Way back in the days when Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were still an item, an earnest news reporter from a local television station called with a request: He wanted me, as a media critic, to comment on camera about the appearance of Tonya Harding's breasts on A Current Affair. I declined, and not because I had anything against either Ms. Harding or her breasts, or even the tabloids. Stoically pushing aside the temptation of minor celebrity, I simply saw the request to criticize the phenomenon as a veiled invitation to feed it.
In his films, underdog-with-a-camera Michael Moore has taken on former GM Chairman Roger Smith (Roger & Me) and Nike CEO Phil Knight (The Big One), but the premiere of Moore's newest half-hour series on Bravo, The Awful Truth (Wednesday nights, continuing through August 9), went up, appropriately, against Jesus Christ. It didn't make a dent in the ratings of CBS's Jesus, though Moore's stories are as much about morality and politics and villains and heroes--and they're funnier.
It is quite rare to find ad criticism anywhere near the medium of television, except in such criticism's natural habitat, the suburban basement TV room, where stoned teenagers have deconstructed Coke campaigns for generations. Sure, Dick Clark includes zany outtakes from commercials on his TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes shows, ABC's Best Commercials You've Never Seen (And Some You Have) won its time slot back in February, and in October, FOX offered a second installment of its Banned in America: The World's Sexiest Commercials. But aside from these occasional, oh-those-crazy-kids celebrations of commercial culture's undeniable capacity to provide laughs and raunch and raunchy laughs, television gives next to no attention to the ubiquitous spots that make it run.