- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fleeting fame

“Johnny Carson … devoted most of his adult life to that most ephemeral of endeavors, hosting a late-night talk show. I must have seen several hundred episodes of ‘The Tonight Show’ in my lifetime, and I even went out of my way to watch the last one, yet I doubt I’ve thought of Carson more than once or twice in the 13 years since he retired, just as I doubt that anyone now alive can quote from memory anything he said on any subject whatsoever. …

“American popular culture is cruel and brutal when it comes to the immediate past: it respects only extreme youth, and has no time for the day before yesterday.

“All of which somehow makes me feel sorry for Johnny Carson. I wonder what he thought of his life’s work? Or how he felt about having lived long enough to disappear into the memory hole? At least he had the dignity to vanish completely, retreating into private life instead of trying to hang on to celebrity by his fingernails. Perhaps he knew how little it means to have once been famous.”

Terry Teachout, writing on “Johnny Carson,” Sunday in Arts Journal at www.artsjournal.com

New strategy

“Properly crafted civil-unions legislation could grant all of the legal incidents of marriage (albeit under a different name). …

“The difference between such unions and marriage, since it is not a difference in legal incidents, appears to be a difference in the level of social endorsement carried by the ‘m-word.’ …

“Our best strategy … for securing the tremendously important legal incidents is to fight for them under the name ‘civil unions.’ …

“Our best strategy for securing the social endorsement (i.e., marriage under the name ‘marriage’) is first to secure the legal incidents. Then people will look at our civil unions, realize that they are virtually indistinguishable from marriages, start calling them marriages, and gradually forget why they objected to doing so before. That’s what happened in Scandinavia, and it’s happening elsewhere in Europe.”

Wayne State University philosophy professor John Corvino, writing on “Civil discourse on civil unions,” in the Jan. 19 issue of Between the Lines, a homosexual news magazine

New TV cliche

“‘The O.C.’ has finally embarked on its long-promised lesbian subplot. [The Jan. 20] episode ended with the troubled Marissa Cooper … giving an anxious sidewise glance at bad-girl barkeep Alex … as the two of them watched TV together, sharing a blanket. … As wunderkind creator Josh Schwartz said in an interview earlier this month, ‘I think you’ll see the way it’s handled is very character-driven.’ That, or very ratings-driven, given that last year’s breakout soap has lost over a million viewers so far in its second season.

“It’s to be hoped that ‘The O.C.’s usually excellent writers won’t chicken out and use the character’s sexual orientation as a cheap stunt, as ‘Law & Order’ did. … As Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm) was being fired by the district attorney Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson), she looked him in the eye and asked, ‘Is this because I’m a lesbian?’ He answers, ‘No.’ … And bang, the credits roll, forever ushering out Rohm’s character and leaving millions of viewers to mumble ‘Lesbian? Wha?’ … [T]his may be the show’s first known instance of retroactive character development.”

Dana Stevens, writing on “Prelude to a Kiss,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

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