TV NEWS AND NOTES

*** DVR Alert: Nightline is doing two nights this week on the "ferocious" and "unrelenting" process of Manhattan pre-school admissions, Wednesday and Thursday, at 11:35 pm. Tune in to see intense, neurotic parents who are nothing like us plot to send their kids on the Yellow Brick Road to the Little Red Schoolhouse. Here's how the Nightline Web site previews "Child's Play: Privilege, Power and Preschool":

The Census Bureau estimates that the number of children in Manhattan under the age of 5 has risen almost 30 percent since 2000. Preschools simply haven't kept up with demand. One preschool advisory service estimates that there are now 15 applicants for every single private preschool spot in the city.

"Nightline" has spent the last eight months following three families that have been dominated by the process. It's a process that involves endless phone calls just to secure an application form; weeks spent writing essays about a child's strengths; attendance at interviews where both children and parents are questioned and scrutinized; and then, judgment day, as the families wait for letters of either acceptance or rejection.

It is an emotional journey that takes some parents to the edge of insanity. The effort expended to secure a place is nothing short of breathtaking. The commitment of these parents is total; the results can be heartbreaking.

We feel that it's always enlightening to watch a network news broadcast on a subject you actually know intimately. As you see what a sexed-up, distorted approach the broadcast takes to the topic, it makes you call into question how much credence to give everything else you see on Nightline/Dateline/Prime Time, etc.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the Nightline special after the show.

*** Follow-up: Last week, we reviewed the nominees for the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Series. At ceremonies which took place before last Friday night's prime-time presentation, PBS' Zoom got the prize. (Shout out to WGBH, pride of Beantown!) Interestingly, the only kid's category to be awarded on the prime-time broadcast (made up mostly of soap-opera and talk-show honorees) was Outstanding Children's Pre-school Series. Not interestingly, the prize went to Sesame Street . . . for the 36th consecutive year.

(Also: Outstanding Achievement in Makeup was awarded to "The View." Insert your Star Jones joke here.)

(PLEASE INDULGE US, IT'S OUR FAVORITE JOKE . . .)
       THE SCHOOL'S NEW MOTTO IS "LOX ET VERITAS"

A couple of months back, the Nursery School at the JCC in Manhattan (full disclosure: the JCC is our own ferocious and unrelenting elite Manhattan preschool) was renamed the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School, in honor of the popular Upper West Side whitefish-slingers and philanthropists, whose grandchildren attend the school. (The couple contributed $5 million to earn the school naming rights.) In a recent Bloomberg News article, school director Ilana Ruskay-Kidd found a way to compare Zabar's gourmet food emporium to the nursery school:

Ruskay-Kidd, who turned away about 260 applicants for the 2006-2007 school year, says . . . Zabar's -- where more than 35,000 customers a month shop for smoked fish, gourmet coffee, cheese and housewares -- is ``a place that smells good, tastes good, looks good and all the people inside are kind* and know about quality.''

``That's what we want for the school,'' she says.

Bloomberg also reports that if philanthropic trends continue, ours will likely not be the last school that gets renamed for its major donors - although none of the others may smell as good.

May 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

TRAGICALLY, THIS INFORMATION COMES TOO LATE FOR SMALL FELLOW. BUT PERHAPS SMALL FELLOW 2.0 WILL BE ABLE TO AVOID THE ANNUAL SHOT

Spraying flu vaccine into the noses of babies and preschoolers offers significantly more protection than shots, says one of the largest comparisons of flu inoculations ever performed.

According to the large-scale study out of the University of St. Louis, the spray vaccine was 55% more effective than the old-fashioned shot. Public-health experts say the findings are of dual significance: One, they've long known that the flu vaccine tends be less effective in kids than adults, and two, kids are the main carriers of the contagious flu. Theoretically, then, using the spray vaccine on kids should cut the rates of flu infection throughout the population.

AND SPEAKING OF DINNER PARTIES

Dads, are you like us? Do you often find yourself at dinner parties in other people's homes, seated far from your spouse? Do you ever ask the host or hostess how this came to pass? Do they tell you they don't "believe in" seating spouses next to each other? Well, if you are like us, you're probably thinking: We went to all the trouble of getting married precisely so we wouldn't HAVE TO talk to other people at dinner parties.

We're just saying  . . .

YOU MIGHT AS WELL CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO EXCERPT, BECAUSE HAVING VIEWED IT OURSELVES, THERE'S NO WAY YOU'RE EVER GOING TO SEE IT ON COMMERCIAL TV

30stein1 Queen Raina of Jordan is unveiling a new animated show for kids produced by her country's own Rubicon studio. "Ben and Izzy" are two typical 11-year-old boys, one American and one Arab, who often find themselves at loggerheads, but in the end realize the value of getting along - which, except for the getting along part, makes them a lot like the peoples they represent. From yesterday's oversized Times feature on the show:

But the real goal of "Ben and Izzy" is more serious: to help young Americans and Arabs steer clear of the prejudices of their parents and grandparents, which may have been reinforced by the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq. In promotional materials, Ben the American is described as "a symbol for his country" who is "big" and "energetic," but "on the negative side, he is a bit xenophobic, self-centered, needs-to-win competitive."

"Like his native land," the creators write, "he sometimes blunders into situations without thinking."

Izzy the Jordanian, by contrast, is "slight of build, sinewy and studious," but "on the downside, Izzy can be a little too serious, self-righteous, superior, even devious."

Way to steer clear of the prejudices of kids' parents and grandparents, guys. To recap: Rubicon is peddling this show to U.S. networks with promotional materials that say the American boy represents his country in that he's "big and energetic" but "xenophobic, self-centered, and blundering." In other words, he's a giant, spastic moron. On the other hand, Izzy is not so big but he's "studious and superior," and his worst trait is that he can be "devious" (in other words, smarter than the American). Yeah, we can see Fox Family snapping this right up. And the promotional materials continue:

The boys don't like each other at first — they argue but don't fight with guns or knives. . . . but they will ultimately learn "that as a team, they can outsmart almost anyone."

Well, except the Jews. . .

The Times provides a video clip of the show, which is admittedly quite brief - but utterly tone deaf. Time-traveling Izzy meets Mark Twain, apparently in a cave, and complains to him that Ben is, like most Americans,  "so brash." (Hey, he talks just like real kids!) Then Izzy catches himself and apologizes, remembering that Twain is an American himself. Twain booms back, "I am not just AN American - I am THE American." Yeah, that's right - In a recent survey of the U.S. population, Mark Twain was voted the most distinctive American personage in our history - not Washington, Lincoln, FDR, or any of those chumps.

May 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

AN EYEWITNESS CLAIMS TO HAVE SPOTTED STEPHEN KING RUNNING AWAY FROM THE SCENE

NEW YORK (AP) - A 76-year-old woman who drove to a cemetery to visit her husband's grave has been killed by her own car. The woman inadvertently left the car running and in gear when she stopped at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Queens Sunday afternoon, police said. She was about 50 feet from her husband's grave when the car mowed her down. She died at the scene.

May 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

HONEY, ISN'T THAT LOU DOBBS AT THE DOOR, HUFFING AND PUFFING AND BLOWING OUR HOUSE IN?

As the illegal immigration debate continues to simmer, the AP reminds us that 49% of day-labor employers are homeowners, which means more folks like you and us are hiring illegals than businesses or construction firms. Californian David Peters is part of the problem (if you're inclined to call it that), but deftly spreads the guilt:

[Peters] hired day laborers over several months while remodeling his Hermosa Beach house. One man tiled a floor and installed a granite countertop for $1,000, jobs that Peters estimated would cost $5,000 if he used the Yellow Pages. "I know if they didn't have a job, they wouldn't be here," said Peters. "But we all shop at Target and Wal-Mart, and all their stuff is made overseas with cheap labor."

NEWS YOU CAN USE. . .

Having sex with your expectant wife, at least early in the pregnancy, should not lead to a premature birth, even if she's had early births before, according to a new study sure to piss off exhausted pregnant women everywhere.

. . . UNLESS YOU'RE OLD

On the other hand, Slate links to news of a study indicating that "for a mother 20 to 24 years old, the risk of bearing a child before 32 weeks' gestation almost doubles if the father is 45 to 49 years old rather than 25 to 29. The younger the mother, the stronger the effect."

SADLY, HER SECOND WORD WAS "MALPRACTICE"

One of FD's favorites, Milagros Cerron of Peru, the "mermaid baby," now two years old, is taking his first steps after successful surgery to separate her legs, which had been fused together since her birth. She still has 10 years of surgeries to go, but she's making progress. She's even said her first word: "doctor."

WHO WANTS TO BET THAT THE FIRST TIME THE TODDLER TRIES TO RUN ACROSS THE STREET WITHOUT HOLDING HER HAND, SHE SCREAMS, "DAMMIT, HOW MANY BRAIN CELLS DID YOU LOSE WHEN I SMASHED YOU INTO THE PAVEMENT, BOY?"

The pregnant Missouri woman who crashed while skydiving last fall - she was two weeks pregnant at the time, but didn't know it yet - is approaching her due date, and says that she plans to tell her son the harrowing story of how he was almost killed when she plummeted to the ground at 50 miles an hour, shattering her face and breaking her pelvis, but apparently leaving the boy unharmed:

"...he's got to know the whole route so he always knows how special and precious his life is," she said.

IN A SIMILAR MOVE, TO BETTER REFLECT THE TIMES, THE BOARD GAME "SORRY" WILL BE RENAMED "SCREW YOU"

Hasbro is revamping its flagship board game, Monopoly, by dropping all of its classic Atlantic City place names and replacing them with famous place names from across the country which will be chosen in large part by online voting. (And you can vote here.) The new game will be called "Monopoly: Here and Now." As one would expect, the city fathers of Atlantic City are so outraged that they have emerged from Donald Trump's back pocket to protest this blow to their civic pride.

Of course, Hasbro has already greatly diluted the Monopoly brand, and AC's claim on it, by licensing the game to any number of cities or groups, who have made their own versions of the famous board by replacing the Atlantic City street names of the original template. In fact, Small Fellow has begun playing Monopoly on a Seattle Seahawks version given to him by his western cousins, and has been playing it reasonably well. (Most notably, he has ably handled the role of banker.) But for us, it's too confusing to have the traditional locations replaced by the names of former Seahawks punters and the like. We plan to stay with Monopoly Classic when it comes time to take sides.

May 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS