Category Archive 'Television'
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):



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.

31 Jan 2013

Taking Lena Dunham Seriously

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The principal characters of Girls: Allison Williams (Marnie Michaels), Jemima Kirke (Jessa Johansson), Lena Dunham (Hannah Horvath), Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna Shapiro)

Kurt Schlichter, at Breitbart, issued a manifesto yesterday, demanding that conservatives take Lena Dunham’s appalling and bizarre HB0-comedy-series seriously.

There’s plenty about Girls to annoy conservatives, yet this often creepy, usually skeevy, critically-acclaimed HBO series is also a test for conservatives.

Will we finally heed Andrew Breitbart’s warnings about the importance of taking pop culture seriously or just keep fiddling as the culture burns?

If conservatives are going to be in the popular culture – and act to change it – they can’t simply ignore shows like Girls that capture the zeitgeist, even if the zeitgeist makes their skin crawl. Season two is well under way, and conservatives need to participate in the discussion.

Girls is about four young, aimless college grads living in New York. Think of Sex and the City, except Sarah Jessica Parker has doubled her weight, dresses like a potato sack and fancies herself the voice of some undefined generation. There’s sex and nudity – just not hot Homeland sex and nudity. This is the first show in the history of cable television where male viewers actively root for the heroine to keep her clothes on. …

So, why should conservatives want any part of this?

Great question.

The answer, if the fact that the show can be pretty amusing isn’t reason enough for you, is that conservatives need to be a part of big cultural events if they want to be a part of culture at large. But that begs the questions of why we conservatives would even want to be part of the culture at large. It’s a cesspool. And there’s an answer for that too – so we can participate in changing it.

I’m not sure what exactly Mr. Schlichter believes conservatives ought to do. Purchase half-an-hour of weekly air time after each Girls episode broadcasts to have some white male conservative of mature years offer a lecture on sexual morality?

Develop an alternative series, to be titled Good Girls, to be broadcast weekly on the Hallmark Network, depicting four religiously observant, socially conservative, and rationally behaving young ladies conventionally employed in Omaha, Nebraska or Salt Lake City?

Myself, I do undertake the effort (and it takes a bit of an effort) to watch the series. It certainly does have some moments of effective humor and amusement, but the life-style and perspective of the millennials depicted is actively embarrassing to watch. Lena Dunham’s frequent nude scenes and the regular depictions of inept, unsatisfying, and sometimes aspirationally perverse sex persistently gross one out. The viewer is left rather baffled at Dunham’s self-deprecatory exhibitionism, and winds up shaking his head and wondering: Do people of her generation routinely view themselves as that stupid and incompetent? And, if they do, why would they make a television program and tell everyone? There are no answers.

I suppose all we can do is write these sorts of editorials, marveling aloud, and wondering what the success and popularity of a television series like that tells us about just how far the Abendslands have Unterganged.

One correction: Oberlin is not, definitely not, an Ivy League school.

15 Feb 2012

Maggie Smith Does Reaction Well

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Ten top Dowager Countess Violet Grantham scenes from Downton Abbey.

04 Jan 2012

Spectacular Photos

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Eagle Falconry, Altai Mountains, Mongolia

This 7:28 trailer for Human Planet, a BBC Ethnographic Travelogue series scheduled to begin broadcasting in March, has some striking images. Photographer Timothy Allen did the voice-over.

20 Dec 2011

I Have No Explanation

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As to how it happens that our own Blue Ridge Hunt was recently filmed hunting at Persimmon Hill by a Korean NBC station for its news coverage. Principals featured included: retired Huntsman Chris Howells (releasing the hounds from the hounds truck), MFH Linda Armbrust and Huntsman Dennis Downing (both briefly commenting), and Charlie (dashing gallantly through the countryside).

1:49 video

07 Dec 2011

Mythbusters Hit Homes With Cannonball

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Television’s Mythbusters had one of their experiments, apparently testing the velocity or the penetrating ability of a cannonball, go severely wrong. The projectile, intended to penetrate multiple barrels of water and a cinderblock then wind up buried in a hillside on an army base southeast of Oakland, instead sailed over the Diablo foothills and went right into the suburbs.

The misaimed cannonball went straight through the front door and the interior and exterior walls of one house in Dublin, California, then flew across a busy highway (luckily missing the passing cars), and took out the slate roof of a second house 50 yards away before coming to rest in a third family’s minivan.

I bet that program’s insurance will be markedly more costly next season.



Vanderleun offers maps.

05 Nov 2011

Andy Rooney (January 14, 1919 – November 4, 2011)

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Andy Rooney was old, but he could effectively argue the superiority of his old manual typewriter over those newfangled personal computers that replaced them.

01 Mar 2011

The Significance of Pop Culture

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Scrooge McDuck and his nephew Donald were responsible for some pretty impressive cultural contributions.

Hat tip to Jose Guardia.


According to Jay Black, Nathan Fillion is television’s Martin Luther.


When the alien invaders arrive

22 Jun 2010

Cognitive Surplus

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Clay Shirky, in a new book titled Cognitive Surplus, maintains that the post-WWII age of suburbanization was one of those eras of abrupt, dislocating social change which left Americans morose and seeking for self-medication just like 18th century Englishmen driven by economic change from the countryside to the city.

They used gin, a new, potent yet inexpensive distilled spirit, whose method of production had arrived from Holland as part of the the fashionable baggage accompanying William and Mary. Americans used television.

Shirky contends that the Internet is bringing about the end of the age of self-narcotization via sitcoms and game shows. Leisure time sucked down the television time sink, the cognitive surplus simply wasted previously, will instead be transferred to more useful and communitarian activities (like writing Wikipedia entries and blogging) and a wonderful new era of transparency, creativity, and productivity will bloom.

Hmm. I wonder if he has ever heard of World of Warcraft.

Barnes & Noble review.


Jonah Leher brings formidable Friedrich Nietzsche to television’s defense.

I would disagree. In some peculiar way, if I hadn’t watched and re-watched The Sopranos then this sentence wouldn’t exist. (And I would have missed out on many interesting, intelligent conversations…) The larger point, I guess, is that before we can produce anything meaningful, we need to consume and absorb, and think about what we’ve consumed and absorbed. That’s why Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, said we must become a camel (drinking up everything) before we can become a lion, and properly rebel against the strictures of society.

William Hogarth, Gin Lane, Engraving, 1751

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