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Craig Ferguson = Sexy Genius

... And other musings

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The subject of late night television came up at our weekly editorial meeting this Tuesday. A few in the room enthused over Conan. Carson Daly was universally panned. Others bemoaned the genre altogether.

Devin O'Leary described nighttime talk shows as "only slightly better than daytime TV." He's right, of course. I hardly watch TV anymore, and evening talk shows are pretty low on the totem pole when I do tune in for some quality tuning out.

There have been times, however, when I just happen to flip on my set when the "Late, Late Show" with Craig Ferguson is on. "Oh yeah!" I'm surprised to hear myself say. "I like this guy."

Now, I couldn't give a shit about 95 percent of the people he interviews (or anyone on late night television, while we're at it). I just like him. I like his easy sense of humor. I like that his show-opening monologues aren't (by and large) a cringe-inducing series of one-liners, all-too-obviously recited verbatim from attendant cue cards, à la Leno, Dave and Conan. He's an actual stand-up comedian. He actually writes much of his own material. And that sexy Scottish accent of his doesn't hurt, either.

And then I saw this clip on YouTube. My fate has been sealed. I love you, Craig Ferguson.

As far as I can tell, he's delivering a very honest response not only to his own conscience as a person in entertainment media (Whoa! That's almost unheard of!), but, more subtly, to the floodgate of tabloid "reporting" that now all-too-commonly swarms around celebrity addiction and treatment.

Here's what Craig isn't saying, but I believe he might be hinting at: You only have to thumb through an issue of In Touch at the checkout stand to find out that Lindsay attends "posh" (whatever that means) A.A. meetings in Brentwood, or that Brittney has been dating a rocker from the A.A. group she attends.

And here's the problem with that. The letters "A.A." are short for Alcoholics Anonymous. Anonymous.

People in this 12-step recovery program aren't anonymous to protect themselves (or their family, friends, etc.) from shame (or fear, or any of the millions of other human emotions we all have to suffer through from time to time). The anonymity is there to protect the organization itself of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Because, from what I understand, A.A. wasn't always anonymous. At one time, everyone who was in the program was free to share their experience with whomever they chose at their own discretion. Until movie stars came along.

I'm not kidding. Movie stars. From what I understand, at least one movie star in the golden twilight of the era got hold of the program and, through it, at least a few moments of sobriety. This person thought it was just the bees knees, and so proceeded to blab about the program to the press at large, gushing enthusiastically about this miraculous 12-step procedure to anyone who cared to listen.

And then guess what happened? This famous person fell off the wagon. They got drunk. And you know how the press loves a fallen hero. "Ah hah!" The media exclaimed. "This stuff is hooey! This program is bunk! These 12 steps are snake oil for the depraved and insane!" Of course, it wasn't the program that didn't work: It was what's-his-name. This poor celebrity was either incapable of working or (more likely) unwilling to work the program as it requires. Blaming A.A. for not working is like blaming a lingering illness on your medication, even though you often forget (or maybe refuse) to take it; ultimately, the person who's sick is responsible for following their prescription, in whatever form that comes, or they just won't get well. Period.

And so A.A. went underground. To protect the integrity of the program, the people of A.A. came up with a list of traditions, one of which suggests its members remain anonymous to film, television and the press at large. (It's just too bad they didn't include a gag order to prevent the media from "outing" people in the program. But that's not their style, apparently.) That means people in A.A. generally avoid publicity, and therefor, somewhat ironically, aren't likely to speak out against the stupid media for outing for one of their members. Well, guess what? I'm not in A.A., so I'm speaking out.

Anyhow ... at least I'm feeling more optimistic about late night television these day.

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