TV hosts just ain't what they used to be. If Flavor Flav, Donald Trump and Dog the Bounty Hunter can star in their own series, and Octomom Nadya Suleman is negotiating for a reality program, why can't Monica Conyers have a show?
The weekly Ask the Councilwoman exhibition, showcasing Detroit's most polarizing pol, premiered this month at 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays on one of the region's best-kept secrets, WHPR-TV in Highland Park, Channel 33 on your dial and Comcast 20 on Detroit cable. What, she couldn't find a more obscure station to launch her TV career? Maybe one in the city she represents?
This already may be the most-watched show on WHPR's schedule. As reality TV goes, you want a celebrity whose life is littered with enough juicy subplots to keep eyeballs glued to the tube, and who in Detroit fits that description better than our City Council president? From her now world-famous comparison between Mayor Ken Cockrel and a certain animated character to the hotel fracas in Denver, the Cobo flap, the reported jobs for relatives and calls for her censure, Conyers never seems to be far from the eye of a public hurricane. If Lindsay Lohan were an elected official, she'd still have to go some to make news faster than our Monica.
Through it all, Conyers has repeatedly targeted "the media" as the cause of all evil regarding perceptions of her vision and leadership. It's the way "you people" portray me, she contends. Well, who's she going to blame now? Can't blame the media. She's part of the media! Just like you can't have sex for money then claim you're not a hooker, you can't have your own television show and maintain separation from others who use the medium to communicate. Your message — and you — are unfiltered for the world to see.
And you can see it, even though WHPR isn't available on most cable systems outside Detroit. Ask the Councilwoman streams live over the Internet at tv33whpr.com, though I've tried to watch it that way on several computers and transmission is spotty. You can miss chunks of Conyers' conversation, and, at the rate she talks, missing a little is missing a lot.
With a large oval bearing her glamour-shot photo (in case you didn't know what she looks like) and a stark black curtain as her backdrop, Conyers discusses the weekly contretemps in the Coleman A. Young building at an improbably large oak table with guests who share her opinion, leaving a very few minutes at the end for call-in questions from viewers. Last week the invitees were political consultant Adolph Mongo and former mayoral candidate Freman Hendrix; the week before there were none, because she failed to show up for the second week of her broadcast! Some meeting ran long at City Hall, reportedly. Monica, here's a lesson from Media 101: TV can tolerate a lot of things, but it never puts up with lateness!
Most Detroiters have our favorite moment when we realized Monica Conyers is an ignorant, self-aggrandizing (that means you deliberately draw attention and perceived importance to yourself, Monica), tempestuous jerk, an embarrassment to the city. Predictably, mine came while watching TV.
It was last December, during a pregame show for the Detroit mayoral debate on Channel 38 (WADL) when there were as many applicants in the field as in our unemployment offices. Beyond the deliciously incongruous sight of Conyers seated cozily next to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, the broadcast was memorable for another encounter. Panelist Eric Brown, the NPR commentator and local blogger, remarked that he moved to Canton in part due to the ills of the Detroit Public School system and a desire to give his children the best education he could. Conyers smelled blood in the water.
"If parents like you stayed in Detroit and helped our school system, and were as active in our educational process as you are out in Canton, then our children would be getting all the things that they need," she attacked. "What were you doing in the school system while you were here?"
Less than two months after that verbal beatdown on live TV, The Detroit News reported that Conyers was using a Detroit police officer and a department-issued Crown Victoria to chauffeur one of her sons to a private school 15 miles outside the city!
hypocrite, noun: A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
WHPR president and CEO R.J. Watkins says the response to the first shows has been "great. With the streaming feature, we're getting calls and reaction from all over the country. It's a very exciting show. I think it should be more than a half hour, and we're moving toward that goal.
Boy, she'd really be part of the media then. Hope she can show up on time.Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org