Hollywood Should Stick With What it Does Best — Entertain

Hollywood Should Stick With What it Does Best — Entertain

Sunday, November 04, 2001

By Rebecca Redshaw

These are strange times. For years, the government has been lambasting Hollywood about the negative influence of movies and television on our society. The entertainment world has taken heat from Washington regarding the proliferation of violence, the decline of morals, the promotion of alternative lifestyles to our youth, even the demise of the “family” as we know it. (Or the family as it was envisioned in our living rooms in the 1950s. God bless Ozzie and Harriet and June and Ward.)

Now we learn the government has sought out the able assistance of screenwriters and producers to share their diabolical thoughts, which up to this point had been aimed at creating special effects and raising box-office totals.

It seems our military experts, who list among their other job skills subversive activities, think Hollywood can help them flush out terrorists.

If I were writing a script about hunting man or beast in the crags and caves of Afghanistan, I would seek out terrorists who have “been there, done that.”

When President Jimmy Carter flopped at invading Iran and freeing our embassy hostages, a friend of mine offered the perfect solution:

“If they’d sent in a team of drug runners in private planes, those Americans would have been in the old U.S.A. in less than 48 hours. They know how to fly under radar as if their lives — and livelihood — depended on it.”

His point’s well taken.

Aren’t prisoners or spies or double agents available? The FBI has rounded up more than 900 “detainees” since Sept. 11. Something tells me that one or two of those guys have more than their imagination to fall back on in reference to survival in rugged mountain terrain.

If one argues that no stone should go unturned in finding a solution, then there’s “no harm, no foul” in seeking out information from the Writer’s Guild of America.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Hollywood contributed by doing what it does best — entertain? The perfect forum, in the guise of the Emmys, is finally at hand.

To put it into perspective, the Emmy Awards are an event. Yes, actors and others receive recognition, and sometimes it seems self-serving in the process. But the show is entertainment. People watch — advertisers must think so or the show would air on PBS.

President Bush is telling all of us to “go about our lives.” Guess what? That means soldiers leave their families and friends for an indefinite period of time because that’s their job. Postal workers still sort mail in every town and city in America, because that’s their job. Athletes play for the public’s entertainment in front of thousands of fans in less-than-secure arenas, because that’s their job. And yes, the Television Academy should hold its awards show, because by doing so the participants are entertaining fellow Americans.

So, at long last, tonight’s the night. The Emmys, airing from 8 to 11 on CBS, are back in the spotlight. Should the show’s format be changed?

Well, would it break anyone’s heart to allow the winners the opportunity not to “thank God, my family, or my first piano teacher”? Thanks can surely be given to all intimates precisely in that fashion — intimately.

Instead, how about the possibility of more entertainment? A song, a joke — anything that, just for a moment, gives America a much-deserved break from the horror that’s unfolded in recent weeks.

It might have been a nice touch if the Television Academy had opted to broadcast the show from a military base — especially given Hollywood’s initial reticence to parade out its high-profile talent for a live broadcast. But, in its third attempt at an Emmys broadcast, we’ll have to settle for the Shubert Theatre in Century City, Calif.

Meanwhile, as we rally around — wondering “How can we contribute?” and “What can we do?” — it’s important to be true to ourselves for the good of the country.

Actor James Woods, strong supporter of the Bush administration, has said he is “behind the president 100 percent.” Evidently way behind. Woods will be at the Emmys — as long as it doesn’t involve flying. Oh, and as long as it doesn’t mean going to large public gatherings.

So what happened to the president’s request to “go on with our lives”? Does that request not apply to those of privilege? Does it apply only to Americans who have no choice but to “do their job” because they need to pay the rent?

Americans might just find it entertaining to tune in tonight and see their favorite television stars looking fabulous, basking in applause and “getting on with their lives.”

That’s their job, isn’t it?