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Snark Attack



Published September 21, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

For years I've been pitching the idea of a TV show that's a sort of anti-"Access Hollywood" -- a program that has the same kind of fun with our nation's entertainment culture that "The Daily Show" has with its political scene. I'm happy to report that show has finally made it onto the air. I am substantially less ecstatic about the fact that David Spade had the same idea and better connections.

"The Showbiz Show" debuted last Thursday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. Its ads contain the charming tagline, "Tearing Tinsel-Town a New One." Mine was titled "The Movie Show" and never made it to the stage of development where things like clever taglines come into play. Here's a quote from my proposal:

"Hollywood is getting a free ride. The airwaves are glutted with shows committed to providing major studios with free, publicity-tired drivel like 'Entertain- ment Tonight' and 'The Insider,' on top of everything from 'The Today Show' to 'The Tonight Show.' From morning until night, networks and cable outlets offer endless opportunities for entertainers to push their latest product, making valuable time available to an unstoppable torrent of celebrities who go on about their projects as seriously and self-importantly as if they were discussing the fate of the free world.

"No other industry receives the same kind of around-the-clock coverage and promotion. Can you imagine how odd it would seem if broadcasters suddenly started devoting as much time to the comings and goings of the nation's plumbers? Or greeted with equal enthusiasm the latest products offered for sale by the country's underarm deodorant manufacturers? Why do mainstream movies deserve all this special attention?

"The answer, of course, is that they don't. And that's why the time is right for a show that says out loud what millions of Americans think -- that the average motion picture is way more fun to mock than it is to watch. As the reviewer for an NBC affiliate since 1984, I've had one motto and it's served me well: 'Hey, I don't make the movies; I just make fun of them.'

"The show I have in mind will team the country's funniest film critics and comedy writers with a battalion of innovative videographers and make fun of movies as they have never been made fun of before!"

Looks like "The Showbiz Show" beat me to it. Here's a quote from the website for Spade's show: "Don't count on fluffy entertainment journalism. 'The Showbiz Show' calls it like it sees it. Hosted by TV and movie star David Spade and featuring guest stars and comedian correspondents, 'The Showbiz Show' cuts through the industry hype with a host who knows all about Tinsel-Town from the inside. 'The Showbiz Show' is the voice of comedy that is desperately needed in today's celebrity-obsessed world."

Sure, I get it. When some obscure TV personality from the land of Ben & Jerry's says, "Let's tell Hollywood it's time to get real," nothing happens. When a snide "Saturday Night Live" vet proposes essentially the same thing, it's how fast can we get this on the air? And, while we're at it, is there any way we can buy ads on every page of Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone?

But I'm not bitter. Wait, hang on -- time for my hourly dose of Rolaids. I'll just wash those puppies down with a few fingers of Chivas. There, that's better. No, really, I'm at peace. After all, it's not as though Spade doesn't have impeccable credentials for the job. He skewered deadbeat celebs for years in his "Hollywood Minute" segment on "SNL," and he's raised sarcasm to an art form in the course of his career. The fact is, he's an incredibly funny guy. Who else would tell Martha Stewart, as the comic did on her new show last Wednesday, "When you were in jail, I pictured you sitting there like Scarface, only with a mountain of paprika in front of you." Stewart didn't seem to get the reference, and clearly was flummoxed about the concept behind the program Spade was there to promote. That's probably a good thing.

As reported in EW, its host and executive producer made a few promises to the viewing public in advance of the premiere: "I promise not to believe all celebrities when they say their movie is good," Spade vowed. "I promise to cover Tom and Katie's wedding. It's going to be great. I've already seen the script. I promise to cover Jessica Alba. Literally. 24/7. She can call the cops all she wants. I promise to find out what kind of overdose you have to have to be diagnosed with 'exhaustion.' I promise not to make fun of Adam Sandler, so I can still have a side career in the movies."

I think we can all agree Spade's resolutions are funny. But did the show itself live up to all the promise? Honestly, not so much. Let's just say there's plenty of room for improvement, which I'm sure will come over the 13 installments Comedy Central has ordered.

Using "The Daily Show" as its template, from the anchor and loopy correspondents combo right down to the set, the debut episode of "The Showbiz Show" was somewhat underwhelming. Spade got off the occasional good one, certainly, but for the most part the material consisted of cheap shots at surprisingly easy targets. Do we really need David Spade to point out that Angelina Jolie stole Brad from Jennifer; that violent video games are icky; and that The Man is a silly waste of celluloid? "Samuel L. Jackson has been one of the most respected actors in Hollywood," Spade declared from his desk, preparing to go in for the kill, "until now." He didn't tear anybody a new anything with insights this tame -- Jackson has lent his talents to a long list of turkeys over the years.

Equally ho-hum was a segment in which one of the show's correspondents interviewed Rolling Stones fans psyched about the band's tour. Yup, they were senior citizens. They talked about taking drugs before the concert. Punch line? You guessed it: Viagra and blood-pressure medication. Hold the presses: Mick and the boys are getting old!

At a certain point I felt as though I were watching an "SNL" sketch that went on too long. Still, I have complete faith in Spade -- and in former "SNL" writer and "Hollywood Minute" collaborator Hugh Fink, with whom he has partnered on the project. These two are ninjas of eviscerating wit. My sense is that the debut was rushed to make a September deadline, and that the show will improve with age. Any minute now, someone on the staff will notice why "The Daily Show" is so fantastically funny: because the "news correspondents" do a sidesplitting parody of real news correspondents. "The Showbiz Show" will be more fully realized when its "reporters" grasp their duty to parody actual entertainment reporters. What could be more fun than a bizarro-world version of Mary Hart or Pat O'Brien?

I plan to keep watching. And should things not turn around over the next 12 weeks -- if Comedy Central decides "The Showbiz Show" wasn't what it was looking for -- I have a little something to send them.