THE PLANK DECEMBER 8, 2009
Recently, I've spent a great deal of work-related time on the Fox News Channel's video page, and have found myself oddly, embarrassingly drawn to the frank weirdness of The Mike Huckabee Show. Huckabee is rather charmingly poor at hosting a talk show, although his odd physiognomy--his regulation-size head protrudes, turtle-like, from what appears to be David Byrne's big suit from Stop Making Sense--supplies a welcome distraction during slow moments. My fascination with the show's unique Tea Party/sub-Last Call with Carson Daly-talk-show aesthetic--well, that and my childhood viewings of Love Connection--explains why I was unable to resist clicking on this video of game show icon Chuck Woolery on Huckabee's program.
There's plenty to talk about with Woolery--who had a top 40 single entitled "Naturally Stoned" back in 1968 before becoming the original host of Wheel of Fortune and, yes, blessedly, Love Connection--but the governor was eager to move into serious territory. "Talking about love connections," Huckabee segued, "there are a whole lot of people who are having a hard time finding a love connection with Congress right now. And from what I understand you're one of them."
Woolery did his familiar twinkling, endearingly smug bit in affirming Huckabee's grouses about the IRS and lawyers and Congress-not-even-reading-bills. He even opined as to how "Washington needs to be afraid of us." It was all kind of par for the course; the bummer part came when Woolery couched his "coming-out" in the hackneyed Ed-Begley-Jr.-Is-Going-To-Get-Me-For-This terms of contemporary conservative Hollywood. "I'm sacrificing my career by coming out as a conservative," Woolery told Huckabee.
Let’s leave aside the fact that self-effacement is really the only mode that works for game show hosts--Woolery's grandiose sense of his confession's show-biz stakes is pretty silly. While Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood blog, for one, is predicated on the idea that such a confession invariably leads to either career suicide or marathon re-education meetings beneath Matt Damon's house, there's nothing terribly brave about Woolery's "coming out." Jon Voight, for one, has not lost work because of his public insistence that Barack Obama hates America. (Voight hasn't even lost work for appearing in the Bratz movie, which is objectively more offensive.) Pat Sajak will host Wheel of Fortune until the sun goes out, regardless of his skepticism about global warming. It even makes a sort of sense in the attention-based economics of entertainment to execute such a come-out. At the very least, Woolery's appearance shouldn’t get in the way of his selling fishing gadgets on QVC or hosting a revival of Think Like A Cat on the Game Show Network.