Henry the Intern would like to apologize for the delay in filing his review of Sunday night's Topic A — but he needed a few days to recover. You see, May 29th was Tina Brown's very last moment of basking in the CNBC sun, the final episode of her much-loved and under-appreciated magutalk show. Not only does this leave a void in our clusterfucking world, but now Henry is faced with Sunday nights spent outdoors. When Tina quits the game, everyone loses. Grab a kleenex; what follows is Henry's final, emotional farewell to Sundays with Tina.
Tina Brown signed off from "Topic A" with one last look at the familiar themes that were thread through the show since its inception: John McCain is a god; Princess Diana is still fascinating; select celebrities with sentimental histories have wisdom to share; and Us Weekly is transforming pop culture. In other words, from someone who has seen nearly every "Topic A" episode, what else is new? (Well, for one, Tina's left hand was in a cast. What happened? We're concerned.)
In the first episode I reviewed of "Topic A," Tina eagerly interviewed Senator John McCain. In the final episode she praised McCain as the "last authentic politician" and, perhaps, the last action hero. She asked a homogenous roundtable about A&E's new docudrama about his time as a POW in Vietnam: "Doesn't it remind you that nobody can beat McCain's life-story in terms of just the narrative of extraordinary courage?" Mort Zuckerman was synchronized with admiration: "He is the most candid, honest person, relatively that you can ever get in public life." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter explained that McCain represents the political center: "When you've been in a prison camp, you don't care if some group doesn't like you." McCain biographer Paul Alexander said Rudy Giuliani's life-story doesn't stack up against McCain's and predicted a McCain presidency would be Reaganesque. Tina revisited the campaign heat of last summer: "Were you disappointed by his bear-hugging of Bush?" (She was.)
Time to reminisce about Princess Diana. Likely in preparation for her tome on Lady Di, Tina interviewed Patrick Jephson, Diana's private secretary, and, of course, author of his own Diana book. "I ran the Diana show," he declared outright. Tina and Jephson are fascinated by a letter Diana wrote predicting Prince Charles would have her killed in an automobile accident. Jephson said, "I don't think anyone has answered the question, 'Why was she feeling like that?'" Meanwhile, he's "disgusted" anyone would suggest Diana was unstable or paranoid: "The fact that people have tried to portray her in any way as weak or deluded I think suggests we have to take a look at their motives for saying these things." Jephson likes to think the fateful night "was a series of catastrophic things. . . a sequence of events that could have been averted." Tina concluded, "There's no doubt about it, she was a very inconvenient women as far as the Royal family was concerned."
This week, Jerry Hall, Mick Jagger's ex-wife, played the role of favorite sentimental celebrity. Tina met Hall at the Palm to promote "Kept," her new reality show on VH1 in which she grooms a boy-toy. "I thought it sounded like a fun idea," Hall said. "You're playing Mrs. Robinson [and the guys] are very adaptable, flexible, malleable... It's quite nice to have a gorgeous accessory." Added Tina, oddly, "I actually like the idea of renting a walker for a year." Hall called Mick "a fabulous guy" and said, "the secret to a successful divorce is if the man is generous."
Alas, the final editor's desk roundtable. The all-stars — apart from Stanley Crouch, David Carr, and certain Gawkerites — picked apart the love-fest between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Tina joked, "He lost us at hello" and "Is Top Gun shooting with blanks?" Toure concurred, "It's totally blank. . . the 'Oprah' performance was weird and embarrassing." Nancy Collins disagreed: "I think he thinks he's in love." Collins described Oprah as an enabler, not an interviewer.
Tina is looking out for Katie: "Doesn't it destory her acting creds to get [press] this away?" Comedienne Jessi Klein sees Katie as a hostage: "Isn't it every girl's dream to be forced onto 'Oprah' and made to suck face with a guy in public?" Toure thinks it's "a great deal for Katie," but "not a good deal for Tom." He said, "You cannot be a forty-something single man in America without people wondering what's going on." Tina questioned, "Is this partly the Us Magazine effect?" The consensus was yes.
(I had to consult the official transcript to confirm this line by attorney Ed Hayes: "I can't stand Tom Cruise. I'm tired of him. If I knew that Tom Cruise had had sex with a woman, I wouldn't. Right? I'd be afraid it was catchy." Or did he say catchable, as in contagious? Hmm.)
Part two of the editor's desk roundtable was ripped from the pages of Us Weekly and Star: the "new trend" of teen celebrities morphing into "emaciated stick insects." Tina said, "I mean, so young, so young!" Explained Collins, "If you lose enough fat, you can get your own talk show." Tina leapt: "That's how I got my talk show!" Here, Hayes threatened to praise Tina's "best physical attributes." Again, Tina asked if Us is to blame. Jessi Klein even brought a copy of Us to demonstrate: "Sometimes we decide it's good, sometimes we decide it's bad." Toure, though, would "rather put it squarely on Bonnie Fuller." Concluded Collins, "I think it boils down to a woman being insecure about her sexuality."
Final hot picks
Toure: "The Lottery," a story by Jorge Luis Borges
Collins: "Devils & Dust" by Bruce Springsteen
Klein: "Sideways" DVD commentary
Hayes led a collective "Tina!" chant and Toure presented Tina with flowers.
Tina: the viewers of "Topic A" —a collective awww— and the staff, including "my fabulous hair and makeup team who did their best."
Final closing quote by Groucho Marx: "I'm leaving because the weather is too good."
The end of "Topic A" may have seemed inevitable, but it was nonetheless heartbreaking. Sundays will never be the same. Cheers, Tina, and everyone involved with "Topic A." Thanks for letting me in on the conversation and for producing an admirable effort to raise the bar.
P.S. When is the right time to ask Tina to be my commencement speaker?