TV columnist Ray Richmond says: "Brian is the best TV reporter in the country. A nice guy, gracious, smart, knows all the right people. He's effortless in the way he covers the industry. But canny and clever and aware."

Los Angeles Times TV columnist Brian Lowry writes Luke: "I've always felt Ray [Richmond] was a terrific critic -- smart, funny, biting -- who has struggled to find the right venue. I actually lobbied for him to get the job at Variety, as I recall, but he was right, it wasn't an especially good fit for him as a reporter. I also remember when he sort of gave it up to work on books, giving him that sort of Willie Wonka "Wait. Stop. Don't" warning, because that's a helluva hard way to make a living without some sort of day job.

"I would disagree on one point (though I think it's yours, so it's probably not particularly relevant to your question), which is the assumption that EVERYONE who writes about entertainment harbors a desire to get into it. While that's too often true, there are people out there (I'd like to think I'm one of them) who are genuinely committed to journalism and not necessarily starstruck by the money, perks, etc., they encounter on the other side of the wall. You can visit the mansion, as it were, without wanting to live in it."

Cathy Seipp writes 7/31/02: Viewers' time would be better spent watching HBO than network product, the TV columnist [Brian Lowry of The Los Angeles Times] wrote finger-waggingly last week about press tour. Lowry dislikes this event because, among other reasons, Howard Rosenberg of the L.A. Times and Tom Shales of the Washington Post -- "arguably the two most respected" critics -- don't attend.

I guess Lowry has a point, if he's using the phrase "the two most respected" as secret code for "the two most overdue for retirement."

Probably he doesn't mean it that way, though, which is why the arguably most respected Tom Shales mentioned "the ever-astute Brian Lowry" in a column titled -- I am not kidding about this -- "In Defense of My Peeps." ("Peeps" is teenage ghetto talk for "people," in case you're not as wack as Shales.)

Shales blasted network executives for thinking that viewers use television "strictly as a surrogate aquarium or ant farm. They don't watch it, they just have it on and glance at it now and then."

Note to Shales, and to other TV critics who spend a lot of time watching commercial-free screener tapes and very little cooking dinner or folding laundry or sorting through the mail at home: That is EXACTLY how most people watch TV.

Anyway, Lowry had observed in his L.A. Times piece that networks should concentrate on "developing riskier scripts," and that "American Idol" is "barely watchable to anyone over 18."

Again, I suppose the ever-astute Lowry has a point, if by "barely watchable" he means "avidly watched by millions of people."

Howard Stern Launched The Raunch

Brian Lowry writes in the 1/1/03 LA Times: Given the excitement that customarily surrounds year-end awards like Time's annual person of the year, "On TV" begins its own tradition by naming a media person who best represented the state and tone of television in 2002.

So after careful consideration, and only partially influenced by a sugar rush from holiday cookies ... congratulations, Howard Stern.

The only aspect of Stern's act that hasn't been widely co-opted is the most distasteful -- namely, the not-so-subtle racism that peppers his show, from "Black Jeopardy" to the jibes directed at sidekick Robin Quivers during his recent "world's meanest listener" contest. Then again, to the extent such material reflects pandering to a sub-lowest-common-denominator segment of the audience, there are clearly plenty of indirect parallels elsewhere in the media.

Luke asks: Why is Stern's alleged racism the most distasteful part of his show? Because it is the most distasteful part of his show to secular liberals like Brian Lowry. I don't see any strong moral argument why the alleged racism is worse than mainstream pornography and regularly humiliating people. But to liberals like Lowry, the only "sins" are things like racism and sexism and damaging the environment. Polluting the moral environment with smut doesn't count.