If nothing else surprises you all day, then congratulations on getting this far.
I am a big fan of Harvey Levin.
You: Philro must be joking again. That guy, he's a real card, huh? The most anti-celebrity cat in the kennel, the most unwavering son of a bitch when it comes to the curse of anti-intellectualism, the most vicious and smug bastard when it comes to insisting on what a load of rubbish television is these days and he sits there at his keyboard typing words to the effect that he is a big fan of Harvey Levin, host of something called "TMZ," which, we hear, stands for Thirty Mile Zone, referencing the area around and including Los Angeles, where if anything stupid and trivial is happening, chances are it's happening there. That Harvey Levin? No way in hell.
Me: Actually, yes. That Harvey Levin.
First of all, if you've ever watched the show, you'll know that they do a lot more than just promote the latest Britney Spears diet for douche-bags. The people on the show go out of their way to good-naturedly torture and ridicule all of the nonentities the show itself tends to reinforce, whether it's the stupidity of Kim Kardashian or the insipidness of Tom Hanks, or whatever.
Second, Levin is a smart fellow. Ignore that and you risk ignoring the future. He addressed the National Press Club last October and told many in attendance things they did not much want to hear. No, he did not tell them that Snooky was running for President. What he told them was that the old news media haven’t quite gotten their hands around changing “delivery systems” and evolving consumer tastes. He went on to say that these old farts have remained loyal to old formulas at their own peril. Local and national newscasts, he says, have presented information the same way for decades, with anchors handing off to reporters and reporters handing it right back to anchors. “It can be done better and quicker,” he suggested, mentioning as a model "TMZ" TV’s casual, conversational and often amusing presentation in its bullpen-style newsroom.
In one way, given the demographic of the PhilroPost readership, you may be inclined to find that observation discomforting. But I think he makes a valid point. On "TMZ" they have fast conversations, where the occasional factual error is met with gasps and chuckles by the people on camera, especially when some schmuck attempts to pull something over the eyes of the reporters. Levin's influence on the way TV journalism happens is considerable and to deny that is to deny what your occasionally lying eyes tell you.
And I'm not just talking about those professional imitating reactionaries over at Fox News, either. I'm talking about the conversational style of everything from "The Rachel Maddow Show" to "The ABC Evening News." TV journalism may indeed take the safe approach when it comes to subject matter--although no one can accuse Rachel of this--but they put themselves on the edge when doing live broadcasts where someone says the sky is polka dot and reporters have an opportunity to suggest that this may not be the entire truth. In other words, say what you will about the pandering nature of "TMZ" and you'll likely be right. But do not discount the fact that the popularity of that show--yes, even with people such as myself--has a lot to do with the format, which is what Levin was talking about when he spoke to the Press Club.
But the real deep down reason I so admire Levin has much more to do with his lesser-known fascinations, prime of which is with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Late last year Levin hosted a program on "TMZ Live," which is simulcast between a Sirius station and the Internet, in which he dedicated ninety percent of his sixty minutes to the work of another lawyer--Levin, as TMZ likes to remind us, is an attorney--this one being Mark Lane, a name quite familiar to people who have spent time researching the evidence of the murder of JFK.
I'll admit that I didn't find anything new or even particularly interesting in Lane's book about the complicity of the Secret Service. The book is called Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK. Sadly, the contents of the book are far more imaginative than the tired title, and I mean imaginative in the least flattering of ways. In any event, what I found so fascinating about this particular online broadcast was that Harvey Levin opens the show with a long story about his own teenage obsession with the assassination. He was sixteen when Kennedy was shot in November 1963. He read the first fifteen volumes of the dreaded Warren Report and spend hours studying the still frames from what would later become known as the Zapruder film of the assassination. He even developed--back then--an interesting theory about how many shots were fired that day by watching the involuntary jumps and twitches in the handling of the camera used by Abraham Zapruder as the presidential limousine traversed Dealy Plaza in Dallas that terrible day. So enamored of his own theory was the budding teenager that he went to a telephone booth and called a New Orleans District Attorney named Jim Garrison and ran the ideas by him. Listening to Levin recreate that teenage excitement as he recounts this story, it is quite easy to see what may have steered him in the direction of law and even what eventually led him to a compulsion to watch celebrities. If you're interested in seeing this program yourself, you can watch it at TMZ Live, and I suspect this will be the one and only time you see those words on a link on this particular blog.
So my dirty little secret is out. I actually think well of the muck-meister Levin. Sue me. Mark Lane would probably handle the case.