Most Overrated: The West Wing
I have to confess I didn’t watch much of this show, after the first episode featured a group of antisemitic “conservative” teachers (as though that’s a bigger problem with conservatives) and President Martin Sheen, I mean Josiah Bartlett, telling a bunch of conservative pastors (in real life, Israel’s best friends) to “get your fat asses out of my office.” That easy, clichéd slander was enough for me.
This show was constant liberal wish fulfillment throughout its run, like any production from the much-overrated Aaron Sorkin that directly deals with politics. Knock down straw men that represent liberal nightmares about conservatives, then be all self-congratulatory for taking on the “tough issues.”
In 2002, President Bartlett’s campaign was against the typical Republican candidate, a stupid, Southern right-wing governor, so it was an easy victory — despite the fact that the most recent president was someone that Hollywood considered a stupid, Southern right-wing governor. And a year after 9/11, the central issue seemed to be green energy; and, of course, liberal goodness and farsightedness won the day because the president had the good sense to embrace it.
In 2005, the show presented the “ideal” Republican candidate. The one that liberals supposedly fear the most. A pro-choice moderate played by… wait for it… Alan Alda!
His most triumphant moment is his refusal to go to a conservative mega-church and a declaration against religious tests. But, alas, he is a Republican, so of course he is most afraid of a dynamic Latino candidate on the Democrat side, the idealistic Jimmy Smits, and uses immigration as a wedge issue to hurt him in his own primary, leading to this slapdown by a close aide:
But aside from the constant liberal fantasy, there are two things that anyone who has ever worked for — or even with — government has to find laughable. First, the idea that government at any level doesn’t move with the speed of a glacier.
And second — adding to the ponderous pretentiousness of the show — did the White House not pay its light bill? The noirish atmosphere may be dramatic, but government buildings are anything but dimly lit, and their favorite type of lighting tends to be fluorescent.
During the run of The West Wing, every successful Republican for president in a generation had run as a conservative, while every successful Democrat had run disguised as a moderate. Of course, 2012 changed all that…
GRADE: The Show Overall — C, the Campaign — D
Being in Rome withdrawal back in 2010, I was anxious for another good historical series from HBO (and those in Rome withdrawal may have noted that Ray Stevenson, who played Titus Pullo, surfaced this season as a Ukrainian bad guy with a British accent on Dexter, another favorite show of mine). Plus, no Quentin Tarantino fan would turn down the opportunity to watch Steve Buscemi headline a series. To be honest, I almost didn’t make it through the first episode, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and relied on self-indulgent historical recreation boardwalk shots.
Season Three started well, but the personal subplots that carried the mob family in The Sopranos became a drag for Boardwalk. Nucky Thompson (Buscemi) was annoying as he paid ill attention to his business while trying to “rescue” yet another woman, this time a flighty actress who fell victim to that ill attention when she was killed by a bomb meant for Nucky at the supper club. Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) began the season on a scary note, but as his reign of terror continued he was often a comical stereotype of an Italian gangster. Micky Doyle (Paul Sparks) was annoying because he’s supposed to be, but got a head-scratching amount of business responsibility this time around (one of the season’s best lines came from Eli Thompson, played by Shea Whigham, when Mickey was sent to pick him up from prison: “Let me ask you something, Mickey. How the f*@k are you still alive?”). And Margaret Thompson (Kelly Macdonald) was annoying as all get out as she squabbled with Nucky, went on her family planning crusade, then ironically didn’t think about her own birth control when she had sex with her husband’s handsome Irish right-hand man.
There simply wasn’t enough of the best characters this season, though some got their story arcs broadened a bit.
hat tip: Buzzfeed
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
First, some wisdom from Deadwood, via the wonderful Jonah Goldberg at NRO:
I think it was Orson Welles who said, “If you want to tell a story with a happy ending, it all depends on where you stop.” To put it another way: every story is a tragedy, if you tell it to the end.
As with lives, so with republics. Freedom is a living thing. It dies. Conservatives are like doctors. They can only win for the moment, the day, the year, the election cycle. And no matter the victory, time only goes one way. The republic grows older every day, the people travel further from their founding values and nothing lasts forever.
There are many responses to that situation. Only one of them is wise: good cheer and defiance. Keep laughing; fight back; fear nothing. Mortality makes time too precious for despondency and death makes a fool of fear. There’s nothing to worry about: disaster is certain. And nothing can be that serious since, whatever it is, it’s guaranteed to end.
Since Tuesday, I have heard enough conservatives saying, “It’s over! We’re through!” in serious, important-sounding voices to last me the next four years. I don’t care how important you make it sound, it’s whining; any child can do it. I’ll let you know when it’s over by putting you in the ground and throwing six feet of dirt onto your face. Until you get that secret signal, really, pull yourself together.
Both the Lady Parts and Periods items were pulled within hours of posting, and Julia had launched quite a backlash meme, so one might think that the Obama campaign would be cautious about patronizing women again.
Alas, no. The Obama campaign has plenty more patronizing to do, this time in a plucky commercial. Thursday afternoon the Obama campaign released this spot, “Your First Time.”
In case you are not familiar with the young woman telling voting virgins to have their first time be with Barack Obama, that is Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO’s Girls. It is Sex in the City for millennials — all the sex and the single girl drama but without the cushy jobs to support the Manolo Blahnik fetishes.
As seems to be a growing trend with the rise of Netflix and DVR, these days my wife and I watch few shows as they’re broadcast. We prefer to A) watch at our own pace as per our schedule, and B) avoid wasting any more of our lives watching dumb commercials for products we don’t want.
So for the past couple years we’ve plowed through whole seasons of shows like Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, the new Battlestar Galactica, The Wire – many others can probably rattle off the usual list. Last week we finally finished The Sopranos.
Seem strange that we waited so long to watch it? A show so acclaimed and legendary? Perhaps the show most responsible for bringing in this hard-edged revival of TV drama? That was intentional.
I’d tried watching The Sopranos several times over the past decade and could never get into it. I probably attempted the first episode three times over the years. It was only now — as we’ve finished some of the other “top shelf” HBO and Showtime offerings — that I decided to grit my teeth and give the Soprano family another shot. Maybe if I waded a few episodes in then I’d find aspects of the show to enjoy and we’d be off for another 6-season TV epic. And how nice would it be to finally be up to date and to understand what the big deal was about the show in the first place?
I should have paid attention to my initial gut instinct.
*** SPOILER WARNING FOR NEXT PAGE **** If you haven’t seen the last episode of The Sopranos yet and intend to then click here to jump to page 3 of this article, avoiding the spoilers of the last episode and my explanation for why we should have just skipped The Sopranos altogether.
Here I provide you with a seven word refutation to this speech from HBO’s new show The Newsroom.
“Which way are all the rafts going?”
Related at PJ Lifestyle: Critics Hammer Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom: ‘So Naive it’s Cynical’
Bill Maher, possibly the whitest guy on the planet, believes he’s the reigning authority on what blackness means. While pontificating on the personality of the president, he wished Obama were more like Suge Knight, gangster thug and criminal, and less like Wayne Brady, successful, law-abiding entertainer. For those of you unfamiliar with the gangster rap world, Knight was guilty of many crimes, including theft, assault, and weapons charges. For more on him, just read his Wikipedia entry to be thoroughly disgusted.
Maher clearly believes a person can’t be truly considered black unless he has a criminal record. Wayne Brady, who worked incredibly hard to become successful, is just not black enough in Maher’s eyes because he never beat anyone up…yet. It looks like Maher might not want to encounter Brady without a bodyguard after his insult. Brady responded to Maher on a Girl on Guy podcast with Aisha Tyler:
So, that means it’s a diss to Obama to be called me because he wants a brother-brother, or what he perceives. Just because you f*** black hookers, just because you have that particular black experience. … Now, I’m not saying I’m Billy Badass, but if Bill Maher has his perception of what’s black wrapped up, I would gladly slap the shit out of Bill Maher in the middle of the street, and then I want to see what Bill Maher would do.
Maher is a known misogynist, calling conservative women all manner of horrible names that aren’t fit for print, but Brady’s accusation that Maher likes black prostitutes is more than just speculation. Maher had a famous relationship with rap video girl and porn star Karrine Steffans, who became famous for writing a tell-all novel about the rap world and her experience as a “whore” for rappers (her words).
The critics have weighed in on Aaron Sorkin’s new drama, “The Newsroom,” starring Jeff Daniels as a news anchor struggling to put together a successful news program despite the obligatory pressures and obstacles.
The consensus? It’s not Sorkin’s finest work.
Here are the 10 harshest reviews of “Newsroom,” which debuts Sunday on HBO:
1. “‘The Newsroom’ had me contemplating that which is so feared in my industry: changing the channel. And I was watching it on DVD.” — ABC’s Jake Tapper, The New Republic
2. “…an exponentially tedious undertaking for the viewer…” — Hank Stuever, Washington Post
3. “It’s so naive it’s cynical.” — Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker
4. “…it all feels over-overwrought.” — Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post
Commentary’s John Podhoretz with an enthusiastic write-up of HBO’s Girls at The Weekly Standard:
HBO’s much-discussed new series Girls is just concluding its first season, and it’s extraordinary. Girls offers the most interesting and original televised portrait of upper-middle-class American angst since thirty-something went off the air in 1991.
Like thirtysomething, it is simultaneously an infuriatingly self-referential thumbsucker and an extraordinarily intelligent dissection of infuriatingly self-referential thumbsucking. But it is, thankfully, far more the latter than the former. And it is one of the most prodigious media stunts since the heyday of the very young Orson Welles, given that it is largely the work of a 26-year-old who created it, wrote most of the episodes, directed a few of them, and stars in it to boot.
Her name is Lena Dunham, and two years ago she did the same triple duty on a do-it-yourself movie called Tiny Furniture that I actively disliked because it was purely a self-referential thumbsuck. Something good happened to Dunham in the interim between the movie and the TV series, because Girls takes the world of Tiny Furniture—post-collegiate types with no marketable skills wandering aimlessly around New York City—and gives it heft and shape and dimension.
It’s often very funny, and given that each episode runs a half-hour, I guess you’d call Girls a sitcom. But it really comes across more like a loosely linked collection of Ann Beattie stories updated from the post-1960s anomie of Beattie’s characters to the media-soaked seen-it-all world-weariness of Generation Zynga.
Read the whole thing. And let’s consider this post the conclusion of the Girls vs Women and Boys vs Men discourse for now. (Though don’t be surprised if more articles on the subject of growing up show up at PJ Lifestyle. It’s one of Kathy Shaidle’s specialties.)
Seeing the promotions for Girls, two impressions emerged:
1. Looks like they nailed the Millennial “post-collegiate types with no marketable skills wandering aimlessly.”
2. Therefore, I have no interest in watching it right now.
Just the previews alone reminded me of myself and too many people I’ve known over the last decade who were in the same limbo zone in life: just emerging out into the “real world” and wobbling between being a girl and a woman, a boy and a man, struggling to find their path to a happy, satisfying life of meaning, worth, and dignity.
With only so many entertainment hours in the day, why spend them being reminded of all the people I care about who were making themselves miserable by refusing to grow up?
The Obama 2012 campaign is panting to give first dog Bo a starring part in its re-election bid, prominently featuring the handsome Portuguese water dog in official campaign advertisements and fundraising efforts in an effort to court the canine-loving contingent. One of those efforts is “Bark for Obama,” a cute collection of designer dog apparel; consulting on the collection was none other than Obama’s most fashionable fundraiser, Vogue’s Anna Wintour (who is known more for her love of fur coats than live animals, but whatever).
It’s all a sad reminder of how the president missed a golden opportunity to help a tragically under-represented American demographic. In 2009, after winning many dog lovers’ hearts by hinting at the possibility that his family would adopt a shelter mutt, the president instead accepted the gift of a purebred pup from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Had he made good on his promise to scoop an underdog from one of the country’s many overburdened animal shelters, the gesture would have gone a long way toward reversing the nation’s crushing homeless-dog crisis. The all-American mutt would’ve gained overnight celebrity as a status hound. But instead of casting their vote for the all-American mutt, copycats bought … Portuguese water dog puppies.
Now, a new documentary reveals, in graphic detail, just what that missed opportunity has cost the dogs of America. It’s called One Nation Under Dog, and it airs tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO, as the opening film of the annual HBO Summer Documentary Series.
There’s no question that we Americans love our dogs. There are 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States, and statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturing Assocation show that we spend some $50 billion per year on their care, feeding, and other amenities. If we love dogs so much, then how come so mind-bogglingly many of them — a conservative estimate puts the number at about 4 million — are killed at our country’s animal shelters every year? That’s the hard-nosed question posed by One Nation Under Dog.
Subtitled “Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal,” it presents, in anthology format, stories of individual dogs and people that will haunt you. One Nation Under Dog is rated TV-MA (for mature audiences) because, among other things, it reveals in graphic detail what happens to unwanted dogs at animal shelters when they’re not adopted.
Season 5 of True Blood premiered tonight with an episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — and it’s as appropriate to describe new vampires as it is to describe this mid-stop in the annual run of HBO’s better series. Last week was the season 2 finale of Game of Thrones, ending with a bang as the White Walkers procession headed toward the wall to Death Star-esqe music. And before True Blood tonight we got a look forward at the third season of Boardwalk Empire, which will begin after the vampires finish their season. It looks like Boardwalk is going to jump ahead a couple of years additional development of some of the more intriguing characters, like a young Al Capone, and Nucky will have his demons from having killed Jimmy.
True Blood seems to be an either love-it-or-hate-it series. For some, it’s a fun way to unwind before the work week. For others, it’s just trampy vampy vampire porn. OK, both sides admit it’s vampire porn. HBO Sunday night has long been detox for overworked, overstressed journalists (which is why we have no need for that new Newsroom series), so I go with the fun way to unwind — it definitely doesn’t require as much concentration as what’s often needed to keep up with the characters as GoT, and I don’t stay up afterward checking the history vs. Boardwalk mobsters. And for those who have kept up with the other seasons of True Blood, one of its apparent strengths this season is bringing back a couple of characters from seasons past: Rev. Steve Newlin, who’s now a shady vampire, and Russell Edgington, whose vampire version of Howard Beale created one of the more classic moments in the series.
A lot was packed into the season opener. Tara was shot defending Sookie at the end of last season, and Pam happens along to the house after it happened. Lafayette and Sookie desperately beg Pam to turn Tara into a vampire to, well, “save her life,” if you can call it that, even though Tara hates vampires. Into the ground they go. Newlin shows up at Jason’s house, tricks Jason into inviting him inside, then admits he’s a gay vampire and in love with Jason. “This dog don’t bark that way,” Jason says as Jessica shows up to claim him and scare off Newlin. Sam took the fall for killing the pack master — and those dogs do crazy things with their dead — but Alcide showed up to save the day. Alcide also tried to save Sookie from Russell, but again the only normal guy to speak of gets spurned.
Digital Copy of True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season (expires 05/31/2014)
Blu-ray & DVD:
Inside the Episodes (12 Clips)
Get the backstories on each of the episodes with revealing interviews with the show writers.
True Blood The Final Touches– Join Alan Ball as he reveals an exclusive never-before-seen glimpse in the post production process of True Blood.
6 Audio Commentaries with the cast and crew including Executive Producer and Creator Alan Ball, Anna Paquin (Sookie), Stephen Moyer (Bill), Alexander Skarsgard (Eric), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Fiona Shaw (Marnie Stonebrook) and more!
True Blood Lines: Uncover secrets from relationships past and present in this engaging fully interactive guide and archive.
Character Perspectives PiP: Find out the backstory of what happened in Bon Temps while Sookie was missing in Faerieland, and get the inside scoop on all the comings and goings from your favorite characters including: Andy, Arlene, Crystal, Debbie, Don Bartolo, Godric, Jason, Lafayette, Luna, Maxine, Melinda, Nan, Pam, and Tara.
Flashback/Flash Forward (Jumpout Video): Move through time in the world of Bon Temps. Flashback to relive pivotal moments or Flash Forward to reveal the significance of a certain scene.
Vampire Histories / Character Bios / Hints / FYIs – Get the background stories on your favorite characters.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, even though I’ve never been into the fantasy genre, I really enjoy Game of Thrones. And I’ve enjoyed this season better than the last, proving that there is life after killing off your main character before the first season is even over. The production value is like watching a movie, and at no time has that been more apparent than in tonight’s episode, where Stannis invaded King’s Landing and got smacked with some night-is-dark-and-full-of-terrors napalm.
A few observations…
- WHY didn’t Stannis’ Demon Baby swoop in and kill Joffrey like it did Renly??
- Hell is, apparently, being stuck in a siege with Cersei and a bottle of wine
- Your wet-work guy will apparently only put up with being called “Dog” in a snarling tone so many times before he bails in the middle of a battle
- After all this time GoT can come up with new dwarf jokes: In this one, Joffrey snarls about cutting Tyrion in half, prompting the quipmeister to quip, “That would make me a quarter man.”
- Dwarves apparently have low-angle tactical advantages on the battlefield
- Tyrion was one pint of blue facepaint away from giving a Braveheart rallying speech there
- Varys was this close to telling his how-I-became-a-eunuch story. I hope nobody missed it.
I was kind of hoping that it would be Rob Stark to be the surprise invader on the invaders, but when we last left him he was a little busy with the woman who amputates legs. It was a nice twist to see Tywin ride in, but he needs to knock his snooty little grandson off the Iron Throne pronto.
The teaser for the season finale showed Sansa talking with Lord Baelish, so here’s hoping that The Hound didn’t smuggle her out of the palace and into the whorehouse. We also see that Daenerys will take some concrete step toward getting her dragons back (will they grow up already?), and Arya hooks up again with her death genie, “The Man” Jaqen, so we get to close out the season with some more awesome conversation in the third-person.
Last week at his Spengler blog here at PJM David Goldman commented on the discussion of Barack Obama’s time eating dog meat while growing up in the third world:
Globalization — which ultimately is a good thing — may be unspeakably destructive for traditional societies in its path. Tens of millions of people are forcibly torn out of their roots. In Thailand, farmers become construction workers in the big cities, and the girls they would have married in their villages become prostitutes. Education and income and health all improve, on average, but the disruption of lives produces immeasurable hurt.
We laugh about it, but people in some Third World countries eat dog meat because they are poor — not only so poor that they will consume almost any source of protein, but so poor that they cannot afford to enjoy the natural bond between human and canine that began almost 15,000 years ago. For a billion or so people, life is a daily struggle to survive. People who are that poor also sell their daughters into prostitution. Female flesh is almost as cheap as dog meat in parts of the Third World, and for the same reason.
It used to be that Americans watched TV fantasies and dramas to escape the world’s most painful evils. Now we’re so comfortable that we need to dive into them head first for entertainment. Screen Rant sanitized their description of my least favorite scene in the new episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones last night, a stomach-turning depiction of Marquis de Sade-style sexualized torture from the young totalitarian King Joffrey:
Speaking of the poster boy against inbreeding, Joffrey has taken to punishing Sansa (Sophie Turner) for her brother’s victories in battle, having his betrothed beaten for little more than his own pleasure. Thankfully, Tyrion steps in, refers to his nephew as a half-wit and eloquently demonstrates the difference between educating someone and threatening to end their life. For her part, Sansa seems to be one of few in King’s Landing capable of learning any sort of lesson that may ensure a longer life. When Tyrion offers her an out she brushes it aside, professing loyalty to Joffrey.
Curious as to how Joffrey could have turned into such a – well, let’s just say, sadist – Tyrion and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) come to the conclusion that it must be teenage hormones and decide to send two prostitutes to his bedchamber, as a little belated nameday gift. Unfortunately, King Joffrey only likes seeing pain inflicted on others. This time, however, Joffrey knows that his actions will also serve as a message to his uncle.
Other horrific acts last night included multiple torture sequences reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. Jailers strapped a basket with a starved rat onto a man’s chest and then set a fire, prompting the poor creature to turn to the prisoner’s soft flesh as the only exit.
Memo to HBO and Game of Thrones writers: disgust is not excitement.
At the beginning of last week’s episode of Game of Thrones — “What is Dead May Never Die” we learned a new disturbing truth: the wildling king Craster, an ally of the Night’s Watch, in addition to enslaving 19 wives (many of them his own daughters) also practiced child sacrifice, offering up his male children to the white walkers.
Other recent pop culture properties also draw on this theme. Cartoon Network recently relaunched the ’80s-cult hit Thundercats. To keep the show engaging for the adults who grew up with the original 20 years ago, the writers infuse each episode with more mature mythological and historical references.
Gone are the days of a talking snarf nursemaid. And in with a future aeon where Mumm-Ra’s ancient spirits of evil demand a child sacrifice, in episode 17, “Native Son.” Here’s the teaser below, hinting at the false kingdom gained from making deals with the devil.
So are these just two random occurrences or has anyone else noticed other instances of child sacrifice showing up in recent popular culture? I wonder if there could be a connection between the return of attachment-parenting and a revival of the child-murdering demon as a villain.
No network makes bigger gambles than HBO, and Game of Thrones was a high-risk, high-reward gamble that has paid off bigger than anyone could have imagined. The grim, dense HBO fantasy series overcame its not-inconsiderable barriers to entry to become an unexpected phenomenon: In the year since Game of Thrones premiered, it’s been referenced in everything from The Simpsons to Major League Baseball, earned Peter Dinklage an Emmy Award, and set HBO records for DVD sales and digital downloads.
The success of HBO over the last two decades reaches back in Hollywood history to when the studios were all-powerful, vertically integrated companies that wrote, financed, produced and released films to theaters they owned. Known as “the Studio System,” the Big Five companies (MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers & RKO Radio Pictures) signed actors, writers, directors and producers to long-term (usually 7 year) contracts and simply ordered them to work together on various projects. An actor or director “under contract” was basically an indentured servant with little or no choices as to the films they made. The major studios were a monopoly; the talent could either take their contracts or find another profession. Richard Zanuck, the son of legendary 20th Century Fox boss Darryl, described how the old Studio System put together films:
I remember as a kid, under my father’s desk, under the glass on the top of his desk, was a big chart. And it had everybody that was under contract there. All the producers, and the directors, and the writers and actors and actresses. And it was so simple. I used to sit in on casting meetings, which would take all of about ten minutes. Not only casting, but putting the whole picture together.
While the Studio System mistreated the talent – major stars like John Wayne and Henry Fonda made millions for the studios, but didn’t share in much of the profits – great films emerged because of the organized production process. Talented writers were assigned to sit in a room and bounce ideas and dialogue off each other until the script was just right. Studio heads assigned actors and directors to appropriate material. For example, John Wayne made Westerns and war movies, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart made earnest dramas, and Katharine Hepburn played smart career women, while Marilyn Monroe was the sex symbol, and so on. This was the “Golden Age” of Hollywood that produced such classics as Gone with Wind, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” comedies.