Mass Media Grrrs

Robert De Niro is in a New York state of mind.

How refreshing downtown New York will be this weekend, when the third annual TriBeCa Film Festival ( search) gets underway.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where average Janes and Joes like you and me get to rub shoulders with the big stars. Whoop-Dee-Doo you say?

Well, usually I'd agree with you, but here's the kicker ... Festival co-founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal have established such a one-of-a-kind, down-to-Earth event, that not even the biggest divas in the entertainment business would dare to pull such Grrring acts as demanding Evian water for bathing or the removal of all green M&M's from the candy dish.

It's New York City, after all. It's not Cannes, France, where the coveted Palme d'Or (insert gasp! here) is the golden key to fame and fortune. This is TriBeCa, where the winning filmmakers receive pats on the backs from people like Martin Scorsese (search) and De Niro. That and a Metrocard will get you a ride on the subway, but you'll be glowing all the way uptown.

Grrr! to all the other self-important celebrity gatherings: Aspen, Sundance, Cannes and especially the Academy Awards. That program should run two hours at most. As for entries that nobody in America remotely cares about, like best documentary short, for instance, they belong in the non-televised portion of the program with the techies (who are brilliant by the way — just bad television). Movies are extremely important to our culture. They inspire, they entertain and they make some people filthy rich. But they are not the end-all-be-all of our lives.

The 'Friends' Finale ... Grrr!

I can't take it anymore! The reverent, deep-voiced NBC announcer states ever so importantly, "Just two more episodes." Ahhhh! Enough already. "It's the end of an era," one fan told me. "It's like when "Seinfeld," "Cheers" and "M.A.S.H" went off the air," she said.

OK, sue me. I've never watched "Friends," so I cannot Grrr! it in good faith. I guess I'm just cynical when it comes to such contrived sentimentality conjured up by TV executives. All due respect to the "Friends" cast and crew and to all of the fans, but those promos make me want to throw up.

PS: Note to Jeff Zucker, president of NBC: The new "Friends" does not take place in Trump Tower. It's in Orange County, N.Y. Paul Sr. and the cast of "American Chopper" ( search) may not be as pretty as Jennifer Aniston or Matt LeBlanc, ( search) but pry them away from Discovery and you'll have a hit.

It's All About the Beer ... Grrr!

If aliens came down to earth, not only would they think dogs were the masters of the planet, but if they catch a beer commercial or two, they'd think all men are morons. We scream at the top of our lungs as we raise our frosty mugs in unison. We ogle silicone babes who wouldn't notice us anyway because they're way too busy looking at themselves, or wondering which Vh1 or E! special they'll be appearing on as pop-culture experts.

And what's with so many dorky, beer guzzling, pot-bellied, bad-mannered guys getting all the hot chicks in commercials? Yeah, that's realistic. Advertising executives are laughing all the way to the bank.

And those actors! Having done a few commercials myself, it Grrrs me probably more than even the most jaded viewers to see actors schticking it up in commercials. I can imagine every time certain spots air that there's an actor sitting on some couch with a group of friends explaining proudly how "that part where I lick my sweaty armpit was all my idea" — or something idiotic like that. I know actors have to take what they can get in hopes that something will get them noticed, but there's gotta be a better way than acting like a complete moron on national television. Then again, it does work for reality television stars.

Entertainment Columnists ... Grrr!

Am I the only one sick of reading columns by newspaper writers who do nothing but throw names around? "Had dinner with Brad Pitt the other night," or "I remember when Ol' Blue Eyes sang for me at my 80th birthday party." Who cares? And it's all a commercial anyway. "So and So was spotted wearing a hot dress by designer 'HaHaYou'reNotMe' at the opening of Baron Von Whocares' new downtown eatery 'Look At Me.'"

This is somehow interesting to the every day reader?

Another thing that Grrr's me to no end is when columnists spew personal venom against celebrities. Remember Gigli ( search)? I never saw so much vitriol in my life. When did Jennifer Lopez or Ben Affleck become public enemies numbers one and two?

Whenever I write something where I am criticizing an actor, musician, politician or even an anonymous customer service rep, I try to put myself in that person's shoes before hitting the publish button. Believe me, I've deleted some unflattering words and replaced them with more diplomatic and creative ways to get my point across. There's no need for columnists to be so hateful, especially when most of them are relying on less than reliable sources.

Reality Television Oblivions ... Grrr!

This just in: Contestant Jennifer Hudson ( search) was not robbed when she was voted off "American Idol." There was no conspiracy or racial discrimination. There was no malfunction in the voting system or hanging chads. When a group of people are spread out over the same demographic (e.g. African-American Teenagers), voting for three people who fit in their demographic, logically the three will split the vote.

That should explain why three of the best singers on the show found themselves at the bottom of the vote count last week. OK. Enough with the conspiracy theories. But while I'm on the subject of "American Idol," people in the media — like Regis Philbin fill-in George Lopez this week — should stop calling for the head of contestant John Stevens. The kid is 16 years old, and he's doing the best he can. When America tires of him, they'll vote him off... just like when we tire of George Lopez' show on ABC and he gets the boot (hey George, what's good for the gander...).

In other Reality TV news, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ( search) is working on his own version of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice." Cuban's show is called "The Benefactor," and he promises to give away a cool million bucks to a person he deems worthy. According to Cuban's website, there are "no special skills required" to apply. The crazy thing is, there will probably be more than a million Americans proudly lining up to display their lack of skills, and to be humiliated on national television.

And you wonder why companies are outsourcing jobs to other countries?

I also hear Twentieth Century FOX has signed up Virgin mogul Richard Branson for a reality show. "Branson's Big Adventure" will take would-be moguls on a jet-set around the globe with Branson.  Each week a loser is dropped off on the runway as the jet heads off to the next destination.

Note to Gail Berman, President of Entertainment at FOX:  Sign me up!

What Goes Through the Mind of the Oblivion ...

— Who are all these people beeping at?

—Oh look, there's my next door neighbor Bob, who I never talk to even though he lives right next door. Let me stop right here in the middle of the grocery aisle and catch up on the last few years with him. Funny, we never talk as we cut our lawns side-by-side.

— Excuse me! I'm just standing here minding my own business as I stepped off the escalator and you've bumped into me. Watch where you're going.

— Boy, that shopping excursion took the life right out of me. I must have walked five miles in that store. I'm just going to leave my cart right here in my parking spot. Somebody will move it.

—Oh look, the sign says, "Employees must wash hands before returning to work" on the bathroom mirror. Well, I don't work here, so I'm not going to wash my hands.

—Oh, the movie is just about to start. I better run and get some popcorn!

Now for Your Grrrs

Bill Indreboe in Lake Tahoe, Calif., writes: This grrrrr is for those very important people who have to beep their car alarm every time they get into or out of their car. A special grrrr to those out there who wait until THEY are 30 feet from their car but YOU are right in front of it and beep goes the horn. Try using a key folks! Oh yeah — read the manual — you don't have to make the beep sound, it CAN be turned off. GRRRRR !

Doug Murphy in New York City Grrrs: Nothing worse than when you're on a completely silent commuter train, but for the one Oblivion pounding on the keyboard of his laptop like he's playing drums.  Grrrrr!

Rich A. has another highway Grrr!: I drive an old DeLorean (please spare me the jokes) and I'm not interested in running it into the ground, so I usually drive the speed limit. I'm also trying to stretch a tank of gas. I realize that there are people in a bigger hurry than I am, but I always say "Grrr" when I'm in the FAR right lane and people honk, flip me off or give me the "stink-eye" when they pass me. Am I an "oblivion"? I thought that's what the right lane was for?

—Rich, you are definitely not an Oblivion. The right lane is where you belong when driving slow.  It's those Left-Lane Vigilantes we need to be aware of.

Lori Kennel in CyberSpace Grrrs: Our local gas station has a "Gas Sale Day," where the price of gas is dropped five cents per gallon. Naturally, this draws quite the crowd. The other day, I was at the pump, filling up our truck, and I notice another guy in line with his truck, waiting for the pump on the other side of mine. I did a double-take when I saw that this Oblivion had his window rolled down and was hanging his arm out, flicking his cigarette ashes onto the pavement!! I was just praying that he didn't flick the butt onto the ground when he was done with it... Look, people — we've known for a long time that "fire" and "gasoline" just don't mix!  Put that cigarette out BEFORE you go to the gas station. GRRRR!!!

Paul V. has a few elaborations on my commercials Grrr!: First, in every commercial you see [with a] battle-of-the-sexes theme, the man always comes off looking stupid and defeated.  I don't understand what the thought is behind it— except maybe that advertisers think women's egos are so fragile [that] they would hold a grudge against a product that portrays them as the inferior partner. If I were a woman, I would find it completely patronizing.

Secondly, [why do} advertisers...  partner up an Average Joe with an incredibly hot wife, one that he could never get if he wasn't an actor in a commercial? Whether it's cereal, soap or satellite TV, you always see this couple. Do advertisers really think that average looking guys like me feel [that] if we used their product we'd get that hot wife too? If men really believe that, maybe we do deserve the portrayal we receive in commercials.

Matt Bechtol of Knoxville, Tenn., Grrrs on tractor trailer tires: For God's sake, in this day and age, with all of the technology the good Lord has granted us, can we not invent a tire that does not disintegrate all over the damn interstate? I witnessed a near multi-car accident last week because a 40-lb. piece of truck tire came off a truck in heavy traffic and a new Cadillac hit the debris at 70 m.p.h., then causing everyone else to swerve and miss. I beg the great tire engineers of the world to please work on this!!!!  GRRRRR...

Frank S. in Barnegat, N.J., Grrrs: Dear Mike, tonight as I was watching the evening news they had a promo for the inane game show "Hollywood Squares." They proudly announced that Marcia Clark was one of the squares. No wonder O.J. got off the hook. Grrrrr!

Brian Payne of Owensboro, K.Y., Grrrs on political correctness: I am getting so sick and tired of people whining and complaining when  they see or hear something they think is an affront to their race, sexual orientation, or viewpoints. Get some thick skin, people, and stop all of the whining. I am a Republican, Christian, white male. Go ahead and offend me and make fun of my affiliations. It just makes my skin thicker and me more used to criticism and different view points.

Cyndi P. in Rockledge, Fla., writes: Mike I have a double Grrr! The first is to Jen D. (last column). Grrr to her for complaining about men noticing she's alive. When she turns 40 and gains 30 pounds, she'll be Grrr-ing again that men don't know she's alive. Grrr!

My second Grrr: Flakey people. I'm trying to produce a sketch comedy show, PG-13 rating, that will be taped and sent to the troops serving overseas. Most of my writers don't bother to write, and most of the actors can't respond to an occasional e-mail. We haven't even got to rehearsals yet!  Because of this behavior, I may have to cancel the show. Who do these oblivions think will do the show? Grrr!

David in Albany, Ga., writes: This column is really annoying. Don't you have anything better to do with your time than sit around and complain? This is what my dollars to the sponsors of is paying for? A column filled with endless, mind numbing complaints? Grr to you, too.

—David, you're right. In fact, I'm printing out your e-mail now and bringing it up to Mr. Ailes' office with my resignation. Thanks man, I was really starting to feel the pressure from the column.  Shwoo!

Stupid Lit'l Dreamers

Keeping with the reality television theme, kudos to Donald Trump for offering to pay 100 percent of dismissed "Apprentice" Troy McLain's ( search) college education. I was hard on The Donald after he fired Troy for what I interpreted as a shot at Troy's lack of college education.  Trump has the power to do something about it, and he is. Good luck, Troy.

I'd also like to give an honorary Stupid Lit'l Dreamer mention to Carissa at the customer service desk of Bowflex. I needed a part for my machine (which I don't think I could live without) and she was extremely helpful, and she knew her product, and after a few minutes my part was on its way. Thanks Carissa, you made my day.

The Cutting Room Floor

Sunday's "FOX Magazine" featured my piece on "American Idol's" associate music director Michael Orland. He's got a great day job, but his dream is to write hit songs. Perhaps this season's winner can reserve a spot for one of Orland's originals on the next AI CD. Meet Michael Orland.

Until next week, Grrrrrrrrrr!

Read previous Strakalogue Grrr! columns

Mike Straka is the Director of Operations and Special Projects for, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on " FOX Magazine " & "Sunday Best." As an actor, Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This," co-starred in the Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," and has done several television commercials and shows.

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