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Some celebrity news shows drown you in oceans of fluff as they kiss up to anything that moves down a red carpet. And then there's "TMZ," the ADD-afflicted spawn of the National Enquirer and the Smoking Gun that would rather put up a test pattern than say a kind word.
"TMZ," which began syndicated TV life on Monday, is adapted from the Web site TMZ.com, which became instantly famous last summer by being first to report Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic tirade when he was pulled over by a Malibu cop. That might have given the impression that TMZ is a crusader, exposing bigotry in unlikely quarters.
Far from it. TMZ is all about insulting celebrities, magnifying their mistakes and holding them up to ridicule. The Gibson story was merely an opportunity to make a famous actor look bad. Sure, there were big personal, social and psychological implications, but that was none of TMZ's concern.
At its core, "TMZ" is simply taking advantage of a populist backlash to a celebrity culture. If you can't live in a Beverly Hills mansion and party with beautiful people, at least you can look down your nose at those who can. It's the principle behind the sale of millions of supermarket tabloids, and by transforming it for TV, "TMZ" has a good chance of surviving the treacherous terrain of syndication.
Harvey Levin is the host. Best known in Los Angeles as an investigative reporter for KCBS-TV, Levin is managing editor of TMZ.com and, with Jim Paratore, executive producer of the TV show.
Levin had been excitedly teasing the TV show's lead story, about a star doing something "really crazy" on a surveillance tape. At last, he could share this incredible scoop with the world. "We have video of an actor you've seen in the movies putting a ski mask on, then taking something."
Actually, what "TMZ" had was grainy, 12-day-old footage that suggested Peter Greene ("Pulp Fiction") took something in a parking garage and a report that someone was missing a license plate. The plate turned up after a message reportedly was relayed to Greene that the owner wanted it back. No wonder Levin was so excited. I'll bet the New York Times and the Washington Post are kicking themselves for missing that one.
Before the half-hour ended, the show insulted Victoria Beckham ("looking like slutty Malibu Barbie"), Bette Midler's unidentified husband ("the freaking wimp beneath her freaking wings") and Jennifer Lopez's outfit ("dressing like a waitress at El Torito").
And, oh yes, in case you hadn't heard, Britney Spears had some embarrassing moments at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. Oh wait. You must have heard. The whole world heard. But that didn't stop "TMZ" from jumping on the pile. To "TMZ," a cruel and tasteless insult is a terrible thing to waste.
Executive producers: Harvey Levin, Jim Paratore
Supervising producer: Charles Latibeaudiere
Coordinating producer: Susan Favre
Platform integration producer: Evan Rosenblum
Director: Paul Nichols
Executive in charge of production: Dana Demars