I want to tell you a story about my favorite episode of Newhart, Bob Newhart’s second sitcom. In this series, Bob was a humble Vermont inkeeper named Dick Louden, who, as the show’s producers searched for sharks to jump, became a host of a local cable TV talk show. (They never jumped that shark, by the way. The best episodes came after Dick started his TV gig.)
Dick kept his show low-key and respectable, as PBS as possible, against the wishes of his cheesy, more FOX-like producer, Michael (my hero, Peter Scolari). Dick’s idol was newsman Edwin Newman, and in the episode I’m going to tell you about, he actually books Newman as a guest. But Newman cancels at the last minute, and the fill-in guest is a phony spoon-bending psychic from the mall. Grumpy about losing his A-list guest for this clown, Dick calls the psychic a “weenie” on air. In typical Bob Newhart style, this is the extent of him blowing his cool, and afterward, he’s mortified at his momentary breach of journalistic decorum.
To his surprise, though, ratings go through the roof, and before long, his producer is intentionally booking lunatic guests who will bait Dick into calling them “weenies”. They even add a peanut gallery of overhyped audience members chanting, “WEE-NIE! WEE-NIE! WEE-NIE!”
Dick gets caught up in the spectacle and basically morphs into Jerry Springer, though I should add that this was four years before Jerry Springer’s talk show debuted. This was satire at its finest, people.
Have I mentioned that I love this show?
Well, I always thought that I’d make terrible television because I’m not a weenie shouter. I’m more like Dick at the beginning of the episode — quiet, reserved and just a tad sarcastic. Somehow, though, a few weeks ago, I was approached to do weekly roundtable segments for a new show that’ll be airing on HLN (the former Headline News, CNN’s sister network) called Raising America with Kyra Phillips. The premise of the show is to report the news through a parent’s eye and with correspondents who are parents like me. Hey, I’m a parent like me! No wonder they picked me!
I didn’t announce my big news on this blog, because I was roughly 100+% convinced that, as soon as they saw me do some sort of rehearsal, they’d realize they made a terrible mistake and they’d find someone else to be their token “Dad blogger from a nontraditional family in the Northeast”.
Today was the rehearsal. A few minutes before I was scheduled to Skype in for my segment, a producer sent me a list of topics we might discuss, including this one, Snoop Lion to Educate Children on Smoking Weed. Here’s all you really need to read from that article:
The rapper said he would be happy to provide guidance to the eight and nine-year-olds he coaches at the Orange County Junior All America Football League on how to avoid irresponsible drug use.
‘It’s not that I would ever push weed on our kids,’ Snoop explained.
‘But if they wanted to, I would love to show them how. The right way, so that way they won’t get nothing put in their s*** or overdose or trying some s*** that ain’t clean.’
A great topic for discussion, but I could only imagine how a panel of parents would react. We’d all just be trying to out-shout each other with our condemnation of Mr. Lion. I figured my only way to stand out was to go a different route and play up the snarky cynicism. “I’m pretty sure if you read the rest of that quote, Kyra, it ends ‘and please be sure to mention my new album while condemning these views.’” I practiced my zinger a few times to get it just right, then dialed in for the session.
Because of how they setup their Skype connection, I couldn’t see who I was talking to, but there was a man and a woman on the panel with me. When Kyra raised the topic, the woman jumped right in with something like, “Well, pot is legal in Colorado now, so maybe Snoop has the right idea.”
Wait… what? She agrees with him?! I could hear a voice chanting softly in the back of my head… “Wee-nie! Wee-nie! Wee-nie!“
The chant partially drowned out whatever the man said, but he didn’t challenge her premise. If I remember, he seemed to think kids smoking pot was inevitable, so why fight it?
Kyra could clearly tell I was bursting to say something. “Jerry, do you want to comment?”
“Yes, well, pot may be legal in some places,” I began, calmly, “but IT’S NOT LEGAL FOR 8 AND 9-YEAR-OLDS!!!!!!”
So I took the bait. I lost my cool. Here I was, against every instinct I had, arguing with people about current events on TV. (Granted, it was just a rehearsal, so I can’t show you the footage. The best I can give you is this.) “Anyway,” I went on. “I doubt even Snoop believes it. I’m pretty sure if you read the rest of his quote it said, ‘And by the way, my new album drops this fall!’”
It got a laugh. Zing! He shoots, he scores!
Suddenly, I’m starting to believe this may actually happen. I mean, I may still go all Cindy Brady when my big debut actually comes, but I think I’ve managed to trick the producers into thinking I can be interesting television for now.
So here it is, my official announcement and my plug for Raising America with Kyra Phillips, weekdays from 12PM-2PM on HLN, premiering Monday, February 4th.
My first segment is scheduled for Friday, February 8th, but I’ll be promoting it more as the date approaches.
Watch out, weenies! Here I come!