Friday, October 2, 2009


Coming out of semi-hiatus (Hope you're enjoying the daily "As Seen On TV" feature!) to comment on the news that broke last night about the David Letterman blackmail plot.

I'm sure you've heard by now that a CBS News producer threatened to publish a book and make a movie about Letterman's flings with some of his staffers - unless he was paid 2 million dollars. That has all the elements of a 'Columbo' episode right there!

After working with the D.A.'s office to bring the guy down, Letterman confessed his sins on 'The Late Show with David Letterman' last night. Understandably, many in the audience laughed during the first part of it, thinking Dave was just telling a funny story. But as they realized that he was serious - and how serious the situation was - the laughter petered out. (Although Dave managed to re-ignite it given the way he tells his stories.)

On his blog "News From ME" (link to the left), Mark Evanier pondered the situation:

"Is this kind of thing — the star of a TV show sleeping with members of his staff — unusual? No...though I'm not sure it's any more prevalent than the boss in a non-show-biz operation consorting with underlings. What's unusual is us finding out about it."

And that led me to consider how this type of situation - not the actual Letterman case - is reflected in the "reality" of the alternate universe of Toobworld.

And of course - I think it deserves an "of course" - the one person I thought of was Alan Brady, the character Carl Reiner played on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'. Looking back on it with the jaundiced eyes of an older 21st Century man, I can't see how a guy like Alan Brady could NOT be having affairs - with not only staffers but also with starlets, chorus girls, etc. In fact, when Reiner brought the character back after 30 plus years on an episode of 'Mad About You', it was hinted that he did carry on back in his Catskills tummler days. (Although he didn't have quite the reputation as a "swordsman" as Milton Berle did.)

But that sordid side of a TV star's life never came up during the run of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and probably for a variety of reasons. The major roadblock to that kind of storyline O'Bviously would be that it just wouldn't fly with the networks Standards and Practices department, or with the show's sponsors.

But it was also the time when Kennedy was President, and his own peccadilloes weren't reported in the press. They seem to have known about his affairs, but there was a kind of understanding between the White House and the press corps. And within the "inner reality" of Toobworld, that sort of relationship probably existed between Alan Brady and the gossip columnists of the day - fictional as well as those who were members of the League of Themselves (like Hedda Hopper and Army Archerd).

Interestingly enough, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' was seen as the sitcom reflection of that "Camelot" aura given off by the Kennedy White House.....

Just another O'Bservation to be filed away with my past musings about Toobworld and real world news events like the collapse of the World Trade Center and the like.....

Back to work on the Toobworld novel!



Brent McKee said...

Actually there was one episode when Alan was mad at Rob and the writers for a script (the forgot to take out the insults that they wrote into the first draft of the script). Before that they had tried to steal the script back while Alan was having a nap and they overheard him saying a woman's name - passionately. When he woke up while they were trying to steal the script Alan promised to fire them and then walked out. Sitting in a chair, hidden from everyone was Mel Cooley who revealed to the gang that they would not in fact be fired - the name that Alan had been passionately muttering in his sleep was NOT his wife's. Proof enough I guess.

Toby O'B said...

Thanks, Brent!

I have the complete series and vaguely remember them breaking into the office, but not the aftermath. I'll have to rewatch that now.

So we basically know he did it, and in a revisionist Toobworld brought about by 'Mad Men', it seems almost required that it would have happened.

And the rest would still hold up - that such a scandal would never see the light of day in the press... unless there was a blackmailer like in the Letterman case.