30 Rock and a Wiggly war: in which I find out inadvertently that Sam was fired from the Wiggles
Last night’s 30 Rock skewered the Wiggles. What th–? Who th–? I say! How dare…! I feel I must defend the Wiggles as I had to defend poor Caillou. Another show that is deeply unpopular among adults, but loved by the little ones.
I have to say, as pro-Wiggle as I am, isn’t it kind of random that a popular primetime network TV show would devote an episode (or storyline in an episode) to ragging on the Wiggles? Within the kid world, they are huge, sure, both here in the U.S., and in their native Australia where they are permanent national heroes. Either Tina Fey promised her young daughter that she would work her favorite band into the show somehow, or she is so sick of hearing her daughter’s favorite band (I imagine) she decided to stick it to poor Murray, Anthony, Jeff, and Sam. Either way, I must admit it was a funny parody – making sociopaths of a sweet, pure-hearted group of children’s entertainers that personally wished my son a happy birthday at a concert at the Nassau Coliseum (except Jeff. To quote Stephen Colbert, you’re on notice, Jeff).
WAIT A SECOND!!! WAIT!!!
I just went on Wikipedia, as is my wont, to get a refresher on my Wiggles trivia to impart to all six of you, dear readers. Like verifying that they were one of the first bands to perform a live concert in New York City after the September 11 attacks, I recalled. Like banning all alcohol from their tours (booze is fine in the audience, kiddos, but not on the tour bus). What a bunch of sweethearts, right?
Then I read they sh*tcanned Sam and let Greg back in the yellow jersey! Oh, Wiggles. It’s all about the watermelons, as they say in Australia when referring to one-hundred-dollar notes.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past few years (by “under a rock,” I mean in the adult world, what with your fancy restaurants and movie-going and all), Greg Page, the original yellow-shirt-wearing lead singer of the Wiggles, left the group in 2006 due to illness. He was replaced by Sam Moran, a back-up singer for the group. It was all smiles and ceremonially turning over the yellow jersey. That’s great, but I need not remind you that Lance Armstrong, you ain’t.
Now, it’s 2012. Sam Moran is abruptly dumped (on his daughter’s second birthday, according to this article from Australia’s Daily Telegraph). Greg Page is reinstated. Allegations ensue. Here’s a couple: perhaps he had some financial difficulties (according to the Daily Telegraph: “He [Page] hit a financial setback when he lost a large part of his Wiggles fortune in a bad property development deal, and decided to return to the group.” Or maybe, there was a failed attempt at a solo career (just a guess – there was a grown-up music solo album). In 2011, the Wiggles earned $28.2 million Australian (or about $29 million American) dollars. You do the math.
Greg’s health condition, orthostatic intolerance, the cause of his leaving the group in 2006, is still present, and according to Greg in this incredibly uncomfortable television interview, “the condition is managed.”
And Anthony? Oh, Anthony. The blue Wiggle. He always appeared the most affable of the bunch. And he says, in the uncomfortable interview: “What Sam does now is Sam’s thing. His contract has come to an end,” Field said. “Sam was just doing a job. He was a hired hand … I haven’t spoken to him.” And according to this article, Anthony was the cause of a “toxic” atmosphere; he didn’t speak to Sam offstage unless he absolutely had to. Blurgh, as Liz Lemon would say. Poor Sam.
And, says the Daily Telegraph, “While it is estimated Page received a $20 million-plus payout when he left (including royalties for music rights), Moran was locked into a contract rumoured at just $200,000 a year.” And he only received $60,000 as a severance fee earlier this year. That is not that many Australian dollars. Why don’t they call them Joeys? That’s not so many Joeys.
But you could tell, even just watching the performances and the videos, that for Anthony, the Wiggles are all about Anthony (J’accuse!). It is a bit of a Field family business. His brother, Paul, is the Wiggles manager. I have seen the mug of pretty much every member of his family grinning like maniacs back at me from the screen. His wife is Greek, for example, which is great, but when they do songs in foreign languages, which is also great great great, Greek is way overrepresented. Like when they did “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” with Leo Sayer, they did half of it in Greek with Greek costumes. Random. We get your wife is Greek, Anthony. Give some of the other languages a chance. My kids have Greek ancestry but even I am looking to mix it up a bit. Or I was – we don’t watch the Wiggles so much anymore. My son has moved on, and I do feel a little maudlin sometimes when I hear “Rock-a-Bye Your Bear.”
Look, I know that the Wiggles are not running a charity, blithely recording music to entertain my toddler so that he’s happy when we’re in traffic on the Hutch. Of course it’s a business, a big one. And never mind the merchandising: they know jerks like me will write to Oz to get a Wiggles tablecloth for my son’s birthday party. But just like I naively extra-admire celebrities that stay out of the gossip magazines, I wanted to believe in the Wiggles. That they were among the good guys. That they were doing it out of love for children and music, and all of the fame and money was just a bonus. Well, that’s just dumb. (But do you notice that Murray Cook, the red Wiggle, is absent from these interviews and articles, at least the ones I’ve read? I like to think he has it a bit more together than the others — maybe that’s because he gave C the biggest happy birthday wish. C probably didn’t care too much, but I was psyched, and impressed.)
I can understand wanting the original yellow Wiggle back in the band, and Greg is great as a performer, but why be so hard on Sam Moran? When Greg retired, the Wiggles decided to keep the band going — presumably for the incredible amount of money — so they took on a “hired hand.” He did his job well; to the fans, Sam was a true Wiggle. Why treat him with so little respect?
I am fond of the Wiggles – I think so many of their songs are good; I appreciate their simplicity, and the warmth with which they address their young audience. I like how they keep old nursery rhymes and children’s songs alive, and it was fun to get a little glimpse of Australia through their show (did you know Australians call bell peppers capsicum?) But it’s not a good feeling to watch their discord and greed laid bare like they were Oasis or something. They seem to have been taken back by the attention this has generated, but they shouldn’t be. It’s pretty hard to hide that level of acrimoniousness. So good luck, Sam! Maybe I’ll buy your album. No, probably not – I’ve already thought way too much about this. Oh, now I feel bad. Maybe I will.