From the classic episode of the late lamented WKRP in Cincinnati.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
MSNBC has canned Alec Baldwin’s new show.
“This is a mutual parting and we wish Alec all the best,” MSNBC said in a statement.
The New York Post first broke the news, which also reported that the cancellation was due in part to Baldwin’s behavior in general.
MSNBC initially suspended Baldwin on Nov. 15.
Mr. Baldwin blamed the media.
“Martin Bashir’s on the air, and he made his comment on the air! I dispute half the comment I made… if I called him ‘cocksucking maggot’ or a ‘cocksucking motherfucker’… ‘faggot’ is not the word that came out of my mouth. That I know,” Baldwin told the Gothamist. “But you’ve got the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy—Rich Ferraro and Andrew Sullivan—they’re out there, they’ve got you. Rich Ferraro, this is probably one of his greatest triumphs. They killed my show. And I have to take some responsibility for that myself.”
Baldwin placed some blame on TMZ, the site that posted the video of Baldwin yelling at the photographer.
That’s show biz.
In another venue, right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza drew fire for a tweet that called President Obama a “grown-up Trayvon Martin.” He deleted the message later but whined that the president called himself that once. Which proves that Mr. D’Souza does not get the idea of self-deprecation and also that he is in the sixth grade.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Before there was Meet the Flintstones, there was this instrumental intro:
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Despite the GOP hostage standoff, Obamacare goes live today.
Two Marine generals are forced to retire over security breaches in Afghanistan.
Venezuela expels top U.S. embassy official.
Senate panel approves Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan.
Wall Street isn’t wild about the prospect of a long shutdown.
The Hillary Clinton documentaries gets the axe.
Tropical Update: TS Jerry is way out to sea.
Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.
Monday, September 30, 2013
GOP says they can avoid the shutdown if only the Democrats will cave.
Wall Street not wild about the impact of a shutdown.
China bans some exports to North Korea, stalling their nuclear program.
Mazda recalls midsize cars for door latch problem.
Like TV shows, some car models get cancelled, too.
I have a feeling Albuquerque will survive without Breaking Bad.
The Tigers let the Marlins end their season on a high note.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Kenya military forces end to mall siege; death toll at 68.
President Obama eulogizes victims of Navy Yard shooting.
Angela Merkel wins third term as Chancellor of Germany.
Survey: U.S. gas prices heading down.
Typhoon weakens as it nears China.
Congratulations to the Emmy winners.
Shortest Emmy Speech ever?
The Dolphins are undefeated. Really?
The Tigers lost to the White Sox 6-3 in their final home game; magic number still 2.
Friday, September 20, 2013
I never saw an episode of Breaking Bad.
I also never watched Mad Men or Downton Abbey.
Sorry if I let you down.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Smile for the camera: Obama and Putin keep their disputes private.
Geewhatashock: The N.S.A. can get around internet encryption.
Egyptian interior minister survives bomb attack.
Job growth in private sector slow but steady.
Alec Baldwin gets MSNBC gig.
Tropical Update: Gabrielle has fizzled out to a tropical depression.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Egypt — Christians now under attack.
U.S. weighs pros and cons of cutting aid to Egypt.
Gunman thwarted at school near Atlanta.
Three teens arrested in killing of Australian baseball player in Oklahoma.
Al-Jazeera America is on the air… (actually, on cable).
The Tigers lost to the Twins 6-3.
Happy birthday, SJW.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Egyptian court set to release Hosni Mubarak.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) will sign gay “conversion therapy” ban.
Bradley Manning’s attorneys urge leniency at sentencing.
Immigration reform — House Judiciary chairmen rejects “special” citizenship path.
Dick Van Dyke uninjured after car fire on L.A. freeway.
The Tigers had a well-earned night off.
Friday, August 9, 2013
Saturday, July 13, 2013
This is my first weekend in a long time that I have nothing to do other than sit and read, write, do a crossword or two, and catch up on some long-delayed napping. So I’m going to enjoy it.
One thing I’m looking forward to is the second season of HBO’s The Newsroom on Sunday night. I’ve been a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin for as long as I’ve known of his work, which was long before The West Wing, and he’s a playwright — A Few Good Men was on the stage long before Jack Nicholson told Tom Cruise that he couldn’t handle the truth.
Based on previews, The Newsroom story arc for the season will be based on this clip, so it should be a good one.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Teaching A Pig To Dance — John Cassidy in the The New Yorker on what the GOP can learn from the Supreme Court.
The Roberts Court, unlike the G.O.P., has recognized that changing social attitudes and family structures have rendered obsolete old, absolutist notions that marriage and family life—those based on religion or a particular view of sexuality. The Roberts Court, unlike the G.O.P., has recognized that elections matter, and that deliberate efforts to undo their results, such as the attempt by the Hughes Court of the nineteen-thirties to block key elements of the New Deal, and the effort by today’s Republican Party’s to block Obamacare, can do great damage to institutions whose legitimacy depends on popular support. And the Roberts Court, unlike the G.O.P., has recognized that the most effective way to undo iconic liberal rulings and iconic liberal pieces of legislation, such as Roe v Wade and the Voting Rights Act, is not to challenge them head on—down that road lies the danger of a big backlash—but, rather, by chipping away at them.
The Court’s rulings on affirmative action and voting procedures were models of crafty conservatism. In declining to rule in favor of Abigail Fisher, a white woman who challenged the University of Texas’s right to use race as one of its guiding factors in deciding which students to admit, the Court didn’t throw out affirmative action in college admissions, and for that many liberals were grateful. But in ruling that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had failed to apply “strict scrutiny” in reviewing the University of Texas’s admissions process, and in sending the case back for further review, the Justices made it a good deal harder for other colleges to justify similar policies. (Eric Lewis has more on that.) In the coming years, we will almost certainly see a series of rulings against affirmative action in the lower courts. The conservatives will eventually get what they want, and they’ll get it without embroiling the Roberts Court in a racially charged controversy.
The Court’s attack on the Voting Rights Act, though also somewhat indirect, was potentially even more far-reaching. Rather than ruling that racial discrimination was a thing of the past and that there was no need for the federal government to oversee voting at the local level, the Court left in place the general principle that there is a need for outside supervision. But it gutted the Act’s enforcement mechanism, opening the door for states like Texas to introduce voter-identification acts that suppress minority turnout and redistricting maps that favor Republicans. And, once again, the Court attempted to shift responsibility, inviting Congress to rewrite the V.R.A.’s enforcement mechanism to reflect “current conditions”—something that is unlikely to happen, given the G.O.P.’s control of the House.
Act strategically, avoid looking like radical ideologues, don’t pick fights you can’t win, and when you have to give ground, do your best to describe it as a victory of conservative values. These are the rules of the Roberts Court. In principle, they could serve well any right-leaning institution looking to prosper in a society that is growing steadily more liberal on social issues but which still has some distinctly conservative instincts, especially on matters having to do with law and order, government efforts to help individual groups, and national security. The Roberts Court has provided the template. But is the G.O.P. willing to adopt it?
Wedding Bells and Cash Registers — Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon on how marriage equality will be great for business.
The very same day that the Supreme Court handed down rulings in favor of marriage equality, popular wedding site The Knot premiered its digital magazine for LGBT brides- and grooms-to-be. It was a powerful reminder: There’s a lot of money to be made on gay marriage. Same-sex weddings will bring California businesses $492 million in the next three years, according to one recent estimate. In 2004, Forbes predicted that if legalized in all states, same-sex weddings could generate $16.8 billion from LGBT couples who decided to get hitched. It’s already an estimated $55 to $70 billion industry. Major brands have begun to take note.
This year, Nordstrom launched a commercial for its “wedding suite” starring both straight and gay couples. Last year saw a spate of LGBT-friendly ads. Target began selling same-sex wedding cards and promoting a gender-neutral registry with a print ad featuring two men holding hands. (The company’s record on LGBT rights is hardly pristine, though: Target courted controversy in 2010 by donating $150,000 to a conservative, anti-gay marriage gubernatorial candidate.) Macy’s ran a subtle print ad featuring a multi-layer cake with a barely noticeable groom-and-groom cake-topper. (The subtlety didn’t stop the American Family Association from freaking the hell out — which makes total sense, the American Family Association protesting the promotion of … families.) Tiffany & Co., which more than a decade ago made its registry gender-neutral, launched the website What Makes Love True, which features stories about real people; its homepage currently features one gay couple, out of two-dozen couples (to that, I offer a one-handed clap.) J.Crew featured its first photo shoot of a gay wedding.
Hotels, including the Marriott and W chains, have made the greatest effort to court same-sex couples, with everything from special wedding and honeymoon packages to “marriage equality” discounts. “They see the dollars and cents,” says Bernadette Coveney Smith, founder of 14 Stories, the first same-sex wedding planning company in the U.S. “Hotels control the food and beverage, and food and beverage is the biggest wedding line item. So it’s just business.”
Dobie the Rebel — “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” a classic 1950′s TV sitcom, laid the groundwork for today’s shows. By Neil Genzlinger.
The show starred Dwayne Hickman as Dobie, who when the series began was a 17-year-old high school student with nothing on his mind but girls. Just what Dobie hoped to do with the scores of young women who drew his attention over the show’s 147 episodes was always left pristinely vague. The implied progression seemed to go from light necking directly to marriage, with nothing in between.
The show was based on a series of stories by Max Shulman, who also created the television series. Through four seasons, Mr. Hickman (who was in his mid-20s when the show began) went from high school student to Army grunt to collegiate Romeo, with he and his friends rarely having a care more traumatic than where to hide a rival football team’s lucky pet goat after making off with it.
Such empty-headed stuff can be fun to watch just for the soon-to-be-familiar faces that turn up. Who’s that in the second episode, playing Dobie’s smooth-dressing rival for the affections of a pretty girl? It’s Warren Beatty, unknown at the time but handsome as heck. The minor character who turns up at a high school event in a June 1961 episode? Jo Anne Worley, still a few years away from “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
But is there any substance to the silliness? Fans of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” to pick just one current teenage-centered show, have seen plotlines involving lesbianism, student-teacher romance, shoplifting, bulimia and more. Elsewhere, it’s hard to find a teenage character today who isn’t a child of divorce or a high school that isn’t struggling with racial tension, bullying or pregnancy. There is none of that in “Dobie Gillis.” Just a very white world of simple stories and little stress.
But hold on.
“In its own way, although it was simplistic and seems perhaps naïve because it doesn’t show anything negative about society, it was revolutionary,” said Sheila Kuehl, who played Zelda Gilroy, a recurring character with a single-minded determination to marry Dobie. And Ms. Kuehl knows something about revolution. In 1994 she became the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the California legislature.
If Zelda nudged the feminist needle ahead, another character, the show’s most enduring one, did the same for the anti-Establishment ethos. He was Maynard G. Krebs, Dobie’s best friend and in many ways his polar opposite. Where Dobie was neat and well groomed, Maynard had a scraggly goatee and an even more scraggly sweatshirt. Where Dobie talked nonstop about girls, Maynard was interested in them only rarely.
Bob Denver memorably incarnated Maynard, whose aversion to work (one trait he shared with Dobie) and casual disregard for rules and social strictures were legendary. Ratty, ridiculous Maynard was a sort of advance scout for the authority-defying years ahead.
“Maynard was one of the key characters, and frankly one of the most popular characters, because he was anti-Establishment,” Ms. Kuehl said. “And we did not see full-blown anti-Establishment until later in the ’60s.”
She called the character “not just iconic, but a harbinger.”
Doonesbury — We’re still there.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Apparently I missed something on TV about knights and battles and family feuding. Someone want to catch me up?
I never watched Downtown Abbey, either. What’s with that?
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Why are MSNBC’s ratings so low? Well, as Alex Parene at Salon suggests, it’s not because of Rachel Maddow.
“Morning Joe” is the lowest rated of the big three cable news morning shows in both total viewers and the younger demographic. Fox News’ Red Eye — a show Fox airs at 3 in the morning — had more total and 25-54-year-old viewers in April 2013 than “Morning Joe” did. “Morning Joe” in April 2013 was down, from its April 2012 numbers, in total and in young viewers by a greater percentage than the rest of the network as a whole.
I’m not harping on “Morning Joe” because I think the show is representative of everything wrong with contemporary political elite thinking, though it is, but because it illustrates MSNBC’s larger problem: It’s a political talk show. Every other TV morning show is mostly fluff and weather. “Morning Joe,” instead of entertainment news updates, has a former member of Congress wave a newspaper at Mark Halperin for a while. MSNBC’s target audience may just be much less interested in listening to people talk about politics in spring 2013 than they were during an election year.
What would you rather wake up to: a perky news anchor shitting rainbows about traffic, weather, and the latest on Justin Bieber, or Joe Scarborough ranting to Mark Halperin about Benghazi! and the socialism of Obamacare? Granted, the morning crew at Fox and Friends isn’t exactly Mensa in the Morning, but at least they’re sitting on a couch.
MSNBC’s biggest problem is that their target audience — progressives or at least those who don’t care for Fox’s rabid partisanship — aren’t a mass communication major market. They don’t listen to talk radio unless it’s interrupted by a pledge drive.
MSNBC is actually making some good decisions, lately, from the point of view of someone who’d like (talking head) cable news to be better. And anyone who says the network’s failing because of liberalism should probably have to account for the fact that the channel’s highest-rated show remains Rachel Maddow’s. (Followed by O’Donnell, who really is the insufferable smug self-satisfied liberal caricature everyone thinks all of MSNBC is.)
But do you know who watches cable news all day? And at prime time? When there’s not an election on, or a war, or some terrorism? Older conservative people. If MSNBC wants better ratings, it’ll either have to train a generation to want to pay attention to political years all the time, or it’ll have to produce a scripted show about zombies.
Maybe that’s why they run “Caught on Tape” all weekend. Add in some undead and you’ve got a hit.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Meanwhile, Jodi Arias has been found guilty. I have no idea who that is, but it was apparently big enough news to get the cable networks to break away from their coverage of the hearings to cover the verdict live from Phoenix.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
I don’t do a lot of TV reviews here — theatre and film are more my gig — but I did watch the premiere of Chris Hayes’s new program All In last night on MSNBC, and it was a good start.
He began with an in-depth look at the ruptured oil pipeline in central Arkansas that soaked a residential area, turning it to a discussion over the Keystone XL pipeline and what it might bode for the future of that project. He then moved on to a discussion on NCAA basketball and how players, especially those that are injured, don’t have much recourse for compensation unless it’s under the table and illegal. After all, this, like most shows of this nature, cover a lot of bases.
All In replaced The Ed Show with Ed Schultz, who now moves to the graveyard of the weekend evening on cable, presumably giving Lock Up and Caught on Tape a respite. Mr. Schultz has an audience and a blue collar liberal point of view, but his talk-radio persona seemed out of place in the prime time lineup between the hummingbird-on-crack behavior of Chris Matthews and the comparatively mellower Rachel Maddow. Mr. Hayes’s approach is energetic without being hyper or confrontational.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Alex Parene at Salon on the Sunday morning political chat shows:
I don’t watch the Sunday shows. Basically ever. I watch clips if something particularly stupid happened, but for the most part, you can get everything you need to know about what happens on these shows by reading the brilliant liveblog by the Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins, America’s foremost Sunday show interpreter. While no one should pay attention to these shows, as long as millions of Americans watch them under the mistaken impression that they’re seeing serious discussions of our most pressing issues with our wisest media observers and most influential political leaders, they should probably be monitored.
I confess that I used to watch them. But when they kept booking John McCain long after his usefulness as anything other than a garden gnome expired and George F. Will lost the epigram standoff with Edward Albee, I happily gave them up. I will watch “Up” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, but most of the time I’m doing the crossword puzzle and getting ready to go to meeting. Life is too short to bother with idiots.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Bard Behind Bars — Shakespeare inspired prisoners at South Africa’s notorious Robben Island.
It doesn’t look like much — just a tattered, 1970 edition of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” But inside, the book bears testament to an era.
Currently on display at the British Museum as part of an exhibition called “Shakespeare: Staging the World,” the book belongs to Sonny Venkatrathnam, who was incarcerated during the 1970s in South Africa’s apartheid-era political prison, Robben Island. Having convinced a warden that the volume was a Hindu religious text, Venkatrathnam was allowed to keep it with him in prison, where it was passed from prisoner to prisoner. At Venkatrathnam’s request, his comrades signed their names beside their favorite passages.
On Dec. 16, 1977, Nelson Mandela signed next to these lines: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once.”
Walter Sisulu, another African National Congress leader and close confidant of Mandela, put his name beside a passage in “The Merchant of Venice,” in which Shylock talks about the abuse he has taken as a Jewish money-lender: “Still have I borne it with a patient shrug / For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.”
And Billy Nair, who went on to become a member of Parliament in the new South Africa, chose Caliban’s challenge to Prospero from “The Tempest”: “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother / Which thou tak’st from me.”
The Robben Island Shakespeare is the only book from the prison that records an act of personal literary appreciation by the major figures incarcerated at the time, many of whom went on to play major roles in post-apartheid South Africa. It is a kind of “guest book,” bearing the signatures of 34 of the Robben Island prisoners. But is also more than that.
When they signed their names against Shakespeare’s text, each prisoner recognized something of himself and his relation to others in the words of a stranger. The Robben Island Shakespeare records that community of character and signature as an example of Shakespeare’s global reach and as a historically specific witness to a common human identity and shared experience.
Cutting the Cord — What it’s like to go back to Slow TV.
Our options narrowed from a world of entertainment to the whims of the few channels that would deign to come clearly through what are essentially newfangled rabbit ears: a high-definition digital antenna intended to capture the over-the-air signal, which was once how everyone watched TV. Sure, some shows were online, but in the beginning the number of commercials in them seemed prohibitive. We’d just come from a paradise of DVR fast-forwarding. Now we had to sit through the same ad over and over? We also had only one computer; with two writers in the family, it wasn’t available for TV watching.
We quickly learned some lessons. Would “Mad Men” still run if we couldn’t watch it? (Yes.) Would people refrain from spoilers while “Breaking Bad” made its way to streaming? (No, they would not.) What was this “Walking Dead” everyone was talking about? (Still not sure, but apparently it’s a big deal.)
When the weather is right, we get most of the channels. Sometimes. CBS is the only network that shows up consistently and pristinely, and one day I’ll be old enough to enjoy its fare. There is also a channel that doesn’t seem to have a name but broadcasts reruns of “Three’s Company” or “Sanford and Son,” which is not so bad in the beggars/choosers category.
Yet what initially seemed like a torture we’d simply have to endure became a surprising reminder of the simple pleasures of simple TV.
Call it Slow TV. I had never stopped loving TV, but I had stopped appreciating it. Entire seasons of shows had piled up on the DVR, on the theory that they might be interesting someday. TV was everywhere now — on the phone, on the computer. It was on while I wrote, did taxes, folded laundry. It was background noise. When I really had to make choices about what to watch, and then pay attention with no rewind to fall back on, TV became absorbing again, an activity in itself, as it had been when I was younger. And I watched much less, if only for logistical reasons.
As it turns out, I unintentionally had become part of a growing group of Americans giving up wired cable and even televisions. Nielsen recently reported that TV set ownership has dropped to 96.7 percent of American households from 98.9 percent, and it isn’t because we’re reading more. Instead we’re cobbling together new ways of digesting programming. We watch on iPhones, computers, Rokus, other people’s HBO Go accounts, and yes, a digital antenna; one-size-fits-all TV is over.
Still, analog watching isn’t without its inconveniences. Even in the heady days of cable service, the DVR was overwhelmed by the choices on some nights. The answer should have been simple: Watch some shows online when the computer is available. But “Gossip Girl,” for instance, had so many unforwardable commercials on Hulu that it’s clear who the real demographic for those shows are: people who don’t yet believe that they have the right to not be advertised to for 30 minutes of a 60-minute show. When the ads became burdensome, the series had to do some mighty things to stay on the list. Blair’s marrying a prince, then leaving him for Chuck, simply didn’t qualify.
Keeping Hope Alive — How to keep young people engaged in politics and progressivism.
Young voters surprised pundits and Republicans again this year as we turned out in record numbers to vote, joining key constituencies including African Americans, Hispanics, and women to reelect President Obama. Composing 19 percent of the electorate, up from 18 percent in 2008 and 12 percent in 2004, young Americans demonstrated their importance to a growing progressive coalition.
Many question, however, whether our diverse and unprecedented coalition will be able to build on this foundation and sustain the power of our ideas and values throughout our lifetimes. Or, like the Reagan coalition after 1990, are we fated to fracture as a political force by 2016? Some suggest that the strong generational power of today’s 18-30-year-olds will become inconsequential as the hype dies down and we grow up. Our next steps are critical.
Young progressives are a distinct and large population that favors pragmatic problem-solving, opportunity for all, justice and equality, and government’s promotion of such ideals. Identifying more strongly with values than with a political party, we are a significant portion of President Obama’s alliance. Yet given the diversity of the Obama coalition, someone must lead productive grassroots dialogue, finding a broader progressive voice. As members of the largest and most diverse generation in American history, young progressives are the best candidates for the job.
Rather than waiting 30 or 40 years to see how this pans out, let’s write the story ourselves today. Young people are powerful influencers of elections, and we’ve built a strong foundation on which to stand. But it’s up to us to define citizenship for our generation and maintain a unified commitment to progressive values to solidify the political shift.
Doonesbury — Red Rascal returns?
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Paul Waldman on the desert that is the Sunday morning chat show:
I live and breathe politics, yet I find these programs absolutely unwatchable, and I can’t be the only one. On a typical episode, there is nothing to learn, no insight to be gained, no interesting perspective on offer, nothing but an endless spew of talking points and squabbling.
The Sunday morning shows are why I started to go back to Quaker meeting a few years ago. The only saving grace on TV is Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC Saturdays and Sundays. It is everything the chat shows are not: no party hacks, no middle-school “neener neener,” and mercifully enough, none of the Beltway celebrities that prove that politics is show business for ugly people. And John McCain hasn’t been on it ever.