Posts filed under ‘Television’

Love Should Be Multiplied, Not Divided

Sister wives

Image by Elizabeth Haslam via Flickr

The recent popularity of HBO’s series about polygamists in the Fundamentalist Mormon Church has spawned a TLC reality show. Again, Wal-Mart has corrupted me into buying immoral DVDs with a ridiculous price of $13 for the entire first season of Sister Wives. Why, why, why do I feel compelled to watch such trash? Well, it seemed like a kind of interesting sociological experiment for $13 and also seemed like a series that might be full of fodder for a feminist dissection.

The problem is that these people are so wholesome and loving and sane that it’s just impossible to have a bitch fest on them. I can’t do it. The lifestyle isn’t for me. I see the appeal, and not just from a reproductive standpoint. Obviously, a man with more than one wife can produce more children than, say, the opposite scenario. But the appealing thing is having more than just two adults to share household duties and obligations with. Hillary said it takes a village, and these people are their own village.

In the beginning we meet Kody Brown and his three wives, Meri, Janelle, and Christine. We meet their thirteen children. We get to see old pictures and hear the courtship stories of all three women. This isn’t some compound where boys are abused and girls are married off to old men at the age of 12. All three wives were adults who made the decision to enter a plural marriage.

The first wife, Meri, knew that she would not be the only wife when she married Kody. In fact, she seems to be the jolly matchmaker. Janelle jokes that Meri is in mergers and acquisitions, and no one gets to Kody without first bonding with Meri.

Janelle works outside the home, and Meri works and attends college. All three women say that they just want to raise healthy and happy, productive members of society. If the children choose not to engage in polygamy or to leave the faith of their upbringing, that will be okay as long as they are making their own choices. Above all, they want their children to have the freedom to choose for themselves. Janelle even lectures her girls that they will be finishing college before they get married.

I’d like to denounce these people for their “perverted” lifestyle, but it’s just not the case. Everyone’s needs are being met. Sure, the women experience some jealousy, especially when Kody brings on a fourth wife, Robin. But all four of these wives have a loving and considerate husband. A lot of other women would give up 100% of their one shitty husband to trade for 25% of a good one. And I realize that it’s a reality series. How ideal their domestic bliss seems probably has more to do with the editors than it has to do with “reality.” But these women seem significantly happier than Kate Gosselin, even after she dumped Jon.

Like I said, it’s not for me. I wouldn’t endorse the lifestyle or the religion. However, this is America. As long as the adults involved are consenting and no one is being abused or coerced, the children are well provided for, and the welfare system isn’t being abused…then what business is it of ours?

May 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm 3 comments

Greg Mortenson & 60 Minutes

Greg Mortenson in Afghanistan 3500ppx

Image via Wikipedia

Previously I’ve written about Greg Mortenson, his non-profit, the Central Asia Institute, and his book about his journey to build schools for the children of rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book is called Three Cups of Tea, and its accuracy has been called into question by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes and journalist Jon Krakauer. In addition to alleging that Mortenson’s autobiography is less than truthful (remind anyone of James Frey?), there are even more serious allegations of money mismanagement.

In addition to the tall tales that Mortenson supposedly told in his books, Krakauer and 60 Minutes  are saying that Mortenson has not built as many schools as he claims he has.  Many of the schools Mortenson claims that CAI has built or is funding are not currently functioning. Central Asia Institute has only furnished one audited financial statement in its 14 years. Several board members have quit over misgivings about financial accountability. And Mortenson’s travel costs are paid for by CAI while Mortenson himself retains speaking fees for speaking engagements and promotional tours for his books. The proceeds from the books go to Mortenson and not to the institute.

Some of the allegations here shouldn’t be terribly shocking to anyone who read Mortenson’s book. Mortenson himself admits that he is a poor planner, ineffective with time management, money management, and people management. But for some reason he has a knack with the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And no one is alleging that he isn’t an effective advocate for girls’ education in developing countries. No one is stating that he hasn’t vastly improved the lives of literally thousands of children. What they are claiming is that Mortenson has not been a good steward of CAI resources and that perhaps he’s indulged in some tall tales or some creative license with his story.

In one portion of the scandalous expose, 60 Minutes interviews a man that Mortenson identifies in a photo from his book as a member of the Taliban who kidnapped him for several days. Kroft interviews the man, and the man says he’s not Taliban and that he didn’t kidnap Mortenson. But honestly, if you were a member of the Taliban or if you had kidnapped someone, would it be in your best interest to admit to it on American national television? Why would we take this guy’s word at face value any more than we would Mortenson’s? And what due diligence did 60 Minutes undertake to ensure that this guy really was who and what he claims to be? We’re not told.

Three Cups of Tea was co-written by a seasoned journalist named David Oliver Relin. I have a hard time believing that he didn’t do any research on Greg Mortenson and his claims. After all, his professional reputation was on the line. I’d be interested in getting his take on things. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times has asked that the public reserve judgment about Mortenson. Kristof is unimpeachable.

As for 60 Minutes and Krakauer, I’d like to say that, to be fair, the piece isn’t a complete hatchet job. Kroft indulges in some sensationalism in following Mortenson to a public book signing. Shame on you for grandstanding, Steve Kroft! It’s beneath you. And Krakauer may feel duped for having given $75,000 to a man who’s perhaps been less than truthful. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s envious of Mortenson’s greater success with his books. Krakauer wrote two bestsellers, one of which was made into a movie that was directed by Sean Penn. But his books haven’t sold as many copies as Greg’s, and Jon Krakauer probably can’t command the same speaking fees. Maybe his motivations are not entirely pure.

Even if Greg Mortenson has done a lot of good in the world, as I’m sure he has, he should still be held accountable. At the very least, Mortenson should start freely sharing audited financial statements on an annual basis. I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone contribute one penny to CAI until this happens. Mortenson himself has admitted that he’s a lousy businessman. Why shouldn’t he continue to be the front man for his charity and hire someone else who’s experienced and knowledgeable to handle the day to day nitty gritty of being CAI’s executive director? I am sure that there are plenty of qualified individuals who would love the challenge of reforming such a worthy charity.

60 Minutes has tried to turn a hero into a charlatan. The truth is most likely somewhere between those two extremes. The jury’s still out on this matter, as far as I’m concerned. However, there are many questions that need to be answered. If Greg Mortenson is really concerned with helping the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan, then he’ll do his best to answer those questions honestly and to behave honorably with regards to the money that has been entrusted to him for those children’s welfare. Mr. Mortenson, the excuse of naivete will only get you so far. It’s time to grow up and do the right thing.–-and-wrong/

April 26, 2011 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

Aging Italian Lothario

Silvio Berlusconi in a meeting

Image via Wikipedia

We all know that I like to read. I was reading last week’s issue of The New Yorker when I came across an article on Italy and Italy’s Prime Minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. And you thought the title of Italian Lothario was going to be a puff piece on George Clooney! Berlusconi is currently the European leader who’s been in office the longest but not consecutively.

He’s embroiled in a controversy that involves a sex scandal, a divorce, allegations of government corruption, and sex with teenage girls. In Italy the age of consent is 16, but paying for sex is illegal. It’s alleged that Berlusconi, in his 70s, paid for sex with underage girls.

The article that I read in The New Yorker made it sound like Berlusconi’s sexual exploits are not only tolerated but virtually approved. It sounds like in Italian culture the primary qualification for public office might be the ability to get an erection. Maybe if both candidates have access to Levitra, they measure penises in order to find out who will be the better leader. Okay. That’s an exaggeration but not much of one. It is a heavily sexist, machismo culture.

Berlusconi describes his politics as moderate right, and he hangs on to the number of votes he needs to retain office by the skin of his teeth and with the help of another political party called the Northern League. The Northern League is dedicated to making the money in the North stay in the North and tends to be divisive. However, they say if Berlusconi will back what they term “fiscal federalism,” they’ll stand behind him.

But I gotta wonder why this guy is Prime Minister. Clinton couldn’t keep it in his pants, either, but at least our economy thrived while he was in office. And as far as I know he wasn’t playing the cigar game with teenage girls. He also wasn’t objectifying women or rewarding political positions to women that are basically based on whether or not he wanted to nail them.

Sure enough, if you can ignore the allegations of paying for sex or paying for sex with underage girls, then there’s the problems of this yahoo’s mismanagement. Corruption (in the form of bribery) abounds. The unemployment rate is high, particularly amongst young people, and those that are employed are mostly underpaid. They are second only to Greece in terms of debt ratios of European Union Nations.

It begs the question of how an effective businessman can manage to run his nation’s economy into the ground while he’s busy throwing parties to rival Hugh Hefner. Berlusconi has escaped criticism so far because he actually owns all 3 television networks in Italy. That’s not a conflict of interest. Not at all. It’s like if Rupert Murdoch ran for President, if Rupert Murdoch also purchased ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN. I shudder to think.

Berlusconi works to make sure that his country sees only positive images of him. He squashes anyone who protests or opposes him in the court of public opinion. Mostly, the message is that anyone who criticizes him must be partisan and leftist, as well as disloyal to Italy.

The tide is turning. Some Italians are finally tired of this guy’s nonsense. Guess who’s one of the groups leading the charge. Just guess. Feminists. They recognize this dick for just what he is. In case you were inclined to feel sorry for this dirty old man, just keep in mind that this is a man who also calls Muammar Ghadafi his dear friend.

April 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm 1 comment

Twilight Had a Past Life

Beauty and the Beast (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I was at work, chatting with a young friend, and we were bitching about the stupidity of Twilight, like I like to do, when somehow it occurred to me that Twilight has been around before. How, you might ask? Am I talking about Dracula? Interview with the Vampire, perhaps? No, it doesn’t involve vampires at all.

Over 20 years ago now someone in television had an idea about a lion-man who was living in an underworld of misfits in a sewer tunnel beneath New York City. And that lion-man saved a rich, spoiled attorney after she was viciously attacked in a city park. He nursed her back to health, and they formed a special bond, one where he could read her feelings. She gradually got better and went back to the real world where she decided to become an assistant district attorney and fight crime.

Eventually, the woman (Catherine) became a helper, someone from the real world who helped the misfit creatures keep their underworld labyrinth a secret. The lion-man (Vincent) came and saved Catherine from danger every week when he sensed that she was distressed, and then he read her poetry. They did not make love. A wealthy, super hot businessman was in love with Catherine, but she strung him along, caught between her powerful bond with Vincent and the hope of a normal life.

Hel-lo! Beauty and the Beast is Twilight. The parallels are amazing! Well, all except for the fact that I kind of liked Beauty and the Beast. First off, both Vincent and Edward are supernatural creatures. Both Vincent and Edward have psychic bonds with their objects of affection. Both Vincent and Edward have families of likewise unusual beings whose secrets must be guarded at all costs; in fact, both Vincent and Edward have a “Father.” Beauty and the Beast has a wealthy businessman. Twilight has a hot werewolf. Both the werewolf and the businessman are rivals that represent the hope of a more normal life for our heroine.

And perhaps the most important parallel of all: no one is having sex. Nobody is getting any. But it isn’t that they don’t want to! No. The reason Vincent and Edward don’t touch their lovers except to save the constant damsels in distress is because they are both afraid that they will hurt their lady loves. This is the most crucial parallel: the crux of the stories.

Oh, sure, eventually Edward and Bella and Catherine and Vincent get around to doing it. But you have to wait for the last book with Twilight. And Catherine has Vincent’s baby but then later dies in the jump the shark moment from Beauty and the Beast. Sex is a killer. Gotta save it for the last book.

I’ve totally discovered the route to commercial success! It’s a blueprint. First, create a mythical man-beast. Then have him rescue a young heroine, repeatedly, as in so often that you wonder how it is possible for one woman to be so clumsy and/or attract so much danger. Have the heroine be smitten with the man-beast but torn between him and a more conventional life represented by a rival who’s hopefully both hot and rich. But just hot will do.

Have the hero risk his life repeatedly for the heroine but selflessly refuse to have sex with her, even if she begs him to do it. And voila! You have a blueprint for success. And I think what Stephenie Meyer has learned is that if you absolutely remove body hair or any semblance of post pubescent masculinity, that you can appeal to teenage girls with this formula! Amazing!

Now that I’ve figured this out I can write my own bestselling saga. In fact, I can write a bunch of them. I’ll just change the hero out. My first page turner will be called Minotaur. That’ll get me a five book deal at least. Next, I’ll write Satyr. Oooh. I wonder if you could remake The Fly as a teen romance. I’m going to be very busy writing crap. If you have any story ideas for some mythical men who won’t have sex, feel free to comment here.

April 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

Funny Women: Linda Bloodworth Thomason

Linda Bloodworth Thomason is a writer and television producer. Born in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she went on to obtain an English degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation she secured a teaching position at an inner city high school in Los Angles’ Watts neighborhood.

Later, she worked as a journalist for the Los Angles Daily Journal and did some freelance writing for television. Her breakthrough was with a script written for an episode of M*A*S*H*, co-authored with actress Mary Kay Place, and entitled, “Hot Lips and Empty Arms.”

Linda also wrote the original pilot for the Norman Lear produced One Day at a Time, which introduced the American public to a young Valerie Bertinelli. The show was created by Whitney Blake (the mother on TV’s Hazel and the real life mother of Meredith Baxter) and Blake’s husband Allan Manings.

This freelance writing eventually led to the opportunity for Thomason to create her own series, Filthy Rich. Filthy Rich was quickly cancelled but not before she forged friendships with two talented performers, the late Dixie Carter, and Delta Burke.

Designing Women was a show that centered around an interior design firm helmed by the Sugarbaker sisters (Carter and Burke), a divorcee with two young children (Annie Potts) and a naïve single woman (Jean Smart). The four women employed an African American man (Meshach Taylor) who had previously spent time in jail for a wrongful burglary conviction. In later seasons the cast changed. The only original cast member who wasn’t Southern was Smart.

Designing Women explored many feminist themes and contemporary women’s issues through the lives of its female characters. The show featured broad physical comedy and standard sitcom fare but also frequently raised topical issues like racism, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS, and prejudice towards overweight women. The show ran for seven years, from 1986 to 1993 and was a Nielsen hit for much of that time.

This success led to other shows such as Evening Shade and Hearts Afire. Hearts Afire starred John Ritter and Markie Post and marked the introduction of Billy Bob Thornton to most of the world, although he undoubtedly had earlier acting jobs. With the addition of Evening Shade and Hearts Afire, Bloodworth Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason were producing three television sitcoms at once, which makes her the female Chuck Lorre of her day, only one with a greater social conscience.

The Thomasons were friends of the Clintons, dating back to his days as governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father made a cameo appearance on Hearts Afire. The Thomasons helped with the Clinton presidential campaign by writing excerpts for some of his speeches and producing promotional spots for television.

Currently, Thomason sponsors the Claudia Foundation, a charity that provides opportunities for young people, especially young women. The charity gives scholarships to young people who might not have the chance to go to school and provides the chance to engage in community service. The Claudia Foundation also supports literacy causes and allows young women to have cultural experiences that they might not have otherwise had the good fortune to appreciate, such as Broadway plays.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason has contributed significantly to American popular culture as well as to politics. She’s even stood up for fair reporting in this media age of increasingly polarized talking heads. Thomason and other Hollywood insiders stood up to call out MSNBC on their coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential race.

March 4, 2011 at 4:44 am 3 comments

He Felt Dead Inside - CBS Comedies Premiere Pa...

Image via Wikipedia

Two and a Half Men is not a show that I regularly watch. I’ve maybe seen three episodes, if that. I like Jon Cryer. I like the kid on there, Angus Whatisface. I absolutely adore Conchata Ferrell and Holland Taylor. I think Charlie Sheen, undoubtedly, is a gifted actor. If you can inherit the acting gene, then he obviously got it from his dad. But Charlie Sheen is a tool. How much of his being a tool is genuinely Charlie and how much is his addiction? I don’t know. But he’s a tool just the same.

I’m not sure how he became a tool. His parents seem like such nice Catholic folks. His brother Emilio seems to have his head screwed on straight and his priorities right, and by all accounts is a nice guy. Even exes Demi Moore (they were engaged) and Paula Abdul never have anything mean to say about him and maintain friendships with him. So, what the hell happened to Charlie?

First, Charlie got caught partying in a New York City hotel room with a porn star who locked herself in the closet, while Denise Richards and his two young daughters were in the room next door. In a separate incident months later, Charlie had the ambulance called to his house and had to be hospitalized, for what the actor said was a hernia, but what many people suspect was a bout of pancreatitis. The producers of Two and a Half Men, and the network that it’s on, CBS, decided to enforce a sort of suspension in order for him to get his act together.

They gave him time to go to rehab and sort himself out. This is the second time he’s been given time to go to rehab in less than two years. The first was when he got probation for allegedly physically attacking his wife, while under the influence.

This has created some controversy, since it’s contended that the crew of his show are hurting while they miss the salaries they would normally receive, waiting for Charlie to get his act together. Charlie maintains that he doesn’t have a problem. He likes to party. He has the money to do so, and he shows up on time with his lines learned and delivers a good performance. He doesn’t think there’s any need to shut down the show, and he’s offered some of his own money in order to make up for the loss of salary on the part of the show’s crewmembers. So, maybe he’s not a big tool, just a little one. We could ask any hooker in L.A. and probably find out.

You know who else is a tool? Chuck Lorre. And CBS. Here’s the bottom line, guys. Shit or get off the pot. Charlie Sheen is an addict. Charlie Sheen is hurting himself more than he’s hurting anyone else. Here are the choices: either enforce sobriety and start testing him every day and requiring that he pass the pee test, and then fire his ass if he doesn’t, or continue to enable his behavior and look the other way.

It wouldn’t be the first time that an addict was placated, either in Hollywood or in real life. Sometimes people are so good at what they do that companies decide it’s worth putting up with a few hidden bottles around the office. I remember a job I had in college where one of my coworkers always smelled of alcohol, frequently took two and three hour lunches at the track, hid bottles of liquor in his desk drawers and the ceiling panels, and we all looked the other way and pretended not to see. Charlie Sheen is no different.

The available choices are clear. Take the high ground and say that you won’t put up with this self-destructive behavior, and that if he wants to work for the money that, if nothing else, buys his drugs, he’s going to have to be sober while he’s working. Or take the low road like you’ve been doing for the past eight years.

Let’s face it. Is there anyone on God’s green earth that doesn’t know what they’re getting into with Charlie Sheen…ahead of time? And do we honestly think that these people really didn’t know anything was going on with him?

There is no middle ground of a few weeks off for “home rehab.” This is bullshit. Charlie doesn’t think he has a problem, and giving him a few weeks off isn’t going to solve that dilemma.

You know what? If Charlie Sheen is actually capable of passing pee tests while the show is shooting and then partying during the off season, I would almost agree with him that he’s capable of using drugs recreationally. Not. But at least it would be holding him accountable. Most people in the real world can’t have the kinds of legal and personal problems Sheen’s been having and remain employed for this long. Charlie Sheen is damn lucky. He’s just too arrogant to see that.

Chuck Lorre writes vanity cards and displays them for a mere few seconds at the end of each of his shows. A recent vanity card on Two and a Half Men read:

“I exercise regularly. I eat moderate amounts of healthy food. I make sure to get plenty of rest. I see my doctor once a year and my dentist twice a year. I floss every night. I’ve had chest x-rays, cardio stress tests, EKG’s and colonoscopies. I see a psychologist and have a variety of hobbies to reduce stress. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t have crazy, reckless sex with strangers.

If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed.”

That, indeed, may be how Lorre feels, but it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to put further spotlight on Sheen’s problems, and it’s pretty low. He may be hell to put up with, and he probably is, but Lorre is sort of kicking his golden calf while it’s down. Keep your feelings to yourself, Chuck Lorre, and show a little class and maturity by keeping your mouth shut.

Everyone puts up with Sheen’s behavior because his show is an entire industry in and of itself. It’s a little micro-economy that feeds many, many people. The powers that be are afraid that if Sheen goes, then so goes the show. And maybe that’s the case. Or maybe not. If Chuck Lorre is half the writer that I’m sure he thinks he is, then he can keep the cottage industry that is Two and Half Men afloat by bringing in another actor to replace him.

Sheen thinks that’s impossible. He thinks that Lorre’s writing stinks, and that he literally saves the show every week, all by himself. He doesn’t even give any credit to his fellow actors. What Charlie Sheen is forgetting is that no one is irreplaceable. I don’t care who the fuck you are. What was your last big TV gig before this one, Charlie? As I seem to recall, it was on Spin City, where you replaced the irreplaceable Michael J. Fox, and the show ran for another two years. And you aren’t fit to be a pimple on Michael J. Fox’s ass.

February 25, 2011 at 2:44 am 2 comments

Why I Mostly Hate Reality TV

Brody Jenner in 2008

Image via Wikipedia

With a few exceptions like Top Chef, The Amazing Race, the first season of MTV’s Real World, The Biggest Loser and documentaries produced for PBS I really hate, hate, hate reality TV. Here’s why.

  1. Reality is boring. I live in reality. Why do I want to turn on my TV to watch it?
  2. It’s not really reality. It might not be “scripted,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t staged.
  3. There are hundreds and thousands of great writers out there with great stories that need to be told, but Hollywood can turn out this so called reality schlock instead, for far less money.
  4. What is up with TLC? Why are they so obsessed with breeders? I mean, really, what’s up with that? The Duggars, the Gosselins, some couple here in Austin who had quints…do they have any shows that don’t involve copious amounts of rugrats? I like kids, but there are limits.
  5. Reality TV is part of the general dumb-ing down of America. Our children and teenagers, not to mention our adults that ought to know better, waste hours and hours of time watching the vapid exploits of morally bankrupt people, like, uh, I don’t know, the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and the entire cast of The Hills. Seriously, have you ever watched some of these shows? These people make tons of money being shallow and vacuous. I swear if you hold Brody Jenner up to your ear you can hear the ocean.
  6. We now have an entire reality TV show centered around a teen mother who’s had her baby removed from her care by social services. What’s it called? Teen Mom. It used to be that if you got pregnant when you were in high school you had an abortion, gave the baby up for adoption, sponged off your parents, or lived in abject poverty. Maybe, if you were very lucky, had some help, and made some really harsh sacrifices, you got yourself through college and raised your baby, too. Now if you’re underage and you get pregnant, you can be a TV star. Great message to send teenage girls, America. Just great.
  7. It gives Americans a false sense of their opportunities. It further contributes to the good old American sense of entitlement. Dog the Bounty Hunter and Jesse James and all those kooky ghost hunters on the Sci-Fi channel can have their own reality shows. If I’m a junkie I can get on A&E’s Intervention. If I’m the kind of person who never cleans or throws anything away, then I can star on Hoarders. I am just as trashy, eccentric or downright loony as they are. I demand my own TV series. Give it to me. Now. Then other people can watch me so that they can feel better about themselves by comparison.
  8. It used to be that reality TV was called the news, and the news was reality. There weren’t many cute human interest stories or funny fluffy filler pieces. It was mostly war, famine, pestilence and politics. People actually cared about things like democracy and foreign policy and business, things that matter. Now it isn’t just Fox News that has the best fictional plots on television. Unfortunately, it’s most of our news. The news has become a collection of polarizing Op-Ed pieces delivered by “personalities” as diverse as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller, Rachel Maddow, and Keith Olbermann. It’s about creating controvery, which creates ratings, which brings in advertising revenue. The news is no longer information; instead, it’s infotainment.

December 18, 2010 at 1:07 am 9 comments

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