September 13, 2000

Would You Like Caviar
With Your Cable, Sir?

By Roy Rivenburg

Let-Them-Eat-Cake TV: For years, Hollywood has unfairly maligned and stereotyped the rich. On television, wealthy people are constantly portrayed as bumbling (Jed Clampett), conniving (J.R. Ewing) or both (Monty Burns from "The Simpsons''). Positive role models like Thurston Howell III are few and far between.

But that's changing. Fine Living, a new 24-hour cable channel for the well-heeled, is coming soon to a small screen near you, according to the Associated Press. Off-Kilter has obtained a confidential memo describing some of the network's shows.

The channel plans to debut with an upscale version of "Survivor'' in which 16 wealthy contestants are sent to a remote Austrian ski chalet to see who can last the longest without servants.

Also on the drawing board is "The Mr. Bill Show,'' featuring a claymation Bill Gates who is tortured by antitrust attorney Mr. Sluggo and his co-counsel, Mr. Hands.

Other shows will borrow existing TV concepts and adjust them for a high-income audience. For example, the sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle'' will be remade as "Malcolm Forbes in the Middle.''

Likewise, the PBS series "This Old House'' will be transformed into "This Old Tax Shelter,'' "Will and Grace'' will become "Wills and Trusts'' and Donald Trump will steal a page from Fox-TV as the host of "America's Funniest Prenuptial Agreements.''

Lastly, late-night infomercials will hawk everything from Fortune 500 companies and small Caribbean nations to the amazing Bribe-o-matic from Ronco. Not available in stores, this incredible device makes buying off congressmen a snap ("Act now and we'll throw in a high-ranking White House official absolutely free! Own one or collect the whole set!'').

Wishful Thinking Bureau: The presidential debates are in dire need of reform. The format is stilted, the questions dull. But there's a simple solution.

Step 1: Get rid of Al Gore and George W. Bush. Instead, visit www.pinatas.com, a new website specializing in candy-filled pinatas that resemble the space shuttle, Monster trucks, Frankenstein and the Creature From the Black Lagoon, among others. Click on the icon offering custom-made pinatas.

Next, order custom pinatas in the likeness of both candidates. Then hang them from the ceiling and let a blindfolded panel of journalists smash them to pieces with baseball bats on national TV. Or, better yet, skip the pinatas and dangle the real candidates from the ceiling.

Ratings will be sky-high.

Bottle Cap Message of the Week: Printed on the inside of a Snapple Iced Tea lid: "Put cap under your pillow every night because someday the Tooth Fairy will be sleepy and confused.''

Alarming Trends Bureau: A musical based on the book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus'' is set to premiere Sept. 17 in Las Vegas. According to Wireless Flash News Service, the production will feature musical tributes to Napoleon and Josephine -- and to the mating rituals of penguins. Composer Rita Abrams told Wireless that her most formidable task was "finding clean words that rhyme with Venus.''

Celebrity Birthday Corner: Play-Doh, which was originally developed as a wallpaper cleaner, turns 45 on Sept. 16, which is also Wile E. Coyote's 51st birthday.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: "Sneaky Russians Tried to Take Over U.S. With a Phony Nixon!'' (Weekly World News)

Actually, it was a custom-made Nixon pinata.

Unpaid Informants: Ann Harrison, Susanna Timmons, San Francisco Chronicle.

Copyright © 2000 by Roy Rivenburg
Distributed by Creators Syndicate