Sunday, May 07, 2006

IT'S SWEEPS WEEK ON E.T.

I must admit, I have been a long-time viewer of Entertainment Tonight. Like everyone else I am addicted to my daily dose of news about celebrities, movies and TV. And for the longest time E.T. gave you all you needed to know about that.

Somewhere along the line, though, E.T. got away from being about entertainment news. Slowly but surely, the show morphed into tabloid territory,. They covered O.J.'s trial and even covered Princess Di and the rest of the royals--- not to mention the Kennedys. Never mind that the Kennedys weren't even entertainers. "Close enough", though, was the attitude, so they put stories about them on, anyway. This was a ratings decision, there's no debate about that. They needed to keep up with Maury Povich on A Current Affair and all the other syndicated daily tabloid TV shows covering sleaze, so they bent the rules on what constituted "entertainment".

Now it's sweeps period again in the United States, that ratings period where they measure the audiences for these local stations. And E.T. is helping out every way it can, trying to drive up ratings for the local affiliates.

Last week, it was Amy Fisher week at Entertainment Tonight. Jann Carl was interviewing Amy and Joey Buttafuoco, all freaking week. The rehash of the Long Island Lolita saga almost chased out all the other important entertainment news of the week--- such as the, ahem, nasty divorce of Denise Richards from Charlie Sheen and the nonsense surrounding that breakup. The latest news is that Richards is now hanging with Richie Sambora, ex-husband of Denise's former gal pal Heather Locklear. Now they're not friends anymore. That's turned into a big scandal now, and you can count on E.T. to cover that, too.

Needless to say, there was no shortage of other celebrity news, especially sleazy breakup stories. But ET made sure there was an Amy Fisher story every night. On Monday they'll be back at it again, as Amy is confronted by Mary Jo Buttafuoco in an exclusive E.T. interview.

This leads to my question: why is Entertainment Tonight bothering with the Amy Fisher story at all? Amy Fisher was a big story 13 or 14 years ago, no question about that, but she's not part of the entertainment industry at all. It's questionable she's even a "celebrity." She's not so much a celebrity as much as she's infamous for what she did so many years ago. About the only connection Amy Fisher has to Hollywood is the fact that ABC, CBS and NBC all rushed TV movies-of-the-week on her whole saga onto the air years ago. But other than that, she's hasn't got much of a connection to Hollywood at all.

The only reason anyone can think of for why E.T. is running with this story is because Oprah Winfrey had Mary Jo Buttafuoco on their show last Friday. So E.T. figures this is their big chance to trump Oprah and get ratings. Fine. The difference is that Oprah runs a talk show that isn't always about celebrities and entertainment. It's supposed to be "empowerment television", it's about encouraging women at home to improve their boring lives! E.T., on the other hand, is supposed to be about entertainment. The title is "Entertainment Tonight", not "Empowerment Tonight".

Yet they don't seem to care what the name of their show is at E.T. They simply go ahead and stretch the boundaries of what constitutes "entertainment" every sweeps period, to include every tabloid story they can think of. I remember when they used to do these sweeps series for days on end about that anorexic former TV reporter. Who can ever forget that? At least in that case they they had an excuse: that reporter was in the media, she was on TV. So that could be classed as "entertainment," even if the stories about her seemed a little exploitive and were not particularly entertaining.

Here, though, they have no excuse at all for this Amy Fisher-Joey Buttafuoco old news. It's years and years ago, now. Besides, they could have gone full tilt on Denise Richards all week and still could have classified those stories under "entertainment." Who cares about Amy Fisher anymore. Give the audience a break, already.

One pines for the days when E.T. used to go interviewing celebrities on movie sets, or have Leonard Maltin on the show on a regular basis talking intelligently about the movies, and so on and so forth. It used to be about Hollywood, this show. Now, it's about... Long Island. Someone should tell Mary Hart and Jann Carl and the rest of them that they should get back to covering the movies and the TV industry. Get back to covering real celebrities who star in actual productions! The show is about entertainment, already! If Oprah wants to cover Amy Fisher, let her go ahead. But you guys at Entertainment Tonight ought to be better than that.

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