Archive for Television

The Lure of Scandal … drifts into a juicy The New Yorker Spy Story

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I came late to the party to two major political dramas highly prized by the liberal community, but sure am having a delightful time catching myself up. If you enjoy either of them, described briefly below, you'll enjoy this long form but magnetic real-life spy story over at The New Yorker.

It even has an Albanian plot line for Russia parallels, with Ukraine and Putin being a hot topic.

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Now House of Cards, that was virtually Binge By Imperative. You guys catching this Netflix creation? I tried watching only three at a time, no way José, or no way Robin Wright Penn, as it were.

It didn't help so much that I had seen the Brit version, but tried to erase that mentally and just take the unusual camera and actor exaggerated interaction with a grain of salt.

What did translate beautifully to American politics was the loving attention to minutiae and the gratuitous sexually provocative moments ... like when Kevin Spacey got in on the Secret Service cutie-patootie mènage his wife was indulging in to make it an authentic party of three.

GIF courtesy JEOBOX.com

GIF courtesy JEOBOX.com

Certainly as complex in plot lines and underlining the politically scandalous exceptionally well in regular television -- network, even, go ABC for apparently this one show and whatever else folks are hooked on from genius and some kind of modern cultural oracle, Shondra Rhimes -- with Olivia Pope and her cohorts on Scandal.

 

As stated, if you enjoy either show, have a gander at this piece at the New Yorker, just excerpting a generous paragraph below, but the entire piece is so worth the time.

Macintyre tells Philby’s story through the prism of his longtime friendship with another young star of M.I.6, Nicholas Elliott. The two men were of a piece. Elliott’s father, Claude, was the headmaster of Eton. According to Macintyre, the elder Elliott “loathed music, which gave him indigestion, despised all forms of heating as ‘effete,’ and believed that ‘when dealing with foreigners the best plan was to shout at them in English.’ ” Like Philby, Elliott went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and did not join public service so much as he was ushered into it. A family friend, Sir Nevile Bland, “simply told the Foreign Office that I was all right because he knew me and had been at Eton with my father.” (Sir Nevile’s words of advice to Elliott: “In the diplomatic service it is a sackable offense to sleep with the wife of a colleague,” and “I suggest you should do as I do and not light your cigar until you have started your third glass of port.”) Elliott trusted and revered Philby. Their families vacationed together. Elliott modelled himself on his friend, Macintyre writes: “his spycraft, his air of worldly irony, his umbrella with an ebony handle. . . . They were as close as two heterosexual, upper-class, mid-century Englishmen could be.”

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Oscar-nominated Actor James Garner Dies at 86

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Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

Everyone has a favorite era of James Garner, surely … whether it was from his origins in oldies like "Maverick" or more classic tv years like "The Rockford Files" and a late-life reemergence with comedy in the series that witnessed the loss of John Ritter, "Simple Rules …" .

From the Los Angeles Times.

Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western “Maverick” led to a stellar career in TV and films such as “The Rockford Files” and his Oscar-nominated “Murphy's Romance,” has died, police said. He was 86.

There was no immediate word on a more specific cause of death. Garner had suffered a stroke in May 2008, just weeks after his 80th birthday.

Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

His quick-witted avoidance of conflict provided a refreshingly new take on the American hero, contrasting with the steely heroics of John Wayne and the fast trigger of Clint Eastwood.

Now this I remember as a terrific film, but wouldn't have thought most non-feminist or women's movement-ey folks would have nailed it right away as a James Garner role: the ultimate straight man in  Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" - post film-writer.  {Would love to hear anyone else's take on the differences between Hellman's words and the screenwriter's message …  but would they have made the flick at all now? A bit hilarious that the L.A. Times stayed with 'lesbian drama', below. Like 'The L Word' but with Audrey Hepburn?}

Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

Image by the AP, via the Los Angeles Times

His first film after “Maverick” established him as a movie actor. It was “The Children's Hour,” William Wyler's remake of Lillian Hellman's lesbian drama that co-starred Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine.

The Youtubes obliged, here he is with Miss Hepburn:

One of the most remarkable facts to be found in Garner's obit was near the end. He had married his wife, television actress Lois Clark,  in 1957, and despite stormy weather, they remained wed. That's 56 or 57 years, by my math.

A life well lived, and well loved.

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Shape up, MSNBC

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MSNBC and I are old friends. Many Team MSNBCers and I follow each other on the Twitter Machine, and I spend more time watching MSNBC than just about any other channel or cable news outlet on the Tee Vee Machine. I pretty much have to, because getting my televised news [sic] elsewhere is too frustrating. I always had such high hopes for them. But now, some of the weekday daytime shows are becoming so hard to watch that I find myself muting the sound or just turning off my TV.

Not that there isn't a lot to like about MSNBC, but since Comcast took over (coincidence?), much of what I see drives me to stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp remote, banging my head on the nearest wall, or simply screaming at my poor Samsung.

The more trivial issues involve typos. They really need an editor to edit the editors. Whoever writes the MSNBC ticker that crawls across our screens, along with their chyron-master, needs stronger glasses. Or a better education. Anyone else catch all the spelling errors and typos? "Eric Holders"? Really?

And speaking of the news crawl, why oh why did they go back to starting it at "Top Stories" after every interruption, both commercial and within a segment itself? For awhile it picked up where it left off, but no longer. Just as we get to "Politics" or "Health," back it goes to "Top Stories," mid-headline. How many times do we need to see the same five "Top Stories"? And don't get me started on those alarmist headlines that are maddeningly vague, suggesting without any specifics that there is some killer virus or new war that will imminently affect us all. A few more words of explanation would serve everyone well.

But the more serious problems involve reporting. The other morning on one show, an immigration expert was reporting that the number of Central American migrants arriving here had slowed noticeably. Not an hour later, in the next show, Luke Russert came right out and stated that there was no abatement at all in the number being met at the border. They were pouring in at the same rate as ever, he said. But today, again, it was reported that the numbers had dropped.

If MSNBC can't keep their own reporting straight, if the information reaching their viewers is that inconsistent, then their credibility suffers. And if their credibility suffers, then so does that of liberals, because MSNBC has the reputation-- deserved or not-- of being a liberal network.

Which brings me to their programming (I won't get into that whole forcing me to "go to prison" thing). I DVR their prime time shows religiously. But daytime leaves something to be desired (weekend mornings excepted). Luckily, Morning Joe is on too early for us West Coasters, but some of Andrea Mitchell's interviews/guests make me wish that show was on too early for us, too. While Mitchell is a respected and informative news veteran and manages to break news that's worth breaking, her show tends to feature the same old Beltway types with the same old Obama and/or Dem policy critics and the same old faulty speculation that have frequently misled viewers for years.

Not to say Mitchell also hasn't stood up for some progressive causes, but generally, I want to bathe after listening to all too many of her interviews with the same ol' same ol' DC journalists.

And don't even get me started on Ronan Farrow. With all due respect, Mr. F, you may be very smart, and for all I know you may be very nice, but you're d-u-l-l. I couldn't even tell you whether he's on the same page as us lefties, because I can't make it through the first two minutes of his show.

Since I know I'll be hearing from my anti-Tweety pals, allow me a few words about Chris Matthews, and then I'll shut up about the shows, because this post is becoming endless (if you want a snarkier take on MSNBC, please read MSNBC: Preen forward #OhButIKid). I actually admire Matthews, his grasp of history, and all that experience and historical perspective he brings to the show. But I prefer watching him on "Real Time with Bill Maher" where he's more lay-back, cracks up a lot, engages with humor, enjoys himself, all with his own special Tweety stamp. Yes, I realize he's a only a guest and it's a comedy show. On his daily show, I enjoy his "Let Me Finish" rants, where his more liberal side most often makes an appearance. He can be kind of a hoot. But he can also drive a lot of us a little crazy. 'Nuff said.

My point, if there is one, is: If MSNBC would truly commit to being a truly liberal cable news channel, then it would not only be the only one around, it would also be more consistent and less infuriating to an audience who expects it to be destination viewing for progressives . Lean forward, MSNBC, not backward. And wake up your editors.

Note: Edited.

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Dana Carvey Brings SNL "Choppin' Broccoli" Back - With a Lil' Orchestra

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IM-GOOD-ENOUGHIM

You have to be about as old as I am to have seen the original skit in 1886 1986 … but Dana Carvey is about as good as it gets from vintage Saturday Night Live.

Imagine our delight when Jimmy Fallon brought not only Carvey in full SNL personae back behind the microphone … but requested 'Choppin Broccoli' be given some 2014 swagger! And a distinct Chopinesque flair.

NOWAY

It's a peach. Kudos to Uproxx.com for having the video and some fine commentary on the new Video Gem.


How often do we get highly hilarious orchestral moments? You Go Jimmy Fallon.

Now in case you're also feeling nostalgic for the real deal … take it away old Dana Carvey! And in more than one fashion. The first is his audition reel for SNL.  You're welcome.

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And, after they hired him ...

Where would liberals be without SNL?!

what'reyoudoin

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Big Brother cast member: Pres. Obama is a "Muslim monkey"

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Yes, I admit it, I watch Big Brother and have since Season One. Sue me. Mr. Laffy and I have no idea why we started, considering we're not fans of reality [sic] shows... which is ironic, because Mr. Laffy writes/produces reality shows. (Before you ask how one writes an unscripted show: He writes host dialog and figures out how to whittle down over 300 hours of footage to create a storyline for a 41-minute show.) So anyway.

Last year Big Brother had, erm, issues. Racist issues. Nasty ones. Ugly ones. Involving two blonde women targeting their fellow African American, Asian, and gay house guests. It was not easy to watch, the viewer backlash was loud and clear, and they both got fired from their jobs. But one of them came in second and was rewarded for her on-air behavior with thousands of dollars, despite her vile conduct.

Clearly, CBS, squirming amid the uncomfortable howls of protest, has learned a thing or two and is making every attempt to improve the screening process of this season's contestants.

The Los Angeles Times:

Absent in the promotion of the new season however has been any mention of the elephant in the "Big Brother" living room — the racist and homophobic comments that clouded last season, but did bolster ratings.

Key words: Bolster ratings.

In TV land, ratings are everything. Without ratings, shows go to TV Heaven (or Hell, depending on the show), with some exceptions of course. But CBS knows better than to repeat this particular mistake, especially one that was so egregiously offensive. Right?

But already a similar controversy is heating up. Fan websites discovered this week homophobic and racially inflammatory comments on social media from new cast member Caleb Reynolds, an "adventure hunting guide" who lives in Hopkinsville, Ky. In commentary on his Instagram account, Reynolds referred to President Obama as a "Muslim monkey" and used an anti-gay slur.

CBS's response? No comment. No comment about whether Racist Caleb will be a house guest. No comment about whether they knew about his disgusting racist, bigoted "commentary." Only silence, per the L.A. Times.

I guess they're weighing whether boosting the number of more rubbernecking viewers and spiking media coverage trump prejudice and hatred. That should be an easy choice. If CBS has to mull this one, then Big Brother will be evicted from my house.

big brother eviction

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Ann Davis, 'Brady Bunch' Star, Dies at 88

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Ann Davis

From the Wiki on Ann Davis, coincidentally Ann Bradford Davis:

Ann Bradford Davis (May 5, 1926 – June 1, 2014) was an American television actress.[1][2]

Davis achieved prominence for her role in the NBC situation comedy, The Bob Cummings Show (1955–1959) for which she twice won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, but she was best known for playing the part of Alice Nelson, the housekeeper in ABC's The Brady Bunch series (1969–1974).

I had not realized that the original Brady Bunch show ran only 5 years but, of course, it's been in reruns ever since - 40 years now.

Here's Time's James Poniewozik's reaction to Ann Davis's death:

Somehow Forming a Family: Why We Loved The Brady Bunch‘s Alice

From Chicagonow.com
Good bye to the lovely Ann B. Davis, a.k.a. Alice of the Brady Bunch

From YouTube: Far Out Alice

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Sunday Talkers

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Sunday

Image: Arseniy Yatsenyuk via Getty Images

Please read about this week's Sunday talk show talkers on Politico.

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