There’s a scene in Ed Wood that I’ve never forgotten. The infamous director goes to visit his troubled friend, legendary actor Bela Lugosi, at a mental institution. Wood is deeply perturbed by what he sees. There’s a pack of reporters and photographers swarming the bed-ridden former Dracula and Wood shoos them all away, calling them “vultures” in the process. What he doesn’t realize is that Lugosi personally contacted those people. Wood is incredulous that his fallen pal wanted the world to know about his morphine addiction.
I was reminded of that scene again when reading about the latest bad news about Lindsay Lohan. Like Lugosi, she has a terrible addiction, in fact, the same addiction: fame.
Although she’s back in rehab for her alcohol abuse, she can’t stay out of the glare of the public eye for more than two seconds, usually for all the wrong reasons. While staying at the Wonderland Center in L.A., she has already reassured a nosy reporter who contacted the facility that she is “doing so great…” She further noted, “I’m fine. Nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for checking in, I do appreciate it.”
It’s that last line that’s noteworthy. She’s actually happy a member of the press, a complete stranger no less, called to check on her. I find that very troubling.
Also disconcerting is her cheery tone. Going to rehab to beat a terrible addiction is supposed to be a humbling and embarrassing experience. It’s where you go when you finally realize you can’t keep travelling down the road of self-destruction. It’s an admission of defeat, an acknowledgment of complete and utter powerlessness to a harmful substance. Other drug-addicted celebrities, ever careful of their public image, would be ashamed if we knew about their trips to rehab. Lindsay Lohan, clearly in denial, thinks her personal problems are worth publicizing. Thanks to her many ill-advised interviews, we know she’s battled bulimia, addictions to cigarettes and alcohol, and that she’s not the monogamous type.
In recent years, Lohan’s chronic immaturity has garnered more attention than her movie and music careers. She’s been in numerous car accidents. She’s been caught out in public without wearing underwear. She’s an underage alcoholic. She’s looked sickly thin from time to time. She’s been missing work because of her excessive partying. Her error-riddled text messages were a godsend to comedians. Since her break-up with actor Wilmer Valderrama she’s gone from one unstable fling to the next. Not a day goes by that she isn’t in the news for doing something stupid. To her, privacy is an alien concept. Ditto common sense.
It doesn’t help that she’s the product of a dysfunctional family. It also doesn’t help that this painful subject has been fodder for her music.
Her father, Michael, has been in and out of jail for years. Her mother/manager, Dina, behaves more like a free-spirited big sister than a responsible parent. When you spend more time dancing on tables in clubs with your kid instead of being the voice of reason, you set an awful precedent that is difficult to break.
And when you blab about your daughter’s latest stint in rehab to Ryan Seacrest, is it any wonder that Lindsay can’t keep quiet about it, either? Sometimes bad publicity really is just bad publicity.
Recently, on the Howard Stern Show, sidekick Robin Quivers noted how old Lindsay looked in a recent photo. The young star is only 20 years old but Quivers thought she looked twice her age. I hope Lindsay looks at that same photo and realizes that it’s time to take a break from being a public laughing stock. It’s just not worth it.
God knows people have tried to reason with her. There have been interventions and a movie executive wrote a very angry letter to her hoping that she would clean up her act and stop delaying the production of his company’s film.
Unfortunately, Dina defended her daughter instead of agreeing with the executive. As a result, her daughter’s problems continue to accumulate and she can’t stop telling us about them in her impossibly cheerful manner.
As comedian Bill Maher has said many, many times over the years, fame is the worst addiction of all. Why? Because once you get a taste of it, you want more and more, regardless of how it may one day ruin your life. And there’s no rehab for it.
I’ve been watching this show, Child Star Confidential, on Star TV and I marvel at the number of former child stars who can’t give up show business. Despite physical and sexual abuse, stalkers, drug addictions, endless rejection and financial hardships, they keep coming back for more auditions hoping for lightning to strike twice.
Lindsay Lohan is a former child star, too. She started modelling at age 3. Then, she did commercials for many years. She got her first soap opera at age 10, her first movie before she was a teenager and has been a major star since 2003. She has not yet turned 21, the legal drinking age in America.
She has never had an ordinary life free of public scrutiny. Maybe it’s time for her to consider that alternative.
My family received an interesting letter in the mail recently. You probably got the same one. It begins, "You have been selected to participate in a survey whose findings will directly influence what you see on television in the future. You have been selected to evaluate not-yet released television material that is being considered for nationwide broadcast. You have been selected to help represent the television viewing preferences of the entire country."
Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
The letter was sent by a company called Television Preview. Based out of Hollywood, California, they exist "for the purpose of providing independent, impartial testing of broadcast material", and they "sell neither products nor services to the general public."
They showcase 2 never-before-seen shows "to groups of people across the country. The groups evaluate what they see, and Television Preview tabulates and analyzes these evaluations. Then, they "pass them along to the people who decide whether the material will be televised."
You won’t just be watching Television; you’ll also be competing for "$250.00 in attendance prizes".
On August 25th, Television Preview is coming to downtown Hamilton to visit The Ramada Plaza Hotel and to give us lucky citizens a chance to play TV critics for a night. My family received 4 free tickets for this upcoming opportunity and if, for some reason, we can’t make it, it’s recommended we give our tickets "to friends or relatives whom" we "feel could contribute worthwhile input."
At least, that’s what they want you to believe.
If you still have this invitation from Television Preview, take a closer look at the envelope. In the upper left-hand corner you’ll notice that their address in Hollywood is simply a Post Office Box number. If you look across the top towards the upper right portion of the envelope, the truth reveals itself. The letter is postmarked "Evansville, Indiana", the real home of Television Preview.
It gets worse.
A quick search of the words "Television Preview" (with quotation marks) on Google.ca and any hope of actually screening new TV shows is shattered in a matter of seconds.
Despite their proclamations of only wanting your views on Television programming, the truth is they’re only interested in how you respond to commercials. You see, the shows they’re presenting have commercial breaks. Oh, and what about those shows? Surely, that’s not a crock, right?
According to numerous accounts on the web, you won’t be seeing a brand new pilot. You’ll be seeing old shows and in one case, one program that actually made it onto the air.
One of the shows they will present has been shown in presentations like this for years. It’s called City and guess when it aired: 1990. That’s right. Television Preview wants your opinion on a show that’s come and gone from the Television airwaves. The show debuted in late January 1990 and lasted but a season. According to accounts online, the show is presented because Television Preview wants you to decide whether Valerie Harper deserves another show or not. Uh huh.
Surely, by now, considering the number of people who have seen this show in Television Preview presentations across Canada and the United States, this Indiana company would have more than enough audience information to pass on to Hollywood Television studios to decide if Ms. Harper is worthy of a return to prime time. You would think but you would be wrong.
The other show they will present on the 25th will either be Soulmates, a never-aired "one-hour paranormal drama", according to one account, or Blind Men, a rejected NBC sitcom from the late 90s which starred Patrick Warburton as a vertical blinds salesman. Then again, maybe they’ll show different programs. But judging from my research, it’s doubtful.
Most of the time you’ll be asked to fill out questionnaires related to the advertisements you’ll be seeing in between these old shows. You’ll go through page after page of products marking what you use, what you prefer, what you would like to use and what you will never use or are uninterested in using. (Oh yeah and they’ll ask you how you rated the 2 shows you just finished watching. But it’s a red herring.) During the night, 2 draws will be held. All of the completed questionnaires will go in a box and several will be selected. If you filled out one of the chosen questionnaires you win all the advertised products you selected. Whoopee, right?
According to a revealing article in Now Magazine in September 2000, the company’s real name isn’t even Television Preview, it’s RSC The Quality Measuring Company or The ARS Group of RSC The Quality Measuring Company as it states on its official website. (Personally, I love their "Corporate Philosophy": "to be an honest, positive and significant influence…as a service organization, as empiricists, as professionals, as individuals, and finally, as a business.")
Zach Dubinsky, the author of the Now article, managed to convince the company’s manager of marketing communications, Wade Holmes, to go on-the-record to explain the real purpose behind these Television Preview presentations. According to Mr. Holmes, the unsuspecting audience is "going to view television programming into which we’ve embedded videos — commercial breaks — just like they’d be seeing at home." The audience is asked to fill out two advertising-related questionnaires before and after the presentation, which I mentioned earlier. This is done so the company "can tell whether or not exposure to a particular brand message or advertising caused more people to prefer that brand."
This method is apparently called a "persuasion test" and has been used throughout the company’s history, which dates back to the early 70s. "The whole set-up," according to Mr. Holmes, "is that" the audience is "there to evaluate the programming. We try not to cue them to the advertising, because we like it to be an incidental exposure."
He added, "You’d be amazed at how few people figure it out."
Oh, and if you decide to attend August 25th, be aware of something else: telemarketers. According to a couple of accounts online, a few days or so after they attended the presentation they were contacted by phone by someone wanting to sell them something that was advertised during those pesky commercial breaks. Resist, or do what my mom does: hang up while they’re still talking.
You know that old adage, "If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t"? Whoever said it the first time must have been thinking of this deceptive company.
So do yourself a favour. Spread the word. Television Preview isn’t looking for the next Tom Shales. It’s working for the advertising industry. Don’t waste 2 precious hours of your life watching old shows on 4 tiny monitors without having anything to drink or eat. Rent The Upside Of Anger instead and eat all the popcorn you want.