"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 31 October 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run LVIII



When TV viewers lost interest in

law enforcement's inability to

catch the nation's smartest

criminals, it was only a matter

of time before some Hi-8

Tartikoff reverse-engineered his

way to the obvious brand

extension: America's Dumbest

Criminals. Produced on a budget

of maybe a hundred bucks an

episode, ADC is, for the most

part, standard post-Letterman

kitsch. There's the smirky host

in his sculpted-pompadour-and-

black-turtleneck John Walsh

drag. There are the cheesy

graphics and coyly uninspired

jokes. There's the one-take

video re-enactments featuring

the worst TV acting since

Divorce Court's demise. And yet,

there are brighter moments too,

like the grainy surveillance

camera footage of drunks driving

cars through convenience stores.

Or the interviews with smug

donut-eaters giggling their way

through tales of the stupid

crooks they've caught. Indeed,

with its enthusiastic

trivialization of misfortune as

entertainment, ADC raises the

who-gives-a-shit factor to a

compelling new level. Does it

matter that the losers it

portrays are mostly desperate,

broke, pathetic drunks in dire

need of basic burglary skills?

Not when there's bandwidth to



[The Storm]

Now that relatively useless

Internet music archives that

digitize any old demo tape they

receive in the mail have given

way to relatively useless

Internet radio stations that

digitize any old demo tape they

receive in the mail, we wonder

if a Congressional investigation

can be far behind. A visit to

the hard-rock-oriented

"cyberstation" The Storm, where

"great exposure" in a playlist

featuring the likes of AC/DC,

Silverchair and Van Halen can be

yours for only US$3 a day,

reveals that payola is alive and

well on the net. It's just -

appropriately - a whole lot

cheaper than it used to be.



It's getting to be last call for

the 100th Anniversary

extravaganza The New York Times

is throwing for itself. After

months of hard-hitting front

page "news" stories on the

paper's history and ad-fattened

special retrospective issues of

The Magazine, the year-long

exercise in self-aggrandizement

hit a conspicuous low point last

week when the paper ran a

full-page ad touting the "new"

slogan for its web site.

Eschewing the expertise of

Madison Avenue (and its own

editorial staff), the Gray Lady

turned to her readers for a new

slogan - "one embracing these

electronic times," in typically

restrained Times parlance.

Several entries in the contest

for a new slogan were a little

on the cute side - "The News of

the Day a Click Away," in

particular, sounds like it would

age quite quickly - and the

Times ended up granting $100

prizes to 23 people who simply

submitted the old tagline and

argued in favor of the status

quo. And though the Times

defended its move by backing up

to the past (the slogan "has

summed that up very well for the

last century and will do so for

the next"), we have to wonder -

is this decision a mark of faith

in the paper's heritage, or a

brightly lit sign that our

embrace of these electronic

times is starting to loosen?



More signs o' the times are

visible over Redmond, where

Interactive Media Division VP

Patty Stonesifer recently

announced that she is leaving

Microsoft to "focus... on some

personal interests and on some

very exciting opportunities in

new areas." The writing between

the lines is as easy to read as

a Sony press release, and as for

the writing on the wall... while

Gates has defended MS's $500

million investment in its

Interactive Media Division

(which includes the still-free-

after-all-these-months Slate) as

"a significant future business

for us... critical to our

long-term vision," the company's

ability to turn on a dime (or for a

dime) has never been clearer.

Does this reorganization mean

that MSN, despite a ubiquitous

billboard campaign, is giving

content provision an even more

familiar one-fingered salute?

courtesy of the Sucksters