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Tag: "television"

Organizing Reality TV Writers

[ 46 ] July 2, 2014 |

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.


Memorial Day

[ 47 ] May 26, 2014 |

Another Decoration Day, another day to remember the Union crushing southerners committing treason to defend slavery.

Two best tweets of this Memorial Day:

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:

Johnny Cash as John Brown

[ 45 ] May 7, 2014 |

For the 1985 miniseries North and South, the producers hired the greatest actor of his generation to play John Brown. His name? Mr. John R. Cash.


Wild Kingdom

[ 45 ] February 25, 2014 |

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.

I Am Somebody

[ 41 ] November 7, 2013 |

Jesse Jackson on Sesame Street, 1971.

I especially like the line affirming those on welfare. Which I wish was still a relatively robust program, hey thanks Bill Clinton for making political points on the backs of the poor.

Beer TV

[ 72 ] August 28, 2013 |


Things are looking up for Delaware’s Dogfish Head. Not only were recently voted America’s best craft brewery over at the Daily Meal, there are also murmurs that a sitcom is in the works based on the brewery’s founders, Sam and Mariah Calagione.

The show would feature funnyman Ken Marino (“The State,” “Party Down,” and the Ben Stiller-produced web comedy “Burning Love”) and his writer/actress wife Erica Oyama (“Burning Love,” “Children’s Hospital”) as the husband-and-wife owners of a funky craft brewpub. Marino was Sam Calagione’s college roommate at NYU, and remains one of the brewer’s closest friends.

“It was actually my wife’s idea – she does most of the thinking in our partnership.” Marino quipped to “We pitched it to Sony TV earlier this summer and they loved it.”

Fox also loved the idea, enough to purchase the exclusive rights to the show, Calgione confirmed. A pilot is in the works, and if Fox likes what they see, the show could make it to the airwaves.

This sounds disastrous. I suppose it would be funny the first time they made a Dogfish Head joke about putting pig snouts, caviar, and truffles in a beer. The 57th time, less so. But hey, I’m sure the woman will have an Asian best friend and one of the people working at the brewery will be black so success is assured.

Recent Game of Thrones posts on “Second Sons” & “The Rains of Castamere”

[ 8 ] June 10, 2013 |

A few newer readers were having difficulty finding the Game of Thrones specific information posted of late, and since our “tag” categories work as well as tagging “categories” does, I just thought I’d line the most recent ones up all in one place:

I hope this is less confusing. I know when material’s cross-linked and back-dated and newer posts appear before older ones that I sometimes find myself befuddled. There’s no shame in that. Or if there is, take heart in knowing I share it.

The Worldwide Leader in Unnecessary Profit Taking

[ 32 ] May 22, 2013 |

ESPN is a great corporation. It is ungodly profitable. It creates a mere 43% of Disney’s total operating income. Think about that. All of Disney, including Disneyland and everything else it owns. 43%. But you see, ESPN has recently acquired some lucrative properties, like more SEC football games. In order to show us more Vanderbilt-Kentucky football and build a crazy expensive new set, ESPN has decided to lay off 300-400 employees. This a mere 2 weeks after Disney’s stock reached an all-time high.

Mad Men, Season 6

[ 45 ] April 23, 2013 |

Potential spoiler alerts ahead.

Let me more or less agree with Coates’ view on season 6 of Mad Men, or at least the first few episodes, which can be summed up by the fact that Draper’s latest affair is not very interesting.

Except he’s lost something. Don is a beautiful philandering stud. That was always there but it was wrapped in so much more–his role as father to a young daughter (gone thus far), his role as a kind of father to Peggy (gone by necessity of plot), his relationship with Roger as some future image of himself (also gone), his relationship with Anna (gone to the grave), his fear of unmasking (seemingly also gone.) What’s left is a dude who makes adultery look beautiful. My impulse is to say that this Don Draper is lot less interesting. But I wonder if this Don Draper is all of what we actually came for. Did most of always think of the literature as gift-wrapping for the style?

Who knows. But I’d rather see the camera shift, and Don Draper give some scenes away to those characters who really are changing, not just relapsing. It’s true that in real life, real people relapse all the time. But stories are not real life. They have beginnings and ends chosen by their creators.

The season’s high points thus far have come when it has focused on the non-Don characters. Betty entering into hippiedom to find that runaway girl. Harry being a massive jerk in the last episode, especially toward Joan who is dealing with the fallout of her choice to prostitute herself for the company and her own personal advancement. Roger’s sessions with the psychiatrist. But Matthew Weiner continues to hold the focus of his show on Don and I don’t think it’s working very well right now. Cheating again makes perfect sense–a depressed serial cheater is very believable. But that doesn’t mean it is all that interesting season after season.

After a time, Deadwood moved away from Seth Bullock as the show’s central character. The Wire did the same with Jimmy McNaulty. Don Draper is far more compelling than either Bullock or McNaulty, but after 5+ seasons of focusing on Draper, there may not be that much else to say. Reading discussions of the great secrecy behind the premier of the show, it seems that the one secret Weiner really wanted to keep most hidden was Don’s new affair, suggesting that was Weiner’s big move for the season. But I think that was probably misguided and might be creating a trap for the show more difficult to get out of than Draper’s season-long depression in the 4th season that seemed to drag things along for awhile.

I’m still watching a well-crafted show with good writing, but so far I’m not watching a very compelling season of that show.

Of course, there’s still 9 episodes to go.

The Office of the Future

[ 34 ] February 25, 2013 |

Walter Cronkite previews the office of 2001, in 1967.

Marissa Mayer would obviously disapprove. Working from home! Of course, Cronkite couldn’t imagine a woman in this office.



[ 129 ] February 4, 2013 |

I heartily recommend the first two parts of this four part Ronald Moore interview. Representative bit:

ES: I want to return to Colonel Tigh for a minute. When I initially watched—at least the first couple episodes of the miniseries—Tigh didn’t strike me as particularly sympathetic. There’s the question of whether he’s making the right call throughout his struggles with his wife and with alcohol, but overwhelmingly all the veterans I talked to identified most—and it didn’t matter whether they were officers or enlisted—they identify with Tigh. One wrote, “[Colonel] Tigh reminded me of one of my old flight chiefs…a tough Bronx Jew who retired a Senior Master Sergeant, as well as a couple other senior NCOs I knew. (Not coincidentally, most of them were functioning or recovering alcoholics). He might not have been PC, and he didn’t handle delicate situations well but when everything went to shit, he knew how to do his job and [do it] well.” Another veteran recalled “33”: “‘Yes, the Cylons keep coming after us time after time after time. And yes, we are still expected to do our jobs!’ That quote really resonated with me—it’s definitely the type of mentality you need to have to be an Army Ranger.” You see these diverse service members connecting with Tigh. Is he a military everyman?

RM: In a way. He was emblematic of a lot of different men I met when I was in ROTC in the cruise and other cruises and different environments that I was in over those years and some other experiences with my father being military-based now and again, and I just recognized that. There was something about those men that were deeply flawed, were really gruff, and were people that you didn’t want to mess with and you were kinda afraid of and didn’t know what they were capable of. They didn’t seem like they’d be recruiting poster types, but you knew that you wanted them with you in a fight, and you sensed everyone else needed them, too. I remember there being some gunnery sergeants I met in the Marine Corps that were—I don’t know if they became alcoholics; frankly, I wasn’t around them in their off-hours but they certainly gave off that vibe—were screwed up individuals, but everyone from the colonel down to the privates in that unit would definitely look to them as somebody who knew what the score was and who were the backbone of the unit. I was always struck by that—that the guys who really pull it together may not be very pretty and might be people that, you know, weren’t very PC and no one would hold up and say this is the model soldier, marine, or officer, but you know that doesn’t mean that they’re not good.

Tigh was a fabulous creation. If there’s a common thread that runs through the Golden Age of Television, it’s in the effective display of the travails of middle management; people who need to resolve the problems of those under them while mollifying those above them. BSG, the Wire, the Sopranos, the Office, and even Mad Men (to some extent) leap to mind in terms of effective depictions.

Of course, in this case Moore wrote himself into a corner and decided to wreck the character with the “Final Five” nonsense. Still, Tigh was one of the best parts of the series, and remains one of my favorite television characters.

Prop Joe, RIP

[ 17 ] January 18, 2013 |

Robert Chew, who played Prop Joe in The Wire, has passed. One of the greatest roles in one of the greatest television shows in history.

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