Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Tragedy strikes the 'Today' family.
"HE IS HISTORY, AND I AM STILL TODAY'S HEADLINE..." Life is so unfair. Matt Lauer tries to branch out from his Today Show base and cash in just a little on his popularity as the smarmy girlie-man sidekick of NBC's perkiest dominatrix and what happens? He takes the mass-media equivalent of a shotgun blast to the face. He has to stand there and pretend to like it when the numbskull TV viewers of America choose Ronald Reagan as the "Greatest American." Who could have guessed? The nominees included Michael Jackson, Madonna, Tom Cruise, and Michael Moore, for God's sake. And Matt had really done his usual homework on the presentation and production end. When it was time to discuss the relative candidacies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, for example, Matt was masterly in his subliminal communication with viewers:
In summarizing the lives of the 25 finalists in the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" contest, NBC's Matt Lauer on Sunday night labeled Bill Clinton as "brilliant" before trumpeting: "Under Clinton the economy boomed -- deficits turned into surplus -- and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity." The brief segment did not feature any explicit criticisms of Clinton's presidency, but when it came to George W. Bush, whom Lauer described as "our tough-talking, language-mangling Commander-in-Chief who most Americans just want to hang out with," Discovery put on musician "Moby," who declared over flag-draped coffins: "From my perspective, you cannot call yourself a Christian, talk about the sanctity of life, and then support the death penalty, and support a war."
It must have been disquieting when three Republicans made the list of ten finalists, but one of them was Abraham Lincoln, and both FDR and Bill Clinton made the cut too. Who could have foreseen the terrible turn things would take?
The program "Greatest American," has aired on the Discovery Channel for the last month; originally starting with the Top 100 Greatest Americans of All Time. The list was ridiculed and ripped apart for major exclusions of what some would consider "obvious members" of the list as well as the inclusions of people such as Ellen Degeneres, Brett Favre, Dr.Phil, and Oprah Winfrey.
The Top 100 dwindled down to a Top 10 two weeks ago, where
10. Franklin D.Roosevelt
9. Oprah Winfrey
8. Elvis Presley
7. Bill Clinton
6. President George W. Bush
The Top 5 was named last night with sections of the studio squared off for the crowd's favorite.
5. Ben Franklin
4. George Washington
3. Martin Luther King Jr.
Then it came down to two Republican presidents Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
President Reagan beat Lincoln for the top spot by just 0.5% of the vote.
Approximately 2.5 million people voted in the final vote via telephone and America Online.
O Calamity! O Horrors! Oh, Mommy, what have they done to your poor little boy? Reagan? Reagan? REAGAN? REAGAN?
AND HE HAD TO PRETEND TO LIKE IT. O WEEPING AND WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH.
There really aren't any words that can take away the pain at a time like this, and we're reluctant to do more than gravely shake Matt's hand while a tear drips slowly down our cheek, but the desire to say something helpful is too strong to overcome. So, in addition to our condolences, we'd like to offer Matt an empty platitude or two to show that our heart is in the right place. Time is the great healer, Matt. Someday -- perhaps in a year, or two, or five -- you will awaken as a whole girlie-man once again. The sun will shine, the birds will sing, and Katie will nod briefly in your direction before storming into the producer's office for another knock-down-drag-out brawl. Trust us on this, Matt. You will recover, and maybe you'll even write a bestselling book about your heroic conquest of post-traumatic shock syndrome. Tom Cruise could play you in the movie.
Does any of this help at all? No? Okay. We'll just tiptoe out of the room now and leave you alone. Sorry.