Sorry! Maybe you could still add to this, if you felt so inclined. Thanks for your time, Earl!

Begin quote:

Conaway left Taxi after the third season. Part of the reason was his drug abuse after season one.[3]Taxi writer Sam Simon recalled in 2008 that during production of Simon's first script for that show, a missing Conaway was found in his dressing room too high on drugs to perform, and that his dialogue for that episode was divided between his co-stars Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd who delivered the jokes well enough so that Conaway's absence had little negative impact on the actual episode. This caused the show's producers to realize that he was expendable and contributed to Conaway's eventual firing.[13] Conaway was reported at the time to be dissatisfied with being typecast as a "blond bimbo" and the "butt of struggling-actor jokes", along with finding the nature of the role repetitive.[14] He also felt creatively stymied:
I wanted to do things with Bobby, but as the show went on, I could see I wasn't going to get that chance. ... Lemme tell you – I loved Bobby, I identified with Bobby. So, yeah, I kind of took everything personally. I had a lot of meetings with [the producers] because I was unhappy. ... Sure, partially it was ego, but let me do what I do best. It was frustrating. I remember leaving the studio feeling guilty and unhappy. I just couldn't appreciate it and use it as just a job, as a learning experience. Instead I saw it as, 'Hey, anybody could do this character.' Like nobody else could do Louie or Jim, they were such defined characters. But Bobby – anybody could walk in and say, 'Hi, Alex.'"[15]

pumpkinhead said...

Johnny, just a couple of weeks ago in fact I left a comment here asking Earl what made him choose to write two episodes about John, the only two John-centric episodes I can remember. I always figured that they dropped John in favor of adding Jim, once they saw all the potential for that character after Latka's wedding. Funny, I never really thought of Bobby as dead weight, but now that you mention it, I can see it. For the record, I really liked the Bobby as Louie episode, though I've never been able to decide whether I thought Bobby did a good job as Louie. I've kind of reached the conclusion just in recent years that Bobby was not very good as Louie, and wondered whether it was intentional, as I'm not sure (despite the deadline episode) whether the Taxi universe considered Bobby to be an undiscovered talent or just another marginally talented unemployed actor.

Johnny Walker said...

pumpkinhead, It's nice to be able to talk about this with someone who's familiar with the episodes. I'm watching Season 2 now and they just did an episode where Bobby loses motivation after a beginner immediately lands a big role.

Once again the final scene relied on Bobby giving a "great" performance: He helps the newcomer rehearse his new scenes, and shows himself and everyone in the garage that he has great talent.

The two perform some Shakespeare (or pseudo-Shakespeare?) together. The new-comer is actually amazing, and that only highlights Bobby's lack of talent...

Given that there were no jokes in that scene at Bobby's expense, and the satisfaction in the narrative arrived from Bobby believing in himself again, it seems that the Taxi universe did consider him to be a talented, if not ground breaking, actor.

Still, I agree with Conaway's comments that Bobby (however likeable he was) could have been played by a different actor. (Unlike Jim or Louie.) But, to honest, that's got to be easier said than done. They'd have probably had to drastically alter his character to find that rare mesh of actor/character, for one things, but I'm not even sure that there was brilliant mesh in Conaway. Very few actors seem to have it.