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the TINY SCREEN: Miller Time: Sasha Stone Mirror staff writer

Now that’s something you don’t see on TV awards shows – a right wing comedian on a regular gig. Such was the case Monday night when conservative Dennis Miller hosted the Critics Choice Awards in Santa Monica and broadcast on the WB. Why Miller was tapped is a mystery, and there were rumors that he might be replaced at the last minute by someone, well, more left-leaning. People imagined a dreaded showdown between Liberal Hollywood and the endlessly irritated Right who scowl and roll their eyes at the well-meaning but preaching-to-the-converted Hollywood types. And it wasn’t just any old film crowd. No, this was an extremely liberal, overtly political crowd that brought their films’ messages with them. Movies like The Constant Gardener, Good Night, and Good Luck” and Crash were being honored in between jokes about “wetbacks.” Said Miller, “If you go down to Tijuana on any given night with a pair of night vision goggles, it looks like the start of the Boston Marathon in ponchos.” The camera cut to Paul Haggis, writer and director of Crash, which examines race relations in Los Angeles, and Haggis furrowed his eyebrows at Miller, not quite believing what he was hearing. And of course, they’re not used to hearing that type of humor, not on an awards show. Liberals (of which I am one, so don’t get uppity) are used to being pandered to by Hollywood and employing a conservative like Miller was like dropping a chunk of liverwurst into a bowl of vanilla ice cream; no one was liking it much. Speaking of gay, Miller restrained himself by making only a few token jokes about the evening’s top winner, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. And when the audience failed to laugh at the gay jokes Miller was forced to act incredulous – “Come on, they’re gay, they’re not eggs.” Whenever the audience didn’t laugh, Miller made fun of them back (or tried to) by saying, “Yeah, so I’m the bad guy.” Each time Miller took the stage his speech was somewhat stilted and his shoulders tight to his ears, looking very much like a comedian who knew he was going to bomb with this crowd. Even his riffs on FEMA and Tom Delay did not draw many laughs and in fact there was a palpable hatred for him and all he stood for up there on the stage. All that was missing was a somber Sean Penn (whom Miller called out for “never smiling anymore”) taking the stage to reprimand Miller in his usual way. No, there were only the confused looks of the audience members the camera cut to, or the obligatory uncomfortable laughing by some. In reality, though, Miller wasn’t unfunny. He can always be counted on to string together a couple of really awful images that sound funny all strung together. And you’ve got to hand it to him, it takes some nuts of steel to get up there in the first place. He wanted people to know that he may be an activist conservative now but he’s a funnyman first. And he’s got one or two friends left in Hollywood. His funniest joke of the night, however, was pointing out that the men who came in penguin suits to represent the documentary March of the Penguins would have to sit there all night in those hot costumes. You really have no idea how used to seeing liberals telling jokes on Hollywood awards programs we are, and we forget that there are people out there who don’t feel that way. It also is a reminder of just how left-leaning the film industry, and the bodies that make awards to filmmakers are. Make no mistake, Miller was “the enemy.” He and all of his kind. Their beliefs antiquated, their motives evil. On the flip side, people like Paul Haggis and George Clooney are fighting the good fight. And so the audience threw silent eggs, and Miller took them, one by one, until the end of the night when he could go home and collect a paycheck. Isn’t that what it was all about? Well, that and a little conservative stumping about illegal immigration. Hey Dennis! Wrong crowd, pal. Wrong crowd. Notable TV This Week Thursday, January 12 Dancing with the Stars, 8 p.m., ABC. The Living Daylights (***), 8 p.m., AMC. Jerry Maguire (***), 9 p.m., TBS. Raising Cane, 9 p.m., KCET. Friday, January 13 Thunderball (***), 8 p.m., AMC. Big Trouble in Little China (***), 9 p.m., TCM. In Justice, 9 p.m., ABC. Frontline: The Torture Question, 9:30 p.m., KCET. Saturday, January 14 The Jacksons: An American Dream, 7:30 p.m., VH1. Lilo and Stitch (***), 8 p.m., DISNEY. H.G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds,’ (***), 9 p.m., SCI-FI. Lantana (***), 9 p.m., IFC. Sunday, January 15 24, Season Premiere, 8 p.m., KTTV. Pretty Woman (***), 8 p.m., TBS. Desperate Housewives, also new, 9 p.m., ABC. Masterpiece Theatre: Henry VIII continues, 9 p.m., KCET. Monday, January 16 Dirty Dancing (***), 8 p.m., OXYGEN. The Golden Globe Awards, 8 p.m., NBC. 24, the second installment, 8 p.m., FOX. The Great White Hype (**), 9 p.m., FMC. Tuesday, January 17 American Idol, series premiere, 8 p.m., FOX. Frontline: Private Warriors, 9 p.m., KCET. Boston Legal, all new, 10 p.m., ABC. Love Monkey, 10 p.m., CBS. Wednesday, January 18 Criminal Minds, 9 p.m., CBS. The War that Made America, 9 p.m., KCET. Lost, all new, 9 p.m., ABC. American Idol, 8 p.m., FOX.

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