The reason this year is going to be every bit as tedious as last year is simple: People who should go away?just get out?will not do so. They'll be with us for yet another year, and, if past is prologue, for many more to come.
You know who they are. And it's not just people. It's companies and concepts that, no matter how discredited, no matter how over they might be, somehow manage to hang out and around as if the laws of gravity and good taste do not apply to them.
The exemplars of this "over but not out" phenomenon are, obviously, the Clintons, the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos of American politics. The Clintons are so over that even Al Gore thinks so. Bill's amoral, Hillary's immoral and together they're like your worst nightmare. So desperate is their need for attention that President Clinton has even taken to writing articles for Time magazine.
Rodham Clinton is running for the U.S. Senate from a state she's never lived in, "listening" so that she might still be heard. Had they any sense of self-respect they would have vanished long ago, or at least taken the impeachment hint and laid low. But they'll never go away. In this respect, they are truly emblematic of the others, many of whom are every bit as tedious as the Clintons. Let's name some names:
National Public Radio Is there anything more annoying than NPR? Is there anything more galling than the fact that a percentage of our taxes (albeit a small percentage, but a percentage nonetheless) keeps NPR on the air? Is there anything more pretentious than "All Things Considered"? The whole point of electing a Republican Congress was to get rid of these people forever. The only reason to vote Democratic next fall is to punish the GOP for failing to make good on that promise.
Brian Williams We all know that the MSNBC anchor is supposedly in line to succeed Tom Brokaw, but Williams may be the only person on the planet who doesn't know that Brokaw is never going to retire. Why would he? He shows up, he reads the news, he goes home and General Electric pays him millions of dollars and gives him stock options to boot. Williams, meanwhile, imagines that if he imitates everything Brokaw does, right down to his tie selection, he will soon get to sit in the big chair.
Not going to happen, which means we're stuck with Williams' ceaseless blather for at least another few years. There's a solution to this problem: Brokaw takes a long summer vacation. Williams officially becomes the NBC Nightly News anchor for a couple of months. He's then fired at the end of the summer. And someone else?anyone else?gets the chief anchor slot at MSNBC. This would free up considerable airtime for news.
Barbara Walters Barbara Walters may be the only person extant who is actually more tedious than the Clintons. The woman is an absolutely incredible crashing bore. Years ago there was a famous New Yorker cartoon in which a hideous matron wearing a leopard-print jacket exclaimed to a friend, "I'm all faux and loving it." That's what Barbara Walters is: all faux intimacy in a never-ending stream of relentlessly awful interviews and "specials." The ne plus ultra of this oeuvre is the Barbara Walters Oscar Night special, which is so awful that millions of people tune in just to see if it could possibly be worse than the previous year's effort. She absolutely must go. She never will.
Television News Magazines Which is worse: Dateline or 60 Minutes or 60 Minutes II or 20/20? Hard to say, don't you think? You might have thought that Andy Rooney and Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley and Morley Safer and Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley would have moved on by now?collectively they've been at it forever?but there they are, except now they're there seemingly every night. We're not talking about air-hogs here. We're talking about supra-mega-air-hogs.
Not surprisingly, given their frequency, the lineups of the dreadful shows they "host" have degenerated into one part maudlin weeper, one part psychotic "chiller" and one part celebrity puff. And there are so few good stories that the state of the art is now called "the get," meaning so-and-so "gets" the interview with whoever is "hot" at the moment. There's good news here: ratings are down. The hope of cancellations springs eternal.
Bell Atlantic Is there a company in America as antithetical to the new economy as Bell Atlantic? How is it possible that DSL high-speed modem access service is two years behind schedule in New York? Does anyone think that Microsoft or Cisco Systems or Sun Microsystems or even AT&T would have tolerated such poor performance given the enormous popular demand?
And how is it that in every other aspect of telecommunications, prices are falling through the floor and yet Bell Atlantic keeps jacking prices up? Bell Atlantic is the Barbara Walters of telecom, which is to say, they're beyond awful. We're stuck with them for at least a few more years. That this is so is one of the great mysteries of our age.
The National Political Press Corps Without question, the greatest collection of gasbags ever assembled under one moniker. The amazing thing is, if you put a county vote table from, say, Michigan, in front of them and asked them to explain what could be discerned from the voting patterns, they wouldn't have a clue. Not a clue. But there they are, every night, on television, "explaining" politics. They'll be on constantly this coming year. Some of them wouldn't recognize the Speaker of the House if he sat next to them on the shuttle.
The New York Times Business Section There was a moment there, in the mid-1990s, when The New York Times had the opportunity to blow a hole through the subscription base of The Wall Street Journal. All they had to do was add about six pages of high-quality business and financial news coverage, three or four first-rate columnists, and jump all over the Internet. Had they done that, copies of the Journal would have stacked up at elevator banks all over Wall Street.
But they didn't and the Journal recovered and the window of opportunity closed. The Times tacitly admitted as much last year by forming a joint venture with The Street.com. If they had any sense, they'd turn the whole rotten mess over to TheStreet.com. They won't, of course, so we'll be stuck with their business section until the Web puts it out of business altogether.
Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs What is the media's fascination with black thugs? What's that about? Radical chic was once all the rage, but that was 30 years ago. What's with Puff Daddy being the toast of the Hamptons and the Metropolitan Museum of Art crowd? His recent arrest, one suspects, will only heighten his celebrity. How is it that he's not in jail?
Time Warner The fallacy of corporate synergy has been obvious to everyone for years, but not to Time Warner's senior management. There's actually huge value inside this company, but it'll never be realized until the company is broken up. The good news here is that Yahoo! is said to be considering a takeover. It can't happen soon enough.
Wall Street Wizards It would be refreshing if one of these nitwits went on television and said: "You know what, I really am a lucky bastard. Any fool could make a killing in this market." Instead, the wizards prattle on about their "core strategies" and "investment philosophies." Worse, they're celebrated on television, on the Internet and in the print press. And they've come to believe that we hang on their every word. They've passed through insufferable to become intolerable. Only an economic downturn will drive them out. And that isn't going to happen.
Mark Green God help us. God help us all.
But look on the bright side. You live in the greatest city in the world at the greatest time ever to be alive. Happy New Year.