What in the hell was wrong with the 70s? Donny & Marie want to do a Star Wars spoof? Great. Let’s get Kris Kristofferson to play Han Solo! And Redd Foxx to do something! And Paul Lynde can wander in. And some dancing stormtroopers! Why not!
If you were to ask me what the ultimate great television project of all time would be, I could not do better than this:
David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” said he would love to make a television series about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the collective name for the roughly 2,800 U.S. volunteers who fought on the side of the Republic during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War to help fight fascism.
“I have tried, without success, to interest U.S. producers in the story of these guys who fought in Spain,” Simon told reporters in Barcelona, where he is attending the “Serializados” festival.
A David Simon series on the Lincoln Brigade. Oh. My. God. I mean, really, how could this not be the greatest thing in known human history. Unfortunately, idiot producers don’t understand the need to target the demographic of me in making decisions. But this looks pretty good too.
He is now ready to start filming the first season of “The Deuce,” a series on the pornography industry that grew up in New York in the 1970s and ‘80s, a project that didn’t come naturally to Simon.
“I am a married man, with children. I don’t like to talk about porn,” he said.
His interest was piqued, however, after he heard the “fascinating” story of twins – played in the series by James Franco – who were part of the first generation in the porn industry that “came out of nothing” and contributed to the “transformation of sexuality” in our society, Simon said.
Above: Big Bird’s new BFF
It has already been a big year for Sesame Street, which as of January is brought to you by the letters H, B, and O.
But the well-known children’s program is now adding something new and seemingly odd to the mix: venture capital. Sesame Workshop, a preexisting nonprofit arm of the Sesame Street organization, is partnering with Collaborative Fund to create Sesame Venture.
In the partnership, Collaborative Fund will provide early-stage startups with up to $1 million. Sesame Venture plans to invest in companies focused on education, media, family development, social and cultural development, food, health, and wellness. The funded startups will be able to take advantage of networking opportunities and useful data provided by Sesame Workshop.
“Sesame Street was the original disrupter in kids’ media, and we have a 45-year history of being a creative workshop dedicated to breaking new ground,” Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn said of the partnership. “We are in the midst of an extraordinary time in the history of how digital technology can change the education, health, and welfare of kids around the world.
“History suggests that much of that change will spring from new companies. By partnering with some of these startups, Sesame Workshop can help grow the next wave of kid-focused innovation and improve the lives of children everywhere.”
I look forward to the introduction of Poochie as the new Sesame Street character in the next season.
A few more Garry Shandling related links.
One might forget how great the writing on The Larry Sanders Show was. So great. So hilarious. Thanks to Tom Till for the link.
Conan O’Brien’s remembrance of Shandling was rather touching.
The Larry Sanders Show — which holds the personal distinction of being the series that made me order cable for the first time — felt in some ways like an inversion of his Showtime classic, or maybe a Cubist splintering of it. Shandling played the title character, a Johnny Carson–like talk-show legend who was perpetually terrified that he wasn’t getting the best guests, that his “best friends” in showbiz didn’t even like him and only hung around him because he was a star, and that his co-workers only put up with his crap because he was paying them. On some level, all of these fears proved accurate, and on another they weren’t true at all. All the other recurring characters and guest stars on the show were just as screwed up as Larry — they just didn’t usually have his wealth and power, so they had to suffer indignities without recourse. The “backstage” scenes were shot on film, in the graceful yet spontaneous manner of a low-budget indie comedy, while the talk-show segments were represented by cutting between brighter, grainier videotape (representing what the camera sees, and what the audience at home experiences) and filmed images of his staff and crew and backstage acquaintances reacting to his performance. That these textural (and textual) distinctions immediately started to seem arbitrary was part of the show’s point, and part of its philosophical richness. Life was all one big show here, and nobody had the script.
Few lead characters in TV comedies were as pathetic and needy and sleazy and manipulative as Larry. He took his wife for granted until she finally divorced him. He hit on every halfway-attractive woman who crossed his path (and a few of them went home with him, not because they really liked him, but because he was Larry). He’d bring dates home with him from dinner and then make them watch the broadcast of that day’s show with him, solicit compliments on his excellent work, and feel genuinely hurt when he had to coax the praise out of them. Larry was a great performer, and it’s a testament to Shandling’s physical and verbal skill as a performer that you could watch Larry interact spontaneously with guests in barely scripted “segments” and think, Carson could not have done that any better. But he was a terrible boss, petty and entitled, casually sexist and racist and homophobic, though often not as crude about it as some other people in Hollywood, which allowed him to congratulate himself on being oh-so-very liberal. (Except for Albert Brooks, few filmmakers skewered this aspect of showbiz delusion with such precision.) We should have hated him, but we couldn’t because, like The Office’s David Brent and his counterpart on the American Office, Michael Scott, we saw how lonely he was, how miserable he was in his own skin, and thought: That poor bastard. I’m glad I’m not him.
But you were, though. Shandling knew it, and you knew it. And that’s what gave The Larry Sanders Show and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show their slow-motion, train-wreck fascination.
What a huge loss. At least Shandling is being properly remembered at the genius and good person that he was.
You’ve seen Classic Krusty interview George Meany. But have you seen the real thing? You have now. From September 1952.
When Mr. Bowie moved to Berlin, Mr. Pop occupied a room in Mr. Bowie’s apartment there “over the auto parts store,” he said. The title song for Mr. Pop’s next album, “Lust for Life,” germinated in that apartment.
Mr. Pop and Mr. Bowie, seated on the floor — they had decided chairs were not natural — were waiting for the Armed Forces Network telecast of “Starsky & Hutch.” The network started shows with a call signal that, Mr. Pop said, went “beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep,” the rhythm, which is also like a Motown beat, that was the foundation for “Lust for Life.” Mr. Pop recalled, “He wrote the [chord] progression on ukulele, and he said, ‘Call it “Lust for Life,” write something up.’”
The amount of cocaine involved in this story is unknown at this time.
Back in June, I asked people what show I should watch. After some consideration, I briefly started watching Orange is the New Black, which I found basically fine but never got super into. I’ve watched 7 or 8 episodes at this point. I may well go back to it.
But over the past month, I did watch two series. The first was Narcos. This I find, well, OK. As a dumb evening entertainment, it totally works. As something that’s actually interesting, it’s far less effective. Really, it’s a wasted opportunity. It was originally designed to be a long movie in the recent famous international gangster biopic genre that has included Carlos and Mesrine. But despite the added time a television show offers, both of those films are a lot better than Narcos. They decided on two seasons. The first covers almost all the time Pablo Escobar is around, up to the point where he flees his private prison. The second will evidently cover the chase and eventual killing of Escobar. That seems a bit skewed to me and I wonder whether the chase will really be enough for a season. So when I say it’s a wasted opportunity, the makers of this show could have slowed this down consistently, moved it over 4 seasons, and actually said something interesting about Colombia. But there is almost nothing revealing about Colombia at all. The show is framed through an exceptionally boring character as the American DEA agent who describes all of this as Colombian magical realism where anything can happen. That’s a total fail. First, there were actual understandable political, economic, and cultural reasons why drug lords like Escobar rose up. It’s not that we can’t understand that story, it’s that the show creators chose not to tell it. Second, there’s nothing magical realism about this show. It’s just a gangster doing gangster things, if on an exceptionally violent scale. The politics of the show, which basically come down strongly in favor of the Reagan-era War on Drugs aren’t great either. This is a particularly damning indictment of the show.
But again, as a kind of dumb entertainment in the evening, it’s enjoyable enough if you don’t think about it and I’ll probably watch season 2.
I also went back and finally watched the John Adams HBO miniseries. I found this to be mostly alright. I can nitpick it–Franklin and Jefferson are almost stereotypes with the former being so witty and the latter using his tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots in line in general conversation, there aren’t a lot of well-developed characters outside of Adams himself. But it’s hard to see how it could really be better than this. It shows Adams to be the unpleasant crank that was his nature. There is a very Third Way atmosphere around the show as it portrays him as the reasonable leader splitting the difference between the revolutionary Jefferson and the megalomaniac Hamilton, suggesting Adams provided the real leadership this country needed, if only we could have such independent thinkers today, etc. But whatever. The last episode was highly unnecessary as watching his daughter die, Abigail die, and then Adams himself die is not very interesting and the rekindling of the correspondence with Jefferson not interesting enough to sustain it. Adams basically didn’t do anything in the last 25 years of his life. The show could have ended in 1801. But I am being too critical. Giamatti was excellent (and actually looked like Adams) and while at times Laura Linney didn’t have enough to do, she was of course quite good as Abigail. Tom Wilkinson was fine as Franklin and Danny Huston as Samuel Adams the same. So I enjoyed it a good bit.
I suppose this means I should pay attention to the Hamilton thing, although I am highly skeptical of venerating the creator of the Alien and Sedition Acts, one of the worst and most dangerous laws in American history. As I have said before, there is no leftist Hamilton for us to follow, although that’s more because we shouldn’t be taking 250 year old men out of context instead of finding more recent inspirations. But for Adams or Hamilton, it’s just useful to have people genuinely thinking about the Federalist Era through different forms of popular culture.
I guess I’m going to try this Jessica Jones thing starting tonight. The genre is not very interesting to me as I have no interest in comic books, but the reviews are positive and it’s only one season so a low investment. Although if this show ends with Bryan Cranston watching her choke to death on her own vomit, I’m not going to be able to deal. Will probably watch The Americans and Show Me a Hero after that.
You’ll thank me for the theme song and Bucky Dent, if not the fine, fine acting and disco. Not to mention Jane Seymour and Bert Convy.
Paul Booth, a historian at Keele University in England, found three examples dating from 1310 and 1311 of a man known in legal documents as Roger Fuckebythenavel.
Booth said he believes Roger was not the bearer of a very unfortunate family name, but rather it was given to him derogatorily.
“This surname is presumably a nickname,” Booth told Medievalists.net. “I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend, or an equivalent of the word ‘dimwit,’ i.e., a man who might think that that was the correct way to go about it.”
If Roger actually tried to do it in the navel and someone told the world about it, the name could be “fourteenth-century revenge porn,” Booth told Vice.
Booth noted that Roger was before the court three times over a nine-month period, and each time his last name was spelled differently: Fuckebythenavele, Fukkebythenavele and, finally, Fuckebythenavel.
“On the first two occasions he was ‘exacted’ (solemnly summoned to attend court to answer a serious criminal charge, which is unspecified) and on the third he was outlawed,” Booth wrote in an abstract, titled “Roger the incompetent copulator,” that he posted online. “He was probably never heard of again.”
Speaking of blue language, I am reviewing a book for a journal that noted that Gifford Pinchot named the real-life Seth Bullock as an early Forest Supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest. This was because Pinchot needed to establish USFS legitimacy in the face of widespread opposition and Bullock was a popular figure and friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Among Bullock’s ideas was offering bounties on squirrel hides because he believed they ate the eggs of woodpeckers who feasted on the bark beetles eating the area’s pine trees.
I am trying to imagine Deadwood-style dialogue for this scenario? And how would Al Swearingen play into this? I think the Deadwood movie might have a plot!
Above: The greatest television character in the medium’s history
I have a conundrum. I need a new TV show to watch. Now, I’m pretty behind on the TV revolution. Because of my commitment to film, I tend to go through TV shows slowly. Basically, I’ve watched the entire series or am caught up currently on Mad Men, Deadwood, The Wire, Better Call Saul, and Breaking Bad. I watched the first season of The Sopranos (finally) last summer and then set it aside to finish Breaking Bad and rewatch Deadwood, i.e., the greatest show in television history. I just finished Deadwood. So what to do next?
I ask because I am really torn on trying to watch Game of Thrones. Here’s the thing–I have an inherent dislike for anything revolving around fantasy or science fiction. Those genres of storytelling I find usually pretty uninteresting since I find the present and past more than interesting enough and generally more plausible in terms of storytelling. Even the science fiction I do like–Tarkovsky’s Solaris for instance, is not exactly the norm for the genre.
So I was initially inclined against it. But on the other hand, I like anything that is really well done. So I could watch Game of Thrones if it’s really that good. And I was leaning in that direction, despite not caring for the genre. But reading what people are saying about this season, it’s like there’s an abusive relationship between the show and its fans, with a lot of people recoiling in horror but continuing to watch (or not). I don’t mind violence on the screen. I do have a very limited, like pretty close to zero, tolerance to depictions of sexual violence. Especially if they are more than a one-time event.
So given all this, should I watch Game of Thrones, if for nothing else so I can understand what everyone is talking about? Or should I go back and finish The Sopranos? Or finally check out Boardwalk Empire, Treme, or another of the HBO dramas I haven’t seen? Or Orange is the New Black? I was really inclined toward Justified, but it’s not on Netflix and it’s hard to justify subscribing to yet another service.
I’m teaching as this comes up. I hope for 200 comments by the time I get home at 10.
….I also watched True Detective, which I thought was pretty good.
….Given that we are basically a Game of Thrones blog, I find it interesting that no one has really given a full-throated defense of the show telling me I must watch.
Well, this is it. I have to say that after Season 6, I was really down on the show, but both halves of Season 7 have been excellent. My prediction, which no doubt will be proven wrong shortly, is that the final episode consists of nothing but Don. Maybe Sally or Betty. But all other story lines in the advertising agency have been finished. Given that Roger Sterling is one of the greatest supporting characters in TV history, it’s kind of too bad.
…I was fantastically wrong! Also, cocaine! Mad Men has reached the 70s!
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.