Most Americans love to hate the press. You can't pass a newsstand in this town without some headline screaming about the Nazis on Fox News or the commies at the New York Times. But for all the whacks political journalists take for cozying up with the pols they cover, they don't hold a candle to the entertainment press in the fine art of ass kissing.
As a semi-serious member of the Reporters Who Cover Television, I'm amazed by what passes for legitimate entertainment news. How many trees had to die for all those cushy cover stories in Entertainment Weekly? How many electrons were wasted for the puff pieces on Access Hollywood? Does anyone but Variety have the courage to stand up and actually do some real Hollywood reporting?
A new public television offering, focusing on gay entertainment news, fails the test as well. Tony Sawicki, producer and host of Under the Pink Carpet, calls his show a cross between Entertainment Tonight and Comedy Central's The Daily Show. The show is distributed via public TV, and is carried locally here on Howard University Television.
Sawicki is banking on the success of this summer's Boy Meets Boy and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to attract audiences to his monthly program, which features newsmagazine pieces on gay art and culture.
Reports include interviews with well-known celebrities as well as personalities from underground gay entertainment. Recent shows have covered the U.S. premiere of Talk to Her, a film by openly gay director Pedro Almodovar, and the opening of the Tony Award-winning play Take Me Out about a professional baseball player who comes out of the closet.
Regular segments also include "Belly Up," a comical slice-of-life glimpse into the gay bar scene and "Man on the Street," which invites gay people to air the community's dirty laundry.
The October episode, airing on WHUT this Sunday, features an interview with well-oiled Falcon porn star Jeff Palmer and celebrity chats with Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls) and Valerie Harper (Rhoda) at New York's GLAAD media awards ceremony.
Host Sawicki is good-natured, and he's clearly having a lot of fun, but I wonder if this show is really worthy of public TV. Most of the time, it seems Sawicki is just glad to have access to the stars he's interviewing. He's a bit too awestruck to really offer anything of substance.
Under the Pink Carpet stands in stark contrast to public TV's more staid incumbent program for gay and lesbian audiences, In the Life. The older program isn't without its own problems, of course. The show can be painfully boring, drenched in political correctness and sound like press releases from the Human Rights Campaign.
But In the Life at least tries to bring weight to its coverage. That's an important goal -- even if it doesn't pack the punch of 60 Minutes.
Under the Pink Carpet, quite clearly, strives to be the younger, hipper alternative in gay TV news. Sawicki developed the show partly in response to a gay media landscape, he says, that tends to focus only on the politically acceptable aspects of gay life. Audiences crave gay programming, and one gay show isn't enough to satisfy that demand, he adds.
Of course, public TV has a long and admirable history of dealing with gay and lesbian issues. Just this summer, many stations broadcast P.O.V's Flag Wars, a documentary about urban renewal and the clash between gay and African American residents. Another PBS series featured Daddy and Papa, about the plight of gay men raising children, and Family Fundamentals, a look at gay children and their devout Christian parents.
Under the Pink Carpet doesn't follow in their tradition of truly important television, but it does aim for lighthearted fun. Unfortunately, there's already a lot of that on the tube. It would have been nice if this were something different.