The Tabs of Summer: Michelle Obama versus Zach Galifinakis; Fred Wilpon versus A-Rod

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Today's tabloids, May 25, 2011. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

The New York Post: It's 77 degrees and sunny right now, as I write this late (sorry!) version of The Front, but I knew it was summer at 6:30 when I saw the cover of today's Post. How? A giant blue box across the top of the page advertising Lou Lumenick's review of the first of this season's crop of "summer movies."

"Hangover Part 2," reads the yellow text, the "2" blown up to giant proportions and tilted sideways slightly (rough night, buddy?). Also tilted is, not a still from the movie, but the promotional art: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis looking fraught with delirium tremens, one literally with a monkey sitting on his back, the other with his head shaved, and a third with a tribal facial tattoo peeking out from beneath his wire-rimmed specs. "Lumenick movie review," reads the dek. Why is this news? Well it doesn't have to be: Lumenick may have loved it, or hated it, and that is its own sort of news: the movie's a flop, or it's the next Airplane! Let's look!

It's an "elaborate, play-it-safe sequel" that's neither as "fresh" or "funny" as the original; the actors' camaraderie is "mechanical." The movie has "countless product placements" but, never fear! "There are definitely laughs to be had, even if the three leads often seem to be going through the motions," and even if only for "laugh-starved audiences." Out of four stars it gets … two!

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If pretty OK sequel movies can't sell a paper, maybe news can? Let's try the bottom half of the page: We've got Mets owner Fred Wilpon, whose comments to The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin this week have caused such a stir. And in a quite elegantly done Photoshop exercise, he looks like he's wearing bright red face paint. "FRED FACED!" reads the headline; "Wilpon apologizes to Met stars." There's also reference to a Mike Vaccaro column across the bottom in a red bar: "OWNER FORGETS THE FANS."

As Howard Megdal's been reminding us of around here, Wilpon seems to be forgetting a lot of things having to do with his, as the Post quotes him saying on its back page, "S#!TTY TEAM." Yesterday, he apologized to Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, two of the players he criticized in the New Yorker article.

In the usual tabloid point of view, it's never embarrassing to tell Jeffrey Toobin the team you own that is going down the tubes and that you can no longer afford is actually full of S#!TTY players. Because if we did not reward people for taking outrageous and ill-advised shots at their coworkers and enemies alike, what would we have to write about? Rather, the humbling experience of an apology, however hollow, is the cause for shame.

Daily News: I got a bit of relief looking at the News, and not in a good way. More the way you feel a sense of relief when you switch from "Dancing With the Stars" to "House Hunters International" on cable when you're sick in bed (as I recently was.) It boggles my mind a bit how you can persist in fronting a baseball story about the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez when the team across town is melting down. But then again, would the Post put such a mundane A-Rod peccadillo on its own front?

Here's what the story is all about: The Bronx district attorney's office and the New York Police Department's Internal Affairs bureau are both investigating a ticket-fixing scandal in which a special deputy at One Police Plaza could apparently make tickets go away for influential New Yorkers and "friends" of the department. The roster of people who have merited the treatment is theoretically a deep well of cover stories.

One wonders if the Daily News didn't squander a good thing by naming not just A-Rod, who apparently got of scot-free after a highway cop issued him a ticket for speeding along the West Side Highway near West 57th Street back in 2009, but also the late George Steinbrenner, Jay-Z's driver, and three sitting councilmembers; those could have been three more covers maybe! Well, maybe not. "A-ROD TIX FIX" is the main hed, in knockout type over a black field with a silhouette of the Yankee in a three-quarters profile; "Sources: Speeding ticket went bye-bye."

A-Rod shares the page, though: Michelle Obama is pictured in the long, white Tom Ford gown she wore to the state dinner she attended with her Guinness-drinking husband in London last night. The News is really loving this Obama trip abroad.

But I can't quite make sense of the News' fronting of the trip today. There are no longer McMickeys to impress in Sunnyside; they're in England. Whatever vestige of News-style localness I could find there yesterday, I'm missing today. But again, it's summer! And if you don't have a … semi-critical movie review to pimp out, why not a pretty dress?

Observations: I'm sorry if I am sounding stern today. I should probably just stop worrying and love the summer tabloids. But it's taking me a little bit of time to adjust, after the really brilliant run of tabloid-worthy news we've been getting lately. Looking at some old columns I've discovered that at one time I had to parse out things like this—Michelle Obama's white dress versus Zach Galifiniakis' star-power. I'll try again, for what it's worth, but your vote in the comments will likely mean more.

Here goes: Without a one- or four-star review, the Hangover 2 story is the loser against the lovely First Lady. But A-Rod's Tix Fix is the loser, by a hair, against the Wilpon story. The sports stories are both bigger, so they're the voting issue.

How'd I do?

Winner: The New York Post.