April 29, 2004

The B- List

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Everyone has their viewing threshold. Everyone has that one entertainment line that can’t be crossed, that will creep them out, keep them up, and put them off. There’s something to make everyone and anyone cringe. Injury to the eye is a big one. Some people just can’t stand to watch any kind of sex scene. Some can’t deal with cruelty to animals. I simply can’t bear to watch anyone suffer from terminal embarrassment.

It’s awful. I’ve actually had to leave the room while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Freaks and Geeks was pretty much an S&M experience for me — the writing and acting were so amazing, but the realistic depiction of adolescence was just painful. But, being human, we have a perverse tendency to seek out what creeps us out the most. And, just like my ocular-sensitive friend has re-read Oedipus Rex one too many times, I can’t seem to stop tuning in to Inside the Actor’s Studio.

Now, this show was godawful ten years ago, and has actually gotten worse, since James “it’s all about me and my scary obsequiousness” Lipton has run out of actual actors and been reduced to interviewing Charlize Theron. But the worst part isn’t Lipton’s name dropping. It isn’t his bad French accent. It isn’t the note cards, and it isn’t even the studio audience, which is so inarticulate that it’s entirely possible Jay Leno sends those stupid people who don’t know who George Washington is over to the New School when he’s through with them. The worst part is when the week’s guest is intelligent enough to recognize the true horror of Lipton and sits there, gape-mouthed, mortified, and making mental notes to fire their agent at the earliest possible date.

Normally, no one has any sympathy for actors who bitch and moan about how hard it is to be famous and recognized and studied and obsessed over and blah blah, poor me-cakes. However, anyone who’s ever been a victim of Mr. Lipton’s interview technique should probably be given free trauma counseling. It’s really that bad — seriously, you can actually see Kevin Spacey’s eyes glaze over exactly the way they do in LA. Confidential right after he’s been shot. Meanwhile, Lipton drones on and on and on about Spacey’s childhood exploits with a tire-iron, and the actor loses all hope of actually making it out of this pseudo-intellectual hell alive.

I’m not sure which is more squirm inducing, when actors prove their skill by not hiding under the chair as Lipton attempts to give their worst professional mishaps some cach