Brandon Tartikoff, apparently unsatisfied with his position as president of NBC Entertainment, has appointed himself as the guardian of taste on American television.
The Big Peacock himself had some nasty things to say about the Fox network last week at the NBC affiliates convention. Namely, that Fox shows are garbage and he wouldn't put any of them - with the exception of "The Simpsons" - on the air."They pander to the worst aspects of the American TV audience," Tartikoff said. "They assume people don't read - every reference is to other TV shows. They don't ask the audience to aspire to anything. They don't try to assume that the audience has a collective 90 IQ."
Excuse me. Perhaps I'm missing something here.
Let's assume for a minute that Tartikoff is absolutely correct about the Fox lineup. Still, isn't his criticism sort of like the Exxon Valdez calling the Mega Borg a big mess?
This is the man who brought us such intellectual shows as "Knight Rider," "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and "Gimme a Break." (Please.)
Remember "We Got It Made," an NBC sitcom about two bachelors who hire a sexy live-in maid to clean their apartment? My, now that was highbrow entertainment.
This season alone, we've seen such NBC classics as "Baywatch," "Hardball," "Sister Kate" and "The Nutt House."
If we want to talk about pandering, hasn't Tartikoff ever seen his own "Saturday Night Live?"
As for not taking any of Fox's hits, even if they were handed to him on a platter, what baloney.
A couple of weeks ago in a televised news conference, when asked what social significance his new shows had, Tartikoff replied, "I'd be quite content if `Fresh Prince' doesn't change anybody's life but just gets a 30 share."
This man, whose Sunday night lineup is a disaster, would jump at the chance to grab Fox's successful "Married . . . with Children" if he could.
And what's "Unsolved Mysteries" but a rip-off of Fox's "America's Most Wanted?"
The real problem here is that Fox is beginning to pose a threat to NBC - if only with "The Simpsons" going up against "Cosby" on Thursday nights - and Tartikoff is spewing sour grapes.
In response to the NBC exec's comments, a Fox spokesman said, "Brandon Tartikoff was the first person to predict that Fox would fail miserably. We hope his current thoughts prove equally correct."
And Mr. Taste may not want to remember this, but the first big hit that started NBC on the road to the top wasn't the highly acclaimed "Hill Street Blues," or a comedy like "Cheers" - it was "The A-Team," a show that assumed its audience had a collective IQ in single digits.
NO DICE RERUN: Mr. Taste has taken one step toward cleaning up his own network - Tartikoff announced that NBC will not rerun the "Saturday Night Live" hosted by raunchy comedian Andrew Dice Clay.
According to the Associated Press, the announcement came at last week's affiliates convention following "sharp criticism" of the Clay show by a Mississippi affiliate.
The appearance of Clay, whose act includes attacks on women and homosexuals, sparked a controversy that saw both regular Nora Dunn and scheduled musical guest Sinead O'Connor boycott the show.
According to Tartikoff, Clay was booked at the last minute when another guest host - whom he did not identify - backed out. He said the network did not anticipate the controversy.
MICHAELS' MILLIONS: In case you missed it, sportcaster Al Michaels signed to stay with ABC for a mere $2.2 million a year.
Michaels had reportedly been trying to jump to CBS. First, he was suspended for two weeks for violating ABC's nepotism rule. (His daughter worked as a runner during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships right here in Salt Lake City this past winter.)
Second, Brent Musburger signed on with ABC after being fired by CBS, leaving a rather large hole at the other network. (Brent, sadly to say, is having to struggle by now on slightly less than $2 million a year.)
All of which adds up to another case of "Why are networks dumb enough to shell out this kind of money?" No sportscaster - no matter how good he might be - is going to attract viewers to a Super Bowl, or a World Series or an NBA finals series.
The events themselves are the stars, the sportscaster just a window dressing - and often a rather annoying one at that. Maybe if they made less money, they'd take themselves less seriously.