Saturday, September 02, 2006

Apology is Lost on Me
Last Sunday Conan O'Brien hosted the 2006 Emmy Awards, in which Lost wasn't nominated, so I didn't bother watching. (For years I watched my favorite shows -- most notably, Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- be constantly overlooked at the Emmys when anyone who knows television could tell you that it was by far the best thing on. Then Lost came along, and it WON the major award last year, and I thought finally, someone at the Emmys has finally woken up and thought, "Hey, let's not give awards to shows just for longevity; let's actually base it on how good it is!" And then they went and overlooked it entirely, despite Lost turning in a killer second season. So... whatever.

That's not actually what I'm blogging about today, though. What has overshadowed the awards show is not who won or lost, but a skit that Conan O'Brien did that opened the show. I've since watched the skit on YouTube (I tried to post the actual video here, but after 10 minutes of listening to it clicking while it tried to find my blog, I realized on a Saturday this site will be slow as molasses) and it's brilliant. It opens with Conan on a plane, sipping champagne and saying, "What could possibly go wrong?" before the plane hits some major turbulence, throwing Conan around the cabin before he hides in the overhead luggage compartment. He crashes to an island, where Hurley is standing, and they run through the jungle to get back to the Emmys. Conan finds a hatch and says he's going in. (He invites Hurley to come along, but Hurley hilarious retorts, "We weren't exactly invited.") In the hatch is . . . The Office, where Conan lands on Dwight Schrute's desk. From there we watch sendups of 24, House, South Park, and DateLine, all using the actual cast and filming techniques unique to each program. It was brilliantly done.

But the only thing that mattered to the people out there who need something to bitch and complain about every day was the segment devoted to Lost. Why? Because a commuter plane had tragically gone down earlier that same day in Lexington, Kentucky, killing all but one of the 50 people on board. Almost immediately, people were yammering about how insulting and disgusting and immoral and thoughtless it was that NBC had run a sequence where a plane went down on the SAME DAY FOR GOD'S SAKES that this tragedy occurred. Tim Gilbert, the manager of the Lexington, Kentucky, NBC affiliate, was SHOCKED by the Emmys opening like this, and said he couldn't believe NBC had done it, and had no time to actually censor it from the Lexington broadcast: “It was a live telecast — we were completely helpless. By the time we began to react, it was over. At the station, we were as horrified as they were at home.”

The following day, the media reported on NBC issuing an apology, saying they'd never meant to hurt anyone, and that it was meant to spoof a television show, not hurt people.

Exactly. They were doing a send-up of a fictional television show. Not only that, but it was LIVE. How could they have possibly pulled that opening, especially when they probably only heard about the crash a couple of hours before it aired? Maybe they gave people a little more credit, and assumed their skins were paper-thin.

If the Emmys had aired the following day, and they'd still run the footage, I would understand people being upset. Twenty-four hours would have given the station enough time to have re-edited the thing, removed the actual crash, and started the opening with Conan falling off a boat or something and crawling out of the water. But they didn't have that kind of time. A few days after Columbine happened, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was about to air an episode where a student was about a shoot up the school (or so she thought), and they made the wise decision to pull it, and air it several months later. The episode actually would have been better had it aired -- when Buffy realizes that the student wasn't going to kill anyone, but was going to kill himself because he felt like an invisible loser to the world, so she tells him everyone feels pain, it's just a different kind, whether it's a jock or a beauty queen or the school geek, and everyone's pain will feel like the worst pain in the world. Isn't that the sort of show people NEEDED to see right after a horrific event such as Columbine? But the WB's decision was the right one, because they knew 90% of the people would have a knee-jerk reaction to the subject matter, not taking into account what was being discussed. Of that 90%, 2% would have actually watched the show, while the other 88 would have just argued endlessly about a show they'd never heard of prior to it. The WB knew that, and pulled it, thereby avoiding major controversy.

But what if the episode had been slated to air two hours after Columbine? Would they have been able to pull it? Could they have contacted all of the affiliates in time? Probably not, and then there would have been hell to pay from the public that would have roared, I DON'T CARE IF THERE WAS NOTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE, I NEED TO BLAME SOMEONE, SO I'LL BLAME YOU.

The same thing is happening here. What happened in Lexington was a terrible, terrible thing. But NBC is not the entity to blame. What's next, should we pull Lost from the schedule altogether because they keep referring to a plane crash?

1 comment:

Jeremy Barker said...

There have always been overeactions to real events echoed in entertainment. Remember when they edited out the Twin Towers from Zoolander right after 9/11?