The John Tesh Experience

Be nice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. And remember: Mean people suck.Good rules to live by.Hard rules to follow.Particularly when the subject turns to John Tesh.Tesh, is the former co-anchor ofEntertainment Tonight and one of the current darlings of New Age music. It's not exactly the end of the world, but in the eyes of many, it's close. In fact, hating John Tesh, much the same as Tesh himself, has become an industry unto itself.You don't remember John Tesh? How could you forget him? During the 10-year span from 1986 to 1996, he appeared 2,743 nights on TV as co-host of E.T., the program that defined "infotainment." Tall, blond and affable, Tesh was unquestionably the king of tabloid TV. But Johnny had a dream. Nightly access to the rumpus rooms of America wasn't enough. Not for Johnny.Johnny was an artiste. A musician! Hell, he even had credentials. Played the piano and trumpet since age 6; trained at Julliard, even did a stint with the New York Symphonic Orchestra.In fact, from the beginning, Tesh's love of music has spilled over into his work as a "journalist." When called upon by CBS to cover the Tour de France bicycle race in 1986, Tesh composed a score to go along with his coverage. Undiscriminating listeners took notice; an album soon followed. Ten years and 10 mostly mediocre albums later, Tesh jettisoned his position at E.T. and, with Jesus Christ the Lord's help, stepped boldly into a ready-made New Age music career.And the world screamed.In many ways, it's difficult to see why. It's not like New Age music and the people who make it have their fingers on the cultural pulse or anything. Basically, this is tuneage for dweebs, and even critics sympathetic to the genre have a difficult time saying anything good about it."This genre attracts a wide cross-section of listeners who are looking for something a little different without straying too far from the mainstream," writes Linda Kohanov, a critic for the All-Music Guide on the Internet. "The best artists have a flair for melodic invention, colorful instrumentation, and rhythmic vitality while retaining a strong level of accessibility. At worst, adult alternativ e releases sound like trite pop songs without words.""Trite pop songs without words" more or less describes the content of Avalon, Tesh's latest album, which nevertheless debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's New Age charts when it was released in March. It's not that Tesh and the New Age all-stars he has assembled can't play. Tesh clearly knows his way around a keyboard, even if his playing is at times sluggish and redundant. The problem is one of abstraction. In the liner notes, Tesh claims the 12 tunes on Avalon were inspired by "the magnificence of the Avalon shores of Santa Catalina Island" and "the sights and sounds in the Mountains of L'Aquila and San Panfilo (the birthplace of my wife's family)," yet any one of them would have sufficed as a theme song for a canceled sitcom pilot. Critical ears will find the room-clearing capaci ty of these songs amazing. They'll also wonder how Tesh stayed awake composing them --assuming he was indeed awake to begin with.After that ringing endorsement, it seems safe to say that Tesh ranks right up there with other New Age performers such as Ancient Future and Yanni. Not exactly pop stardom's most exclusive club. Still, as soon as Tesh turned pro musician, he became instant fodder for late-night talk-show hosts. David Letterman claimed the Unabomber owned Tesh's entire oeuvre. Even nice guy Jay Leno had a nightly g o at Tesh. Tesh is still a frequent object of derision on Comedy Central's Daily Show.But you ain't seen nothing till you get on the Internet.Web sites with names like "Tesh Free" (with the lauded goal of making the world free of Tesh and Tesh-like objects, such as Kathie Lee Gifford and Bob Costas), "The Anti John Tesh Movement" and "John Tesh Ate My Balls" pull no punches. In fact, on one site, "Punch John Tesh," you can click the cursor on a picture of John and give him a one-two combination right in the kisser. Tesh's lip starts ble eding and a tooth falls out. Thousands of visitors to the site have taken a jab at him.What exactly the beef with Tesh is is never made quite clear, but there's definitely a beef. "John Tesh: One more neuron and he'll have a synapse," chides one entry on a site that lists anti-Tesh Use net postings. Another: "John Tesh is not a journalist, but he plays one on TV." Tesh's performance as a gymnastics commentator during the Atlanta Olympics last year is a sore point, as this lengthy po sting demonstrates:"It seems to me that all of John Tesh's little soap opera segments are about some dirt poor gymnast who had to chew off his/her own leg which was caught in a bear trap while doing CPR on his/her mother who died anyway, then having to drag him/herself through a war-torn area still laced with grenades by their lips to a hospital with rusty tools that incorrectly reattached the severed limb that was found 3 weeks later on a remote island off the coast of Taiwan that the athlete had to swim there to find. Is that pretty accurate?" The bottom line? The introduction to the "Tesh Free" Web site perhaps says it best:"Besides pointing out the obvious public outcry, a majority of the Internet that I have traipsed along has agreed that John Tesh is indeed a moron, his music sucks and no one can figure out how he landed a job at NBC commentating on gymnastics." Of course, if being mediocre was a crime, the entire country would have to turn itself in. But Tesh's most vehement critics on the Internet will have none of that. Where most of us see and hear lameness, they see a conspiracy of X-Files-type proportions. "The evidence, it would appear, is now incontrovertible," begins the report of Mog Stunt Team Five, an anti-Tesh group. "Former Entertainment Tonight host, instrumental pop musician and frequent talk show guest John Tesh is, in fact, not only of extraterrestrial origin but is also an agent for the forces of Echelon. É"While the pearly white teeth glistened and the blond hair shone beneath the studio klieg lights, deadly thought probe beams barreled through the Entertainment Tonight broadcast signal; alien mindscreens collected and collated the brain wave activity of the millions of viewers before transmitting it in the form of pure energy back to headquarters."The goal: world conquest."To be fair, all indications are that Tesh has taken all this criticism in stride. On one episode of The Tonight Show, he turned up unannounced, sporting his newly grown goatee and tight leather pants, to rib Leno (no stranger to mediocrity himself) for giving him such a hard time. Tesh's own Web site, "The John Tesh Web" (www.tesh.com), besides featuring such gotta-have merchandise as John Tesh screen savers and mouse pads, features an animation sequence in which Tesh's regular human head turns into an alien head while Rosie O'Donnell interviews him.Essentially, Tesh is pretty harmless and as Newsweek put it, "huge --in that uniquely '90s multimedia way." It seems logical to assume that much of the criticism comes from, as one Tesh fan on the Internet writes, people who "are so jealous of his talent, his success, and probably his wife, that they can't stand it. You need to get a life if all you have to do is find fault with other people!"Fair enough.Be nice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.Good rules to live by.But while you're remembering that mean people suck, it pays to keep in mind that, as a recent bumper sticker puts it, that "nice people swallow."If you catch the meaning, you probably don't have too much to worry about. And you probably don't listen to John Tesh.

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