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TV 101: Three reasons why I loved Artie Lange's complete dismantling of Joe Buck

by Jay Black, posted Jun 17th 2009 7:03PM
Artie LangeMonday night, Artie Lange went on Joe Buck's awful new show Joe Buck Live and did to him what Keyser Soze did to the Hungarian gang in The Usual Suspects.

If you didn't see it, let me tell you this much: Artie didn't kill the show; it was already dead when he got there. What he did was the equivalent of finding a dead squirrel (with awful, frat-boy hair), filling it full of firecrackers, then cackling gleefully as the guts rained down onto Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd.

Artie Lange's appearance on Joe Buck Live was boorish, crude, mean-spiritied, and blatantly homophobic. It was the kind of thing that'll probably end the career of the poor person who booked him on the show.

It's also something that we need a hell of a lot more of...

There are three reasons why I loved Artie's appearance on Monday:

1. It brought some danger back to live TV.

It's fitting, I think, that the person sitting next to Artie on Monday night was Jason Sudeikis, a funny guy who happens to be on a live show -- SNL -- that does its damnedest to make sure that it doesn't look like a live show. Lorne Michaels notoriously forbids improvising and, Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz notwithstanding, has always looked down on snickering through a sketch.

SNL has become the model for most live television: the producers do their best to sap all of the possible danger out of the situation and make it look as much as they can like it was a taped episode.

But isn't danger the entire reason why you'd choose to do a show live? Forcing a live show to look taped is kind of like hiring a hooker and having her dress exactly like your wife. It defeats the purpose.

The first 40 minutes of Joe Buck Live was as slick and lifeless as its host. Whenever Buck tried to be funny, he sounded like the principal joking on the last day of school: "Try not to do too much homework over the summer! (Wait for laughter)." It was brutal.

Lange's appearance did something that I wasn't sure was possible: it made Joe Buck sympathetic. For just a few seconds, through that awful forced smile, Joe looked like a human being. A pissed off human being. It was like Data getting his emotion chip installed.

And for maybe the first time in the history of the known universe, Joe Buck was compelling doing something other than describing the compelling acts of others. You were interested in how he was going to react to Artie. A mediocre snoozefest became something that everybody in America talked about the next day.

We need more of this sort of thing. No, I'm not arguing for more attacks on boorish media types by former heroin addicts (though if Artie gets booked on Bill O'Reilly, I might have to buy another TiVo in case I burn the first one out rewatching it). I'm arguing for bringing the danger back to live television.

Not only is it fun to watch, it'd be helpful to the networks. Live TV is one possible antidote to the time-shifting dilemma that the traditional broadcast networks are facing. Most of you probably have DVRs, which means you watch TV when you want to watch it and (to the chagrin of the money people), you usually skip the commercials when you do so.

Network executives would love to recapture some of that pre-millennium audience, when you tuned in to a show the date and time that it aired and then everyone talked about it at the water cooler the next day (though, if you work from home like I do, you talk about things at the "scotch cooler", and you're usually naked and crying by 11 AM).

Compelling shows that demand to be watched live mean two revenue-generating things: all the commercials will be watched and buzz will begin to grow.

The network talk shows should follow the Joe Buck model and go live, then make live actually mean something. If a "failed" appearance like Lange's can get everyone talking about a show as derivative and unfunny as Buck's is fodder for the national conversation, imagine what it might do for a show that people actually like!

Just so we're clear, I don't think you should fill every show with livewires who may or may not knife Conan for drug money. I do think, however, that if the producers of a show stopped micromanaging every appearance by every guest down to the nanosecond, then removed the safety net of a tape delay, the show in question would become appointment viewing.

2. It generated a real moment.

I was pretty sure that Joe Buck wanted to kill Artie Lange for a few seconds there. Watch the replay and look into Joe Buck's eyes, he looked like Private Pyle in the bathroom scene from Full Metal Jacket.

When was the last time you saw a real emotion on TV? On most reality shows, the closest thing you get to an emotion is the Bachelor talking about how "this is the hardest decision of my life" 13 times a season. Or, on MTV, you might get someone crying because their boyfriend just had a topless jacuzzi three-way. That's about all we have in the way of pathos.

The problem with reality TV is that they try to manufacture the real moments. Producers cast "emotional" people and set them up in "situations" in order to "let the sparks fly." The results are usually a lot of scheming and screaming, but very rarely any kind of true human emotion. Finding a real moment on reality TV is like finding a real orgasm in pornography.

Think about what the alternative to Lange's appearance would have been: tepid sports talk from two almost-celebrities and Paul Rudd. The big moment would have been when they showed us that stupid picture of a high school aged Joe Buck and Paul Rudd (is there anything more masturbatory than someone showing you their high school photos? I mean, other than actual masturbation, which would have been more interesting than anything they had planned.) That would have been it.

Instead, what we got was a rare instance of true emotion. It was rarer still because the instigator, Lange, didn't seem to have any kind of agenda except a gleeful love of anarchy and a healthy dose of the hate we all share for self-important d-bags like Joe Buck.

I'll take one night of hot Lange on Buck action than a million celebrity sports panels.

3. It provided the nation a chance to be truly outraged.

I've come to the conclusion that every three months America will find something to be outraged about. We can't help it; we were handed our national subconscious from our puritan ancestors. The three things Americans do best are movies, wars, and moral outrage.

If we don't have something to be outraged about, we invent one. For instance, last week we lost our collective poop because David Letterman made a joke about Sarah Palin's daughter. I don't want to debate the merits of the joke or the particular possibilities of Letterman's political leanings -- God knows I've heard enough about that over the last few days -- but I think it's fair to say that whatever side of the political debate you fall on, we can all agree that people were raging over some pretty weak sauce. What Letterman said was barely a blip on the outrage radar.

What Lange did, on the other hand, merited some real outrage. Gay groups, sports fans, and members of Joe Buck's immediately family might all find fault with what Artie Lange said during his 20 minutes on the show.

Let me put it this way: even Stern's own staff was split (link potentially NSFW) as to whether the appearance was offensive or not. If you're pushing the buttons of the people who WORK FOR HOWARD STERN, you're pushing on some pretty big buttons.

I'd much rather people get excited about something like this than to pretend to be upset the next time Letterman comments on Palin attending a Yankees game. We'd all be the better for it.


TV is more Joe Buck than Artie Lange - over produced, slick, and saddled with ridiculously styled hair. For the most part, that's the way TV needs to be. Every once and a while, however, an Artie Lange comes along and shakes things out of place, and that's a good thing.

Word comes now that Artie's been banned from HBO. I say bring Artie back for your second show, Joe. It's the only way any of us are watching.

(Jay Black is a comedian and writer who is best known as the special effects artist who crafted the famous "third boob" for Total Recall. For more information about Jay or to catch one of his live shows, go to www.jayblackcomedy.com.)

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If he is last name was not Buck, then the Bland Man of the Moment known as Joe Buck would never have been paid to open his yap.

Jack Buck, the father, was a great broadcaster when talent was required to create a compelling broadcast.

Joe Buck, the son, is great at living off his dad's name.

June 20 2009 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There was no "real moment" because he planned to do that. Artie knew he was planning a stunt and Buck knew what he was getting into when they booked him. It wasn't funny, unless you find a train wreck funny. I only laughed at the A-list remark that douchebag Joe Buck made.

Also, this isn't the event that America is outraging over, that would be the Palin-Letterman thing. These two guys are nobodies and I don't get the purpose of your in-depth "analysis" on something that will be forgotten in a day or two.

June 20 2009 at 1:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think Joe Buck knew exactly that he would get what he got. You could tell by the look on his face. Although it was funny when he thanked Artie for ending his career. Joe has a sly sense of humor. I thought Artie went to far but that is Artie. You get what you get which isn't much.

June 19 2009 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Artie was GREAT. They better give him an HBO comedy special after that epic PERFORMANCE!!

June 18 2009 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Joe Buck is a fine play-by-play man, who makes network suits especially comfortable because he's one of their own. Joe Buck is not, however, Bob Costas.

Get back into the booth, Joe. It's where you belong.

June 18 2009 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David's comment

Maybe Buck is good for baseball but the guy couldn't find the pointy end of a football.

June 20 2009 at 4:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll start by saying I didn't see the actual show, but did watch the "aftershow Online edition"...so that's all I can comment on...

I don't see how Joe Buck would be truly pissed off during the regular portion of the show - shocked and bewildered, perhaps - otherwise, why would he even bother continuing with Artie after the regular show? And Joe seemed somewhat civil (albeit outmatched) about it.

Regardless, it got some buzz going about the show, which is part of it, and it got buzz going about Artie in time for some upcoming reality gig or something he's got. So the goals were met, regardless of how annoying and unfunny Artie actually is (ooh...I'm an alcoholic and a druggie and fat, but I don't care.......we GET it....)

and Jay, the time of commentary being either fanboyism or bashing has been around for quite some time....it's as equally as annoying as anything slightly off-color being fodder for some oversensitive group of d-bags....get used to it! :)

June 18 2009 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I doubt that the person who booked Lange will be fired...instead I think Lange did just what was expected of him, and will guarantee that people tune into this show again to see what happens next.

What more can you ask to get a new show rolling?

June 18 2009 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dan's comment

They knew exactly what they were getting when they put Artie on TV.

June 18 2009 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When the SNL bashing starting all I could hear was keyboard cat playing so then I stopped reading.. LAME!!

June 18 2009 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Drex's comment

Some TV Exec should replace Joe Buck with Artie. Guaranteed mayhem every show!!

June 17 2009 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jay, what a beautifully-crafted article, thanks for the read. I used to come to TVSquad for this kind of writing and I've just recaptured a glimmer of that (and this is from a Brit who hasn't even heard of the people you're writing about here!)
I also agree with all your points!

June 17 2009 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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