Once upon a time, scandal equaled death, but that was then; show-biz careers have become as unkillable as franchise films, reality shows, and the Olive Garden.
There are so many entertainment outlets available today that there’s room for even the
most disgraced stars to resurface, no matter how hard they’ve tried to wreck their own chances. And the public loves nothing more than a comeback, cheering as these misbegotten messes crawl out of their wreckage and stumble toward the middle again.
Besides, by now, that public has seen it all and doesn’t begrudge anyone a second, third, or even 40th chance. Anger at “that sick scum bag” dissolves quickly enough if said mess can get a new sitcom (à la Charlie Sheen) that might warrant a gander at whether the scum bag is still funny. And that’s actually a good thing, because allowing for redemption can be an ennobling experience, not to mention a chance to see the stars screw up all over again and spiral back to the bottom.
Lindsay Lohan initially had great promise, but she seemed to become unemployable, especially when, after helping bust “the bling ring,” she got charged with stealing jewelry herself. But Saturday Night Live has long existed as a place where embarrassed stars can use goofy comedy to reclaim some dignity, so Lindsay gamely hosted, also indulging in a Glee cameo and dinners with Obama and Woody Allen, all while remaining relatively upright. And now she’ll be playing Liz Taylor on Lifetime, the channel that rose to prominence by giving blondes like Markie Post and Joanna Kerns another shot at relevance. It makes sense; Liz was the original comeback queen.
But Rosie O’Donnell blogged that it was way too soon for Lindsay to attempt a renaissance right now. Some snarled that Rosie was just bitter about her talk show having just been dumped by OWN—except that she quickly got scooped up by The Today Show, where kitsch icons Kathie Lee Gifford and Ryan Seacrest have also found a poppy home. (Today is the new Lifetime.) Rosie is obviously the biggest comeback maven of all, and I feel that just like her mortal enemies Barbara Walters and Donald Trump, she’ll end up expiring on camera several centuries from now.
Even the anti-Christ, Chris Brown, has resurrected from the debris of his own detritus. Brown followed his hideous rages with the requisite groveling and eventually sold lots of records, which in this business makes an apology completely unnecessary. Besides, it was hard to stay on the hate wagon as “He’s a cretin!” got drowned out by cries of “How can we be furious if she isn’t?”
Robert Downey Jr. gradually went from a heroin alley to making $50 million a pop, while Hot in Cleveland and every talent show needing a judge saved at least 12 careers from the drainpipe. And Nicole Kidman has also proved as indestructible as my forehead muscles. Nicole followed an artillery of ghastly movies with an Oscar nomination, and now she’ll be playing Princess Grace—no, not on Lifetime—making the deeply cynical wonder: “What next? Miley Cyrus as Ingrid Bergman?” But we’ll definitely see it, since the La Vie En Rose guy is directing, and even quality deserves a second chance.
Nicole’s ex, Tom Cruise, is finally back from oblivion after his Oprah/Matt Lauer fiascoes, and even Katie still gets work. Meanwhile, actual death has become a great career move, too, as Lindsay’s original idol, Marilyn Monroe, learned in the afterlife. Whitney Houston happens to be hotter than ever, with a movie coming out that suddenly people want to see. What’s more, her has-been family members have seized the chance to do a reality show on, yes, Lifetime, all thanks to Whitney’s untimely passing! And Michael Jackson‘s hologram will surely be bringing in lots of cash, but again, it’s hard to get that offended; he always seemed like a hologram anyway.
Apparently, the only one who has had significant career damage from being a douche is Mel Gibson, mainly because he never learns, and because powerful Jews find him even less funny than everyone else does. But Mel actually has a movie coming out! (He plays “a career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities.” I bet Mel will tell those wetbacks a thing or two.) And he was supposed to direct a film about the Maccabees, until Joe Eszterhas‘s script was deemed lacking. (Yes, some exec had actually said, “Let’s do another Gibson biblical epic—and get the guy who did Showgirls to write it!” That’s how forgiving this business is these days.)
Even politicos aren’t automatically ruined by fuckups anymore, especially because politics is more intertwined with show biz than ever. Sarah Palin lost as vice president, stepped down as governor, and simply went on TV like everyone else. Even Game Change didn’t shut her up. Similarly, Eliot Spitzer had to leave his own gubernatorial office in ignominy, only to get a cable show, then get booted, then get another show farther down the dial! (I know the feeling. I’m turning up on channels I didn’t even know existed.)
Surely, even Anthony Weiner will have a comeback, and maybe John Edwards can join him. It’s not fair that when their professional lives were eaten alive by their own trouser snakes, we were denied the chance to keep being entertained by these two dingles. Bring them back! Maybe they can co-star on We Can’t Keep It in Our Pants! And while I will absolutely refuse to watch it—that much—millions of others will. You might loathe me for thinking that would be OK. If so, please give me another chance.
Read more Michael Musto at La Dolce Musto
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 23, 2012