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Culture Notes

Culture

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Oct. 18, 1997

The other Disney of kids' programs

Those boycotting Disney might do well to pay attention to who else is raising America's TV-addled children. Haim Saban, an Israeli entrepreneur, is responsible for 21 percent of all children's TV programming. Disney only provides 18 percent, while the leader is Warner Brothers with 26 percent. Mr. Saban recently teamed with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to buy evangelist Pat Robertson's Family Channel. The $1.9 billion deal positions Mr. Saban to become an even bigger player. Among his shows are the Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, BeetleBorgs Metallix, and Saban's Samurai Pizza Cats. Whereas Disney and Warner Brothers at least have significant creative departments, Mr. Saban takes more of a cut-rate approach. Buying up cheap Japanese programming, Mr. Saban dubs the cartoons into English. With live-action shows, such as the Power Rangers (shown here), he takes footage of costumed Japanese actors fighting martial-arts battles and inter-cuts shots of live American actors to play the heroes in their secret identities. His latest scheme is to buy up the rights to old programs-such as Caspar the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich-to update them and turn them into merchandising cash cows. Mr. Saban just bought the rights to the venerable Captain Kangaroo, despite the strenuous objections of the original Captain, Bob Keeshan. The All New Captain Kangaroo features tie-ins to Anheuser- Busch theme parks and is getting set for a huge merchandising blitz.

End of Western civilization update

Elton John's funeral homage to Princess Diana may surpass "White Christmas" as the world's biggest-selling single. The remake of "Candle in the Wind"-originally written about Marilyn Monroe-has sold some 3.9 million copies in the United States and 26 million worldwide. (Bing Crosby's Christmas tune sold 30 million.) Now that the tobacco industry has been dethroned, the most powerful lobby in Washington is the television industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, TV broadcasters are now the most influential interest group with Congress, since politicians are leary of alienating local stations they depend on for media exposure. A land without poets is a poor place. For the first time in over three decades, no poet was found worthy to win publication in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Of the 700 poets under 40 who entered the perennial contest, designed to identify promising new poetic talent, no one was chosen. The judge was W. S. Merwin, himself a poet and former winner.

Rock pope-pouri

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Sinead O'Connor, the buzz-coifed Irish rocker with an attitude, shocked even the rock-concert crowd in 1992 when, performing for a Bob Dylan tribute, she ripped up a picture of the pope and launched into an anti-Christian diatribe. She got booed off the stage. But today, she is singing a different tune. "Tearing up the pope's photo was ridiculous," she told reporters. "I am a Catholic and had a very strong religious upbringing. But although I rebelled against the pope in a vulgar way I did it because I was struggling against my faith, not because I lost it ... It was a gesture of a prodigal daughter, although one who despite everything still hopes that she can find her true home in the church." Ms. O'Connor is asking the pope's forgiveness, a gesture that has the European media all abuzz. In other pope-related entertainment news, Bob Dylan's concert at a Vatican youth gathering in Bologna included a papal audience. After John Paul II gave a sermon on how it was the Holy Spirit that was "blowin' in the wind" and how the one road that a man must walk down is Jesus Christ, Mr. Dylan cut loose with a short set, consisting of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," and "Forever Young." After the first number, Mr. Dylan took off his cowboy hat and ascended the dais to greet the pope. In a series of interviews, however, Mr. Dylan showed no sign of converting to Catholicism. Though he believes in "a God of time and space," he said, he is a member of no organized religion. Instead, he said, his "prayerbook " consists of the old songs-such as Hank Williams's "I Saw the Light."

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