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TV 101: Could a woman get as fat as Jason Segel and eight other intriguing questions

by Jay Black, posted May 27th 2009 3:02PM
Coud this picture be any more perfect for this TV 101? I didn't think so.One of the joys of being a blogger is all the comments we receive. Once you weed out the personal threats, the discussions of your stupidity, the prayers to various gods that you get struck by a particularly painful STD, and the calls for you to be fired, you're actually left some solid contributions to the online discussion.

With that in mind, I've decided to turn this week's column over to you guys, a collection of commenters that I think I can say without hyperbole is the greatest collection of commenters in the history of the known universe. I've put together nine questions about TV that I'd love for you to answer. Don't feel like you have to answer them all: choose which ones are most interesting to you and then have at it.

I'm anxious to hear your opinions, so let's get to it...

1. Could a woman gain as much weight as Jason Segel and still be successful?

Jason Segel is the break-out star of How I Met Your Mother. Apparently, he's also a stress eater. He's always been a big guy, but lately his weight has gone from "huggable" to "tv blogger" (which I can tell you from personal experience is not a fun weight category to be in: my chest looks like a wax sculpture that someone left out in the hot summer sun).

Despite the fame what comes with appearing in two hit movies (I Love You Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and starring in one of CBS's few good sitcoms, no one has mentioned this sudden increase in size. In fact, I didn't even notice it myself until my wife brought it up. She pointed out that this is probably the biggest year he's ever had as an actor, and it's quite literally the biggest she's ever seen him. "That could never happen for a woman!"

I tried to argue with her for a bit ("There are lots of overweight women in Hollywood! No, I can't name one right now, but I'm sure there are!"), but eventually had to concede that she had a point: if a woman gained as much weight as Jason Segel did this year, things would be quite different for her. Here's what I see happening:

a. Pictures of the newly fat actress appear on a national magazine (quite possibly in a bikini).

b. The actress comes out and makes a statement saying that she's at a healthy weight and can't understand why people are so interested in the fact that she maybe, possibly put on a few pounds. She makes a lot of references to "body dysmorphia" and other things she and her publicist only half remember from 11th grade health class.

c. People begin to advocate in favor of her new, larger look. Daytime TV talk show hosts point out that this is a positive step for young girls everywhere (well, except for Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasslebeck: they use the news as a jumping off point for a screaming match about whether or not Bush was lying about WMDs in Iraq).

d. The actress appears a month later on the cover of Us Magazine, 35 pounds lighter and touting a new diet of seal blubber and bowhead whale skin cooked up for her by celebrity Inuit dietician, Purnaq. All that talk of empowering women disappears along with her weight.

That's the standard cycle for whenever a famous woman accidentally overeats during the holiday season and some paparazzi catches her bending over the wrong way.

Here's my question:

What if the actress decided to keep the weight? What if she ignored all the tabloid discussions of her belly rolls and all the snarky bloggers writing fake obituaries to her hotness? What if she stayed big and that was that? What would happen to her career?

2. Would you watch a "re-imagining" of your favorite sitcom?

This one comes to us via Bill Simmons's podcast, specifically a segment on it called "Three Half Baked Ideas by Kevin Wilds".

Essentially, Wilds' idea was that people are perfectly willing to go to a re-imagining of a movie (Think Ocean's 11 with George Clooney instead of Frank Sinatra), so why not apply the same idea to classic TV shows? Why not pay Vince Vaughn a ton of money to play Sam Malone in a recasting of Cheers set in Chicago? How about a new All in the Family starring Ricky Gervais as Archie Bunker? What would Taxi look like today? (Certainly, there wouldn't be any native English speakers in the cast.)

The biggest argument against this is that people become much more connected to a TV character than a movie character and it's therefore harder to replace them. For instance, when I was a kid, I loved The Last Starfighter more than was probably healthy (it's about an unpopular kid whose ability to play video games makes him a hero in outer space -- if it had included ice cream cake and a pair of naked boobs, it could be argued that it was less a movie than a documentary of what existed in my pre-teen subconscious). But for all my love of the movie, I've probably only seen it through six or seven times -- twelve to fourteen hours total of my life. Compared to a hit TV show, that's nothing. I've spent more time with the cast of Cheers than I have with my own family. Thus, the connection to those characters is a lot stronger.

This doesn't hold true, though, when you consider the number of recastings that have been done over the course of TV history: the two Darrens, the two Beckys, the ever-rotating members of Will Smith's family in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. People, it seems, are perfectly willing to see a new face in a familiar character's role.

Would that hold true, though, for an entire cast? Would people tune in to see a re-imagined Cheers or would the show be crushed under a tidal wave of "You've raped my childhood!" internet comments?

3. Would you be upset if you found out American Idol was rigged?

On the face of it, this is an easy one: of course you'd be upset, the whole point of American Idol is that America gets to vote. Duh.

But, Americans have come a long way from the Quiz Show days where we'd be shocked and outraged if it turned out producers were pulling strings to keep certain desirable contestants on. It used to be that we assumed that everything on TV was true; now we have a "reality show" genre in which its generally understood that everything we see is made up. Clearly, our capacity to be shocked has been deadened in recent years.

So, if America found out that the early rounds -- say everything up to the last ten contestants -- were manipulated by the producers to get the "right mix" for the AI tour, would the show's ratings really be affected?

There'd be some loss in viewership -- there are always people who get mad at being lied to, even though they must realize they're always being lied to -- but I think the majority of people would continue watching. When you break it down, the show really isn't about America voting, it's about Simon being mean to people. Hell, if the entire show was just people auditioning for Simon, I doubt the ratings would be all that different.

But what do you think?

Lightning Round:

4. Over/Under: 2.5 seasons left before House becomes unwatchable?

5. What are the odds that Lost ends in a way that satisfies everyone?

6. If the cable companies allowed a la carte programming, which channels would immediately die?

7. If Hulu.com was offered as part of your cable package as a premium channel, would you spring for it?

8. Cutest NBC Thursday Night girl: Jenna Fischer, Tina Fey, or Amy Poehler?

9. Most unattractive job prospect: blogger or comedian?

(Jay Black is a blogger and comedian who is best known as the inventor of the Slap Chop, a device designed to remove prostitutes from your tongue. For more information about Jay or to catch one of his live shows, check out his website: www.jayblackcomedy.com)

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4. Over/Under: 2.5 seasons left before House becomes unwatchable?

Ohhh...Gotta go with over. BUT, I reserve the right to change my opinion once I see the first episode of the next season. This psychiatric hospital event is up in the air at this point.

5. What are the odds that Lost ends in a way that satisfies everyone?

Slim to none. I'm in it for the long haul, but at this point, I don't expect a lot. Not pessimistic, but I can't be realistic and optimistic about Lost at the same time.

6. If the cable companies allowed a la carte programming, which channels would immediately die?

I think that local channels would die off. I know here we have NJN (New Jersey Network), and there are a bunch throughout the country. But they can't have the viewership to survive an a la carte switch, can they? At least one channel of CSPAN would go. Probably not the main channel, showing all the poltical stuff, but all the book review channels may bite the dust.

7. If Hulu.com was offered as part of your cable package as a premium channel, would you spring for it?

I think the appeal of Hulu--besides being on-demand--is that you can watch TV without watching TV. Meaning, if you don't get cable, as long as you go to a wireless hotspot you can still get Hulu. If Hulu were to take down the website and replace themselves as a premium channel, they would lose in the long run. But, if they were to do both, they would thrive, in my opinion.

8. Cutest NBC Thursday Night girl: Jenna Fischer, Tina Fey, or Amy Poehler?

Am I the only one who thinks that if Amy Poehler, and everything she was a part of was off-air tomorrow, there would be peace in the world? She's unwatchable. But to answer the question, Tina Fey.

9. Most unattractive job prospect: blogger or comedian?

Blogger. Because the manager will through hecklers out of a comedy club. But there's still no hope for you, Jay. :)

June 01 2009 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. Could a woman gain as much weight as Jason Segel and still be successful?: I'm not going to deny there's a double standard, but seriously, how much weight do you think Jason Segel has gained? Maybe he's gone from XLT to 2XLT? While he yo-yoed for the Sarah Marshall role--no doubt due to appearing shirtless and/or completely nude--I'm thinking its the volume of work that's causing him to gain (more production credits in the past 3 years than his castmates, including NPH.)

2. Would you watch a "re-imagining" of your favorite sitcom?: Anyone who knows the original would tune in for an episode or two. But sitcoms are given an artifically long life-span by Nick at Nite and TV Land. Unless they're allowed to be forgotten, people who remember the original show wouldn't really bother watching. Recycling is much more successful with children's programming, since most cartoons run two or three years at best and are re-imagined for the next batch of kiddies (e.g., Transformers, GI Joe).

3. Would you be upset if you found out American Idol was rigged?: I already ssume the result are rigged. I have difficulty believing results of any vote are clean when those responsible do not explicitly publish the raw data and demographics, but then, I don't take the competition as seriously as others.

4. Over/Under 2.5 seasons left before House becomes unwatchable?: House's success lies with the character development, not the medical cases. Every episode is the same as the last, except for how the characters develop. Until the run out of ways to grow these characters, I will continue to watch. My best is on 2 years...

5. What are the odds that Lost ends in a way that satisfies everyone? There's no such thing as an ending to satisfy everyone. Even if the show completely jumps the shark and becomes unwatchable, people would still argue that some character's death could have been even more enjoyable when the show finally came crashing to an end.

6. If the cable companies allowed a la carte programming, which channels would immediately die?: Weird, everone keeps assuming its Telemundo and the Asian programming channels that would die, but when you take into account that most ethnic families watch those channels primarily, then those would should be some of the strongest survivors (actually they're some of the few channels showing real growth!) Personally, it's going to be all the extra channels like MTV2, Noggin', NickToons, -- you know, the ones that didn't exist until the insatiable need for re-runs came to life.

7. If Hulu.com was offered as part of your cable package as a premium channel, would you spring for it?: Technically I already do. Comcast On Demand is pretty much the same thing.

8. Cutest NBC Thursday Night girl: Jenna Fischer, Tina Fey, or Amy Poehler? Tina Fey, all the way!

9. Most unattractive job prospect: blogger or comedian? I dunno', selling insurance pretty much sucks worse than either of those jobs. Thank God for the Internet and hour-long lunch breaks.

June 01 2009 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. She'd make "Fat Actress" which would be less than wildly successful.
2. Isn't every sitcom a re-imagining of another sitcom?
3. American Idol isn't rigged? I'm so disappointed.
4. Unwatchable to whom? Over.
5. Everyone? One in a million.
6. Who cares?
7. Hulu is free on the Internet; why would I pay for it?
8. Tina Fey. Every other night and twice on Sunday, too.
9. They're different jobs?

June 01 2009 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1) Obviously there's a standard set for how much a man can weigh too, or else the discussion about Jason Segel wouldn't even be taking place.

I'd say it's equally tough to gain weight in this industry. The only reason Jason Segel has faired better than, say, Jessica Simpson, is because he's funny, and he isn't in the industry as a sex symbol, he's there as a comedian. If he was supposed to be the "hot guy" he wouldn't be getting away with it.

2) I wouldn't be into a re-imagining of my favourite sitcoms. I like to watch reruns, and I think I'd be too critical of the new actors. It would ruin it for me a bit.

3) I would be kind of bummed to find out it's totally rigged. Of course, they push their favourite contestants at you, but I can handle that. If they're touting it as the audiences decision, then it would suck to find out it wasn't.

4) Don't watch House

5) Don't watch Lost (but no show ever satisfies everyone)

6) Any channels that don't have the money to keep producing shows without constant viewership- mostly non-American channels (CTV, ASN, TLC, etc.)

7. I'm Canadian, and can't watch Hulu as it is.

8. I'll stick with Tina Fey, although I do love Amy.

9. Blogger. Anyone can blog about anything. You have to actually be talented to be a comedian (otherwise you're just a douche with a microphone). That's nothing against you, it's just in general... anyone can blog.

May 28 2009 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm just going to cherry pick here and answer the two or three questions that I care about or am interested in.
Would I watch a re-imagining of my favorite tv show? First of all, I am not a big fan of this re-imagining craze to begin with. To me it smacks of creative laziness and borders on plagarism. To take the already established characters, premise and structure of another program and then selectively graft your own ideas onto it rather than creating your own show from scratch seems somewhat dishonest, as well as being a cynical attempt to tap into a pre-existing fan base for the so-called "new" show. If someone wants to do a prequel type thing or a continuing adventures thing, thats one thing, it worked great for Star Trek TNG, but to just recast the show and do a remake, that doesnt interest me. I think one reason BSG was such a successful re-imagining was that the original show was so crappy to begin with that the bar was set pretty low for the new version. I watched the original Battlestar Gallactica during its first run as a series. It was cheesy and ,yes, crappy, but it didnt pretend or presume to be otherwise, so I enjoyed it for what it was. So, no , I would not watch a re-imagining of my favorite sitcom, except out of morbid curiousity.
Would it upset me to find out AI is rigged? Rigged to me would mean the falsification or manipulation of voting results, not manipulation of which contestants are chosen to achieve a certain "mix" for the show and tour. That was pretty much acknowleged by Simon early this season when he remarked that they had to "cast" the show. That doesnt bother me so much. Fudging or outright lieing about the voting results would upset me greatly because it would mean the show is misrepresenting itself to the veiwers. They can pick a winner however the hell they want to as far as I am concerned, as long as they are honest about the process and we know what we are getting. As it stands now, however, the voting results for this show have zero credibility. They are not certified in any way nor are they independently varified by a reputable, neutral third party. We are just left to trust the producers of the show that they are telling the truth. I dont think they are telling us the truth and have no reason to. I love watching AI and will continue to watch it, but I have said it before and I will repeat it now, this show is a scandal waiting to happen.
Lastly, House was unwatchable for me from the first show.

May 28 2009 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Question 1 - no. a woman cant gain weight and be continually successful. look at kirstie alley. she had that victoria secret show and was prancing around in lingerie most of the time on the show. then she gets fat as a blimp and america doesnt wanna see that anymore. she left tv for the longest time and really hasnt come back to any success. on the other hand, look at roseanne. she started the show fat, and ended the show fat. granted she had a facelift or two during that run, but she never dropped the weight. the woman has to already be fat, not gain as she goes.

question 2 - no. i dont think i'd watch a "re-imagining" of my fav sitcom. if it was my favorite sitcom, it was my favorite because of the characters that were in it to begin with. seeing anyone else play my favorite characters would be a slap in the face to me as a fan of the show. the producers risk alienating the fanbase.

question 3 - WHO F'ING CARES?!?!?!? its just a singing competition for christ sake!

question 4 - under 2.5 for house. i tried jumping into the show during their "survivor" competition to replace the staff. while olivia wilde gives me the most massive boner ever just seeing her face, i cant get into the show.

question 5 - infinity to 1 that lost satisfies EVERYONE. it wont. lost is my favorite show on tv. never missed an ep. own all avail seasons on dvd that are for sale. read the blogs and in-depth recaps of each episode and every little thing in each episode, looking for hidden meaning, clues, etc. i'm willing to bet even I wont be 100% satisfied with the ending. i can only hope i am.

question 6 - a la carte cable would mean the death of the following channels: mtv, nbc, style network, bravo, anything country related, BET.

question 7 - yep. love hulu.com

question 8 - of those 3 (not the greatest choices for cuteness) i'd go with Tina Fey.

question 9 - most unattractive job prospect: COMEDIAN. blogging doesnt have to mean laughter. its very tough to make people laugh. especially now a days. people are so sensitive and "pc". you cant say anything anymore without preceding it with an advisory, or following it with an apology. blogger, definately is better.

thank you ...


May 27 2009 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You talking about it - anyone talking about it makes it an issue. Congrats Jay - you've become part of the problem!

May 27 2009 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1) No more leading lady for them. At best, they'd become a character actress like Camryn Manheim or Conchata Ferell, assuming they're funny. Incidentally, it took me 3-4 takes before I realized that pic was Jason Segel.

2) Ricky Gervais would be a fitting choice for All In The Family, seeing as it was based on a British show to begin with. But yeah, the "you raped my childhood" would abound, just look at the examples of TV shows made into movies. Of course, some of us already feel that way about the overabundance of American "re-imagining" of foreign properties.

3) You mean it isn't? I would think that the constant cries of "ringer" in regards to contestants on competitive talent shows indicates that at least the perception of the fix being in already exists.

4) Under

5) Zero

6) Religious, Lifetime, Ovation, most of the specialty shopping channels. (I wish I could say sports, but that's in my own little dream world.)

7) It'd depend on the programming available. If it were just a glorified "on-demand" of current shows, probably not. If it got full runs of older shows and uncut foreign programming, the odds would definitely go up.

8) Just plain old cute? Jenna. Cute with benefits (smart, nerdy, etc.)? Tina.

9) Tough call - let's split the difference and say blogging comedian.

May 27 2009 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. We don't really have to speculate about this. Delta Burke was replaced by Jan Hooks in Designing Women for this very reason.

2. No, but the likelihood of a remake of Newhart is very low.

3. American Idol is rigged to what extent it can be. Pay attention to which contestants get good arrangements and which ones get arrangements that drown them out completely. Pay attention to Simon's comments in the later rounds. He pretty much speaks for the direction the producers want to push the vote (the judges do see the dress rehearsal, so there's plenty of time to prepare and discuss their comments).

4. House became unwatchable this past season.

5. Zero. I doubt the ending of Lost will please anyone but me, because I'm the only one I know who is willing to respect and follow the writers rather than constantly griping about them.

6. The religious channels.

7. No.

8. None of the above. I pick Michaela Conlin from Bones.

9. Comedian. Bloggers don't have to read the comments, but there's no escaping dead silence from a live audience.

May 27 2009 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

5. It doesn't matter if Lost satisfies everyone. Why would it!

May 27 2009 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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