Rehabbing Leno

Tuesday, 26 Jan 2010 05:40 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Rehabbing Leno
2. Hugo Chavez’s Media Lockdown
3. Dennis Hopper Hammered for Being Conservative
4. Scott Baio Gets Death Threats for Michelle Obama Tweet
5. SAG Winners Are Oscar Faves
 

1. Rehabbing Leno

Now that Jay Leno has sealed the deal to retake the “Tonight Show” reins, his image has to be restored if NBC is to recapture the success the franchise always had.

In the last few weeks, Leno has been attacked by the media, his competitors and even some celebrities. Rosie O'Donnell referred to him as “a bully” over the Conan departure.

To get the rehab ball rolling for Jay, NBC is using a tried and true strategy — put him on “Oprah.”

Winfrey announced on her show that she’ll head out to beautiful downtown Burbank for a chat with Leno.

Daytime’s queen has been a frequent guest on the “Tonight Show.” And she’s had a longtime feud with David Letterman, though the two have purportedly made up.

But Leno's rehab regimen gets even stronger. He’ll be the keynote speaker for the upcoming White House Correspondents Dinner, which is scheduled for May 1.

According to Edwin Chen, president of the White House Correspondents Association that runs the dinner, Jay wasn’t picked just for hype reasons.

He reportedly agreed to do the White House gig months before the rescheduling snafu began.

Both the president and first lady have been “Tonight Show” guests.

Based on Jay's experience, work ethic and track record, Letterman had better get used to being second fiddle.


2. Hugo Chavez’s Media Lockdown

Apparently itching to be the Joe Stalin of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez ordered his country's cable television providers to drop a channel that had dared to voice criticism of the dastardly despot.

Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) disappeared from the screen shortly after midnight on Saturday, based on trumped up claims of legal violations.

According to Diosdado Cabello, director of the national agency regulating electronic media, RCTV failed to broadcast the Venezuelan national anthem as required and also failed to provide warnings prior to programs that allegedly featured violence.

In a written statement, the channel forcefully denied the violations, pointing out that the government “illegally targeted the subscription services by asking them to exclude RCTV International's signal.”

“If the government believes that RCTV International has committed an infraction, what follows is to open an administrative complaint against the channel, giving RCTV International the opportunity to defend itself, as the constitution mandates and guarantees,” the statement noted.

Chavez looks to be dismantling what little is left of free expression in Venezuela.

Five additional channels have been taken off the air.

In 2009, Chavez closed 32 privately owned radio stations and threatened to close more than 200 others for a host of bogus violations of law.

The dictator has floated the iron-fisted idea of passing laws that would mandate prison sentences for people who commit “media crimes.”

It’s time for Hollywood celebs and left-of-center politicians to tell the truth about this pusillanimous pipsqueak and support Venezuelans in giving him the ultimate boot.


3. Dennis Hopper Hammered for Being Conservative

Dennis Hopper is in the fight of his life as he battles prostate cancer.

He was married to Victoria Duffy but filed for divorce. Shortly thereafter some nasty personal attacks on him appeared in The Huffington Post and other blogs.

Huffington's site claimed that Hopper was mentally incompetent from cancer drugs and that the actor was attempting to impoverish Duffy.

Hopper's marriage was reportedly in trouble after he refused to join his wife in hosting a fundraiser for then-presidential candidate John Edwards.

As it turned out his refusal was a testament to his sharp instincts.

Hopper's first wife, Brooke Hayward, told the New York Post, “The sinister, baseless and malicious allegations [about Hopper] are coming from the direction of rabid, left-wing would-be pundits who seem dismayed that his politics have become more conservative over the years.”

Fans of all political stripes are pulling for Hopper to ride that hog right back to health.


4. Scott Baio Gets Death Threats for Michelle Obama Tweet

“Happy Days” aren’t exactly what Scott Baio has been experiencing since he posted a picture and a comment on his Twitter page.

Baio put up a pic of the first lady, one that may not have shown her in the most favorable light.

Along with the photo, he ribbed, “WOW He wakes up to this every morning.”

In a disturbing twist, Baio has received death threats over the tweet. He has even contacted the FBI over the incident.

“Easy to find your house Scottie boy and finish YOU,” a response read. “I am a republican and I love Mrs O.”

Baio explained on the site that he has no prejudice and posted a picture of his wife’s African-American best friend for folks to see.

What Baio did mean was for the first lady tweet to be humorous, not malicious.

“For New followers: I POST A LOT OF JOKES WITH PICS,” he tweeted. “They are JUST that, a joke. NOT targeting anyone. Laughter IS the best medicine.”


5. SAG Winners Are Oscar Faves

Following the predictable pattern, Oscar buzz got louder after the Golden Globe Awards were handed out.

But actually a more important ceremony for projecting Academy Award winners is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

Although the SAG Awards don’t deal with writers, directors and producers as the Academy Awards do, they nevertheless award categories, which frequently parallel the Oscars for best actor and best picture.

The SAG ensemble prize tends to be a predictor for the Best Picture Oscar. Twenty-two percent of the voting members of the Academy are actors, the biggest branch in the organization. Consequently, a poll of actors provides a large sample with which to gauge the opinions of the 5,800 voting academy members.

The ensemble award has led to two upset Best Picture Oscars being awarded for “Shakespeare in Love” and “Crash.”

Last year’s SAG ensemble winner was the “Slumdog Millionaire” cast, and “Slumdog” also won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

This would seem to suggest that director Quentin Tarantino's “Inglourious Basterds” is now a favorite to win since it snagged the SAG ensemble prize.

However, neither “Avatar” nor “Up in the Air,” two top Best Picture Oscar contenders, were nominated for the SAG award and both films are arguably still solidly in the running.

The SAG awards are significant indicators for those seeking acting Oscars as well. Three of the acting Academy Awards last year were given to SAG award winners, Sean Penn for “Milk,” the late Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight” and Kate Winslet for “The Reader.” SAG gave Winslet the award for a supporting role, while the Academy honored her for being a lead actress.

This year’s SAG winners, Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and Christoph Waltz have increased their odds of securing an Oscar.

Mo'Nique won for her supporting role in which she played a brutally abusive mother in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” The comedienne also took home a Golden Globe.

Similarly Bullock, who was awarded a Globe for “The Blind Side,” won a SAG award for best actress, while Bridges also took home a Globe and a SAG for his acting in “Crazy Heart.”

Another surprising double winner was Kevin Bacon for the outstanding pro-military HBO television movie, “Taking Chance.”

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