The truth hurts. Nice guys do finish last.
I'm talking about Sir Richard Branson, (search) the star of the new FOX reality series, "The Rebel Billionaire."
After two weeks on the air, the ratings for the Virgin mogul's foray into Donald Trump-land are falling flatter than quirky "Apprentice" Raj's attempt to get Robin — Trump's trusty assistant — to go out on a date with him.
The problem with "The Rebel Billionaire" (search) is Branson's too nice, and in television, nice doesn't work.
Even though the second season of "The Apprentice (search)" on NBC doesn't compare with the first (blame the lame contestants and stupid editing — not the boss) in terms of viewership, millions of people still tune in each week to hear those two signature words from Mr. Trump: You're fired.
By contrast, Richard Branson sends losing contestants home with a genuinely great smile and a hug. Nope. Not gonna work.
Whether one is in front of the TV cameras or somewhere in the control room, mean is what the audience wants. I don't mean "mean" for the sake of being mean. There's a time and place for mean, and when that time and place is right, there's no better television.
Like when Jon Stewart (search) skewered "Crossfire" co-hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on their own CNN set just before the election. The conversation turned into confrontation, and when things got mean, they got real good.
Or when former New York Yankee Chad Curtis declined to speak with sports broadcaster Jim Gray after Curtis hit a World Series walk-off home run — "out of respect for Pete [Rose]." Gray had been lambasted for trying to get Rose to admit he gambled on baseball on a night when Rose was actually being honored.
Thousands cheered as a red-faced Gray tossed back to Bob Costas in the booth.
Behind the scenes, stories of actors being disciplined by big-media meanies for not reporting to work during contract negotiations abound, from "Law & Order's" (search) Dick Wolf's near firing of the stars of one of his spin-offs, "New York Undercover," several years ago — to CBS' Les Moonves' not-so-subtle message to "CSI" (search) stars Jorja Fox and George Eads last summer, after the two staged an apparent "sick out" (it was all a big misunderstanding — sure).
How many times would you like to tell off your boss, your brother-in-law, your loud neighbor, or the Left Lane Vigilante driving 55 in the passing lane?
Many, no doubt.
How about the ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend who stomped on your heart? How about the uncaring clerk too busy to take your money, or the obnoxious shopper treating everybody like slaves? Don't forget the spoiled athlete who refuses to sign your baseball or the bad TV actor telling you how you should vote.
Wouldn't it be nice to be mean when the opportunity presented itself?
Nice guys finish last. But we don't have to. Next time you bite your tongue, open wide and see what happens. You just might come out ahead for once in your life, instead of pulling up the rear, shrugging your shoulders and accepting things as "just the way they are."
A Grrr-Dendum: Speaking of Reality TV ... Grrr!
From now on, I'm going by the name Kwame Jackson.
In case you haven't heard, the former "Apprentice" runner-up reportedly has been hired by CNN to host a CEO interview show. I'm guessing that out of all the people who are soon to be out of work at the shuttering CNNfn, not one of them is more qualified than the reality show alum.
Not Pat Kiernan, not David Hafenreffer or his gorgeous producer, Caroline Hill, on "The Biz," not J.J. Ramberg, not Ali Velshi, not even Lou Dobbs.
The guy didn't even win "The Apprentice," for crying out loud. He lost to Bill Rancic. Today, I will answer my phone all day at my office here at FNC as "Kwame Jackson's office." Grrr!
I've been wasting my time working in television, learning every aspect of the game, from page to director of operations, from production assistant to producer to on-camera broadcaster, from desk assistant answering phones to writing my own column.
All I needed to do was a reality show. Silly me.
An Open Letter to Oblivions ... Grrr!
Dear Oblivion Council:
I'm writing because I still haven't received my official Oblivion pin.
I have followed all of the rules set out in the brochure you sent me, which I received Nov. 2 and stayed in all day reading and plotting out my Oblivionism. What was I supposed to do on Nov. 2? Oh well, probably wasn't important anyway.
Anyway, I've been diligent in not writing my check at the grocery store until all of my goods have been rung up and bagged, and then I make sure my checkbook is all the way at the bottom of my bag. I even have this great thing where I pick several goods that have no price or barcode on them, so the clerk has to call for multiple price checks. It's the greatest.
I've also been good at ignoring all the instruction signs everywhere I go, so I have to ask someone in authority where or what I should do, much to their chagrin. To that point, I ask the same Starbucks clerk day in and day out what my cup size choices are, and then I say that I ordered decaf when the latte lady calls out my order. It's the coolest.
At the office, I tend to repeat what was just said by my colleagues, and make it sound like it was my idea. I also like to let everybody know just how hard I work and how many long hours I put in. They call me The Martyr behind my back, but I really don't mind. As long as my boss knows that I work harder than everybody else (despite the fact that if I did my job right in the first place, I wouldn't have to work so much longer than everybody else). Luckily for me, my boss is a bozo and can't see that I'm an idiot. It's the awesom-est.
Will you please rush my Oblivion pin? I am enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope for rush delivery. In fact, I'm standing at the U.S. Post Office counter right now, finishing this letter and addressing the envelopes while everybody else waits behind me, muttering under their breaths. Wow, non-Oblivions are so nice. They put up with so much. No wonder they're way back there in line. It's just the peachiest.
Sincerely: Mr. I. M. Oblivious.
Not Done Yet ... Grrr!
Just when you thought I was finished Grrring about manufactured pop stars, I have two words for all of them: Alicia Keys (search).
Did anybody see her on "The Tonight Show" Friday night? Wow. That woman can sing, she can dance, she can write, she has presence, she is captivating.
Stupid Lit'l Dreamers
For anyone new to the column, "Stupid Lit'l Dreamer" is a term of endearment, meant to give encouragement to people who dare to think outside the box, who dare to think "why not me?"
This week's SLD mention goes to clothing designer Joseph Abboud, (search) whose new book "Threads: My Life Behind the Seams in the High-Stakes World of Fashion" is one of the most down-to-earth tales of the fashion industry ever put to print.
"Threads" chronicles Abboud's rise from shoe salesman to fashion icon, and its honest, insider's look at the fashion industry sheds some light on that pretentious world, without the pretense.
I'll be interviewing Abboud today for a feature on next week's "FOX Magazine" (Sundays 11 p.m. ET on FNC).
Now for Your Grrrs
J. McDowell in Cyber-Space: Grrrrr! to the advertising community responsible for bringing us the sounds of the holidays while we carve our Jack-O-Lanterns. After over a year of happily going without television, I decided to search the stations for my favorite Halloween special. Instead of Linus and the Great Pumpkin, I was greeted by tinkling bells and decorated firs, in October! I know this is hardly a new gripe, so how is it that the commercial community hasn’t caught on yet? The malls, the radio and the TV are already decorated for the holidays. What happened to Thanksgiving, the traditionally secular celebration of family and gratitude? Oh, that’s right, no one buys presents for Thanksgiving, silly me. At least I can go back to being “TV free” with no remorse.
Andrea H. in Pa: Way to go Mike for giving a little encouragement to Rob Lowe and Joey "Pants." That show wasn't the best in the universe, but it was entertaining and it had potential, and it was pulled before it even had a chance. It is a shame that we have to endure such monotonous canned entertainment with every show on practically every channel. So often when there is some thing a little different and interesting, it gets yanked before it even has a chance to catch on. I wonder what happened to "The Handler", "Greg the Bunny" (truly a great show), and "Firefly" (FOX, I love you, but you totally made a mistake letting go of that one) and so many more.
Bryn in Greenfield, Mass.: Mike, I imagine that when you put up Guy's comment about not saying "God Bless America," you anticipated some differing opinions. I'm glad to oblige. As a person who lives in an extremely liberal part of the country (Western Massachusetts), I am thoroughly tired of and disgusted by all these "progressives" and their disdain for anything pro-American. God Bless America! Say it until you're blue in the face. I'm not a religious person, but what I am is observant enough to know that God had better bless America because — while not perfect — we are the world's best hope for lasting peace and personal liberty. I sincerely hope that God blesses Cubans, Nigerians and every other country in the world, but as an American, I say God Bless America. Just because Guy doesn't agree with recent American governmental policy, it's a slap in the face of the regular Americans toiling every day to make this world a better place to suggest that we aren't deserving of His blessing. Please use that phrase frequently and fight the PC word police. And don't forget to enjoy your office Christmas parties this year. Oh yeah, I mean "Holiday Parties."
Until Next Week ... Grrr!
Mike Straka is director of operations and special projects and a columnist for FOXNews.com, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine." He was also in the movie "Analyze This," and has appeared in various commercials, theater and TV roles.