TV Talk

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Recently I had a pair of experiences that told me how the news media in LA, and everywhere, is forking into two very different information highways.

The first episode took place at the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of E! Entertainment Television. The building is modern and cool, dressed in shiny brown granite. It's filled with young cool women with hip haircuts and even hipper clothes.

The fashion-forward producer who met me in the lobby led me upstairs past studios to hair and makeup.

After ten minutes of heroic efforts by a team of specialists, I was taken to a conference room and placed under lights in front of the E Channel camera.

Our topic was the great and not so great sex scandals of American politics. My role specifically was to talk about Antonio Villaraigosa and Mirthala Salinas.

If I wished, I could also answer questions about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and about Elliot Spitzer and his prostitutes. Even Marilyn Monroe if I felt so moved.

The producers' plan was to edit together my wisdom with the taped comments of about a dozen other talking make-up heads who preceded me in the hot seat.

The eventual show would be a special timed to re-run on E! through the election season.

My producer didn't know how to pronounce Salinas' name, and didn't seem to know the name of the mayor's wife. Or that they'd been married for his entire political career.

But she was cheerful and helpful and young, and from a chair off camera she read from a list of questions. Viewers won't hear that part, just my replies.

She wanted my thoughts on why so many powerful politicians cheat on their wives or engage in risky behavior What did I think the psychology was behind that?

E! figured I had something to add about why power causes people to take more risks.

And they wanted my thoughts on why most of these political sex scandals involve men. And why we hear about them more now than in the past.

I hummed a few bars, then I was done. I forgot most of my answers almost immediately, but it stuck with me how prosperous and cheery the E Channel suites felt. The E-ettes probably have fun working there.

Contrast that with my other TV experience of the summer. For that one I drove to Little Tokyo, parked in the tightest, steepest parking structure in the city, and rode down an elevator so creaky that my written instructions warned me it might be best to walk.

In the basement I pushed a button and was admitted to another ancient elevator that took me up to the home of Cityview 35, the city's cable channel.

Being on cable is about all that Channel 35 has in common with E!. But the experience was much more satisfying.

Dave Bryan, the steady political reporter for Channels 2 and 9, moderated a roundtable discussion about the future of the LA Times.

For an hour it was Dave and I, along with former Mayor Richard Riordan, LA Observed columnist Bill Boyarsky and Henry Weinstein, a legal affairs writer who recently left the Times to take a job at the UC Irvine law school.

Even after an hour, we felt the surface had barely been scratched. Afterward, some of us joined Riordan at his new steakhouse to continue the discussion.

Sometime during lunch, the mayor looked around at the journalists in his midst and said he enjoyed talking like this and couldn't remember why he loathed us so much.

The Cityview hour will air during August on Channel 35 in Los Angeles and be seen by, maybe, thousands.

E!'s political scandals hit cable on September 17 and could in theory titillate millions before its run ends. If it ever does.

If I'm lucky, my little bit will land on the cutting room floor. Watch for me.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.