In his “Media Mix” column exploring the mainstream media’s increasing coverage of what was once “tabloid fare” (the circumstances surrounding Anna Nicole Smith’s death, the hair formerly belonging to Britney Spears), USA Today‘s Peter Johnson seeks insight from Us Weekly‘s editor, Janice Min, and gets, well — get this:
Min understands Smith’s appeal. “This story is the ultimate in voyeurism: You’re getting to see the inner workings of a celebrity, her demise, her home life, what she ate, what drugs she was taking, the court papers. It’s almost like the real-time unraveling of a celebrity. And, let’s face it, this is better than any TV show that’s on right now. It’s probably better than any book you’re reading. You can’t script this sort of crazy drama.”
“It’s probably better than any book you’re reading”? Let’s see, I’m reading Lore Segal’s Shakespeare’s Kitchen. It’s a funny, intelligent, nuanced look at the way people build surrogate families out of friends and coworkers — yeah, I guess the Anna Nicole Smith saga offers more food for thought. Especially the part about that guy Howard K. Stern. How weird is that? At first I thought he was the famous Howard Stern. Howard Stern and Anna Nicole — how weird would that be? I get the chills just thinking about it.
“You can’t script this sort of crazy drama”? Lady, Carl Hiaasen craps better plots than this. But I guess that’s the kind of thinking that, over the past 50 years, has turned television from a medium where you might see a teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky to a medium where you can watch slack-jawed, swimsuit-clad teenagers mangling grammar as they self-importantly narrate their way through pedestrian rites of passage.
You know what? I guess you can’t script that.