Dave Zirin has an excellent essay about reconsidering The Wire in the wake of the police murdering Freddie Gray. And he’s right–one thing missing from the show is how the police are actively part of the oppression of the poor and African-Americans in Baltimore and a second thing missing from the show are community activists and people standing up to make their own lives better. Doesn’t mean it’s not a great show, but it really is far from a complete view of the problems that have create modern Baltimore.
Deadwood is probably my favorite show of all time. That’s for many reasons–the story, the amazing acting of Ian McShane and Brad Dourif among many others, the language. But among the reasons is the way the show gets at the filth and nastiness of the late 19th century. Some people didn’t like it because the show seemed so over the top in language, violence, and the general portrayal of that society. But while people didn’t exactly speak like the characters of Deadwood, the overall brutality was actually quite accurate, especially considering this is a wild frontier town.
I was reminded of this when recently reading Sharon Wood’s The Freedom of the Streets: Work, Citizenship, and Sexuality in a Gilded Age City. This book is about prostitution and gendered conceptions of the streets in late 19th and early 20th century Davenport, Iowa. Wood put together the lives of women who get called prostitutes (regardless of whether they were by modern standards or not). Remember how in Deadwood women like Trixie and Joanie Stubbs were sold to pimps? That was not uncommon at all.
Josie Mitchell was a downwardly mobile woman who ended up opening a brothel. Her daughter Sevilla married a man at the age of 15. He was soon selling her out as a prostitute and living on the proceeds. Minnie Hagan was homeless at the age of 13 and working as a prostitute to eat. She came from a broken home. She remained a prostitute during her marriage, which was to a pretty violent man. He eventually shot her in the head, but she survived.
Moreover, the age of consent in Iowa until the 1890s was 10. That’s right. 10. As it was in most states. This meant that if a girl came from a house not considered “respectable,” she was open game for sexual exploitation by men without legal means to punish them. It also meant that statutory rape charges could not be issued against men who had sex with young girls. In September 1891, a 10 year old Davenport girl named Ada Ammerman disappeared from her home. After three days she and two other young girls named Dolly Hamerly and Mamie Woods were discovered. Their clothes were soaked with semen. Three men were soon arrested and charged with 8 counts of rape. But they were found not guilty. While reformers wanted to end this practice and save these girls, men, including the entire political establishment of the city, defended the sporting men’s right to sexually use women they found on the streets. Rather, the defense successfully used the argument that these girls’ families had failed the city by allowing their girls on the street where they would be irresistible to men. The girls were already prostitutes by coming from poor families and being on the street. These girls were publicly tainted with this definition of them. Soon after this, Dolly Hamerly was sold to a brothel by her family. Eventually, this trial and other similar events led Iowa to raise the age of consent. To the ripe old age of 13.
In other words, Deadwood‘s portrayal of its prostitutes was not inaccurate. Unfortunately because in knowing that you also know the brutal real stories of women in the 1890s who lacked economic options to do much of anything outside of prostitution if they were poor and who were considered open game on the streets if they did not come from respectable families.
Scott Baio — who played Chachi Arcola in “Happy Days” and its spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi,” as well as the protagonist of “Charles in Charge” — tweeted his praise for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is mulling a presidential run in 2016.
“Gov. Walker sounds a lot like President Reagan. #WalkerFor Pres,” the tweet read, with a picture of the actor posing alongside Walker.
Walker tweeted back Wednesday, writing: “Thanks! We both love Reagan, I’m flattered,” along with the hashtag #ChachiandWalkerLoveReagan.
I realize that the all-important Victoria Jackson endorsement is out there still. So maybe the election isn’t over quite yet.
It’s hard to imagine The Daily Show without Jon Stewart, but this is probably a good time for him to leave. Once the 2016 elections start, it would be awfully hard to leave. I haven’t watched The Daily Show regularly in years, really since Obama took office. For me, the real value of the show was therapy during the Bush years. I know it’s still good because politicians are still venal and Republicans are still crazier than loons so fresh material keeps on flowing but I kind of moved on. I have no idea who will replace Stewart and I can’t imagine stepping into those shoes. The show should be considered pretty legendary though in the annals of television, with Stewart a visionary figure on the level of Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby (regardless of his crimes) and other great comedians who transformed television.
Plus destroying the first iteration of Crossfire in one segment earns him all the accolades.
I don’t know why Jim Harbaugh decided to take the Michigan job when he could have returned to his fine acting career.
One of the first TV shows I ever remember liking was Sledge Hammer, the 80s Dirty Harry spoof that lasted only a season and a half before being cancelled. I don’t know why I liked it then, certainly not because I understood all the jokes, but I remembered some funny stuff all these years later. I figured though that watching it today wouldn’t really pay off. But my brother, who reviews DVDs on the side, watched the series again and immediately said I had to watch it.
And you know what? It holds up pretty well. It has some of the problems of an 80s comedy. Too many episodes per season for one, leading to some bad ones. After the opening episode, at least they didn’t use a laugh track. But for the most part, this isn’t bad at all and some episodes are down right hilarious. It’s really a show ahead of its time. It really trusted its audience with all sorts of movie references, some of which that wouldn’t be all that super obvious to the average schlub watching ABC at 8 pm on a weekday night. Told political jokes. Made fun of other ABC shows. Comedies didn’t do these things in the 80s.
But most of all, it just told jokes that worked pretty well. Such as in “Comrade Hammer,” an episode you should watch. Hammer has to escort a Soviet dissident scientist to a conference. That means lots of Cold War jokes.
Dylan Matthews dug up Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times’ original review of The Wire. To say the least, it hasn’t aged well.
It’s all served up in dialogue heavy with police-speak and dealer-speak, sometimes unintelligibly so. The language is supposed to be realistic and maybe it is realistic, but it often feels self-conscious, like an overly thick Southern accent. That’s too bad, because when Mr. Simon and Edward Burns, who are credited with the writing of the first five episodes, pull back a bit, they sometimes achieve a rough eloquence.
”That’s what I don’t get about this drug thing,” McNulty tells D’Angelo in the second episode. ”Why can’t you sell the stuff and walk away? You know what I mean? Everything else in this country gets sold without people shooting each other.”
The real questions about ”The Wire,” though, involve not the style, but the audience’s level of tolerance. This is a series that requires commitment; it’s difficult to imagine a viewer dropping in for, say, Episode 3, then checking back again at Episode 8.
Yet ”The Wire” doesn’t have the pulsating, addictive urgency (or the obvious good guys and bad guys) of ”24,” which just completed a spectacular first season on Fox. It shows us a more realistic version of life, complete with down time, yack sessions, drunken story-swapping. Police officers (and drug dealers) are human!
I want to be fair here. First, there weren’t a lot of shows like The Wire in 2002 and so reviewers weren’t necessarily expecting the sort of long story The Wire was offering. On the other hand, The Sopranos had already pioneered this. Second, there’s probably a lot of regrettable reviews out there of art that was later widely acclaimed. Third, it does take a few episodes to really get into The Wire, although Genzlinger seems to have watched most of the first season here.
But still, to compare it unfavorably to 24. That is a very 2002 thing to do.
When I was growing up, my Dad watched A LOT of Rockford Files, which means I watched a lot of Rockford Files since the TV was always on. James Garner died yesterday and it reminds me of what a pleasant actor he was to watch, in Rockford or the many other projects he was involved with. For me though, he’ll always be associated with Sunday afternoon reruns with my Dad (may not have been Sunday but that’s how I remember it).
It’s also by chance my father’s birthday so wish him a Happy Birthday! He turns 72 today. He’s also a reader of the site so remember that when you tell me how much you hate me, you are telling that to an old man about his son. Of course, mostly his response to that nonsense is like mine.
Here’s an entire episode from Season 2. Classic 70s theme song and opening credits.
Life for a reality TV writer is pretty tough since they have been classified as independent contractors or overtime-exempt and thus can be exploited heavily. The Writers’ Guild is trying to step into the void and organize them.
Tricky bosses, faked timecards, excruciating hours, dangerous scrapes… It sounds like fodder for a reality TV show, perhaps “America’s Next Worst Job.”
But workers say these are the conditions in reality TV itself, known more formally as the nonfiction television industry.
“We are told to be loyal, that this is normal,” said Lauren Veloski of the long unpaid hours she worked for several production companies. “You should anticipate that your workday will be 12 hours long,” one employer informed her.
Veloski said she and her co-workers were required to fake timecards saying they worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In fact, she said, she often worked past midnight, even until dawn.
The companies didn’t pay a penny of overtime. Indeed, the extra work was entirely unpaid in most cases.
Employees also said the companies, in turn, have no loyalty to their workers, sometimes putting them in dangerous situations.
“They don’t care about safety at all. People climb mountains, do things that are unsafe. If they get hurt they [the employers] don’t answer their phone calls or hire them again,” said 30-year industry veteran Helen Smith, who asked me not to use her real name for fear of retaliation.
Another Decoration Day, another day to remember the Union crushing southerners committing treason to defend slavery.
Two best tweets of this Memorial Day:
The creation of Arlington National Cemetery is still one of history's great fuck-you gestures.
— Tim Murphy (@timothypmurphy) May 26, 2014
I held my wounded sergeant in my arms. "Fret not," he whispered. "I am dying. . .and MLB will honor me with $20 patriotic camouflage caps."
— Old Hoss Radbourn (@OldHossRadbourn) May 26, 2014
But hey, this is a country worth fighting for. Why? This:
Many thanks to the reader who sent me that. Pure 50s gold.
Why did that not appear in Mad Men? Very disappointing. Speaking of Mad Men, last night’s half-season finale was great and really, what an excellent set of episodes. Coming out of a blah Season 6, my expectations were pretty tempered and the new season really didn’t have the buzz of the last few. But every episode has ranged from very good to outstanding. Too bad we have to take a break now for another year, but since AMC has produced 18 bombs in a row, I can hardly blame them for a desperate ploy to stay relevant for another 12 months. And of course:
As for war and memory, this is a pretty great set of pictures of what World War I battlefields look like today. Here’s the landscape of Verdun.
This has been an exciting interlude to escape from a Memorial Day spent trying to tame the last chapter of my capital mobility book, due in a week. The rest of you go eat some burgers or something. Finally, an obligation:
If you are like me, you watched a lot of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a child.
Why I thought of this tonight for the first time in years, who knows.