Below The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Richmond pulls back the curtain on the recent empty-headed, bug-eyed Entertainment Tonight/US Weekly hoopla surrounding the new Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes “romance”...
Between all of the voicemail-messages-from-hell stories and Paula Abdul's appearance over the weekend on "Saturday Night Live" (more free publicity for "American Idol"!) and such blockbuster local news features as "The Horrors of Spyware!" and "The Self-Tanning Lotion Test!", it's already been quite a sweeps period here in the homeland. Yes sir, we must be doing something right in America, because we sure have plenty of free time to focus on stuff that doesn't matter in the slightest.
To that end, nothing has been more purely entertaining lately than the new "relationship" of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. What makes it so great is the way it just sort of popped up out of the ether, with publicists issuing statements confirming something that had not yet even been suspected.
Overnight, Cruise and his new squeeze were spotted in Italy cooing and staring longingly into one another's eyes and kissing up a storm and, in general, carrying on like kids in the throes of a puppy-love crush.
"Yoo-hoo! Paparazzi! Over here!" they practically screamed.
It's a fascinating thing when celebrities play lovey-dovey for the camera. It usually means they have something to prove or promote. In this case, of course, Cruise and Holmes both have new movies coming out, giving this the unmistakable aroma of a union of convenience. It's like, please invade our privacy -- and that's "War of the Worlds" and "Batman Begins," got it?
In no other business would having two people behave overly affectionately in public be viewed as a potential boon to their product. Imagine a couple bedecked in McDonald's and Burger King uniforms pawing each other in the belief that it would inspire increased sales of Big Macs and Whoppers.
While the Cruise-Holmes pairing could be legit, it just seems like the kind of made-for-Us-Weekly pairing that was cooked up in a backroom with the stars, their reps and various image consultants in attendance. Had you been a fly on the wall, you might have heard, "OK, Tom, you get to be linked with an actress in her mid-20s to help people forget that even actors who can open blockbusters are not immune from the aging process. Katie, you get the boost of being associated with a hunky superstar as your career is starting to gain steam. Just sign right here."
Is it overly cynical to suspect this kind of crass commercial dealmaking? Maybe. But that also doesn't mean it isn't accurate and doesn't happen on a smaller scale all of the time. Showbiz being a game driven heavily by impression and perception at the expense of fact and sincerity, nothing should be discounted as too far-fetched.
The problem with the Cruise-Holmes story is that it smacked so heavily of concoction from the get-go. Those manipulating the puppet strings were so clunky that they in essence exposed the inherent absurdity.
What you're supposed to do is stage occasional sightings of the joined couple together -- preferably while making half-hearted attempts to hide --- and in the process issue stern denials. Then after a few more weeks/months of furtive moments captured through tabloid lenses and increasingly empty refutations, there's the invariable grudging validation.
But the Cruise-Holmes braintrust bypassed all of the usual calculated mating ritual steps and fed this directly to the mainstream, putting the tabs in the unique position of trying to refute a coupling. Straight out of the box, the strangers were an item seemingly within minutes of meeting -- dining on sushi aboard his private jet before jetting off together to Rome. Some guys just know how to woo a girl on the first date, you know?
What we have here may be the first big-time Hollywood romance where we actually desire to know less. And for sure, it's getting tougher and tougher to tell the relationships from the corporate mergers.