Tube Talk: Showbiz news not always newsworthy

When did entertainment “news” shows start focusing more on dysfunctional celebrities and celebutantes than on actual show business?

Long ago, I grew tired of how most syndicated showbiz news shows include at least one excited host who shouts the headlines, as if speaking louder makes something more important or newsworthy. (Newsflash! 90 percent of celebrity news isn’t really news! Press statements and photo ops, yes; news, no.)

That’s why it was so refreshing when I first saw E! News Live (back when it really was live). Then-anchors Steve Kmetko and Jules Asner seemed to realize how trivial most of the celebrity “news” was, it felt as if they were in on the great cosmic joke that is “Celebrity Culture” while other entertainment news shows seemed to think what Nicole Kidman ate for breakfast was news.

Over the past year or two, E! News has lost most of the detached irony that once made it so much fun. One of their top reporters, Samantha Harris, is prone to overly dramatic narration (which she honed to a really bad art form as co-host of Dancing with the Stars) that absolutely drives me up the wall. Hiring the already over-employed Ryan Seacrest as co-anchor didn’t improved things.

E! News’ biggest claim to shame has to be this summer’s recurring “Olly Girls” segments. Nothing more than a blatant promotion for E!s ultra-lame Sunset Tan “reality” show, the vapid and indistinguishable Olly Girls (so called because of their rhyming names, Holly and Molly) have pretty much put me off E! News entirely. Being neither news nor entertainment, the Olly Girls are clearly out of place on a self-proclaimed entertainment news show.

These days, if I watch any showbiz news, it’s probably going to be CNN Headline News’ Showbiz Tonight, which bills itself (about 10 times an hour) as “TV’s most provocative entertainment news show.” And unlike other showbiz news shows, Showbiz Tonight tries to find the deeper issues behind the celebrity news—such as discussing the dangers super-skinny role models pose to impressionable young fans. That said, they still spend way too much time—probably half of each hour-long show—covering Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Britney Spears. Seriously, do you know anyone who really cares about those people?

On the upside, Showbiz Tonight uses the celeb-story-of-the-day to discuss broader aspects of issues like addiction and the legal problems facing celebrities today. On the downside, like virtually all showbiz “news” shows, they’re really just feeding what appears to be the insatiable narcissism of dysfunctional celebrities and publicity addicts everywhere. Ever notice how the moment Paris got out of jail Lindsey got arrested? Or how most of the incidents that get them on the news are self-created dramas? It’s like never-ending game of “I Can Top That.”

I wish all showbiz news shows would declare a weeklong (preferably longer!) moratorium on any Paris, Nicole, Britney, or Lindsay coverage. Face it, there are a lot more interesting show business stories out there that aren’t getting any airtime.

Programming notes

E! News, 6 p.m., Monday-Friday on E!

Showbiz Tonight, 10 p.m., Monday-Friday on CNN Headline News.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT, and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue

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