News Hostage

We Are Not Amused

The fall TV season is here, which means it is time once again for Chronicle television critic Ann Hodges to get the vapors over the decline of Western civilization.

For Lord knows how many years, Houstonians have been treated to lectures from Hodges on just how potty-mouthed television has become, how writers and executives have sacrificed all semblance of good taste in their thirst for ratings.

The annual tradition first began, rumor has it, when Hodges complained that Ralph Kramden's "To the moon, Alice!" was a crass example of how undignified television was becoming.

Whether that's true or not, Hodges weighed in September 8 with her latest offering, a review of the Fox "dramedy" Get Real.

She plunged right in with the classic Hodges lede: "Get Real is the Fox network's trail blazer for trashing up a family show."

There's a mom fantasizing a sex scene, she wrote, and there's a teenage son in bed with a girlfriend.

"[D]ear old Dad scoots off to work, rather than deal with his son's having a sleep-over," she continued. "As his wife reminds him frequently, it's their turn to have a big night ahead. 'Just two words,' she whispers. Words I'd just as soon not write here."

Talk about titillating the reader! The mind reeled at the thought of what two words could be so satanic and yet be broadcast on a noncable station. Unfortunately, that required watching the first 20 or so minutes of the very lame Get Real, but no one said this job was easy.

It is with satisfaction at a difficult job well done that we can report the two words that triggered Hodges's disdain: "crotchless panties."

We hope Hodges is glad that she boosted Get Real's ratings by making the show sound dirtier than it was. Frankly, we're offended.

Infomercial

The Houston Business Journal does a pretty good job tackling some local issues. It also, however, apparently isn't averse to letting its columnists use its pages for free advertising.

The Journal regularly runs a column by Jeffrey Gitomer, a Charlotte-based sales expert who authored a book called Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless. At least twice in the past month, Gitomer has used his column to do little more than shill his new Web page (It's www.gitomer.com, kids!).

"Please take a gander at what we've put together. While you're there, get this week's free GitBit. It's new: Web Lingo. New words that the web has spawned -- fun and funny stuff."

And all you have to do to get it is register on his Web site, the equivalent of signing on to a junk mailing list.

We're assuming next week's column will advise busy executives on How to Get Free Advertising for Yourself.

F/X

A Chronicle review of the Houston Ebony Opera Guild's production of Tosca left us in despair at how special effects are infecting every form of the fine arts.

Reviewer Charles Ward ably (we assume) recapped the opera's plot, about a woman named Tosca who's in love with a guy named Cavaradossi, whose archenemy is named Scarpia.

"Cavaradossi is killed and, with the shouts of soldiers who have discovered Scarpia's body in her ears, Tosca leaps to her death," he wrote.

We can just see the director insisting on the arresting visual: "No! I want Scarpia's body to be in her ears! I don't care what it takes!"

Whatever happened to just letting the story speak for itself?

The Chron also resorted to some sci-fi elements with its coverage of the Comets' victory parade through downtown.

The Comets, of course, won the WNBA title just weeks after the death of guard Kim Perrot, an event that received about as much media coverage here in Houston as the deaths of JFK and JFK Jr. combined.

The front page of the September 9 paper had a large photo and story on the parade, allegedly attended by 60,000 revelers. It also had a "reefer box," journalese for a brief description of a related story elsewhere in the paper. The Chron's reefer: "All the trappings from two previous celebrations were in evidence Wednesday, but point guard Kim Perrot was missing. Or was she?: See Sports."

Ummmm: Yes, she was missing.

The reefered story, by the way, had its own bizarre touch. The Comets were there, W.H. Stickney wrote, "holding aloft the three silver championship trophies, waving to their fans, some even cheering those cheering them.

"Perrot was there, too.

" 'Today was great,' said Perrot's older sister, Loretta....'I would like to thank everybody for giving this tribute to Kim. I know if she was here, she'd be celebrating just as well.' "

Hey -- "If she was here"? She was, according to the Chron.

Priorities

We're betting that somewhere there's a focus group study that says TV viewers really, really love live, breaking news. That's because stations seem to be going out of their way to describe any little thing as breaking news.

Sometimes it's just a cop car chasing a speeder. Sometimes it's described as "breaking" when a close listen to the facts seems to indicate it happened several hours ago. It doesn't matter -- the screen is filled with a splashy "Breaking News" logo and appropriate sound effects.

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