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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Compare and Contrast

Coupling has been one of my favorite things to watch on TV since I discovered it a year or so ago. It is a hilarious farce on sex, dating, relationships and the way we obsess over these things.

It was with a mix of interest and fear when I heard NBC was going to do an Americanized version -- but that at least for the first two episodes, they would be virtually the exact same script.

BBC America is taking advantage of this by showing the original episode at 10 pm EST following the NBC debut at 9:30, to allow viewers to see how they stack-up.

The early reviews are at best average. The majority have been very harsh. What strikes me, though, is the tone of the reviews is very, very puritanical. They keep referring to it as crude trashy, even as smut. Most of the people obviously had never seen the original series, or they might have known what to expect. Otherwise they wouldn't act so shocked and offended.

What if God were one of us, just a slob like Larry Flynt? The answer might be the universe of Coupling, the trashy boinkfest that debuts tonight on NBC, which apparently stands for Nothing But Coitus.

Smutty and sophomoric, Coupling is more like a parody of network television produced by one of those right-wing clean-up-TV groups. Literally not one line of the pilot concerns anything but sex, and that scarcely changes in the second episode.

The one review that actually saw the original actually makes some points that make me wary.

It's more than just a matter of accents. NBC's version differs in the quality of its cast (apart from Rena Sofer, there's no one in the U.S. show who can match the British actors), the production values (the U.S. version looks cheap and overlit by comparison) and, perhaps most important of all, in the fact that the British "half-hour" is closer to a real half-hour.

The Brit episodes run almost seven minutes longer, allowing more room to set up jokes, develop the characters and let the whole thing breathe a little.

Both versions are loaded with sex jokes. The difference is the American version is little but the sex jokes, and a steady diet of nothing but sex makes one chafe.

That actually seems like a valid criticism. They might have been better off, trying to stretch any episode based on an original script over two episodes.

Look, I don't know how I'll feel after watching the Americanized version. I just think that the British one is damn funny. It's not something you would or could feel too comfortable watching with your parents in the room or with a child. But then, it isn't intended that way.

Even They Are Wary

The Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board weighs in on the revised proposal for trying again with the Cleveland Convention Center.

By limiting the scope of the project, business leaders believe it can be paid for with just higher bed and restaurant taxes. The political calculus is that voters might swallow taxes that would be paid by either out-of-towners or more affluent residents - especially if the restaurant tax were limited to tabs that, say, exceed the cost of a pizza with the kids. Polls last month clearly indicated that most county residents had absolutely no interest in raising the general sales tax to pay for a convention center and assorted other projects.

But even if the politics of this proposal might work, huge questions remain as to where a new center might be built and who would own and run it. There's also the central question, barely addressed during the earlier discussions, of need. Yes, the city and the region's hospitality industry are hurting, and the current convention hall is an antique. But is a new convention center, one that would take years to build, a wise use of public resources in tough times? Would it fix what ails downtown?

Must the public sector pay all the costs of a new hall, or is some partnership possible? Even if the public sector takes the lead, what investment will the business community make in conjunction with building a new hall?

I wonder why those questions were never addressed? Some of us kept asking. Surely the lack of answers couldn't be due to a pliant, cheerleading local media outlet that lacks any competition -- and supported the thing despite no real answers?

Business leaders are right to worry about the future of downtown, but before anyone rushes to the polls, let's have a thorough discussion of this community's needs, resources and expectations.

It's like they suddenly found religion or something. WE have seen the light! There must be actual communication to the public as to the costs and the plans! Yes! The people must be spoken to, not merely subjected to a campaign blitz! Praise the Lord! Give us our answers, so that we may discuss this intelligently!

Run Jimmy, Run

Darn. I can't believe he won't be running for President, after all.

Former Ohio Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is no longer seeking to trade his prison cell for the Oval Office, campaign supporters said yesterday.

A group that formed a presidential exploratory committee for the ousted Democrat announced that it will end a two- month campaign because of lack of support.

Yeah, I suppose it can be difficult to have fundraisers out in White Deer, Pennsylvania. There just aren't many good caterers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Cleveland Convention Center Questions

"Corporate Leaders" in Cleveland still want a new CCC. That hasn't changed. You know what else hasn't changed? Their inability to actually answer any questions about the thing.

Business leaders pushing again for a new convention center have plenty of dicey questions to answer before they can move forward.

Who would control the money raised and the new center? How does a convention-center tax impact plans for a school levy? What about the idea of including money for development projects in Cleveland?

The leaders of Cleveland Tomorrow and the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the two groups leading the convention-center charge, weren't providing any answers yesterday. A spokeswoman for the groups said they had no details or formal plans yet.

They do, however, want the city and county to pay for it with new taxes. They even hope to have it on the March 2004 ballot.

After the previous debacle, you think they would have worked harder to keep this under wraps and make sure they had bought off convinced the key people of the merits of the plan. Instead, people are lining up, again with their wish lists

Bart Hacker, director of the Greater Cleveland Lodging Council, which represents hotel operators, said the group would support raising the tax on hotel stays by 2 percent - though its endorsement comes with conditions.

The council wants a proposed Convention Facilities Authority, which would operate a new center, to include one guaranteed seat for a hotel representative. It also wants the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, which has come under fire after media reports of lavish spending, to continue playing a prominent role in luring tourists to the city - and into local hotels.

City Council President Frank Jackson has his own conditions.

Earlier this week, he reiterated that he will only support a convention center if millions of dollars are included for projects in city neighborhoods.

With planning and cohesion like this, I have full faith in the "corporate leaders" of Cleveland to get their project completed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Convention Center Lite

This was unexpected. I thought the only times I'd be mentioning this subject again would be in the context of post mortems of some politicians and in some self-referential, egotistical, chest-puffing.

Now I know some of you are out there screaming at your monitor, "NNNNOOOO!!!!"

But it's true:

Plans for a new Cleveland convention center, declared dead last month, are getting new life.

Business leaders, miffed when talk of a new center collapsed, have hatched another plan to drum up hundreds of millions of dollars: raise Cuyahoga County's tax on hotel stays and ask voters to pass a new tax on restaurant meals. They hope to place the issue on the ballot as early as March 2004.

So it's the same tax plan only without raising the sales tax. The plan is to raise the county bed tax from 3% to 5%, and tax all purchases at restaurants (food and beverages) an additional 2%.

Mayor Jane Campbell will meet on Friday with David Daberko, chairman and chief executive of National City Corp. Daberko, who also chairs Cleveland Tomorrow, a group of top local businesses, called the mayor yesterday to arrange the meeting.

"He indicated he had some secondary plans, the next steps for a convention center," said Deb Janik, Campbell's chief of staff.

City Council President Frank Jackson met with Daberko last week to discuss the issue.

Daberko also met with Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones in the last two weeks. Daberko has been busy.

The "corporate leaders" want to try and make this a tax only for a new Cleveland Convention Center (CCC) without all the add-ons and giveaways from the last plan. Good luck.

Earlier this year, Jackson firmly refused to support any proposal that did not include millions of dollars for city neighborhoods. He said he told Daberko that his conditions have not changed.

"I said, 'What do you have to guarantee neighborhood projects to the tune of several million dollars?' " Jackson said.

County Commissioner Jones conceded that the county would not move on this unless Cleveland City Council and Mayor Campbell were on board (presumably to help deflect political flak).

It appears that they still want to build on the Forest City site.

This is just too funny. I have to laugh at the "corporate leaders" for this one. This leadership obviously didn't include a core business group. They want to put the tax burden completely on the hospitality and bars and restaurants -- throughout the entire county. You think the family restaurant out in Parma or Euclid wants to tack on an extra 2% tax? How about the little corner bars? There was enough public opposition for the primary CCC plan. This one will have plenty of opposition from the hospitality industry -- which despite the woes of downtown hotels, is still building new places throughout Cuyahoga County. (Driving on I-271 by Chagrin on Sunday I noticed a new Hampton Inn going up in the same area where there was already a Hilton, Clarion, Holiday Inn, and a Ramada(?)) Not to mention driving a lot of hotel companies to locate their new hotels just outside of Cuyahoga County (Lake County) to avoid the higher bed tax.

Here's the deal. There won't be a new CCC for some time unless the "corporate leaders" actually sink some of their money into the CCC. This same leadership keeps saying how they want and need it, but people may actually be noticing the disconnect between the words and actions. The absolute flame out of the last CCC will make people even more suspicious of this plan -- likely (and correctly) viewing it as some sort of end-around/backdoor plan to screw them.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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