If you're looking for something new from me, I've started a new site called VIEWSOURCE, where I write about one piece of video every day.
We're now two episodes into The Newsroom, HBO's newest entry in chatter-inducing Sunday programming. Reviews of the show have been brutal, but asking a media critic to judge this show is like asking a cannibal how his gallbladder tastes. Outside of media circles (amongst the vegans, to continue this overwrought metaphor), the show seems somewhat more widely appreciated.
This phenomena fascinates me. We seem to have some sort of uncanny valley relationship to art. If we are extremely close to it -- if the subject matter is about us -- then it is very likely that we find the similarity ugly, a disfigured clone of ourselves. The entertainment landscape is littered with examples of subcultures (professions, geographies, lifestyles) disagreeing with how they are portrayed by mainstream art.1 It makes you wonder: When does a subculture actually ever like art about itself?2
The anxiety in appreciating art about oneself probably involves some deep Lacanian mirror stage shit. Or maybe it's dormroom pop psych: We are apprehensive about the shortcuts that art must take. We don't enjoy having our subcultures portrayed because it reduces ideas down to sketches, people down to characters. Local significance loses to storyline, depth loses to drama.
So duh, of course we media people hate The Newsroom. It's characters don't act like our colleagues, it's fantasies aren't our realities. So what? Part of me wants to say, fuck it, that's our problem, not Sorkin's. But other times, I'm like, wait, that's fucking bullshit.
I want to talk about the part that's bullshit.
I worked in newsrooms for over 10 years, most of the time at websites attached to TV stations or networks. I've seen, and usually participated in, the creation of news around executions in Texas, riots in Seattle, hurricanes in Florida, and psychotic killing sprees in Virginia.
What I offer here is not an artistic or moral assessment of The Newsroom. Despite having nuanced qualitative opinions about the show3, that's not what we'll be discussing here. Let's temporarily ignore the finer ethical and aesthetic points, which are usually finessed as blustery diatribes, and instead focus on what's believable.
What's bullshit, and what's not?
That eruption from Will McAvoy in the first scene. Yeah, this is kinda bullshit. It's easy to imagine an Olbermann-like figure doing this (actually, that's all he did), but it's pretty unimaginable for a Brian Williams or a Katie Couric. Or maybe our hero is supposed to be more like Dylan Rattigan or Rachel Maddow? Actually, who knows! The way this show blurs the monolithic network anchor with the opinionated cable host is precisely the kind of fake construction that feels like bullshit. Or as the greatest news anchor of our time would say, a great moment of truthiness.
Not knowing you have a blog. Complete bullshit. This portrait of social media ignorance would have been accurate 10 years ago, but television executives started to freak out about the internet a while ago. They've spent an immense amount of time catching up, so now they're better at Twitter than you.
Walking into a newsroom and yelling "Punjab" to the Southeast Asian character that you know isn't named Punjab. This would never happen, even if your name is Sean Hannity. Bullshit.
Calling out someone as a "sorority girl." Sensing we would deem this bullshit, Sorkin set out to prove it's not.
Dating people you work with. Not bullshit. The only professionals who fuck each other more are actors.
Arguing with people you date while you're working. Not bullshit. The only professionals who argue with each other more are politicians.
The speech from an Executive Producer about fearing Halliburton and the lawsuit it would bring. Bullshit. I don't know a reporter who wouldn't love to catch Halliburton, Scientology, or whatever big scary corporate entity you name. The mere fact that Time-Warner-owned HBO aired this scene seems to completely undermine any truth it is seeking to reveal.
Hiring a new Executive Producer without telling the anchor. I would say this is bullshit, but I've recently heard a story similar to this. Judgement: perhaps not bullshit.
Running to your agent when the President of News hires an Executive Producer over the top of you. Yeah, they're prima donnas, so this could happen. Not necessarily bullshit.
The ongoing debate between popularity and quality. This would never be said aloud. However, it subliminally infuses every newsroom decision. Pseudo-bullshit.
Forgetting the name of your hot blonde assistant. If this show is actually modelled on Olbermann, then this is bullshit. He'd never forget that.
Having a President of News who is drunk "most of the time" at work. Being a heavy drinker can still be romanticized within some media circles (especially if you hang out with bloggers), but being regularly drunk at work would simply not be permitted any more, at any level. Drink up, that's bullshit.
Quoting Don Quixote. Bullshit.
Quoting Man of La Mancha. Epic bullshit, fa la la la la.
Vacationing in Saint Lucia with Erin Andrews. Questionable bullshit.
Figuring out the oil spill that quickly. This is probably the single most annoying thing in the first episodes. If you remember the evolution of the oil spill story, it took weeks for scientists to figure out what our Happy Band of Googlers sleuthed out in a few hours. Complete media fantasy bullshit.
An executive producer threatening an anchor with a fake on-air graphic seconds before going live. Reminiscent of both Broadcast News and Network, this nifty dramatic effect was as much bullshit then as it is now.
Not knowing where your control room is. Crazy bullshit.
FOX News hiring someone with three Mohammeds in his name. Pass.
Sending an email that accidentally goes to 178,000 people. Yep, bullshit. Of course email groups like that exist, but they were introduced to corporations 10 years ago, not last year. So not only does everyone know how they work, but we all also know that not everyone has access to email all those lists. A reply-all snafu would have been less bullshitty.
A fluff newsreader with a PhD in Economics from Duke and an adjunct professor at Columbia. Sure, this is supposed to be Erin Burnett, but still bullshit! She's barely old enough to have a PhD.
The Three I's. That kind of bullshit would actually happen, so it's not bullshit.
Minutes after delivering the sanctimonious Three I's, commenting on a reporters legs. B-------.
The organization of this network. This is one of the more perplexing elements of the show. ACN is apparently a 24-hour cable news outlet, but this show gets the network treatment. Cable newsrooms are much more fluid than this show suggests, with more interaction of programming and personnel between shows.
Hiding under a bed while your date fucks his ex-girlfriend. I have less expertise on this matter, so I'll let you call this one.
Correlating quality with verisimilitude is always a dicey proposition4. But when a show places itself into history with real news events, and within a professional industry whose mandate is exposing truth, The Newsroom must be aware that it has put itself under the lens of realism's scrutiny.
The Newsroom rubs so close to reality that it makes you wonder how Will McAvoy would feel about it. After a long walk, some nifty orchestration, and a verbose conclusion, he'd enter his closing judgement into the chryon: It's bullshit.
1 For example, I lived in Fargo when the movie Fargo came out. To this day, the city has an extremely antagonistic relationship toward their portrayal as noble unsavages with snowboots.
2 The answer? Lawyers always love seeing themselves.
3 It's bullshit.
4 Didn't those dragons in Game of Thrones grow up just a little too quickly?
In a recent episode of the WTF podcast, Bill Lawrence (the creator of Scrubs, Cougar Town, and Spin City) talks about how he hates the name of his show Cougar Town so much that he considered changing it this season. One of the main reasons he didn't is that DVRs aren't equipped to understand a name change, so the show would essentially lose any audience that had a season pass in TiVo.
Anyway, it got me thinking: Has there ever been a successful show that changed its name?
There's a new trailer for the next season of Big Love (premiering Jan 16). For the first three seasons, the theme song was from The Beach Boys, but last season they switched to Interpol. This time, it's a shoe-gazing band called Engineers.
"BLOGS" as a category on Jeopardy. Sites mentioned included Gawker, Sartorialist, Treehugger, and Dilbert.
"Don't know who Taylor Momsen is? Neither do I, beyond that she is the mean one on Gossip Girl." Did no one catch that David Carr confused Taylor Momsen with Leighton Meester in his lede?
i have a whole thing about how HIMYM is the new SATC, but i haven't had enough coffee to explain it. however, i was at a party the other night and someone told me:
"It gets more right than Seinfeld, more right than Friends, more right than Sex & The City. It's awesome."
I could tell by the glint in his eye he was talking about Neil Patrick Harris.
but right now i just want to celebrate Jason Segal. he writes songs (probably the biggest reason girls crush on him). here's one for the Russell Brand character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. which was a funnier movie than i expected it to be, but has left Kristen Bell, who i loved as Veronica Mars, making crap like this, when she'd probably rather be making a crappy reunion movie. (yes! a nearly breathless run-on sentence!) -- FB
real therapy is annoying enough (and i should know!). i can't quite put my finger on what specifically is making my head hurt about these webisodes, but it might be lisa kudrow's voice. -- FB
yes, i've been under a rock, but i hear rumblings: south park is at it again.
this is what they have to say about it all. and it's summed up in the last couple of seconds, simply enough: "we're not punk anymore."
but this might make me want to watch it - or at least last night's episode. i mean, madonna!
here comes the WSJ warning me away, but i think this warning, like so many others, may have to go unheeded. -- FB
just in case you were trying to remember why you like to watch Mad Men, and what you'll be tuning into on July 25, this is a handy visual reminder:
you like this: >
you don't care for this at all:
(shudder) -- FB
I love games. especially the dark & twisty, screwing with you just to screw with you, make you beg for mercy and wish you'd never been born, totally waste your time kind. I do! But GSN is totally harshing my vibe.
A new show hosted by Jerry Springer, called Baggage, in which contestants get to find out up front all about the baggage of self-proclaimed 'douchebags', 'ratties' and well... watch this:
Finding out up front takes all the fun out of it.
You could probably sum up the anticipation for David Simon's Treme as equal parts "OMG! Can't Wait!" and "There's just no way it can live up to The Wire". Well, this Salon review is the first I've seen and calls the show "TV storytelling as its finest". Guess we'll see for ourselves on April 11th. -NA
Just because 30 Rock sucks this season (oh shush, it does), doesn't mean we can't talk about self-reflexive sitcoms, postmodernism and those crazy millennials.
Also - not mentioned in the essay but worth discussing: NBC's Community is not only a better show than 30 Rock this year, it, along with Arrested Development, might be among the first 'post-postmodern' sitcoms. -NA
The 11th Doctor Who: Justin Bieber! No, not really, but the new Timelord Matt Smith is pretty young. The next season starts on BBC America on April 17. Steven Moffat, who wrote many fan favorite episodes, is replacing Russell T. Davies as the showrunner. -JM
You may recall that PBS rebooted The Electric Company into a hip hop inspired take on the disco reading for kids version from the 1970s. If you are a fan of the show from way back when and haven't taken the time to check out the new version, you should- it's great, and they have a YouTube Channel! I wish I knew more 4-10? year olds so that I could be the hip aunty that turned them onto this awesome show. The music is great, the stories are cute, the cast is super talented, and I find myself singing along whenever I have time to play an episode from the tivo while I'm internetting or whatever. (Also notice how I'm all set with the educational TV ready to go in case any 4-10 year olds DO come over. You should see my nature videos! Anybody need a babysitter?) Here's one of my favorite clips from the new version of The Electric Company, with Chris "Shockwave" Sullivan and Lin-Manuel Miranda rappin about Hard and Soft G. :DS
I thought Barbie's new job was going to be some sort of computer engineer? No? Now she's secretary Joan Holloway? Well, not much of an advancement in feminism, but you have to admit, waaaay more sexy. -- DG
Last night's House episode dealt with one of the show's key demographics: bloggers. Let's see what the show's writers thinks our profession looks like.
Nailed it. --DG
On Thursday morning, ABC will air the first recent video of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the woman who spent 18 years living in the backyard of her abductor, Phillip Garrido. Here's the teaser. The video will appear on
Thursday'sFriday's Good Morning America and on Nightline. --ADM
I'm doing one of those pecha kucha things at Ignite NYC VIII next week. The title: "Why The Hills Is The Greatest Show In The History of Television." Prepare to be convinced. More info to come.... -RX
HBO has posted The Ricky Gervais Show pilot on YouTube and Arts Beat has an interview with Karl Pilkington, the third-wheel in this new project from Gervais and his partner in crime, Stephen Merchant. The show (due to premiere on HBO tonight) is a cartoon based on the popular podcast of the same name in which Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington sit around a table and talk. Wait, what?-- MM
Tina Fey shooting a Vogue cover, just cuz
The 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All Time. Yikes, this makes me feel small and inept.
I kept hearing that Andy Warhol had a show on MTV in the late '80s called Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes, but I've never been able to find it (promo). Much younger versions of Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Marc Jacobs, Judd Nelson, Courtney Love, and William Burroughs were supposedly on it. I finally found a site that has videos of three of the episodes, including interactions with John Waters, Simon Le Bon, Bo Didley, Frank Zappa, Kevin Dillon, Debbie Harry, Paulina Porizkova, and Pee-wee Herman. It's the most random collection of stuff that you've ever seen, and it's difficult to imagine it on MTV. (There's also something about this that reminds me of "the old internet," where not everything existed at a finger's touch, and you had to search FTP sites to find this kind of esoterica. Now if I could just find those NYC cable access shows he used to do.)
Big Love fans likely noticed tonight that the the old opening sequence with The Beach Boys.... ...had been replaced with a new one with Interpol's "Untitled": Better? Worse?
Now here's a list I could debate for a while: The End of the 00s: Listicle Without Commentary: The 348 Best Reality Television Shows of the 00s, In Order, by Jon Caramanica.
After selling PVR Blog on eBay for $12K+, Matt Haughey posts his final item, 2000s: The Decade of DVR, which has dot-com celebs (Heather Armstrong, Chris Anderson, Nick Denton, Gina Trapani, Jeff Jarvis) reminiscing on how the DVR has changed their life. My favorite is Caterina Fake's:
A guy said to me once, "Wow! As a woman, you can get laid whenever you want!" and I said "Yeah and I can eat dirt whenever I want too!" For years there was a Blinkx advertisement on 101 between Silicon Valley and San Francisco with a tagline that said something like "Find something to watch," which I thought was one of the stupidest taglines I'd ever heard. It's not hard to find someone to sleep with, it's hard to find someone you'd WANT to sleep with. It's not hard to find something to watch, it's hard to find something GOOD to watch.
The One-Liners of Roger Sterling. Sometimes I think that Mad Men was created to be turned into supercuts.
An interview with the prop master of Mad Men. Also, I finally around to reading The Atlantic's take on Mad Men, which is brilliant at picking apart the inner logic of the show, but stumbles in forcing a value judgement on that structure.
I'll give anything a chance, which is why my TiVo gets overloaded in the Fall when I allow every new show to get at least three episodes of viewing. It's now the third week, which means it's time to clean out the TiVo. As of last night, I have officially dropped Cougar Town, Melrose Place, Leno, The Beautiful Life, The Middle, The Forgotten, Glee, and Eastwick. That leaves Flashforward and Community as the only new shows that will survive this bloodbath.
Wow. This seems impossible to believe, but last night's Vikings/Packers game was the most-watched program in cable history. Go midwest!
At the Movies is finally returning this weekend. Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott will host.
I've heard this complaint about Mad Men: It forces current events onto the screen in a way that isn't like actual life. History isn't that deterministic, goes the argument. A good example was when Roger Sterling spoke of a "Yetta Wallenda-sized misstep." I don't know if that criticism is fair, but I'm going to try entering "Jasmine Fiore-sized identity" into contemporary usage.
SNL audition tapes, including Belushi, Hartman, Ferrell, Carvey. I had no idea they existed, but they're amazing.
For those who watched Dollhouse, the un-aired 13th episode is on Amazon. It takes place 10 years in the future.
My favorite discovery in Vanity Fair's cover story on Mad Men was learning that the women dominate the writing of the show -- "the core five of whom are all women, unusual in television," as the story states. A new WSJ story picks up the same theme, expanding the numbers a bit: "Seven of the nine members of the writing team are women." (This is the first time I've noticed that Marti Noxon, my favorite Buffy writer, is also one of the staff members.)
Shaq Vs: Shaq plays tennis against Serena Williams, Shaq boxes Oscar de la Hoya, Shaq swims against Michael Phelps. I'd watch this!
I agree with Bret Easton Ellis a lot, and I have a whole essay (being published this winter! in a book!) about why The Hills is amazing, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "the greatest show that I have ever seen in my life."
So I watched the first episode of It's On, MTV's new show to replace TRL, starring the extremely likable Alexa Chung. Probably the most surprising thing: it's basically a talk show. There were a couple sketches (Jack Black and Michael Cera painfully talking over the trailer to their movie), some interviews (Spencer & Heidi), a performance (Soulja Boy). They didn't play a single music video. Anyway, they seemed to handle the twitter/facebook integration into the show pretty seamlessly, which was the biggest question going in. So I think it worked and I'm ready to now ask: Alexa, will you be my friend?
"Yes, but I can make [flatulence] noises." Huh, the NYTimes really can't publish the word "fart," even if it's only online? (That interview occurred before anyone saw the video. It's funny to see how nervous and defensive the Times seems before even seeing the piece.)
VH1 Shelves Best Week Ever, Possibly Permanently. I haven't watched this for a long, long time, but during the first year, it was one of my favorite things on television.
I queried an editor at a major magazine recently about whether they'd be interested in a profile of Alexa Chung. "Who's that?" he wrote back. If you don't know, you're about to -- MTV is hoping she's the next big thing. Caroline has some of the details about how the show will integrate Facebook and Twitter. See also: Is Alexa Chung going to be your MTV friend?
On The Media: "It seems the lowly infomercial is finally enjoying its moment in the sun. So far this year it has garnered a book, a reality show and even a television documentary by CNBC." Update: Inside, SABF plugs Pitchmen, which I haven't seen yet.
Twitter is taking its worst quality -- the quest for celebrity -- and turning it into a tv show about "putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format." [via]
One of my most vivid childhood memories was watching that terrifying twin alien birth in the original V miniseries. (It's not so terrifying anymore -- it looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle coming out of the womb.) Based upon the trailer, I am completely stoked for the new ABC miniseries, which will star Elizabeth Mitchell (the other in Lost), Morena Baccarin (the hooker in Firefly), and Laura Vandervoort (the supergirl in Smallville).
For those of you who liked the almost-certainly-canceled Dollhouse (hi, second-person-singular you!), the DVD has been announced. Funny: it will contain the pilot you never saw and the finale you never saw. FOX aired everything in between!
From Vulture's series finale wrap of Battlestar Galactica: "Turns out 'God' is simply an unexplainable force of nature, like Prince or ice-cream headaches."
Best show on TV right now? The Office lost its edge when Jim and Pam went lovey-dovey; Gossip Girl fires as many blanks as bulls eyes; Battlestar Galactica found earth; Heroes got lost trying to be Lost; and Lost... okay Lost is still pretty fucking great. But the big surprise on TV right now is Dollhouse. When the first episodes of Joss Whedon's new series started making the rounds in critics' circles, it was roundly panned. Rumors spread that FOX execs were to blame for meddling with the pilot, which actually was pretty terrible. But that old Whedonesque subversion has slowly crept back in, particularly with clever dialogue and plot trickery. (This week's episode drops those vintage hip-hop Whedon lines like "my first check had more zeroes than the luffwaffa.") If you want to sample, I suggest either last week's epp where the dolls infiltrate a religious cult or the one where they join a girl band -- doesn't it already sound good? Update: good comments inside, some of which echo the recent Atlantic piece, Joss Whedon and the Real Girl.
Yeah, that totally threw me too: Stringer Bell on The Office last night. Update: best comment on this site evah... "Well, he did run the copy shop." True!
Josh Schwartz (creator of Gossip Girl) new online show: Rockville, CA. Filmed in Echo Park, it has beautiful people pretending to be musicians, but the music is decent.
A Battlestar Galactica panel discussion at the United Nations. "The panel will be moderated by Battlestar fan Whoopi Goldberg," who is probably the ninth Cylon.
In case you missed it... it's interesting that Jimmy Fallon had Joshua Topolsky of Engadget as a guest a couple nights ago. They talked about the Palm Pre, which isn't something you normally see discussed on network tv.
Old Man Stewart Shakes His Fist At Twitter. Jon: Why is Congress and the media jumping on this? Samantha Bee: Because we're rotting corpses grabbing for any glimmer of relevance, Jon, hoping that one of these retarded thing will be the vine that can rescue us from this quick sand."
Nicholas interviews Gavin, who reveals five upcoming innovations with Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The show premieres tomorrow.
I don't care what you say, the preview for the next season of The Hills is pure magic. (Spoiler alert: Spencer fist fight!)
Hirschorn on tv: The Future Is Cheese. "None of this should be shocking to anyone who has watched TV elsewhere in the world. Italian prime-time TV is filled with vapid variety shows featuring improbably hot chicks cavorting with goatish older men. British prime time is a parade of reality competitions and variety shows of the Donny & Marie type, all produced on the cheap and instantly disposable."
Well, isn't that auspicious. Walter Isaacson was on The Daily Show last night talking about micropayments.
Another A+ from Heffernan: Choose Your Illusion. "A venerable philosophical concept, the real has been more commonly set against the false, the fake, the ideal, the temporary, the romantic, the contrived, the staged, the illusory or the imaginary. But such a robust concept of reality would not suit television, where greater definitional leeway is needed to produce this oxymoronic thing, a reality show." What's she talking about? VH1's Celebrity Rehab, of course.
Nussbaum is kicking it up with her new NY Mag television column, this week about United States of Tara: "Now it seems that the era of the outrageous outsider chick may be upon us, in her various manifestations as protofeminist rule-breaker and shit-stirring catalyst, with subcategories of sex-rebel, crazy lady, and artist."
It's been interesting to watch the dial move up and down and back up again on Jimmy Fallon's web show. Heffernan takes on the difficulty of reviewing such things in today's NYMag, and he's also been getting good coverage at CES and NewTeeVee reevaluates their previous diss. Update: just noticed that Gavin was interviewed about the show, where he releases the news about the show bloggers!
Sometimes you wonder why bad reality tv shows exist, and then you realize it's so you can read brilliant recaps, like Pareene's review of last night's episode of The City. "The Canadian guy is 'Duncan' and he is Erin's dorky Canadian boyfriend, from Canada, but now he is in New York, staying with Erin, his mysterious American girlfriend. Erin kinda looks like someone we went to college with, and is therefore marginally relatable, as a human being. Meanwhile Olivia looks like a Virtua Fighter and Whitney like Mac Tonight so Erin's got a leg up, precisely until she says 'teach me a choahrad.' Girls should teach themselves chords. Did Bikini Kill in vain?"
Watch Diablo Cody's new show: United States of Tara. It's not released until January 18, but you can watch the half-hour pilot at that link after entering "TARA" as the password. If you liked Juno, the dialog will sound familiar. [via]
NYT on NBC's internet strategy. "One area in which NBC, and its sister cable channels in the NBC Universal family, have consistently provided more than the other big networks is online: they're the only reliable purveyors of true Webisodes, if we define the genre narrowly as minidramas produced in conjunction with an existing television series."
10-part webisode series of Battlestar Galactica, in preparation for the January season premier.
Your programming is faltering, your ratings are dropping. What do you do? If you're MTV, you plan 16 new reality shows. Guys. We need to talk.
The recent "Little Minnesota" episode of How I Met Your Mother. Amazingly, I recently found a Minnesota Vikings bar like the one in the show in the East Village.
Dorota from Gossip Girl to get her own web show spin-off, like The Jefferson's!
Young Manhattenite digs up this crazy story and video about Fear playing SNL in 1981. (I've been reading a lot about Belushi lately, and this is a pretty fantastic artifact of the effects of his taste.)
Sternbergh on Quality Show Fatigue: "Maybe the furor around shows like Mad Men is not the product of some rampant mass hysteria. Maybe it's the expression of a yearning for the last remnant of the traditional viewing experience we once shared. Long gone are the days when we would all sit down on Thursday at 10 to watch L.A. Law. So instead, to retain some sense of communal experience, we cling culturally to a single show. We don't want to admit we're splitting off in a million directions; we want to believe that all our eyes still occasionally turn in the same direction. (For the past year, the election campaign served this purpose -- the one great show we all tuned into.) So it doesn't even matter that not many people, relatively, are actually watching Mad Men. What matters is that everyone's talking about it."
When NYT Mag choose to recently cover 30 Rock, it highlighted the show's incendiary structure, comparing it to pomo literature like Gravity's Rainbow (whoa!). The corollary position comes from this week's New Yorker, which sees the same fragmentation but doesn't appreciate it: "30 Rock doesn't have the neat structure of most sitcoms; its roots are in sketch comedy and in improv, with their set pieces and their eagerness to keep you entertained every second without worrying too much about the story." I'm not sure where I land on that continuum, but I have noticed a different sort of distraction: despite being splendidly written, the perplexing thing about 30 Rock is that you could actually watch it as a series of compromises to exist as a show. The product placements (Verizon), the guest-stars (Oprah), commercials as content (AmEx) -- all of these pieces end up taking up a massive amount of the show's public mindshare, perhaps to its detriment. Update: Maureen Dowd profiles Tina Fey in Vanity Fair, where she finally reveals where that scar came from. Plus video.
Miscellaneous tv stat: Lipstick Jungle gets a larger boost from DVR viewing than any other prime time show.
Oh yeah, SNL had an impression of Rahm Emanuel that got cut in dress rehearsal but was put online. Expect more of this in the future.
Among the unsolved mysteries of the internet is how last week's post about Lipstick Jungle's cancellation was taken over by outraged women. Nonetheless, they've decided to use it as a place to store news -- including the tidbit that maybe it wasn't canceled after all.
Psst, The Roots are going to be the house band for Jimmy Fallon's new show, which is gonna be pretty awesome. [Blah, blah, conflict of interest.]
If you saw me screaming "those aren't holograms!" at the tv on election night, this is why. (Wolf wasn't talking to a hologram -- he was talking to air that had people green-screened in. They were capturing video, but they were not projecting it! Idiots.)
What it's like to watch Fox News for 24 straight hours. (The Observer notes the similarity to Hugh Gallagher's 1993 Rolling Stone story in which he watched MTV for 24 straight hours. I remember this story perfectly! I ripped off the idea in 1994 when I wrote something in my college newspaper about listening to NPR for 24 hours. Wish I could find it...)
Buried in an otherwise skippable story about primetime television is some bad news about serialized shows. ("Serialized" shows are the ones with the long story arcs that we like -- Mad Men, Sopranos, Gossip Girl, Lost, 24. "Procedurals" are shows where most of the logic is contained within a single episode -- Bones, Fringe, Law & Order. With some small comedy exceptions -- The Office, 30 Rock -- the rise of serials is the main reason the quality of television has improved over the past decade years.) The story speculates that a combination of DVR culture and re-runs make procedurals more desirable for networks "both because viewers may increasingly store episodes of serialized shows to watch them in 8-to-10 episode bursts, and because the shows have no repeat value at all." (One thing this overlooks is DVD sales, which I presume are much higher for serials. However, I wonder if the studios -- not networks -- might be getting the bulk of that money.) Only modestly related: Slate on The Future of Sports Television, which is about that user-controlled, multi-camera dream we were promised.
The Supreme Court's first indecency case in quite some time begins debate on Tuesday. FCC v. Fox Television will debate whether every permutation of the word fuck is sexual. (The examples include the time that Bono described his Golden Globe as "fucking brilliant" and Cher said of her critics "fuck 'em.") I've never been an advocate of broadcasting courtroom proceedings -- until now.
Slideshow: Buy the stuff from the Mad Men office. See also: how to make your hair look like Draper for Halloween.
While Jezebel adeptly stems off Tina Fey backlash, NYT celebrates the return of 30 Rock. But there's a whiff of a second backlash in this line: "As with her Palin impersonation, Ms. Fey is an expert borrower: she reworks classic formulas from the past and mines her own experiences. Her satire hews so closely to the original that it is almost mimicry." Update: Gawker Biting the Hand That Feeds?
Hey, someone doesn't like Mad Men! Writing for LRB, one of the n+1 dudes, Mark Greif [sic!], says: "Mad Men is an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better. We watch and know better about male chauvinism, homophobia, anti-semitism, workplace harassment, housewives' depression, nutrition and smoking. We wait for the show's advertising men or their secretaries and wives to make another gaffe for us to snigger over." And then: "Beneath the Now We Know Better is a whiff of Doesn't That Look Good. The drinking, the cigarettes, the opportunity to slap your children!"
Weird little WSJ story about television merging with social networks. The first half is about real-time game interaction, followed by a brief interlude about Boxee.
Onion Video: Was There Too Much Sex And Profanity In The HBO Presidential Debate? "The grittiness, the non-linear question format..."
People have envisioned this for over a decade, but maybe interactive social viewing of online video is finally poised to take off. (It's never been a question of technology -- just audience volume.)
Barring the time he pronounced Castro dead, this is probably the first time Perez Hilton gets a link here: V remake in the works? If so, I'm fucking pumped.
I seem to have at least one conversation per day about Mad Men -- there's always at least one person in my life who wants to talk about Draper's lechery, Peggy's baby, or Joan's bosom. Lately, many of those conversations meander toward questioning the psychology of advertising, which is of course what Matthew Weiner wants us to be thinking about. Eventually the role of product placements comes up, which is the perfect manifestation of contemporary advertising's darkest psychoses: deception and desire.
Since the episode where Betty buys Heineken, I've been obsessed with the singular question of whether Heineken was an actual product placement. (This question nagged me more than what the fuck was going on with Peggy's baby.) Finally, New York has published a story that answers this question and several others about the product placement game: What Tina Fey Would Do for a SoyJoy?
Among other things, it reveals that Heineken was indeed an embedded advertisement. Doy, of course it was, just like Snapple in 30 Rock and Staples in The Office. The author, Emily Nussbaum, goes on to say that within the top 10 shows alone, there were 26,000 product placements on network television last year. The first half of her piece prepares us for the inevitable:
If two decades ago music fans raged when Nike co-opted the Beatles' "Revolution," these days the most "independent" musicians vie to be on Gossip Girl. James Bond drives a BMW, Carrie Bradshaw drinks Skyy vodka.So just shut up, this is the future.
The second half lets you down with more examples to embarrass your heroes: that Ben & Jerry's bit with Colbert? Yep. That SoyJoy sketch on 30 Rock? Yep.
SoyJoy becomes the example to eventually make Nussbuam's ultimate point about how product placements might not actually be helping the product. She talks to Joss Whedon who confesses that he didn't know that SoyJoy was even a product, much less a placement. She concludes:
It occurs to me that the 30 Rock integration was a failed experiment. After all, the product looked to me (a woman 18 to 49!) like a punch line.And so it is a return of the repressed -- Mad Men. The entire show is one big game of sublimated knowledge: Who knows what about who slept with whom? Lust and greed are the currency at the offices of Sterling Cooper. When mixing power and sex, desire and deception are the emotional outcomes. Advertising is merely the by-product of this formula applied to capitalism.
If there is one prevailing tone in Mad Men, it's the fraught tension of not knowing. This also happens to be the exact tension of product placements. And now that my curiosity has been satiated about Heineken, I must seek out a new victim to interrogate. Or to put it differently: Are Utz better than nuts?
"At these times, an incongruous vulnerability presents itself in the reptilian Draper. Accidentally, Hamm seems to flash on an exaggerated look of melancholy or distance -- as if the actor were thinking, I don't want to be this man. Perhaps Hamm, like many Hollywood stars, wants to be liked above all, and Draper is written as less likable in nearly every episode. If the show is to mature and last, Hamm will have to risk being hated." -- Heffernan on Mad Men, anti-heroes, and acting.
Blagg: Is Chuck Bass Our Generation's Charles Bukowski? Man, that prof was THE WORST character in the history of Gossip Girl.
Californication twitter account for Mia Cross, the teenage character who fucks and punches David Duchovny. She also has a videoblog. See also in Slate: What can Choke and Californication teach us about sex addiction?
Missed this last week: Nicholas Carr on Colbert. Stephen pulls out his iPhone while Nick talks.
"Wealth fantasies now constitute a genre of their own, one that is matched at the other end of the spectrum by a doomsday literalism also prevalent on television." Comparing Gossip Girl to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a clever way to discuss two shows that most people aren't watching. And like the teen drama, the women in the Terminator redux -- a mom who is more like a superhero robot, and a robot who is like the dream girlfriend -- command the narrative. With themes of corporate power, technological alienation, and evangelical yearning, it's the best show on television that people are missing.
Google has released Gaudi, an audio search engine, with an index that currently only contains political speeches on YouTube. But this could be enough for you to soon create supercuts like Jon Stewart's last night, which obsessed about the word "blink." This technique is usually considered Stewart's strongest rhetorical device, but does anyone else think it's starting to tire? And is it just format fatigue, or has the wonderment become less mystical as technology makes the ability to cull clips across years more common?
"She thought it was quite funny, especially because the governor has dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween." --Sarah Palin's spokesperson.
Letterman on why Leno has better ratings: "I think he has greater appeal for more people than I do."
First five minutes of the Gossip Girl premiere, set in the Hamptons. The show resumes on Monday.
TiVo has announced a deal in which users will be able to subscribe to a playlist of shows recommended by Entertainment Weekly. Fine, but shouldn't this be cracked open to a complete social network? Why can't I subscribe to Haughey's favorite shows, Fred's recommended business viewing, Anil's Bollywood faves?
Lindsay and I were chatting yesterday about the conversation Draper had with his kid in last week's Mad Men. While talking about his dad, Draper said, "And his candy, it tasted like violence. In a beautiful silver and purple package." Whoa! Or at least that's what I thought he said. It actually was probably violets not violence, a reference to C. Howards violet gum and mints. Lindsay posted the video, so judge for yourself. Sure, it sounds more like violets, but I still feel it was intentionally oblique. (More esoterica: It reminds me of Malkmus eliding career and korea in "Cut Your Hair.")
If you're one of the many people who finds themselves asking "What's all the fuss with Gossip Girl?" find out tomorrow when the DVD drops. The interesting element: the DVD contains an audiobook -- no wait! -- an abridgment of the original novel. It's read by Christina Ricci and can be transferred to an iPod. [via]
Someone finally wrote the behind-the-scenes story of The Daily Show that you've been waiting for: The Most Trusted Man in America? Never would have guessed that NYT would give it to Michiko Kakutani, but after 3,000 words, what's the big reveal? They use 15 TiVos! Not much else new in there.... UPDATE: a whole lot more enlightening than those 3,000 words is one single amazing comment on PVRblog, written by a former Daily Show researcher who describes the entire TiVo process.
"Your hero is a whore, pimping his pretty wife. That's his job, and he has to wash his mouth out, wipe his hand on the napkin -- even for cable TV, that's some dirty, dirty stuff. If you had been lulled into thinking Don Draper was a good guy, and that Mad Men was a show about impeccable production design, last night's linchpin scene was a warning: Anything can happen." -- Nussbaum on Mad Men.
Do you remember when you could tell the difference between reality tv shows and parodies of reality tv shows? FOX announced the show Hole in the Wall today, a game show that involves nothing more than people trying to jump through differently shaped holes in a styrofoam wall that will knock them into a pool if they don't make it. [via]
"Fimoculous.com: Your Relentless Source For Mad Men Links since 2007." How's that sound? On Videogum: Mad Men Plot Predictions Based On Other 1962 Events.
The trailer to an animated version of Buffy leaked online today. It was originally planned as a Saturday morning cartoon back in 2001.
Mad Men's website posts the Jackie O. White House tour videos in their entirety. An hour of classic footage there. See also, more ephemera: The Slut Machine of 1962 and In Which The Sea Was Mad That Day My Friends.
And... two more, bringing the total to four: What Would Roger Sterling Do? and What Would Pete Campbell Do? Update: and within 24 hours, the entire meme implodes: What Would The Disappointed Mohawk Air Exec Do?
A picture of the cast of Mad Men donning their out-of-character street clothes. They are completely different people.
LAT interview with Audrina from The Hills makes the show even faker than you thought it was.
All of next season's Gossip Girl teasers on one page. "MotherChucker" -- so best.
Jay McInerney to Make an Appearance On Gossip Girl. I love how this show insists on being a stream of inside jokes. I'm sure we'll get only one more season because of this, but fuck the ratings.
Didn't see this one coming... HBO has greenlighted a pilot based upon Jessica Cutler's Washingtonienne. It's a half-hour comedy; Sarah Jessica Parker is the EP; the internet will hate it.
More Mad Men goodness: the new issue of Ad Age has a 16-page insert done up to look like a fictional issue from 1960, with fake stories about Sterling-Cooper..
The new Frontline, Young & Restless in China, is pretty fantastic. Produced by the always-estimable Sue Williams, it tracks nine people through five years around China.
I saw my first live Daily Show taping yesterday (thnx pete!). Jon Stewart was great, and Lara Logan was the guest. She was foxy and said "motherfucker." Or maybe she was foxy because she said "motherfucker."
So MTV has this new show called FNMTV, which is supposed to join together two important ideas: a return to playing music videos (yay?) and user-generated content (hmm?). The retarded idea is that they play hot videos like the new Pussycat Dolls and then people upload response clips. How Web 2.Ugh. Probably the best part is Heidi and Spencer getting called in to do several promos, which says a lot about the state of ingenuity for music television. [via]
Anyone else watch the pilot of Swingtown (you can watch it here)? NY Mag and The New Yorker both panned it, while NYT and WaPo were more forgiving. I'll give it a B for now, but I'm not hopeful. It was interesting to see CBS promote Last.FM on-air, in the form of a boring mini-site full of '70s songs. Liz Phair also contributed the show's theme.
The United States of Tara, Diablo's project with Spielberg, has been greenlit by Showtime. Toni Collette stars.
I was contacted for this article about the internet appeal of Gossip Girl. None of my quotes ran, but here's two things I said:
This actually has a lot to do with a NYC-centric vision of media. Very few of my friends back in the midwest watch the show. If I didn't live in New York, I'm not sure I'd watch it. While it's eye candy for those of us who walk by the Beatrice Inn, it's gaudy class warfare for those who don't.And:
The use of these communications technologies -- the cellphone, the gossip website -- are part of what makes the show so compelling to internet people. The most recent episode was the first to closely dwell on the mechanics of the anonymous site. For those of us who work in the industry, it was fascinating to see someone else use it as a vehicle for revenge, for manipulation... for gossip.
Just now seeing a blurb announcing that the next season of The Real World (season 21! it can drink!) would be filmed in Brooklyn, I said aloud "For real?" Cue Choire: The Real World: Brooklyn. For Real. [via]
That was fast. HBO has already added six shows (The Wire, Flight of the Concords, Rome, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Deadwood) to iTunes. Most are only one season.
I saw my first live SNL last weekend, and it was fantastic. (I live twittered the show and the cast party, but was thankfully plastered enough to stop sharing anything from the after-after party. I bought Keenan a birthday drink, and that's all I'm sayin.) By coincidence, my pal Mark who runs Defamer ended up sitting behind us. He just posted his review of the show. The back of my head (and Kate's freshly straightened hair!) makes an appearance on the left side of the photo of Claire Danes, who sat in front of us and canoodled Hugh Dancy the whole time. (I only took one photo before the page reprimanded me, Kenneth-like.) If you ever have the chance to see the live production, it will forever change the way you watch the show.
From tonight's Gossip Girl:
Blair: "I had sex with him [Chuck] in the back of a limo."Chuck Bass is my hero.
Chuck: "Several times."
Nate: "I had sex with you [Serena] while I was her [Blair's] date. Once."
Chuck: "I'm Chuck Bass."
UPDATE: the clip on YouTube.
With The Hills and Gossip Girls playing back to back, Monday nights are suddenly tv chaos. Like a true battle between east and west, the recaps are becoming a high art genre unto themselves: Daily Intel on Gossip Girl vs. Songs about Buildings and Food on The Hills.
I've been babbling about the potential of Red Lasso for interesting tv curatorial work, and here's a good example: Final Jeopardy, a tumblr with one post per day, video from that day's Final Jeopardy question. [via]
It's leaked: Julia's show had been green-lighted by Bravo. Nick's take:
It would be easy to dismiss IT Girls as final proof of a culture gone spongy in the brain, in the final stages not so much of Alzheimers as syphilis. But let's be honest: the concept, three girls are followed by the cameras as they set up an online chat show, a younger version of The View, is positively gripping compared with some of the other reality projects being touted."But there is an interesting story here that no one's getting to yet, which is how the website and the tv series can/might/should/but-probably-won't interact.
The question of audience crossover is the rub. Some people will interact with Julia's website (a new take on The View) but will hate Bravo's show (a new take on The Hills), and vice versa.
This dichotomy stems partially from the dual life that Julia herself leads -- attempting to persuade the Valley nerds that she's legit while still chit-chatting about Britney on FOX News. Can you imagine trying to look cool to both crowds? Much of the former crowd likes to brag about how they don't own a tv (you'll inevitably see from this post's comments which people these are), while the latter is the entire reason that TMZ is now a successful cable franchise. Demographically, this will be nearly impossible to capture. But perhaps this is one of those rare moments where demographics gets thrown out the window because it catches the zeitgeist.
How? Easy: Whatever you might think about Julia (or, for that matter, Bravo), this should be the place where an interesting experiment happens. This is, if you think about it, like the hyperbolic reality/fiction vision portrayed in NY Mag's Gossip Girl cover story, but times a thousand.
But more than that, this should be where a legit battle between television and the internet is finally staged. Which will be more compelling: the online talkshow or the reality tv series? And when it comes down to choosing the winner, the real question will be: is a draw compelling?
A supercut: 99 faces of Jim Halpert in 60 seconds. The quick cut to Halpert's face has become the easiest joke in The Office's repertoire, but it's also an essential one because we basically see the entire madcap show through his eyes. [via, which is Halpert on Twitter]
I finally got around to reading the NYT Mag cover story on Chris Matthews (thank you, long subway rides) -- when was the last time a profile was so rigorously negative? It's actually fascinating -- not because it's an accurate portrayal of Matthews (who really knows, right?) but because it's completely true of a type of person you encounter over and over again in media circles.
A quick calculation: 42% of Fimoc readers worked at their college newspaper. Roughly. Therefore, we will be celebrating The Paper, MTV's new reality series about a high school rag, as though it were the fucking Pentagon Papers. It starts Monday.
Practically overnight, Red Lasso is suddenly popping up in several interesting places. Red whah? Exactly. Red Lasso is still in beta, but it's an application that constantly records television on approximately 20 networks and provides a web interface for someone (doy, bloggers!) to make embeddable clips. So here's Gawker using it, HuffPost using it, etc. (I'm on the beta list, so I've played around with it a bit too.) It has shockingly little press (blog or otherwise -- a few old, old links: NewTeeVee | SAI | PaidContent), but I bet it explodes on the TechCrunch / Mashable / Scoble scene soon. (Update via Andy: Perez uses it too.)
Battlestar Galactica Creator Takes On Children Of Men. This dude seems determined to remake things that no one else thought to remake. [via]
Immense recommendation: "Bush's War" on Frontline has consumed 4.5 hours of my life the last couple nights, but it's an astounding piece of journalism.
CNN Pisses Away Final Shred of Credibility with Comedy News Show. Update: More fake news on CNN, where I learned the hosts will include my faves: Rachel Sklar, Ana Marie Cox, Amy Holmes.... oh, and a dude, Joel Stein.
For anyone looking for cross-over potential between Gossip Girl and Buffy (um, all none of you), Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy's sister) has been cast as the new bad egg on Gossip Girl.
You were probably wondering if The Return of Jezebel James, Fox's Fall sitcom starring Parker Posey, was going to be horrible. The first two epps are already available on Hulu and now you know: it is. [via]
Chuck recently confessed to me his love of The McLaughlin Group. I didn't really believe him. Then he said he was writing an Esquire column about it. I didn't really believe that either. Turns out, they're both true! "Critics sometimes suggest that the success of The McLaughlin Group has led to the erosion of serious discourse in American media, but that's like complaining about AC/DC because of Rhino Bucket." The cross-section of people who appreciate Rhino Bucket and John McLaughlin jokes isn't vast enough.
In case you missed it, Jon Stewart interrogating Brian Williams last night. "And you're trying to get me to express an opinion for the first time in my life why exactly?"
We've mentioned MTV's new digital strategy here before, but we didn't think they'd actually go through with it! CNet reports how MTV.com has launched 32 completely different sites -- see Indecision 2008 and Jack Ass World as examples. I'm really not sure if this is in the category "so fucking crazy it just might work" or just "so fucking crazy." [via]
A Complete Guide To How Your Favorite Shows Are Affected tells you when tv shows might return. The answer almost across the board: not for quite a while.
MTV is putting together The Real World Awards Bash, a reunion show bringing together participants from all 20 seasons of the series. It's quite weird to realize that some people from the first episodes are now in their 40s. [via]
You might not know this, but the horribly named Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX is actually the best new show on tv right now. Two reasons why: 1) hot MILF, 2) hot robot. But also!... the girl robot scenes are actually well written and acted. Vulture explains more on a show that io9 should be owning but seems to be covering as news rather than culture.
You may have already seen the "Everything You Need to Know about Lost in 8 Minutes and 15 Seconds", but this clips that recreates the events of the plane crash from multiple angles is even better: "Lost - Synchronicity".
Virginia theorizes that the reason NBC's Friday Night Lights is a ratings failure has to do with its lack of a salient online fan base, but that could be a bit of misguided chicken/egg analysis.
In this Washington Post story about the online debates encircling The Wire, "something called Fimoculous.com" is name-checked in the second graph as part of "the poly-linked blogfest tempest." Whee! Later on, my post is quoted: "Vulture contested the copy-editing scandal, but today David Simon himself took issue with Vulture taking issue with David Simon taking issue with the word ['evacuate']." To which we can now append in tidy fashion: "...the Washington Post notes..."
Dammit, I'm obligated to link to this one: CJR's story on what The Wire teaches us about journalism. [via] Also, of course you've seen how you can catch up on four seasons of The Wire in four minutes (the best part of which is that HBO made it).
I have never heard of Skins, but apparently it's a British teen drama on Channel 4. Somehow, they licensed Radiohead's "Nude" for the trailer, which makes it look like a teen Caligula, which in turn makes you wish you were in London. [via]
[Last Wire link... I promise... ] If you watched the season premier, you saw a little bit about the proper usage of the word evacuate in the newsroom. Yesterday, Vulture contested the copy-editing scandal, but today David Simon himself took issue with Vulture taking issue with David Simon taking issue with the word. I can't believe you're not watching this show! UPDATE: Actually, it appears David Simon is scanning the entire blogosphere for self-references!
Philip Glass created music for Sesame Street in 1979? And there were accompanying animations called "Geometry of Circles"?
Out of the million new links about The Wire out there right now, I'm picking this dimension of the show to reflect upon: David Simon despises John Carroll and wrote some of this season out of revenge. If the name John Carroll rings a bell, it's because he was recently portrayed in press circles as a mensch for quitting his job as the editor of the LA Times to protest staff cuts. All of this makes the reality/fictional elements of The Wire even more complex. Update: I should also link to the similarly-themed article in The Atlantic: The Angriest Man in Television.
John Hockenberry in Technology Review: What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC. Good stories... but I've got better!
As you've probably heard, the new season of The Wire will take on the media. (Season 1: race. Season 2: class. Season 3: politics. Season 4: education.) So it's interesting to note that the TV critic for the Baltimore Sun (the paper that is the subject of the story arc) pans the show. The season premier is Saturday. [via]
Nothing on tv? You could always catch up on all the episodes of Futurama that you never watched -- Adult Swim is airing absolutely nothing else until New Year's Day.
Quarterlife has a launch date on NBC: Feb. 18. Although the current critical consensus is that this will fail (mostly because ratings have been quite low online), I'll say it might actually work because the writers' strike is finally starting to make people hungry for something new.
Karina asked me to propose a storyline to the rumored Arrested Development flick. I obliged. "The best part about the Bluth storyline is how familiar the family seems, as though it's a parallel world to ours. So I would like to see a movie in which the Bluths get cast in a reality TV show modeled on The Hills. They would all play a version of themselves: how they believe other people perceive them, which is of course not what they're like at all. The backdrop of this show is that its host, Richard Branson, wants to take them all to the moon. From here, the story gets complex, but Gob somehow gets his Segway onto the Sea of Tranquility."
Two thoughts on tv: 1) Every once in a while, someone will ask if I've seen some tv commercial. Because I fast-forward through everything, the answer is always no. 2) The TiVo revolution literally made tv better because you were empowered to only watch good programming. Putting those two together, one might wonder if Firebrand has a chance.
I dunno if you're watching Kid Nation (you should be -- fuck these writers and their scripted tv!), but Lindsay dubbing super character Taylor as "a world-class media whore, reality television's first true child prodigy" is darn near perfect.
Fox has a new game show coming out that pits contestants against a lie-detector test. For the first time ever, I want to be on a game show.
Interesting little factoids about Gossip Girl: 1) though it currently has a cancellation-inducing ranking of #106 on Nielsen, it rocks the online distribution world as the #1 downloaded show on iTunes; 2) Kristen Bell plays the disembodied voice of gossip girl herself; 3) the show was originally supposed to be a feature film starring Lindsay Lohan; and 4) The New Yorker thinks it's a snotty, worthless show.... but of course they would.
I actually watched all six-and-a-half minutes of this pre-show Katie Couric video in which she takes a shot at Rather, chatters about her Uggs, and at one point tells her executive producer "Just layin a little Jewish guilt on ya, bro." If it weren't for the last bit, I would guess it was staged. [via]
The co-creator of Lost penned a NYT op/ed claiming that tv is dying. It invokes TiVo and the writers' strike, but what's wrong about his argument is that tv has actually never been as good as it is right now (or was a couple years ago, anyway).
LAT has a grid showing which shows will run out of episodes because of the writers' strike. With only one new episode in the hopper, The Office looks to be the first to fall.
I was never a Seinfeld fan and not even freebasing adderall could get me to care about Bee Movie, but anyone ripping into Larry King is fine by me. (Actually, Seinfeld kinda comes off like a dick, which is even better.)
I don't remember Facts of Life being this awesome: Tootie and Natalie buy a few bongs at the local headshop and Mrs. Garrett goes ballistic.
Jon Stewart's production company is creating its second show (after The Colbert Report): a sketch-variety show called Important Things With Demetri Martin. Meanwhile, last night's interview with Chris Matthews was a spectacular tv moment. Quote: "I'm not criticizing your book, I'm criticizing your philosophy of life." [via]
I never did link to last week's SNL skit "Iran So Far" because, well, everyone else in the known blogosphere did. By now, you've probably heard the news that NBC did a take-down of it, even though it was on their own YouTube channel. But maybe you haven't yet heard the reason why.... it's because Aphex Twin (!) was sampled in the skit without permission. There's more at Pitchfork, while The Daily Swarm notes that "NBC was not required to get clearance for Saturday's broadcast, and until they intend to air the show again, copyright law allows for 'ephemeral use'." So despite what it might seem like some days, the internet isn't ephemeral use.
From the creators of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, a new short-form video show coming to MySpace TV: Quarterlife.
It has become very, very vogue to talk about the irrelevance of MTV (NYT does this story every couple months -- here's yesterday's), but they still seem to move in the right direction such as by launching new sites, TheDailyShow.com and SouthParkStudios.com.
CBS is not backing off the airing of Kid Nation, the reality show that dropped 40 tweens in the middle of the New Mexico.
So I'm throwing a party tonight -- a Trapped in the Closet viewing party. (It should be crazy fun -- if you're in Seattle and want to stop by, email me.) I've been asking people what the signature drink of the evening should be, and since no official answer rose to the top, I decided to Ask Metafilter.
As I Twittered the other day [shudders at just writing that], I love when Charlie Rose has musical guests, because he's the most of out his element. Best example: when he asked Danger Mouse if he ever has writer's block. Anyway, the Beastie Boys were on earlier this week, and it just showed up on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Hahah, I didn't eve get a chance to write about it, and Anchorwoman has already been canceled.
There was a rumor floating around last month that Kristen Bell was going to end up on the next season of Lost. Close -- it's actually going to be Heroes. Fimoc readers know Ms. Bell has a been a Top Fiver for a few years, and her titular role in Judd Apatow's upcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall will send her over the top.
The cinematic event of the year is nearly upon us: starting Monday, a new episode from the chapters 13-22 of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet will be posted at IFC.com/trapped every day. Two other dates to watch... Aug. 21: the DVD comes out; Sept. 7: all the episodes (1-22) will air on IFC. When art historians look back on the 21st century, this is what will stand out. I'm being totally serious.
Casey's op-ed in The Guardian about the relationship between vloggers and television networks has been on my mind for the past 24 hours. I've got an idea...
You already know I'm obsessed with Scott Baio Is 45... and Single (45? that's it? woot!), but now it seems that Slate is in the game too. The show (which I've already described as "therapy in reverse") borrows both the revisit-ex-girlfriend angst and the bad-best-friends unhealthiness of High Fidelity, but eliminates all those yucky feelings that tortured Cusack.
VH1 is out to get me right now. My ridiculous obsession with Scott Baio is 45 and Single is like therapy in reverse, and the upcoming show The Pickup Artist (starring Mystery from Neil Strauss' The Game) will be the best worst thing on tv -- and it will likely kill me. Fuck, I hate my '30s.
Brian Williams is pretty meticulous about his image, which is why his appearance on Kimmel (pt. 1 | pt. 2) came as a bit of a surprise to those of us who work with him. He talks about Interpol, swearing at home, the Feist video, being a college drop-out, and his love of Perez Hilton.
Boring trailer to the two-hour
final episode of Battlestar Galactica, which doesn't air until November anyway.
Because I'm sure you care... Fox officially set a date to launch their new business channel: Oct. 15.
For those of you who are following this Michael Moore / Sanjay Gupta feud (I know, you're riveted), Rachel Sklar at HuffPost gives the mother of all dissections.
Long, but great: Vanity Fair's oral history of The Simpson's. Includes interviews with Rupert Murdoch, Ricky Gervais, Art Spiegelman, Barry Diller, and Conan O'Brien.
New MySpace product: Minisodes. Episodes from classic tv shows reduced down to a couple minutes.
In case you missed, Paris Hilton showed up at last night's MTV Movie Awards -- the night before checking into jail (mug shot). In the most embarrassing moment I've ever seen on tv, Sarah Silverman does a major take-down. The reaction shot is so painful. Could a backlash to the backlash ensue? Yeah, probably not.
I love clips like this: the last 10 seconds of every episodes of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. [via]
Veronica Mars is semi-officially done. Which is maybe not so bad because it can't figure out where Pitchfork is located. And give Pitchfork points for playing along with the joke (which is so esoteric that I almost dare you to figure it out).
I have often wondered why perfectly sane people seem to like Family Guy more than The Simpsons (I'm looking at you and you, though there are many others). I have heard that The Simpsons writers despise the Family Guy writers, which makes absolute sense when you see this video of scenes they have ripped off. [via]
My completely unprovable but perhaps interesting theory about why The Office is successful: the creators are also the actors. That is, the actor who plays Toby (Paul Lieberstein) is actually the co-executive producer, Ryan (B.J. Novak) has produced many episodes, and Kelly (Mindy Kaling) is a chief writer. And don't forget Ricky Gervais -- the original "Michael Scott" (David Brent, in the BBC version) -- who is also an executive producer and writer. I would also bet that Steve Carell and John Krasinski influence the show's direction. This arrangement seems fairly unique to tv production. (I thought of this while reading a story in which Jeff Zucker suggests that The Office might turn into an hour-long show. Wacky.)
NBC to Burn Off Studio 60. Or maybe that time slot will ignite new massive interest in the show! (Okay, or not.)
When Al Jazeera launched an English news network a few months ago, there was some controversy around cable networks' unwillingness to add them to their channel line-up. So now, they've launched a YouTube channel. Is this one of those little moments that we'll look back on as pivotal in the future?
In a move that perfectly synthesizes two intellectually synchronous cultural memes, MySpace is working on a reality tv show.
Makes sense that someone needs to do backlash on the new This American Life tv show -- but I bet you wouldn't have guessed it would be The New Yorker.
Salon: a bunch of people (Robert Christgau, Ann Powers, Mark Dery, Greil Marcus, that Klosterman fellow, etc.) comment on the purported subversiveness of voting for Sanjaya.
Ya know how you wonder if a new actor is anything like their character or completely different in real life? Somehow, it seems that Mindy from The Office is both: exactly the same and completely different.
K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider for sale. $150K? No way. I'm buying it and flipping it for triple in a week.
OMG! O!M!G! My favorite tv show of all time is finally available online. For reasons that still mystify and vex me, Max Headroom has yet to be released on DVD, so I'm pleased that AOL Video picked this up for online viewing.
Are you like me? Don't have Showtime but wanna see the new This American Life show? No prob -- here's a Chris Ware segment. Also, last week's radio episode was titled "What I Learned From TV" (mp3) -- pretty great. [via]
SciFi.com has launched the Battlestar Galactica Videomaker Toolkit. Use pre-existing and uploaded clips to make your own four-minute clips. These things are always better in theory than in practice, but maybe someone gets off on it...
Second episode of the 1/2 Hour News Hour. Features Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and remains mortifyingly unfunny.
Of course you've been following the buzz that This American Life is being turned into a tv show on Showtime next month. From the trailer and the Sundance interview, it looks awesome -- sorta like Errol Morris squared.
The original WSJ isn't available, so here's Lost Remote's blurbage about how YouTube's media deals are crumbling.
On The Lot is a new Fox reality tv show created by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg in which 16 filmmakers produce short films -- each week is a different genre and viewers vote on who gets eliminated. [via]
Anyone else notice how Veronica Mars has made two disparaging references to Maxim magazine in recent episodes? The irony, of course, is that Kristen Bell was in Maxim. Anyway, there's a much more tasteful profile in Geek.
As previously mentioned, Fox News has been working on their take of the Daily Show. And now here it is, The Half Hour News Hour. It never really occurred to me until now: the laugh track was likely invented by a Republican. [via]
So who saw last night's Sarah Silverman show? Your reviews?
We should hold some kind of poll on how good The Sarah Silverman Program will be. (Her first significant project since Jesus is Magic, it premieres Feb. 1 on Comedy Central.) I know this is so boy to say, but she was smoking hot on last week's Kimmel. Anyway, the ostensible excuse for this post: she lands this week's NYT Mag interview.
My friend Paige says that if I put up a link to the Studio 60 story in today's Times, then people would cease emailing it to me.
It's strange to express glee that your favorite tv show is about to announce its end-point, but that's exactly what Lost needs. "The X-Files was a cautionary tale for us," says the exec producer. "It was a great show that ran two seasons too long. Lost has a short-half life." You really have to admire this approach, which ABC probably hates but which should bring the recent naysayers back on board. UPDATE: NYT says it could be a five-season show.
Both J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon have been scheduled to direct upcoming episodes of The Office.
Even though I don't use it all that much, I'm a huge fan of my Slingbox, which basically streams my DVR to my computer and phone. Now, it sounds like Sling Media will launch a reverse product, which brings internet video to your tv. It's interesting that we've been asking all this time who would bring tv to the internet when the real question might be who will bring the internet to tv?
Nerds rejoice: Number 6 is going to be in Playboy next month. I realize this is going out on a limb for our country, but I'm much more into Number 3. Phracking cylons.
I've got a unique idea for a tv blog that I don't think anyone else has explored. However, I've got ideas that will never amount to anything within pretty much every cultural genre. In the meantime, maybe someone should apply to be a paid tv blogger at TV Squad or join The Venice Project.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure why this libertarian mash hasn't happened sooner: Reason interviews South Park creators, Trey and Matt.
Letterman is becoming the Brett Favre of late night. He just signed on until 2010. Retire already!
Again making me think that Studio 60 is having an unforeseen influence, NBC is considering having SNL broadcast their Friday night dry rehearsals on the internet.
Defamer: The "Are You in Studio 60's Target Audience?" flow-chart. It illustrates a little too nicely why I still like the show. (C'mon, Jordan's tirade on the Time reporter last week wasn't golden?)
Even though the entire premise of the NYT profile of the TV Newser kid is how tv execs are fans of the site, it can't possibly convey how unbelievably glued to it they are. I've witnessed it first-hand and it's seriously weird.
Already a few days old, but if you missed it: Larry King confessed to never using the internet. Like, never? Nevah evah.
The lead story in the Sunday Times Arts section was on interactive television, making iTV officially the soccer of the tech world -- always and forever the next big thing.
I was chatting with a friend today about startup ideas. He joked: "How about networknewscast.com? We only offer content at 6:00-6:30 p.m. It'll have autoplay network news video. It will not be customizable and will not have any feedback. The other 23.5 hours will be 30-sec pre-roll promos for the next 6 p.m. broadcast. It'll be so counter-programming that retro teens with flock to it." I love it!
Slate asks what everyone else was asking yesterday: If O.J. quasi-confesses, could he end up back in court? Double jeopardy isn't the only answer...
This is the best. O.J. is going to appear on a two-hour Fox special and talk about how he would have hypothetically killed his wife.
Zulkey and Lindsayism are divided over a deep moral issue: Team Pam vs. Team Karen. Of course, we're talking about which girl Jim should date on The Office. This issue is so divisive that they're selling t-shirts. I'm Team Karen. You?
New York Mag thinks Lost is starting to suck and argues for something I've also said: change the format. Given the money involved, it seems unlikely that we'll get our way -- so there's always the theory from Amy's Robot: put the characters on other shows.
Eat it, suckas! Studio 60, full season. (Seriously though, the show isn't that awesome -- it's just better than almost any tv drama today.)
C'mon you people! Wasn't John Goodman fucking brilliant on Studio 60? The two coinciding timelines of Pahrump, NV and Hollywood, CA? The culture wars battle!? C'mon you people!
The Onion A/V: The 15 Best Shows To Last Only One Season. Includes Firefly, Stella, TV Funhouse, That's My Bush!, Freaks & Geeks, and Harsh Realm.
Since I'm posting everything about Studio 60 lately, I should point out this WSJ article which suggests that the show's high income household numbers might outweight its low overall numbers. It also says numbers go up by 18% if you include DVR users.
PBS' Frontline is preparing an episode called News War, a three-hour special the examines the "political, cultural, legal and economic forces" impacting the media.
Anyone notice that Veronica Mars' Halloween costume last night was Jack White? Idolator did.
The Studio 60 / 30 Rock / SNL update: Tina Fey gives a pointed "no comment" to her opinions of Studio 60 in an Onion interview. Everyone linked to the Fox News story about how Studio 60 is about to die, but the L.A. Times is reporting it ain't true. And in an article that strangely mirrors the fictional Vanity Fair article in Studio 60, The Village Voice goes behind the scenes and asks if SNL can even be relevant today.
Whoa, this will be a big blow to The GoogleTube: Comedy Central has removed all their clips from YouTube. All pages now say, "This video has been removed due to copyright infringement." Bad news for Daily Show / Colbert Report / South Park viewers. I'm curious what kind of backlash we'll see. [via]
Wow, I'd like to get my hands on some copies of this Iraq news satire show that looks a lot like the Daily Show.
It makes me sad the Studio 60 is dying. Sure, that bit with Sting was reprehensible, but it's the best new show this year. Marketwatch says the online marketing tactics didn't work, Slate says the problem is sermonizing, and The Post just says it's too smart. Sigh.
An update on Wonder Showzen via Radar: the boys are "90 percent" sure that MTV2 has cancelled the show. On what might have saved the show: "I honestly think that if the second season had a controversy, it would have been better for the show." I guess that's a lesson for the cultural conservatives. Also: Season 2 came out on DVD last week.
NBC to lay off 700, mostly in the news division. MSNBC is shutting down the Secaucus studio and moving to 30 Rock, but MSNBC.com is unaffected (nothing in my life changes). Lots more coverage at Lost Remote.
Arrested Development's offical eBay auction page includes Gob's Segway, Julia Louis Dreyfus' fake pregnancy suit, and Tobias' butch leather hat.
File under: "Pop Culture Conspiracy Theories." I wonder if the most recent episode of Studio 60 -- the one that revolves around an act of comedic tv/internet plagiarism (and which has probably been the best hour of tv this fall) -- was inspired by the recent act of unverified tv/internet plagiarism in which The Colbert Report had a few lines that appeared to rip off Ze Frank. Maybe that sounds like a crazy theory -- until you read in the long NY Mag Colbert profile that Jon Stewart's brother is now a writer for Studio 60. Hmmm....
Studio 60 has been pretty great so far. The focus group episode was the best. Slate: I'm Aaron Sorkin and You're Not.
You sleep with Keith Olbermann and then you start a blog to talk about it? Weird: For This Relief Much Thanks.
I don't know if this has legs, but a second incident where Colbert has used blogger content (jokes or video) has surfaced. [Previously.] It's an interesting question though: how do you source material in satire?
How will SNL be this year, in light of a smaller cast (no Tina Fey) and two meta-fictional tv accounts (Studio 60 and 30 Rock)? The season premier had good points (Brian Williams trying to anchor Weekend Update) and bad points (Dane Cook's awful intro), but overall I'm giving it a B+.
Guess what I got today that you didn't: an email from LinkedIn asking me to apply as the bachelor in next season's The Bachelor. (Apparently, ABC is using LinkedIn to recruit.)
Ugh, NBC apparently wants to kill The Office, at least that's all I can surmise from this maudlin promo. Blech!
Big shake-up at SNL: Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz and Kenan Thompson are out; "Weekend Update" goes to Jason Sudeikis; and you already knew Tina Fey left.
Gold Rush -- the weird AOL/CBS reality tv for the internet thing masterminded by Mark Burnett -- has launched its site. Looks like the competition (show?) starts in three weeks.
Good collection of the best Chuck Barris clips from The Gong Show, back when the coke was so much better.
Best Week Ever's take-down of the "I'm A Mac, I'm A PC" commericials.
I hate Who's Line is it Anyway? Really, I do. But the classic episode with Richard Simmons is golden.