Category Archive 'Television'
22 Aug 2016

2016, and Downhill From There!

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TrumpvsHillary

How did we get to this point? Where are we going in the future? Jonathan Rauch, in the Atlantic, argues that we democratized and reformed our way to chaos, disorder, and allowing the momentary whims of the least common denominator to make the key decisions, and he thinks it is only going to get worse.

It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.

As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes. …

Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome.

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.

Our intricate, informal system of political intermediation, which took many decades to build, did not commit suicide or die of old age; we reformed it to death. For decades, well-meaning political reformers have attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or (usually) all of the above. Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick.

The disorder has other causes, too: developments such as ideological polarization, the rise of social media, and the radicalization of the Republican base. But chaos syndrome compounds the effects of those developments, by impeding the task of organizing to counteract them. Insurgencies in presidential races and on Capitol Hill are nothing new, and they are not necessarily bad, as long as the governing process can accommodate them. Years before the Senate had to cope with Ted Cruz, it had to cope with Jesse Helms. The difference is that Cruz shut down the government, which Helms could not have done had he even imagined trying.

Like many disorders, chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes governmental dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites political disruption, which causes yet more governmental dysfunction. Reversing the spiral will require understanding it.

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Michael Rosemblum, at HuffPo, thinks it’s simpler than that. Ignore the polls, Trump will win because he’s the biggest celebrity and America has evolved into a television-based celebrity culture. Get ready for Kanye West vs. Phil Robertson next time!

Donald Trump is going to be elected president.

The American people voted for him a long time ago.

They voted for him when The History Channel went from showing documentaries about the Second World War to Pawn Stars and Swamp People.

They voted for him when The Discovery Channel went from showing Lost Treasures of the Yangtze Valley to Naked and Afraid.

They voted for him when The Learning Channel moved from something you could learn from to My 600 Pound Life.

They voted for him when CBS went from airing Harvest of Shame to airing Big Brother.

These networks didn’t make these programming changes by accident. They were responding to what the American people actually wanted. And what they wanted was Naked and Afraid and Duck Dynasty.

The polls may show that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, but don’t you believe those polls. When the AC Nielsen Company selects a new Nielsen family, they disregard the new family’s results for the first three months. The reason: when they feel they are being monitored, people lie about what they are watching. In the first three months, knowing they are being watched, they will tune into PBS. But over time they get tired of pretending. Then it is back to The Kardashians.

The same goes for people who are being asked by pollsters for whom they are voting. They will not say Donald Trump. It is too embarrassing. But the truth is, they like Trump. He is just like their favorite shows on TV.

Mindless entertainment.

Trump’s replacement of Paul Manafort with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon shows that Trump understands how Americans actually think. They think TV. They think ratings. They think entertainment.

23 Jul 2016

“American Gods”

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Starz released the teaser trailer at the current Comic-Con for its new series based on the Neil Gaiman fantasy novel premiering in January 2017. Ian McShane will have an excellent role.

12 Feb 2016

History Pedant Critiques “The Last Kingdom,” Episode 1

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28 Dec 2015

Is That Hole .44 or .45?

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ElvisTV
Annie Leibovitz, Elvis’s TV, Graceland, Memphis, 2011

Haven’t we all wanted to do that?

09 Jul 2015

Dukes of Hazzard, PC Version

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22 May 2015

Greenfield on Letterman’s Retirement

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david_letterman_angry

Dan Greenfield says Good Riddance to Letterman.

Progressive comedy is above all else lazy and Letterman was the laziest man in comedy. He had more staffers than Eisenhower all to deploy the thousandth [iteration] of the same joke. He used his power to fill the time slots after him with hosts who couldn’t possibly compete with him to avoid being Conaned.

He was not a liberal by conviction, but out of laziness. When challenged by guests like Bill O’Reilly, he quickly folded. His politics were not thought out, they were unthinking. For all his pretense of eccentricity, he was a conformist who understood that if he played the game, he would get paid. His comic personality, the folksy skepticism and detached disdain served up in measured doses to viewers, was calculated to cover up this essential attribute that defined his enormously lucrative career.

Letterman is a professional sycophant who limos off into the sunset to the strains of the sycophantic braying of a dying industry. As audiences dwindle, the media has become its own audience, mourning the passing of its glorious past by taking hits of nostalgia from its heady days of power and privilege.

The mournful tributes piling up in his wake aren’t about him. Network television is dying. Letterman was one of its last national figures. If you think mainstream media outlets are carrying on over his exit, wait until network television dies its inevitable demographic death.

Then the media will really have something to cry about.

21 May 2015

Letterman’s Missing Indiana Soul

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LettermanObama

John Nolte explains how David Letterman responded to losing to Jay Leno by becoming a toady to the urban establishment.

I didn’t leave David Letterman, David Letterman left me.

It was sometime around 2003 when I began to realize Letterman didn’t like me anymore. His anger was no longer subversive and clever, it was bitter and mean-spirited and palpably real. He was a jerk playing to his loyal audience — urban, cynical, elite, Blue State jerks. The humble, self-deprecating Dave had become the nasty, arrogant Letterman, an unrecognizable bully who reveled in pulling the wings off those he saw as something less.

Chris Christie’s weight; Rush Limbaugh’s personal life; everything Bill O’Reilly; Bush, Cheney, Palin, and the last straw, a statutory rape joke about Palin’s 15 year-old daughter. Suddenly you were a dangerous idiot for protecting the most Indiana of things — your gun.

The man who could make you laugh at yourself now wanted to hurt and humiliate.

Letterman’s politics were never the issue. You can’t share my passion for show business and movies and let politics get in the way. Carlin was probably to the left of Letterman, but Carlin was funny and thoughtful and smart. Watching Letterman berate and hector and attempt to humiliate conservative guests over guns and the climate and the brilliance of Obama was boorish. Describing Mitt Romney as a “felon” was just sad.

The American Heartland had disappointed its own Indiana son, and for more than a decade the son was out for payback.

Or maybe Letterman was just so scared and insecure about losing what little audience he had, that he sold out his genius and Midwestern decency to bitterly cling to them? He certainly never again displayed the courage to challenge them, or to make them feel in any way uncomfortable.

Night after night the man who became my hero for biting the hand was now licking the boot — and convinced while doing so that he’s superior to the rest of us.

How I pity him.

Read the whole thing.

25 Nov 2014

Before My Time

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PatNovak

We geezers who were little kids watching television in the 1950s remember Jack Webb playing LAPD Sergeant Jim Friday in Dragnet, but you have to be older yet to know that Webb previously played a hard-boiled detective on the radio.

Word Around the Net:

Before Dragnet, before everyone knew him, Jack Webb did several other radio shows. The best of them was called Pat Novak for Hire [1946-1947], about a boat owner and general odd jobs guy who kept getting involved in various pulpy adventures.

What set this show apart was the writing, which was noire hard boiled writing at its absolute best. The primary writer Richard L. Breen who went on to write such films as State Fair, Niagra, and PT 109. And his work was poetry. The interaction between Novak and his nemesis on the police force Lieutanant Hellman is classic and usually hilarious, and the philosophical monologues and musings of drunken ex-doctor Jocko Madigan is unique to the show. …

Every show starts with a grim and often bitter intro by Pat Novak about how hardcore his life and the world he moves through is. This is San Francisco back before the hippies, the toughest place in America and one of the roughest places in the world.

    ‘Around here a set of morals won’t cause any more stir than Mother’s Day in an orphanage. Maybe that’s not good, but that’s the way it is. And it wouldn’t do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else’s.’

    ‘Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It’s tough on your windpipe, but you don’t go hungry.’

    ‘Pat Novak, for hire. It’s about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are ’til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can’t waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper’s will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it’s a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison.’

Almost all of these are worth listening to and as hardboiled as a fifteen year egg.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

06 Oct 2014

Twin Peaks Coming Back!

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In 2016, on Showtime, twenty-five years after the original, nine more episodes directed by David Lynch.

Raw Story

27 Aug 2014

Weird Al’s Homage to Game of Thrones at the Emmys

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

22 Jul 2014

James Garner Memorial Posting

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Americans were saddened this week by the passing of the good-looking and always affable James Garner. It seems appropriate to remember Garner with a look at a few of his best-known roles.

Bret Maverick takes on Clint Eastwood (1959):

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GarnerHartley

Garner’s late 1970s-early 1980s Polaroid commercials with Mariette Hartley were considered one of the advertising industry’s biggest hits. Garner tended to play the graceful loser in the battle of the sexes. Their badinage was so persuasive that a lot of people believed that Garner and Hartley were really married.

13 Mar 2014

Obama Gets to See “Game of Thrones” First

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Barack Obama has been described as “binge watching” his favorite television shows. Apparently, unlike other Americans who binge watch after the season is over, from recordings or Netflix DVDs, President Obama is able to persuade networks to give him advance screenings of program seasons which have not yet begun to air.

Naked DC reports that the fix is already in for Barack Obama to score his own advance viewing of the upcoming season of “Game of the Thrones.”

Be jealous, America. Instead of having to binge watch the show on Netflix or HBOGo after the season is finished like everyone else in America, the Commander in Chief will get to watch King Joffrey choke to death an entire season early.

SPOILERS, sorry. Also, like you didn’t know.

Anyway, back when HBO’s CEO met with White House officials as part of a pow-wow over technological leadership and the balance of security and privacy, President Obama made it his top priority to request an advance copy of the next season of Game of Thrones and then reiterated his request last week at a State dinner for French President Francois Hollande (adding True Detective, of course, though he’ll have to watch that the same way we all do, now that the season has ended). And as it turns out, when you’re the President, you can pretty much get what you want, especially out of top level donors.

    Shortly after the news spread that President Obama requested advance copies of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” headlines everywhere speculated if the main man in charge would get his wish.

    It turns out, he did.

    When asked by Vanity Fair if the president got a sneak peak of the “Game of Thrones” season premiere, co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss jointly replied, “One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early.”

    The episode premieres for the rest of America on April 6.

09 Mar 2013

How Did Jeff Probst Ever Get Up There?

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In the opening sequence of this season’s Survivor television show, Survivor Caramoan, filmed in the Caramoan Islands of the Philippines, presenter Jeff Probst began his presentation of the program standing heroically atop a narrow rock spire, helicopters speeding past his precarious aerial perch.

Viewers naturally wondered: How on hell did CBS ever get Jeff Probst up there?

Happily, CBS has provided a 2:11 video demonstrating exactly how it all was done.

31 Jan 2013

“Hector Goes Hunting” (With the Scarteen)

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Ireland has some interesting television.

In this individual segment of a four-part series, Hector Ó hEochagáin (I think that would be “Hector O’Hogan” to you or me), as part of a personal investigation of important aspects of Irish life, goes out fox hunting with Ireland’s illustrious black-and-tan Scarteen pack.

Someday, we have to visit the Scarteen, too.

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