Monday, July 18, 2011
Dick Cavett recently collected some of his New York Times columns and published them in a book called Talk Show. I read as far as Cavett's ill-informed essay about fat Americans ("Is Bigger Really Better?, " page 57) which, because I am a fat American, piqued my ire. So I put the book down to finally face my feelings about Dick.
I never liked him much, not even when I was skinny. Oh he was the hippest of the interviewers and he's chatted with some of the most fabulous people: John and Yoko, Katherine Hepburn, Groucho; and sometimes I would watch him when the show was new, but I have a dim memory of preferring Mannix, and until I read the first quarter of Talk Show, I had never stopped to wonder why.
Here's why: Cavett is so busy trying to be clever that he frequently doesn't respond to the person he's interviewing, which makes for halting conversation and maladroit replies that create tension, and that tension has been misconstrued (and I realize I'm the only one who thinks so) as scintillation. Watch the Hollywood Greats DVD and count the times that Groucho or Katherine Hepburn doesn't get the point Cavett is trying to make because it doesn't follow smoothly from what his guest just said; and count the times Cavett changes a subject instead of continuing with his guest's idea. Say whatever you like about Oprah; she's a conversationalist. She follows the thread and asks the next logical question.
So finally, after all these years, I own my discomfort with Dick Cavett, and my new understanding will save me hours because now I can skip the rest of his book and not watch his DVDs.
For those who like Cavett:
The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood greats
The Dick Cavett Show: Rock icons
The Dick Cavett Show: Ray Charles collection
The Dick Cavett Show: John and Yoko collection
For those who prefer Mannix:
Mannix: the first season
Mannix: the second season
Mannix: the soundtrack
Posted by tim snead at 8:00 AM