Most people who tune in to morning TV "news" programs know the unbearable lightness of the product, full of celebrity cotton candy and tragic tales of tabloid woe, of climbers lost on mountains and teenagers lost in the tropics. So it was a little shocking to be diverted from that maudlin box of info-bon bons known as the Anna Nicole Smith deathmatch to questions on the grand and glorious subject of Biblical anthropology, and a "discovery" of the alleged bones of Jesus.
Why this whiplash-inducing change of subject? It's sad but true that the "Today" crew went into promotional hyperdrive for the Discovery Channel special on the alleged bones of Jesus because someone spread Hollywood glitter on it -- James Cameron, the director of "Titanic." (Christians are joking among themselves that Cameron doesn't seem to know who the real King of the World is.) The Cameron connection has been a constant attraction for The Discovery Channel.
Al and Tipper Gore just consented to an interview with Ryan Seacrest on the E! pre-Oscar festivities. (First question: Tipper's wearing Bill Blass, Al Gore reluctantly noted he's wearing Ralph Lauren.) The goofiest answer was when Seacrest asked Gore, "if you were to cast an actor to play the lead in 'The Al Gore Story,' who would you pick?" Gore quipped, "I don't know, maybe William Hung," the infamous "American Idol" reject who mangled Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Seacrest laughed and said "I love it, I mean, the 'Idol' reference!" When Seacrest asked if that performance was one of his favorites, he said it was "right up there," and then said "no, no, no" and insisted that his favorite song is the lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge's song "I Need to Wake Up." Guess why? It's up for an Oscar for its inclusion in Gore's film. Lyrics, please:
And as a child I danced like it was 1999 My dreams were wild The promise of this new world Would be mine Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth To listen to an inconvenient truth
"24" is just a TV show. But in her Los Angeles Times column of today, America Tortures (yawn), Rosa Brooks cites the actions of the show's characters -- and the American public's reaction to them -- as evidence of the way in which we have become inured to U.S. government-sponsored torture. In doing so, Brooks unwittingly raises another, more interesting issue.
Writes Rosa: "If you need any more evidence that the American public has gotten blasé about torture, consider the hit Fox action drama '24.' The show featured 67 torture scenes during its first five seasons, and most of those depicted torture being used by 'heroic' U.S. counter-terror agents." Note Brooks' placement of scare quotes around "heroic." For the enlightened folks of the liberal media elite, Jack Bauer is no hero -- he is best viewed as a torturer. But Brooks leaves an important question unanswered.
Brent Bozell's culture column this week centers on those Hollywood sore thumbs called Walden Media, who have made family-friendly and faith-friendly films. Brent told me it was a "V-8 idea," a slap-your-forehead business proposition to serve an underserved market of religious families with children. The new Walden project is the movie "Amazing Grace," as Brent explained:
It is a sad reality: Very few adults, and virtually no child can recognize the name William Wilberforce, the man Abraham Lincoln claimed was known to “every school boy” in America in 1858. Then there’s this: “Amazing Grace” is the most recognizable hymn in the land – but how many people can tell you its origin? To the rescue comes Walden again, with the movie “Amazing Grace,” which tells the true, and beautiful story of William Wilberforce, the brilliant British orator and parliamentarian who fought relentlessly to ban the slave trade in Great Britain and who ultimately succeeded, against all odds, decades before the United States fought a bloody civil war to do the same.
A few moments ago on the February 16 "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," NBC's Natalie Morales shared a story with the late night host of actor Alec Baldwin's attempt to score a lunch date with the "Today" show talent.
I'll update later in the morning with video, but basically, a few years ago, according to Morales, Baldwin called her on the phone and told her he was working on a movie about cable news. Was Morales available for say, lunch sometime to help Baldwin with his, well, research.
Morales wasn't born yesterday, so she kindly told the "30 Rock" star that she's married.
Diamonds don't cause conflicts in Africa, bands of armed thugs do. But you wouldn't know that if you followed the media's slant on "conflict diamonds," which, much like stories on gun control, often blame the object instead of the evil person misusing it.
Has Chris Matthews watched one too many episodes of "Oz," the hyper-graphic HBO original series about prison life?
Discussing the Scooter Libby trial on the 7 PM ET edition of this evening's Hardball, Chris spun a sanguine scenario in which Libby, facing the prospect of a long prison sentence in a vulnerable environment, might turn on Vice-President Cheney.
Matthews: "If Scooter's convicted, if you're looking at the number of counts facing him. If that jury really does go to town -- and I hope they're not watching -- and hits him with four or five counts, they add up to big time in some federal penitentiary, not necessarily Allenwood [known as the country club of federal prisons]. Someplace where a guy like Scooter Libby would not bevery protected from the fellow prisoners. If he faces 20 years somewhere in maximum security, he's going to think again about his situation, isn't he?"
I just caught this, originally posted on February 1 to the Web page for People's Weekly World. It's from a diatribe against the Fox television program "24" by PWW's John Wojcik.
Notice how the writer goes on to explain just why terrorism is such a bad thing. I mean, Stalin was just so much better at systematically killing people than some rinky dink terrorists. </sarcasm>
MSNBC commentator Keith Oberman [sic] rightly described "24" as "naked brainwashing."
All people of good will, of course, oppose terrorism. The Communist Party USA has often pointed out that terrorism substitutes individual acts of violence for the mass action essential for real progressive change.
Wojcik also cited NewsBusters as evidence of why "24" is an evil neo-conservative/Bush White House agitprop:
"We're on a mission from God." -- Dan Aykroyd as Elwood, "The Blues Brothers"
NBC is on a mission -- from Gore.
NBC announced its allegiance to Al Gore's stop-global-warming mission on this morning's "Today." With Tom Costello narrating, Today first ran a glowing piece on Timberland shoe company, famous for its boots, which has announced that, you guessed it, it's on a "mission" to become "carbon neutral." To achieve that, it will among other things be using wind farms and solar panels to power its factories. Costello emphasized an expert's opinion that "it's up to each one of us to cut our own carbon emissions."
Costello then stated as unquestioned fact that the carbon that each of us is responsible for by flying, driving or running our homes "adds to a layer of greenhouse gases that is warming the planet." No indication of how much current climate changes are caused by non-human factors, the kinds that caused the Ice Age and subsequent warmer period thousands of years ago.
Costello closed his segment by quipping "it's all about treading lightly." Boots. Treading lightly -- we get it.
Host Campbell Brown teased the next segment by saying "You've seen how several companies are going carbon-neutral to limit damage to the atmosphere. Up next on Today, you'll see how easy it is for all of us to help in that effort."
My NewsBusters item last week previewed how Sunday's then-upcoming episode of the L word, Showtime's drama series about lesbians in Los Angeles, would feature the “Unauthorized Abortion of W,” a sculpture of a woman's body with an exposed womb displaying George W. Bush's adult face with each of his hands holding onto a rocket labeled “U.S. Air Force.” The rockets were angled to suggest they represent forceps. The preview on which I based my posting (video in the earlier NB item) only displayed the exposed womb in a woman's body. The full scene aired Sunday night showed that the figure was made to look just like Barbara Bush, with an American flag blindfold, and with the suction end of a vacuum cleaner just below her crotch.
Hollywood types speak gauzily of their "art," even if nothing seems to fit the definition of some of this "art" better than "films almost no one wants to watch." Robert Redford became a hero of the "art" film world by founding the Sundance Institute in 1981, based on the call for "creative risk-taking" and "nurturing the diversity of artistic expression." But the search for risk-taking-cum-creative diversity is a hopeless free-fall into the abyss, and all too often, and too predictably, results in creative perversity. What Mapplethorpe brought to the photograph, Redford’s festival is now bringing to the silver screen.
The 2007 Sundance festival has reached a new low with a strange, yet highly publicized film called "Zoo." No, it isn’t about giraffes and hippos. "Zoo" is about "zoophiles" – you know, humans who like sex with animals. The documentary explores the activities of a group of men in the Pacific Northwest who engaged in bestiality. To be precise, they engaged in sex with Arabian stallions – until a man died from a perforated colon in 2005.
Sunday's episode of Showtime's drama centered around the lives of lesbians in Los Angeles, the L word, will feature the “Unauthorized Abortion of W,” a sculpture of a woman's body with an exposed womb displaying George W. Bush's adult face with each of his hands holding onto a rocket labeled “U.S. Air Force.” The rockets are angled to suggest they represent forceps. (Showtime is part of CBS.)
In a promo for the January 28 episode, character “Bette Porter,” the dean of a university's art school played by Jennifer Beals, tells a new character played by Marlee Matlin: “I'm bringing one of our biggest donors to tour the studio. There's a radical sculpture.” Through a male interpreter, the deaf Matlin character, whom the L word's Web site describes as “an artist whose work is politically incendiary,” observes: “He's not going to like that piece.” Porter/Beals confirms “no.” Then as a man comes into view, presumably the big donor, the camera quickly pans the figure of Bush in the womb as Matlin explains: “This is called the 'Unauthorized Abortion of W.'” Video clip of Showtime's promo for the January 28 episode (45 seconds): Real (1.3 MB) or Windows Media (1.6 MB), plus MP3 audio (275 KB)
Based on what Times Watch has read, “Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi,” the documentary on Christian evangelicals airing on HBO tonight (Pelosi being the daughter of you-know-who) seems more respectful than the contemptuous anti-Christian commentary it's generated, including a paragraph Thursday from television critic Alessandra Stanley.
NBC's Thursday night comedy "30 Rock" took some good-natured potshots at "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams in a scene that depicted his office as rife with liquor bottles, dirty underwear, pornography ("Junk in the Trunk") and wall graffiti declaring "Katie Couric Sucks." (h/t TVNewser.com)
Interesting panel discussion about "24" on last evening's Fox News Watch. On the one hand, lefty Neal Gabler actually defended the show. Mentioning that he likes Keith Olbermann "very much," Gabler continued:
"I disagree with Keith Olbermann in this situation. I look at '24' as being like a 527 [tax-exempt groups that engage in political activity]. It's bringing up that issue about terrorism, it certainly serves the Bush administration. But unlike the 9-11 show that was on ABC which specifically cited Bush as a great hero, this does not do that. It is entertainment, and I don't think it ought to be censored, or pulled off the air, or anything like that."
At the same time, Gabler later claimed: "I had dinner with the creator of '24' [note: IMDB lists Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran as co-creators. A well-positioned source informs me Gabler was referring to Surnow], and let me say, he was a right-wing fanatic. Let's not pretend that he isn't."
Last night ABC’s Boston Legal was packed full of political jabs. Lawyer Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when Alan Shore (played by James Spader) asked if Crane has called for help, his response was, "Well, I can’t get anybody. I called Tom Delay, his number’s disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don’t take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "How you tried going right to the top?" Crane’s response was, "Cheney?"
Soon after, Shore described Crane to a Homeland Security official saying, "Mr. Murch... there is nobody more red, white and blue than this man here. He's for the death penalty. He's pro-life. He doesn't read newspapers. He's exercised every loophole to avoid paying taxes. He's even donated to. The Jack Abramoff ball."
Keith Olbermann is scared. Not by the threat of terrorism in the United States. But at the notion that "24" might be raising Americans' awareness of the threat. And he has singled out NewsBusters for the role it has played in highlighting the issue.
Olbermann devoted a Countdown segment this evening to "24", suggesting that its two-night, four-hour season opener should have been sufficient to "scare or outrage you." Incomprehensibly, Olbermann complained that the show depicted various terrorist suicide attacks "not in places where these things already happened, but in a country called the United States of America." Is it possible that Keith Olbermann has forgotten 9-11?
Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin is blogging from the annual Television Critics Association tour, and found some hot talk in recounting the Clintonista war against ABC's movie on 9/11.
Asked during his appearance on the TV critics' tour if he was embarrassed that the network had to "backpedal" on its Clinton-unfriendly movie The Path To 9/11, [ABC programming chief Stephen] McPherson took no prisoners -- particularly when it came to Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger, one of the film's chief critics. "We didn't backpedal," McPherson said. "We aired the movie. We didn't change anything for those guys. We aired it as planned on the dates that were planned. I mean, it's a little odd to have Sandy Berger telling you about what's truthful or not when he was indicted for stuffing documents into his pants on this very subject."
Cal Thomas had the line of the night on this evening's Fox News Watch. Here's how the conservative commentator explained Americans' dissatisfaction with progress in Iraq:
"Part of the problem here is we have Desert Storm with the 100-hour war. Everybody came home. There were victory marches, General Schwarzkopf leading. The press was full of stories: 'we finally got the Vietnam monkey off our back.' Now we're used to the very quick action. It's not going to happen, except thank goodness Jack Bauer is coming back to make it happen on '24' - that's what we're waiting for."
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell unveiled a new study from the Parents Television Council (cleverly titled "Dying to Entertain") that found that the 2005-2006 TV season was the most violent in recent history. In fact, there has been a 75 percent increase in prime-time TV violence since the 1998 season. Some of the examples of creepiness and gore are pretty extreme. The other inspiration for the column is the debut of "The Sopranos" on basic cable at a price to A&E of 2.5 million smackers an episode:
The latest landmark (or landfill) in the TV world is the arrival of HBO’s pay-cable mob drama “The Sopranos” on the basic-cable channel A&E, where now virtually anyone with cable can watch. How carefully is this show with mature-themed sex, violence, and profanity vetted for general audiences? TV critics wailed that any snip is messing with the “artistic integrity,” but the Hollywood Reporter reassured fans that “a few judicious snips to a series can be made without snuffing its profane soul.”
Brent Bozell's culture column centers on a twisted little late-night Cartoon Network show called "Moral Orel." It's a vicious little claymation attack on Christianity that airs on "Adult Swim" 15 minutes after Sunday is over. Two weeks ago, it aired 15 minutes into Christmas with the first and worst episode: a Christmas special.
Right from the get-go, viewers learn that Orel’s parents are very phony Christians who hate each other, and their preacher, Reverend Putty, looking typically ridiculous in the phoniest of toupees, declares his gratitude to St. Joseph in his Christmas sermon for accepting the "unplanned birth" of Jesus, since it prevented them from the horror of being Jewish instead of Protestant. They worship at "God's Favorite Protestant Church."
Newspaper cultural critics often seemed to be bringing their politics and not just their artistic senses to the table when judging the "best" products of 2006. Friday’s Weekend section of The Washington Post compiled a set of lists of the best in art, music, and movies, and some of the Post critics were dropping some liberal (and radical, even Marxist) politics into their choices. The music critics were the most political. Curt Fields had two liberal/radical Bush-hater favorites on his Best list:
7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice" single and the intriguing "Shut Up & Sing" documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."...
9. The Coup, "Pick a Bigger Weapon." This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy."
Atheist activist Sam Harris recently proclaimed on National Public Radio that America needed a lot more mockery of religious belief. "I think the criticism of irrationality just has to come from 100 sides all at once,” he declared. “In the entertainment community, maybe you'll just have people making jokes that are funny enough and true enough so as to put religious certainty in a bad light."
Harris said he’s been trying hard to make contacts among the mind-benders in the news and entertainment media to find those God-scorning people who feel “a profound sense of relief that comes with hearing somebody call a spade a spade.”
Brent Bozell's entertainment column this week focuses on a Simon Dumenco column in Advertising Age magazine demanding the resignation of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin because he's too cozy with "ultra-conservatives" who want the FCC to uphold broadcast decency standards in any way:
If Dumenco wants to play Donald Trump and fire assorted government officials that bring him displeasure, perhaps he shouldn’t start with Mr. Martin, who is merely enforcing the law as it stands. Memo to Mr. Dumenco: If Martin refused to enforce decency provisions, then he would be in violation of the law.
The premiere Sunday night of the second season of Showtime's week-long mini-series, Sleeper Cell: American Terror, gave time to two characters espousing how President Bush and the CIA were behind the 9/11 attacks. The eight-part series, airing for an hour at 9pm EST/PST (with an 11pm EST/PST) repeat every night through this Sunday on the CBS-owned network, picks up after last season which ended with an undercover Muslim FBI agent at the last-minute thwarting a plot to explode a nuclear device at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
In the newest episode, a woman who appears to be the girlfriend of one of the plotters who escaped capture (and she may not even be aware that he's a terrorist), arrives at his safe house and after the two have sex, as they sit on the kitchen floor eating from one plate, she propounds that “every time we have sex, it's like the ultimate f*** you to Bush, Cheney and the whole 9/11 plot. I just keep picturing Giuliani and the rest of those assholes supervising the whole thing from that $15 million bunker on the 23rd floor of Building 7. You know that's where they broadcast the homing signal from, make sure the planes would hit the towers." The terrorist man, a Bosnian, adds: "I know, and the Pentagon was actually hit by a CIA Global Hawk drone so the administration could start an endless war and turn America into a police state."
ABC's Kate Snow is apparently no fan of Larry David's HBO original series. On this morning's GMA Snow was unable to curb her enthusiasm at the prospect of a presidential run by Hillary Rodham. In to discuss an indication that Hillary might soon be announcing her candidacy, Snow, literally wriggling with excitement, gushed to Robin Roberts:
"It’s the latest sign that maybe, just maybe, we might have a woman trying to run for president of this country.”
Snow claimed that by the end of the week Hillary would be calling on all top New York Dems "not to tell them that she's running, but to get their advice and support, if she goes for it." Right. Shy, retiring Hillary, not telling her Dem minions anything. Just asking advice. Say, why not call it a "listening tour"? Video clip: Real (2MB) or Windows (1.3MB) Plus MP3 (204KB)
As the movie "The Nativity Story" premieres nationwide today, one underreported story is the city of Chicago choking on a promotion for the movie at its annual Christmas festival. That sounds sort of funny, trying to ban the Christ from the Christmas event, especially when Chicago (government and media outlets alike) so aggressively welcomed the Gay Games this summer. The Chicago story hasn't emerged yet on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, or USA Today. (Exceptions are Fox's John Gibson and Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News.) Robert Knight of the MRC's Culture and Media Institute offered his view over at Human Events:
The Christkindl, or Christmas Fairy, is welcome at a Christmas festival in Chicago. So is Santa Claus. But a film about the birth of Jesus has provoked city officials to lower the boom.
Chicago officials deny actually ordering Christkindlmarket officials to cancel an exhibit of “The Nativity Story.” They just sort of asked them to dump it, kind of the way Da Bears ask an opposing runner to gently drop to the turf. Dose Bears would be embarrassed, however, by the sheer cowardice and political correctness on display this week in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
As Matt Drudge reported earlier, actor Danny DeVito seemed drunk when he went on an anti-Bush tirade on ABC’s The View on Wednesday. DeVito recounted how he last visited the White House during the Clinton years, warmly noting that "the place was, had that kind of Clinton feeling, you know," before denigrating President Bush as "numb nuts" (or something like that — ABC bleeped over the last part of that word).
DeVito then began what was supposed to be mimicry of Bush, making a variety of weird sounds and facial expressions. It’s impossible to really capture DeVito’s performance in words (he’d admitted he’d been up partying all night with George Clooney), so I’ve posted a short video of one of his more explosive moments. Video Clip: Real (1.97 MB), Windows (2.26 MB), MP3 (338KB)
We lead fairly schizophrenic lives during the Christmas season in America. Our popular holiday rituals are bifurcated between the sacred and the secular; between the very worldly commercial extravaganza of Christmas as offered by our department stores – when they have the guts to employ the word “Christmas” – and Christianity celebrating the birth of Our Lord.
Hollywood hasn’t been so split on this question. It is firmly ensconced, and comfortable, in the secular world. Year after year, it offers commercial Christmas movies this time of year, with Grinches and Rudolphs, good Santas and Bad Santas, the Kranks and the Muppets. We’ve been Scrooged, been on Christmas Vacation, and taken rides on the Polar Express. We’ve seen the Christmas-as-a-backdrop movies like “Home Alone,” which, like so many others, might offer something about the Christmas “spirit” but wouldn’t dare to touch the Birth of Christ itself.
Sometimes, from the wilderness outside that insular liberal bubble known as PBS, the self-congratulations reaches new levels of absurdity. PBS is so insular that it hires bloggers to promote PBS documentaries, even PBS documentaries that lionize PBS programs.
I speak of this blog post: PBS has hired bloggers to comment on its programs on a site called "Remotely Connected." Paid blogger Levi Asher promoted a documentary on the PBS show "Sesame Street," or more precisely a promotional film on how Sesame Workshop markets international versions of "Sesame Street." [CORRECTION: Asher and the other PBS bloggers are not paid. See statement below.] The documentary series is titled "Independent Lens." I have no earthly idea how a somehow-edgy "independent" filmmaker makes a film glowingly recounting how Sesame Workshop, the global conglomerate, is foisting its "Muppet catalysts for social change" on the world for profit. But Asher loves the whole promotional circle: