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TELEVISION & RADIO | TELEVISION HOWARD ROSENBERG

A green giant and a beach blanket bummer

June 23, 2003|HOWARD ROSENBERG

American Idiots ...

It's inspiring to see the big screen embrace those who achieved their biggest fame on little old television. Ang Lee's "Hulk" and "From Justin to Kelly" both arrived in theaters Friday.

According to most accounts, the latter is scarier than the former.

"Hulk" is moviedom's version of a comic-book green giant who became "The Incredible Hulk" on CBS from 1979 to 1982, with average-sized Bill Bixby ballooning into panoramic Lou Ferrigno whenever he got teed off.

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini are those singing "American Idol" kids, a pair of new-millennium icons whose quickie stardom on Fox gave "clean cut" a questionable name and led to this instant movie meant to capitalize on their popularity with the young crowd, before they flame out. It's being sold in ads promising "the musical event of the summer!"

Which tells you something about the summer.

To say nothing of the dumb-and-dumber descent of the television era that generated these two beach balls who make Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello look like movie-musical Titans.

"Everyone knows we did it in six weeks," Clarkson told the Fox News Channel on Friday, sounding almost giddy beside Guarini, whom she edged out in last year's "American Idol" competition. She disagreed that it was a bad omen when the movie was withheld from critics so they couldn't write about it prior to its release.

"We didn't to it for the critics," she said of their movie. "We did it for the fans." If trailers for a beachfront production number are an indication, she means fans of camp.

Of course, it gets only worse. Hoping to expand the audience-friendly creative void of "American Idol" into a whopper franchise pinpointing all younger age groups (Guarini is 23, Clarkson 21), Fox earlier this month spun off "American Juniors," pitting still-younger performers, and their parents, against each other. And, yikes, its ratings were also impressive.

What follows on this assembly line of look-alikes? "American Infant," with participants wowing the judges, viewers and host Ryan Seacrest by dirtying diapers to pop music? Or perhaps "American Fetus," if Fox can work out the ultrasound.

UNDERDOGS. Coming in July, Emmy nominations, the vast majority predictable. Here are two actors who deserve to be among the anointed, but almost certainly won't be:

* Scott Cohen. No one generates more heat than Cohen as troubled parole officer Jimmy Liberti in "Street Time," an outstanding crime series that Showtime has inexplicably undermined with some of the most curious scheduling on TV. Its second season begins in August.

Cohen captures the dark complexity of this intriguing character so acutely, and with so much understated intensity, that to deny him an Emmy nomination, for lead actor in a drama, would be, well, criminal.

* Larry Gilliard Jr. He's just about perfect in HBO's "The Wire" as D'Angelo Barksdale, a conflicted drone in his uncle's drug ring, reassessing his life while doing hard time in the slammer. Gilliard's success in unknotting this supporting character's tangled emotions speaks to his subtlety as an actor. Unfortunately, subtlety rarely seems to register with Emmy voters.

A boy, 12, goes swimming with two friends in a Florida river. After sighting alligators in the water, his friends get out and urge him to join them. He refuses and is later killed by an alligator. A terrible thing.

The attack comes just after dusk, a prime feeding time for alligators, and near a marina where people unwisely toss them food.

Afterward, wildlife officials kill seven alligators in hopes of getting the one that dragged the boy under and swam off. They were fairly certain they did.

And that's the way a Florida reporter told the story on MSNBC, echoing wire accounts (including a brief one in this paper) that omitted a view questioning the logic of seeking to punish an alligator for doing what alligators do, and at a time and place where they do it. If reports are accurate, the alligator didn't aggressively attack a human on the shore, it went after an object moving in the water. The tragedy of the boy's death was only compounded.

That perspective should have been included but wasn't because, usually, that's not what media do.

OUTNUMBERED. All right, so conservative comic Dennis Miller -- most famous for his wide-ranging rants -- is joining the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" series as a weekly commentator. The show already features Hannity as a ranting righty and Colmes as a limp lefty. So once again, Fox is stacking the deck.

Two rants, one runt.

Howard Rosenberg's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be contacted at howard.rosenberg@latimes.

com.

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