Jewish World Review August 25, 2003 / 27 Menachem-Av, 5763

Keith Olbermann

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As the Western World churns | The unabashed joy and shameless wallowing in the shallow end of the news pool.

* Producers told the applicants that their new reality show for British television was called “Lap Dance Island.” The premise, 10 men would be flown to a tropical island where 40 lap dancers would do everything they could to distract them. The “producers” got more than 20,000 applicants, none of whom even got the hint when they had to fill in a questionnaire that asked: “What is it about a tropical island inhabited by lap dancers that appeals to you?” It was, of course, a gag. The contestants were really being filmed for another reality series called “The Pilot Show,” in which people dumb enough to try out for dumb reality shows get shown up as dummies.

* In an unrelated story, the actress who was the quarterback on one of the teams in next year’s Super Bowl halftime lingerie football game says she is having second thoughts. Nikki Ziering says she is quite scared about playing football while wearing a bra and panties. Oddly enough, Broadway Joe Namath had similar qualms before he quarterbacked the Jets over the Colts in 1969. Millions of viewers across the Arab world were glued to their television sets Monday night to watch Jordanian singer Diana Karzon, 19, take top prize in the Arab World's Superstar competition in Beirut, Lebanon.

* Further proof that not every country is ready to import some of the more sophisticated elements of American culture, like, for instance, the TV reality series “American Idol.” The trans-Arab version on the Lebanon satellite station Future TV didn’t go so well. When the front-runner from Lebanon was eliminated by the judges, the studio audience rioted. While they threw chairs at each other, the two remaining candidates fainted. Wait until they see “Sheik Personality” hosted by Monica Lewinsky.

* Fox News Channel’s disastrous lawsuit against Al Franken will hit the courtrooms Friday, right after Franken’s book hits the shelves. To drink more from the publicity tap Fox has created for them, publisher Penguin Books will rush out “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” It was to be published one month from Friday. It now will be out Friday. And the chronically unfunny continue to come to Franken’s moral support, Paul Newman today writing a sarcastic op-ed in “The New York Times.” He notes that, 40 years ago, his film “HUD” was marketed with the slogan, “Paul Newman is HUD.” Nine years ago, he starred in “The Hudsucker Proxy,” too. Anyway, that means, he writes, that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the other HUD, is guilty of “piracy of personality and copycat infringement.” Pause for laughter here.

       OK, that wasn’t so good, but this was. “In claiming trademark violation,” Newman writes, “Fox sets a noble example for standing firm against whatever.”

* The kind of open-door policy you can expect at the University of Colorado, if the “Princeton Review”‘s annual list of party schools is to be believed. Its new survey ranks U.C. in Boulder as the No. 1 alcohol, drug, frat and sorority and study-free college in the nation. The rest of the top five: Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Washington and Lee. The top academic colleges— like anybody goes to college for academics— are Yale, Princeton, Duke, and Amherst. Princeton second in “The Princeton Review,” that’s Princeton in a nutshell. “That’s cool. Nobody will notice.”

* Meanwhile, there is new evidence about the party-down mentality of Ben Franklin. A nonprofit organization has found a few interesting articles while renovating Franklin’s 18th century house in London, like a window where he would sit facing passersby while naked. Also, there is the pit in the basement full of 1,200 human bones. They think those belong to the tenant who moved in after Franklin moved out in 1975, a surgeon who ran an early-anatomy college in London. Now, as to these windows, they say Franklin used to march up and down the stairs of the house on Craven Street as exercise, then sit nude in front of the open first-floor windows, taking what he called an air bath. Is that old glory waving, Mr. Franklin? Oh, no, it isn’t.

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The writer hosts MSNBC's “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” The news program, dedicated to all of the day’s top stories, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET. Comment by clicking here.

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