Monday, October 26, 2009

The Oscars producers are new, so roll the dice! Use YouTube!

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Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the selection Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman to produce the 82nd annual version of my favorite non-sports TV event, The Oscars.

It's their first time at bat.

Given that the Academy Awards has fallen in ratings in fits and starts over its lofty 55 million viewer mark of 1998, something new must be done. Yes. Yes. I know the rating were up last year over the year before and you say it's because of Hugh Jackman.

I say it's because of nothing - it was only a six percent increase and the ratings have been so low I think the telecast reached what in statistics is called a "steady-state" where absent any major change, Oscar ratings go up a bit from the previous year, then down.

Adding ten new possible Best Picture winners makes this a real horse race and should make for a ratings increase but if - and only if - popular movies like Star Trek make the cut.

But if we get a larger range of movies no one saw, we're back to the same ratings problem as before. Unless Mechanic and Adam Shankman do something different, Oscar's in trouble on television.

That something different should be to use YouTube and ABC to promote a program where people tell what they remember most about Oscars of years past - favorite moments. The best videos would be shown during the telecast.

I offer the idea because Oscar's ratings decline seems to coincide with the emergence of online content and digital media. A person can miss the awards and still find out what happened on a website, complete with video clips. One could not do that in 1998. You had to tune in. YouTube was launched in 2005, and the first blog wasn't created until 2001. So I think all of this is related to Oscar's ratings decline.

My idea is a variation of the 2007 CNN / YouTube Democratic Debate where viewers were asked to submit their questions for the candidates. CNN producers picked their favorites and out of that process 52 videos were shown.  This was my submission, aired for then-candidate, now Vice President Joe Biden:

In Oscar's case, five videos should be selected of one minute each.

So there are the ground rules: one person holding a YouTube account submits one video per account of up to one minute and tagged "Oscar memories".

But given that it's November, the producers better start soon. I vote for a mid-January launch and enlisting ABC to market the contest on television. The winners will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards, walk The Red Carpet, and be introduced to the audience as part of the show.

Tell me that's not going to be huge?! It will draw the young adult demographic that will in turn cause Oscar ratings to increase. Everyone will want to watch to see if they, or their friends or relative's, video will be picked.

Gimicky?  Yes.  New Media-driven?  Yep.  Risky?  How?  The idea taps into everyone's baser desire to see themselves on television, even in the case of the Academy Awards.

I think it will work wonders, and since the topic of "Oscar memories" is something that is never ending - provided the show goes on annually - it can be done every year.   It will help restore that "must-see" excitement to an already great and classic show.

Lil Wayne's Halloween horror should not be jail time

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Last Thursday, Lil Wayne, the most popular and successful rapper currently active, plead guilty to gun possession. His court appearance, with his business partners Cash Money Records CEOs Ronald "Slim" Williams and Bryan "Baby" Williams by his side in court in New York City brought a close to the first part of a questionable targeting of the performer on the part of New York's finest.

Lil Wayne

As far as I'm concerned, New York law enforcement has a golden opportunity to make an out-of-the-box example of Lil Wayne.

According to a must see bio called "Behind The Music" on Lil Wayne on VH1 today, New York police boarded his tour bus looking specifically for Wayne and searching for a gun but the lead officer didn't even know what he looked like.

Moreover, Lil Wayne told his audience that night that the NYPD had made repeated threats> and told him not to perform in New York again.

According to various reports, Lil Wayne faces one-year in jail due to a plea deal. Sentencing is to be set February 2010. As far as I'm concerned placing the most popular rapper in jail for a gun he may not have owned and takes DNA testing to prove is a stupid waste of tax dollars as well as a missed opportunity to have his voice leading the charge against wanton gun possession.

Lil Wayne is not just anyone. He's a master perfomer who's sold as many as 1.5 million downloads of his work Tha Carter III in one week.

A record number.

Why not make Lil Wayne the focus of creative sentencing reflective of his unusual talent and incredible fan base? The sentence should be for Lil Wayne to make a special album that counsels America on the dangers of gun use and possession and the harmful consequences of drug addiction. If there's anyone who can take a boring lecture on does and don't and turn it into a hit, it's Lil Wayne.

And let's go a step beyond that and have the revenue from those downloads given to drug treatment programs in New York City. In a recession, with non-profit programs fighting for funds and donations, that revenue would be like a welcome rain during a drought.

It's time for New York's law enforcement system to think out of the box and set an example for the rest of America, and a future course for Hip Hop.

Moreover, this unique form of punishment would give Lil Wayne a new lease on life at a time when some wonder if his sales and influence will decrease because of this low point in his storied life.

Steve Phillips fired over ESPN sex scandal; Brooke Hundley on MySpace

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Question: Is Steve Phillips like David Letterman? See this video and get ready for my poll.

It was announced that ESPN Baseball Analyst and former New York Mets General Manager Steve Phillips was fired Sunday night. Phillips was involved in a sex scandal regarding a three-week-old affair he had with ESPN Production Assistant Brooke Hundley which turned into "Fatal Attraction" when he tried to break off the relationship.

Steve Phillps and Brooke Hundley

Steve Phillips is married to Marni Phillips and the two have four kids. She filed for divorce September 14th.

According to the Huff Post, ESPN claimed...

"Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN," network spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a statement. "His ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged, and it became evident it was time to part ways."

This story, which hit last Wednesday, has taken the Internet by storm with its details. There's the letter written by Brooke to Marni Phillips and more recently a report that that the whole affair started when according to Hundley, Phillips had got her drunk and then made a move on her after waiting for her to come out of the women's bathroom at a bar.

Brooke Hundley filed a restraining order against Phillips after he went to the police, but in reading the text from the Examiner it seems like she's lying about a few thing to protect herself.

She writes:

While at work in mid July, after work Steve bought me a strong drink and then cornered me while coming out of the bathroom with no one in sight trying to persuade me to come to his hotel suite to spend the night.

I told my supervisor who told me to "Get used to it." And to keep it to myself. He proceeded to text me on a regular basis with inappropriate things. I tried to get him to stop and told others but he didn’t and finally I gave in and agreed to see him a few times after work in parking lots.

Someone at work found out and call his house. Then he began to spread word that I was just the office slut and ruining my reputation. He continued to text me however about getting together on our next business trip and I begged him to please be honest about what happened with us that he had pursued me and that I was not this poor character as he had stated.

Over the phone he threatened me stating that if I spoke a word of this to his wife that he would ruin more than just my reputation but could easily get me fired. At that point I told him I cannot continue on like that and if he couldn’t come clean to everyone that I would have to tell. I wrote a letter and left it on their doorstep to his wife.

I then thought twice about it and asked a young woman to retrieve it for me. She drove up in my car and he saw the car and immediately tried to ram into her over and over. He obviously thought I was in the car and now I’m scared where this might go next.

What's interesting and not surprising to me is that her ESPN supervisor told her to "get used to it" and I believe that because it affirms something I wrote when ESPN's Harold Reynolds was fired in 2006 for hugging a white girl.

Turns out I was right! But I knew that.

I wrote then that relations between ESPN analysts and interns were common, but it was "OK" for the white guys to be in them because (from people I talked to in 2006) it was white male and white female going after each other, if you will.

Reynolds is black and also married and was fired for a hug while I was told some other ESPN men were having full on sexual relations with female employees. I wrote that Reynolds ran into a kind of racial boundary issue that's grounds for another blog post because times have changed in three years.

It takes two to tango and for every one of these romances that goes bad, there are some that go well and unreported.

Boy, folks howled about that but the truth hurts.  Deadspin's now former editor Will Leitch and I had fun with that one at the time. 

What really happened is known mostly to Reynolds but he sued and settled with ESPN, which means that somewhere along the way he wasn't the only person who was to blame for something.

The focus should be on ESPN's culture. Instead it's on people as others try to criticize those like Phillips, Letterman, and Reynolds as if those throwing the criticism are totally innocent.

They're not.

It's widely known in the sports and entertainment industry that women who work for those organizations try to get dates with executives and players and actors they work with. Don't even try to argue with me on that one. Some of the women are interns right out of college working without pay, and they chose to do so.

But what happens when a story like this comes out is "The Big Lie" is put in place to cover it up - where the man is the one going after a date with the woman and she has done nothing to pursue a relationship - and we never get to the real story or a real conversation about how our society really is.

It would help because then we could have some real talk that render stories like this not popular. You know? Right now, it's volcanic on the Internet because it shows how we really are versus The Big Lie. The truth is "The Big Lie" keeps the gossip train going.

Someone emailed me asking if I wanted to buy a photo of Marni Phillips.


Steve Phillips is out of a job now, but what about Brooke Hundley? Is she still in the employ of ESPN? For some reason they've not issued a statement on her at least as of this writing.

Brooke Hundley has an interesting resume in that she, according to the New York Daily News, worked for ABC Studios as an intern and also Jimmy Kimmel Live, but I don't know if she reported directly to Kimmel.

As you may remember, Kimmel himself was the focus of a little inter-office romance himself, but this one's gone well so far.

In the end, it's all just bunch of gossip done by people - including commenters - who have their own interesting stories. So what. The reality is Steve Phillip should not have cheated on his wife, period. All the other stuff is conversation but Marni Phillips is the victim here. Steve owes a lot to her and to his kids.