Rep. Anthony Weiner calls out the Republicans

We already know that Rep. Anthony Weiner brings serious Brooklyn attitude to his job. Well, here he is from the floor of Congress yesterday, calling out the Republicans for being “a wholly-owned subsidiary of an insurance industry.” My favorite part – he starts off like he’s about to do five minutes at the Chuckle Hut. “You gotta love these Republicans…” His old roommate, Jon Stewart, would be proud. (Thanks to Sean Crespo for turning me on to this.)

“The Big Bang Theory” stolen by Belarus?

This is one of the odder stories to come out of TV land in a while.

At the end of every episode of his hit CBS sitcoms “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre, has some fun with the vanity cards, the quick title shots that flash on the screen for a second promoting a show’s production company. (Remember “Sit Ubu, sit?” That was a vanity card.) Lorre actually writes mini-essays on his, so fans with TIVO or DVR can pause the TV and read them. And for those without, he keeps them on this website.

On the vanity card following last night’s episode, Lorre told how a production company in the nation of Belarus has created a show that is a completely ripped-off version of “The Big Bang Theory” called “The Theorists.” The characters are called Sheldon, Leo, Hovard, Raj and Natasha, and the show is more than just a shadow of its inspiration – each episode is basically a translation of the episodes here!

And the worst part, according to Lorre, is that nothing can be done, because the production company is owned by the government of Belarus.

A search of our beloved Internet unfortunately failed to uncover any video of this future Peabody winner (if you uncover any – please send!) but we did find some fine still photos of the cast. Imagine the cast members of “The Big Bang Theory” shot up with a quart of vodka per day and aged twenty years – welcome to “The Theorists.”

Will Jon Stewart ask ex-roommate Anthony Weiner about these disparaging comments on tonight’s Daily Show?

Jon Stewart’s guest on tonight’s “The Daily Show” is Rep. Anthony Weiner, who many New Yorkers know as the man who almost ran for mayor against Michael Bloomberg in 2009, ultimately decided against it, and probably regretted that decision after seeing how close Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger Bill Thompson came.

But what many may not know is that earlier in their careers, Stewart and Weiner were roommates, living together in a crash pad in Soho back when Stewart was first hitting New York’s stand-up clubs, and Weiner was working for then-Congressman Chuck Schumer. (Technically, Stewart was actually rooming with a girl Weiner was dating, and Weiner was the boyfriend who moved on in.)

I interviewed Weiner for City Scoops magazine last year, when a mayoral run still looked possible, and asked him about his relationship with Stewart. Weiner, who said that he and Jon were still friends, surprised me with some negative comments about “The Daily Show,” calling it a “scam,” accusing it of fostering political cynicism, and claiming it had a “corrosive effect” on politics. Here’s the exchange:

LG: Have you been on “The Daily Show?”

AW: No. I don’t have a book. You gotta be selling something to go on his show.

LG: Well, if you run for Mayor…

AW: If I become Mayor, then they’ll probably waive that requirement. I wouldn’t want to go…I don’t know.

LG: Because it would be too weird?

AW: No, I love Jon’s show, and I TiVo it and watch it every day. But I think it has a bit of a corrosive effect on my business.

LG: In what sense?

AW: Its entire ethos is to make fun of politicians. Colbert’s worse…or better at it, I don’t know. I guess it’s really not fair to say it’s corrosive. It’s just that for a remarkable number of Jon’s viewers, that’s the sole source of news, and that’s both good and bad. It’s good that they’re gonna get it somewhere, and if it’s gonna be at a comedy show I’d rather it be there than Bill Maher or something like that. But on the other side, I don’t like the idea that there’s such a cynical view of politics and government.

LG: But you understand why that cynicism exists, right?

AW: Do I understand why that cynicism exists? Yes. I think it exists because of Jon’s show.

LG: Do you really?

AW: We could have the circular argument if you want. I think it accelerates itself. I think there becomes a feedback loop that’s corrosive. Congressmen do dumb things, yes, then are highlighted for doing dumb things, and highlighted some more, and people watch it and say that congressmen do dumb things, and so then when another congressman does a dumb thing, it’s like, “Well, my audience wants to watch a congressman do a dumb thing,” and then the audience laughs at the congressman doing a dumb thing, and then Jon says, “Hey, I got a great scam here, lemme go find another congressman doing a dumb thing,” and where do I get in? Where do I get in not doing a dumb thing? Not being a bozo?

LG: Have you ever expressed that to Jon?

AW: Oh yeah, we had…yes. The answer is yes.

LG: What did he have to say?

AW: The argument was somewhat predictable.

LG: Well, after last night, we know very well how Jon argues. (This interview took place the day after Stewart’s takedown of CNBC commentator Jim Cramer)

AW: What I thought was interesting about last night was the irony of watching the comedian be critical of the news guy for being funny.

LG: I don’t think that was the reason…

AW: …at the crux of it, it was the news guy defending himself by saying, “I’m being an entertainer. I’m being funny.” And the comedian saying, “Dude, don’t do that. You be the serious one and I’ll be…” which is kind of a theme of Jon’s joust with the “Crossfire” guys. The irony with Jon…we have to remember that Jon was critical of “Crossfire” because it dumbed down the debate. Some of my concern about Jon is that, it’s smart, but it can be just as corrosive, because we’re being treated like we’re dumb. And maybe some of us are.

Weiner’s comments to me were widely reported at the time, appearing on Politico, Wonkette, New York Magazine, and Gawker. So will Jon address these accusations on tonight’s show? Stay tuned.

Next Up for Conan O’Brien

The Conan/Jay saga has finally wound down after two insane weeks, a brief impasse until March 1 when the now much-hated Jay Leno returns to The Tonight Show, and he and Dave go at it with a venom beyond any they ever had before as direct competitors. The most interesting aspect of their battle, I think, is that as Jay was winding down The Tonight Show the first time, he and Dave seemed to have made peace with each other. There was even talk, before the 10:00 show came up, that Jay might appear on Dave’s show again at some point. He was even supposedly offered an appearance on Dave’s show the night of Conan’s debut, and while he turned it down out of deference to Conan, both sides left the possibility open. Now, it’s safe to say no matter which show leaves the air first, that guest spot will never, ever happen.

So March 1 marks the beginning of the next battle in the last night wars, and as for the battle after that? Well, if we all keep our fingers crossed and pray really hard, it just might come in early September, as Conan O’Brien enters the fray on Fox as direct late night competitor # 4 (against Jay, Dave, and Stewart/Colbert.)

In the meantime, here are some thoughts/links on the astounding battle now behind us.

1. ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who correctly predicted that Leno would be back at The Tonight Show helm within a year back in March, tells New York Magazine’s Will Leitch that Conan’s show “sucked” at 11:30, that he was “too whiny” in how he handled it, and that if he does land at Fox at 11:00, he’ll fail there as well.

2. The Los Angeles Times’ Neal Gabler, in a piece that includes some fascinating background on how networks became so focused on younger demographics and why that might be a mistake, calls Leno’s ultimate victory here the revenge of the dorky over the hip.

3. Newsweek’s Joshua Alston lays out a road map for Jay Leno to rehabilitate his image, but unfortunately repeats the now established media fiction that Conan “lost his job.” He didn’t. He quit.

4. Johnny Carson’s longtime head writer says that all the hosts – Dave, Jay, and Conan – could learn something about class from his former boss, who he believes would just tell the whole lot of them to man up.

Rich People’s Problems: Did Conan Make the Wrong Choice?

“There are real people out there with real problems.”

This sentence was spoken last night by Conan O’Brien on his second-to-last Tonight Show. He was referring to the problems in Haiti, but depending on what happens next for him, he might have also inadvertently been referring to members of his staff.

As we’ve all read by now, O’Brien and his reps haggled for days to get every dime they could from NBC for his staff’s severance packages, and Conan himself will donate a large sum – a seven figure amount, according to his management – toward those packages out of his own settlement, which is reported to be around $32 million.

There’s no word on how exactly the severance will break down – given the amount of money involved, maybe each staffer gets six months pay? One year’s worth? More? – but however long it lasts, given both the current weakness of the economy and the generally tough nature of finding jobs in television, there’s no guarantee that every member of his staff will find employment before their severance runs out.

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What “The Wire” can teach us about Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, and the current late night debacle

So now, if you believe New York Magazine, the intensity of the outrage surrounding Conan O’Brien’s removal from The Tonight Show is a parable for our recessionary anger at the fat cats – “Leno is AIG,” writer Adam Sternbergh claims – who have bullied us little people around, laid us off from our jobs, and generally caused everything bad to happen in our lives.

Conan O’Brien, therefore, is us – the little guy. Conan is he or she who is mad as hell, can’t take it anymore, and is now rising up to claim what is rightfully theirs.

Hogwash.

Because if we’re looking at this situation realistically, a much better comparison – and one that contradicts the Conan-as-revolutionary meme – comes to us from HBO’s landmark series, “The Wire.”

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Kimmel, O’Brien, and the truth about Leno-Hate.

Did’ja hear what Jimmy Kimmel said to Jay Leno last night? How he answered every question Jay asked him for Jay’s incredibly awkward 10@10 segment by alluding to the NBC debacle, and placing the blame squarely on Jay’s shoulders?

Oh my god…he eviscerated him! It was incredible!

That’s the word around the Internet, anyway. And it was incredible – but not just for the reasons people are giving.

Yes, Jimmy took him apart. Jay – who’s been placed in an absolute no-win situation, public relations-wise, as people ‘round the ‘Net delight at every joke offered at his expense by Dave, Jimmy, Craig, and yes, even poor little Conan, but rise up in anger when Leno has the nerve to strike back – invited Kimmel onto his show two nights after Kimmel spent his entire show in a Leno wig and chin, talking in a demeaning Lenoesque accent. It was really an incredibly ballsy move on Jay’s part – something no one has really acknowledged – and he took a risk, possibly based on the much-reported friendship the two formed during the writer’s strike, that Kimmel would play nice.

Needless to say, the risk did not pay off.

Instead, Kimmel, sensing the blood in the water, saw an opportunity to throw his name into the “Team Conan” buzz in a huge way – especially important now, since the late night viewing audience is about to be thrown up for grabs yet again – and always having a sharp sense of business savvy, Kimmel grabbed it with both hands.

But it was his ending salvo that added a surreal sense to this already far-too-surreal affair. As Jay was ending the bit, undoubtedly regretting his attempt to play along with all the scorn being heaped on him, Kimmel unleashed the following.

“Listen Jay. Conan and I have children. All you have to take care of is cars. We have lives to lead here. You have $800 million. For god sakes, leave our shows alone.”

And with this one devastating verbal grenade, Kimmel exposed everything backward about this whole “Team Conan” movement.

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Merry Christmas – my interview with Kermit The Frog

Kermit, taking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Macy’s.

Last year, for the debut of the Muppets Christmas special “The Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa,” I got to interview Kermit the Frog, who was busy editing the special from the swamp he calls home, since “when you edit in alligator-infested waters, you get fewer network notes.” Here’s my interview with Kermit for the Post, wherein Kermit gives me the scoop on the love quadrangle between him, Jane Krakowski, Uma Thurman and Miss Piggy, and reveals the inside story on the sizzling Uma/Pepe The Prawn love affair. Merry Christmas.

And, Merry Christmas again.

And one more time: