Just what is this entertainment media obsession with Tom Cruise's baby pictures? Is there nothing else of interest out there in Hollywood? Actually, there is -- and they're ignoring it, proving just how disconnected the Hollywood press is from the American mainstream.
Maybe you're familiar with the computer-animated cartoon "Veggie Tales," a video series targeted at children ages 2 to 8, and which features moral and religious tales hosted by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Beginning in 1993, the series was distributed on VHS tapes, telling biblical stories like the Battle of Jericho, David and Goliath and the tale of the Good Samaritan. Each show ended with a Bible verse.
And it's been a marketing phenomenon. Without any broadcasting or syndication on television, "Veggie Tales" has sold more than 50 million "Veggie Tales" DVDs and videotapes -- primarily, but quietly, through big chain stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Family Christian Stores. As their popularity spread, so did "Veggie Tales" T-shirts, plush toys and other products.
In true Hollywood fashion, the show's focus on young children and its cutesy vegetable stars made it a frequent target of mockery. The absolute low point came on Comedy Central's perverse cartoon "Drawn Together," which satirized the show by having the Larry the Cucumber character go on a murderous rampage, killing nearly all the Comedy Central cartoon's major characters, shooting most of them bloodily in the head. Behind the killings, a laugh track howled. No one in Hollywood wondered if that might be "offensive," let along just plain sick.
Eventually, someone in Tinseltown saw the commercial possibilities. Now, the news breaks that NBC (as well as NBC-owned Telemundo) will begin showing "Veggie Tales" cartoons on Saturday mornings for the new fall season. Maybe this isn't Earth-shattering news. In a world of 24-7 cartoon programming on cable and satellite, Saturday morning at the Big Three networks is a forgotten land, and the days where children would get up and watch test patterns on Saturdays in anticipation of cartoons has long passed.
But here is what should be news. The early word from producers is that NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of "Veggie Tales" -- those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible.
So NBC has taken the very essence of "Veggie Tales" -- and ripped it out. It's like "Gunsmoke" without the guns, or "Monday Night Football" without the football.