Now You See Me asks to what lengths will a television network go in order to insure what it might call the “human continuity” in its latest smash reality TV series—a show focusing on people who are gravely, if not terminally, ill? Why would anyone watch the show in the first place? And under such circumstances, if a producer offered you a promising new cancer-fighting drug—and a shot at stardom—why might you really not want to sign that contract?
We spoke with Bell for an hour by phone last weekend.
INDEPENDENT: That oddly prescient ’80s TV news network drama Max Headroom was supposedly set “15 minutes into the future.” The world in Now You See Me has a similar sense to it. It’s not tangential to our time, but a logical extension of it.
NEAL BELL: I hope so. While I was writing it, I actually thought that maybe this premise—a reality show about dying people—was so far out there that it went beyond parody into ridiculousness.
But while I was writing it, a British reality TV star named Jade Goody, who’d been a big hit on several different Big Brothers because she was so apparently abrasive and obnoxious, finally ended up on one in India, where she was diagnosed—on camera—as having terminal cancer.
She quit the show, went back to England and basically sold the rights to her death to a television company, which filmed as much as they could of her final month or two. She got married—though she was barely able to walk down the aisle—to the father of her two children. It was a huge media event in England.
And I thought, well, (laughs) I guess I didn’t make it up. It’s actually happening.
As Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”
I think that’s true. It goes beyond the “stranger than fiction” thing. I think cynicism is exactly the right word. You just cannot calculate the bottomless desire or appetite for the most invasive glimpses into people’s lives.
2. The set looks scary huge. The big-screen effects behind his desk are amusing; it was fun to see Tom Hanks getting drenched by a whale “breaching” in the “ocean” (starting at minute 7:30 below) on Night 2. Conan’s close proximity to his adoring audience raises the excitement level, too, and I hope he embraces the opportunities there.
3. His pal Jon Stewart must have winced a bit the next day. Stewart nudged past Leno and Letterman in the October ratings thanks to the big momentum he’s been rolling on since he announced that D.C. rally. And then—BAM!—along comes Conan, and he clobbers them all.
4. Jay, and maybe even Dave, just became several degrees less relevant. I say “less relevant” because I reluctantly include the still very funny Letterman in that assessment. Forget Leno: He’s ir-relevant. Ah, sweet revenge.
5. It’s not the best late-night talk show. Jimmy Fallon’s 12:35 a.m. show on NBC has the best musical guests, the funniest skits, the best celebrity impressions and the most creative ideas for integrating the audience and guests into the fun (beer pong with Betty White, anyone?). That’s cool; Conan has his work cut out for him, and now that he’s no longer trying to court Leno’s lame audience, the long, lanky clown enjoys some much-needed leg room.
In the "oh, no, not again" category of pop culture news, Kate Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" fame was spotted by WRAL "working" for a day in a Raleigh eatery this week, probably for some new reality show.
The hush-hush location shoot is not the only North Carolina showbiz connection for the octo-mom with the Flock of Seagulls hairdo. Her recently-canceled reality series on TLC was shot for three years by Figure 8 Films in Carrboro, which created the series. (Figure 8 did not respond to repeated requests by The Independent Weekly for an interview this year, when revelations of dad Jon Gosselin's infidelity derailed the marriage, and, soon after, the series.)
Personal chef and singer/bassist extraordinaire Shirle’ Hale Koslowski is no stranger to television – she did a cooking segment on News 14 for a while until she was replaced by some dorky guy. But this latest development is just surreal.
Koslowski, who plays in the Durham band Free Electric State with her husband David, will appear Monday, Oct. 26 on the “Rachael Ray” show, which airs in the Triangle at 10 a.m. on WTVD.
A wine rack that Shirle’ made out of coffee cans will be featured in Ray’s regular "Double Duty Tips" segment. It turns out that a production assistant on Ray’s show spotted it on Shirle’s “Rockin’ the Stove” blog.
“I got this email, like, two months ago, in the morning,” Koslowski says. “I thought it was spam. I’m sitting here in my office, laughing, and going, ‘Hey David, check out this piece of spam I just got from The Rachael Ray Show.’” David thought it was “junk,” too, but when Shirle’ examined the return address, she saw that it was from Oprah Winfrey’s company. So she wrote back, and the segment producer called her within minutes.
A script was emailed to Shirle’, and David shot the footage that outlined the steps for making the wine rack. The producers will edit it down to a one-minute segment that will likely include David as well, enjoying a glass of wine with his wife.
Shirle’ is still just surprised by the whole thing.
“I had no idea that anyone subscribed to my blog, other than friends and family.”
If you've been watching cable news lately -- you poor soul -- you may be aware that four Republican lawmakers are promoting a new right-wing-media-inspired witch hunt.
No, we're not talking about ACORN-bashing or "czar" paranoia here. Them's old news, partner. But did ... did ...did you know that Muslim spies are infiltrating Congress?!
So says loon fringer David Gaubatz, co-author of Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America, published by World Net Daily Books. (World Net Daily, for those of you lucky enough not to know, is a "conservative " Web site that has been pushing the "birther" meme about Obama.)
And so says Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), one of the aforementioned lawmakers, and ...hmmm... author of the foreword to Gaubatz's book. Here she is on Fox News this week, explaining her position on all those dangerous Muslim interns in Congress.
Politico has more on the "controversy" here.