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Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2005 / 25 Teves 5765

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Tsunami of P.R. and profits | The US increases it's contribution to tsunami relief, but Japan ups them. Sandra Bullock gives a million and DiCaprio jumps in, then media conglomerate News Corp. announces their million dollar contribution. One million must be the magic "give it and you get press" plateau. Not to be outdone, German Michael Schumacher, the Formula One race car champion plans to donate $10 million. Leno has even put one of his precious Harleys up on Ebay for donations. The tragedy of Tsunami has wrought the worst in the best of us: jealousy. The "I'm a better person/country than you."

The prestige of the best table at Morton's has been replaced with the most money donated to the disaster relief. Every donation brings another headline. Bill O'Reilly even placed Bullock on his "Do Not Smear" list. You couldn't buy this type of publicity. On the other hand, that's exactly what they did.

Are celebrities crawling over one another to use the tragedy to improve their image? Only the cynical among us would believe that scenario. The San Francisco Giants auctioning off of a steroid-enhanced visit with Barry Bonds for the fan donating the biggest relief contribution or Kobe Bryant and other NBA bad boys pitching for donations, come directly from the heart.

The Hollywood publicists can't handle the deluge of celebrity charitable wannabes. Now the poor public relation guy handling the post war Iraqi debacle can't catch a break. He's got suicide bombers and double digits deaths every day. Even with the head of the Baghdad province assassinated he's relegated to page 2.

I've always been a big advocate of finding the good in every bad. But sometimes the good is even badder. When Einstein said that, "In every problem there is an opportunity," I don't think he had this in mind. You know more than one network news executive has had to whisper, "We haven't had this kind of good luck since O.J. didn't kill Nicole." The tsunami has become a cash cow for the networks where the attitude of every tragedy seems to be, "sure the tsunami and its aftermath is a disaster of biblical magnitude and we really feel bad for the many casualties, but let's not ignore the upside."

A tsunami of news anchors have been rushed to the scene. Today Show's Ann Curry stands forlorn reporting from the midst of the destruction as the misery and wreckage has become the backdrop for every morning and 6 PM newscast.

Talk radio and TV pundit bloviating was running dry until the tsunami. Would the Lords of Loud reach out to grasp the truth and pain of the hardships? Not a chance. They spent the last week and a half keeping the United Nations' "America is stingy" quote alive, even though the U.N. representative never said "America." The over 150,000 dead was just another opportunity for the politicos to jump on the Left just won't give Bush a break and the other side saying, "What took him so long to get off the north forty and offer our condolences?"

Over the holidays I was actually contacted by a well-known producer asking if I could play with a screenplay of mine from a couple years back where LA was buried under a horrific 7 day snow storm, and turn it into a Tsunami mini-series where the wave hits Washington, DC. He didn't seem to mind that it would help if Washington was near some water. And can a situation comedy be far behind? CBS's Les Moonves actually told New York media critics of a 9/11-based sitcom possibility less than a month after the Twin Towers attack. You got to know Les and the rest of the network heads were burning up the phone lines over the holidays to hear pitches.

"Okay. This Thai family...I don't know, we'll call them the Udi's. Anyway, they've got like ten children and then the tsunami hits and the parents get swept away Don't worry, we'll make it funny. We'll have the Dad...anyone know what Bob Saget is doing...say something like, 'Boy, we could sure use some rain' and bam...tsunami. We'll have him walk out the door of their mud shack just as he's saying it. Walking out the door on punchline always makes it funny. Tell me that won't make a great teaser. Maybe we'll keep one of the parents on life-support or holding on to some log in the Ocean so we can keep a story-line going on whether they'll make it back. Here's the hook. Now the oldest kid has to raise the children who survived. At least seven. Seven kids are funny And they've got a pet elephant. Pet elephants are even funnier. We premiere it as a two-hour special right after the Super Bowl. We're talking a twenty-six week commitment.

Besides TV and film movies, expect a rush of reality shows where teams of contestants go to Southeast Asia to see who can be the best volunteer. If they can get the rights from Mother Nature, how long before they get "Who's Your Natural Disaster?!" on the air? A show where floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and famine vie each week for the title of worst catastrophe. First prize is one million victims.

The taking advantage or someone else's disadvantage is just abominable. Meanwhile I have to figure out how to get a tsunami to reach Washington.


JWR contributor Steve Young created for National Lampoon. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Steve Young