TV Eye

Is this crazy, or is it just me?

CinnaMon (l) vs. the now-defunct crabby apple
CinnaMon (l) vs. the now-defunct crabby apple

I used to jokingly say that I watch TV so you don't have to. I've decided to amend that line: I read TV industry trades so you don't have to. Not that you'd want to. Some of this stuff is truly snore-inducing. But every once in a while, something strikes me as, well, crazy – or is it? Take the following:

The Feb. 20 issue of Broadcast & Cable reports that Kellogg voluntarily stopped apple bashing. In now withdrawn TV and Web ads for their Apple Jacks breakfast cereal, a character called the CinnaMon (a cinnamon stick – get it?) was pit against a "devious and grouchy" apple in a race to a bowl of Apple Jacks (the CinnaMon always wins). According to the B&C report, the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Better Business Bureau asked Kellogg to "refrain in the future from denigrating or disparaging apples or other fruits."

Now, I ask you: When has an apple – baked, flambéed, sauced, or frittered – never benefited from the assistance of the CinnaMon? Without the CinnaMon, the apple would be nothing. And why is it a CinnaMon? Because he's thin, brown, and can run fast?

Seriously, the CARU was and is concerned with the rise in childhood obesity and related illnesses. Casting the humble, most American of fruits as "devious and grouchy," the logic follows, will influence children to hate the apple. They will get fat and die. There's something to that. And there's even something to the fact that television can be highly influential. But it seems to me that the larger thing to ask is where did all the money (and time) go that was once dedicated to physical education and school lunch programs? Sure, the CARU's purview is very specific, but hey, when you realize that it's someone's job to be on the lookout for disparaging images of fruits, while these larger issues go unmentioned, you've got to wonder.

Here's another crazy item: "Could Jon Stewart jump from Comedy Central to CBS to replace 60 Minutes vet Andy Rooney? Dan Rather thinks so," reports an Associated Press item carried in the online newsletter NATPE Daily Lead.

"Satire is particularly valuable in a country like ours. One can imagine a national news editor saying, 'We are losing money during this time period' and bringing in Stewart to boost demographics," the AP article reports Rather as saying.

Where to begin? I would welcome almost anyone to replace Andy Rooney – whose whiney commentaries have been my cue to change the channel – if I were watching to begin with. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I watched 60 Minutes. But adding Stewart to lure new viewers isn't going to work without a major reworking of the show. And why would Stewart want to leave a fun cable show to join a comparatively straight-laced broadcast television news program? Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems to me that news programs like 60 Minutes are not suffering from a lack of humor, but a lack of imagination. If 60 Minutes, or any other news program, is so desperate for a younger demographic, why not go to where they're going? Yet, merely dumping current content into new tech spaces isn't enough. And while you're at it, freshening up what those of us in the ignored demographic are watching might not hurt, either. As I said, I can't remember the last time I watched 60 Minutes.

Could it be – and this is really crazy – could it be that shows like 60 Minutes should take a lead from reality TV? Not just any reality TV. I'm thinking the monstrously successful American Idol. Now, before you start writing those snarky e-mails, hear me out. The preferred audience may be the 18 to 24 group, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the show attracts a wide demographic. Think about it. The show is essentially a very old-fashioned talent show that provides the opportunity to engage a tech fetish (online and TM voting), using what I now see is a brilliant programming strategy: having young contestants sing old songs (in those themed music nights).

No, I don't want to see Mike Wallace in a tight Simon Cowell T-shirt (maybe Ed Bradley), nor do I want to see Lesley Stahl teary-eyed when bad news is reported. I don't even want to see the news disappear. Clear-eyed news and information is in rare supply these days. I'm just saying, making the old new again is where the solution lies.

Or maybe I'm just crazy.

Watch This!

Texas theatre legend Margo Jones is profiled in the documentary Sweet Tornado, Monday, March 27, 11pm on KLRU.

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CinnaMon, Apple Jacks, Jon Stewart, Andy Rooney, Margo Jones

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