Loose Quip, Synchs Lips

Ashlee Simpson's lip-synching fiasco on "Saturday Night Live" should be viewed as an opportunity to offer the TV public safe and effective singing, acting, and discussion - with no side effects.

As a public service, lip-synching should be extended to all performers in the entertainment business - actors, news anchors, and game show hosts.

Late-night talk show celebrities could have their PR people write and rehearse the exact responses necessary to be the most entertaining - all for the good of business. With lip- synching, you can draw in the most viewers for TV shows, gain the largest number of box office tickets, or sell the most CDs.

Comedians could lip-synch for perfect jokes. Politicians could rehearse to perfect their discourses. (Think George W. Bush during the first presidential debate. And what was that bulging object underneath his suit jacket, anyway?)

Mostly we would eliminate blame. On "Saturday Night Live," Ms. Simpson, the sister of Jessica Simpson, did what any celebrity, what any TV executive, what any advertising executive would do in such as position - blame someone else.

In this case, it was Ms. Simpson's drummer - the guy who pushed the wrong button for her vocal track. Will this guy ever play drums again? As punishment, he should work as an AT&T 411 operator.

Long-time devotees of "Saturday Night Live" know there hasn't been a totally live musical performance for a number of years - which takes away its inherent risky and anything-make-happen nature of the show.

Do you ever wonder how famous singers can dance wildly and sing perfectly? The answer is: they can't. That's because you'd hear a lot of huffing and puffing at the same time.

There is only one thing to do. Since the public trust has been compromised, producers of "SNL" - including executive producer Lorne Michaels - need to be banished from TV. Unfortunately there is precedent here. Didn't the producers behind the quiz show scandals of the 1950s suffer a worse fate in compromising the public's trust? Didn't they mislead viewers to think show contestants were hearing questions for the first time?

Public trust on television is something that has been slipping away for some time. But if we go this way, we need proper labeling. Call it "Saturday Night Live Sometimes" or "Saturday Night Taped and Live."

Viewers have moved to "unscripted" reality shows in order to get "reality" - or more risky TV. But those shows are anything but scripted - with heavy editing and tight structures to make things happen the way producers want.

So, there is little chance things can go wrong on TV these days.

In a TV world of bottom-line financial decisions, lip-synching is just another device to making TV safe - and boring.