Subscribe via RSS Feed

Tag: "television"

The Word “Fuck” in History

[ 63 ] September 14, 2015 |


News you can use:

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 “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!


What Should My Next TV Show Be?

[ 373 ] June 8, 2015 |


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.

Mad Men Series Finale Open Thread

[ 53 ] May 17, 2015 |


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!

Reconsidering The Wire

[ 206 ] May 5, 2015 |

Freddie Gray Protest in Baltimore

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’s Historical Accuracy

[ 66 ] April 17, 2015 |


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.

The 2016 Campaign Is Over Before It Began

[ 65 ] March 12, 2015 |


I don’t see how Scott Walker’s competitors can overcome this endorsement.

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.


[ 80 ] February 10, 2015 |

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.

Surely Harbaugh Could Have Made More than $8 Million a Year in Hollywood

[ 20 ] January 3, 2015 |

I don’t know why Jim Harbaugh decided to take the Michigan job when he could have returned to his fine acting career.

Sledge Hammer

[ 27 ] September 13, 2014 |

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.

The Wire: It’s No 24!

[ 199 ] August 25, 2014 |

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.

Jim Garner, RIP

[ 117 ] July 20, 2014 |

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.

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.

Page 1 of 712345...Last »