Swelter 25

In television land, of course, the game is played as it should be, social columnists emerging as this year's hot new touchstone of fantasy careering. On New York News, Madeline Kahn plays Nan Chase as a society reporter/fabulous disaster bouncing between self-aggrandizement and self-pity -- not far from the mark, actually, as a portrait of social hell. In the season opener, Kahn's character is obsessing, crying, and generally being ridiculous in the office ladies room, moaning about a black eye ruining her entrance at a big opening where everyone -- Donald, Marla, Sylvia Miles, and the ghost of Halston -- will be, easy prey for an item or two. Mary Tyler Moore, as big chief editor Louise Felcott, only has to point out the probable attendance of two grotesquely unprofessional ass-licking bitches, Liz Smith and Cindy Adams, to make Kahn muster out on the field for a triumph over petty adversity. Spite rules above all.

And then there's my new favorite heroine, downtown troller Carrie Fairchild of Communique magazine on Central Park West, played by MĄdchen Amick as a born-to-be-bad, poor little rich girl. Young Fairchild's ice queen mom is a Jackie Onassis type; her brother, a hunky-doodle John Kennedy before George magazine. Carrie also makes $200,000 a year for what her editor dismisses as indulgent, badly written verbiage -- tough luck, since Fairchild's stepdaddy owns the magazine. And yet Carrie can't stop her malaise or let-them-eat-cake attitude, the first show striking a blow for pop reporters everywhere as Carrie took her editor to task: "I do what I like, where I like, when I like." Carrie's already on her way out, of course, but the world-weariness of New York News's Louise Felcott more accurately captures the breaking-filth industry: "A more dog-eating, backbiting, soul-stomping business I don't know of.

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