Sunday, May 11, 2008

TV: Tiny Tots

If you're lucky, you never caught ABC's Big Shots. The show came and went quickly so maybe in that sense it was, as it claimed to be, a portrait of 'modern American manhood'? We weren't so lucky. We watched five episodes last fall and read at least as many scripts. That's work down the drain (or down the urinal, as Big Shots would have filmed it) and we really had no reason to ever comment on since it's dead and we really don't plan to recycle our old notes on various TV shows. [During the writers' strike we stopped reviewing entertainment television -- or what passes for it.] But Big Shots really seemed to think it was and it really wasn't. But it told a great deal about how some men see men.

Most men disagreed which is why, like women, they ignored the show. Dylan McDermott played chief cock and infamously declared, "Men, we're the new women." The show was created by a man, the show was as male heavy behind the scenes as it was in front of the camera. So if, as it professed, it believed that the male characters they were featuring were, in fact, women, it said a great deal about how much they hated women.

The male leads were not always getting saunas or facials, it just seemed the way. They were very preening, to put it politely. And seeing Chris Matthews new carrot-top do this week, we were reminded that the sickness the program captured exists far beyond the men responsible for the show. (We're not referring to the actors. Of all four leads, Michael Vartan achieved the most but he could never overcome the stunted character.) It was a boys club all the way where the 'girl' receiving the most airtime and interest was, naturally, a male who cross-dressed.

Just the line that men are the new women went to the program's hostility towards women. And that hostility was present in every episode having been written into every script. It was hard not to wade through a script or view an episode without suspecting that if cloning were perfected, the men responsible for the program would gladly call for the deaths of all women because there was so much hostility towards women (including a domestic abuse subplot treated as 'normal' and sympathetic) that Big Shots really seemed to want to exist in a world without women.

And that seemed to be some of the theme of this week's Washington Week where alleged journalists embarrassed themselves. We hadn't planned to watch. Last week we gave a sincere compliment to Gwen and thought on that high point we could begin ignoring the show. But PBS friends called to inform us this was a "road show" and we can't figure out if they really wanted us to trash the program (it's not a popular program inside PBS) or if they genuinely thought we'd enjoy it?

Washington Week was back on the road. It was in Philadelphia and you might wonder why that city was chosen but that would require thought and the best way to get through Washington Week is thinking as little as possible.

Thinking too hard puts you far and above the average gas bag invited on.

For instance when Little Jeanne Cummings starts talking about Hamas, if you think, you will of course realize that before they gas bags took the stage, Hamas was already back in the news via Tom Baldwin's Times of London report that Barack had lost yet another advisor -- this one was in long talks with Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by the US State Department.

So if you think while watching, you'll realize that not only is Jeanne not as cute as she think she is (or even cute), you'll realize that she 'prepares' for the show largely by watching other gas bag programs. She has no knowledge base and she doesn't even what's in the news.

So there was she, so obviously tickled, to say that John McCain had suggested some sort of tie between Barack Obama and Hamas and, get this, Barack fired back with an insult and McCain claimed it was ageism.

She found it all so funny, all so humorous.

And if you watched without thinking, you might have gotten caught up in Jeanne's warped world. If you paused, even for a second, to think, you realized how truly sad she was and how her 'jovial' treatment of the elections pretty much sums all that is wrong with political coverage.

Had she been on Big Shots, she would have been the transvestite.

And she proved she was more than up for the role as she bent conventional wisdom until it broke to slam Hillary. Truth-bender Jeanne insisted that John McCain was going to be sold as a "working class" hero and that this was Hillary Clinton's fault. Why, she informed, "they're going to take her playbook!"

Really, Jeanne?

You mean John McCain only decided to run as man-of-the-people because of Hillary? Wow. It's a shame Hillary didn't run sooner, imagine how the Bushes and Reagan and assorted other millionaire Republican candidates might have benefited from running as "man of the people." Of course, in the real world, those GOP candidates (and many others) ran as if they identified with the working class. John McCain was always going to run a campaign in which he attempted to appeal to the working class. We don't like John McCain and think he's wrong on nearly every issue (we can't think of an issue he's right on, but in case there's one, we'll say "nearly every issue"), but he's not stupid.

Jeanne can't make the same claim.

His 2000 run wasn't "I'm John McCain and I don't relate to working Americans!" But it's really important to vilify Hillary, important to Jeanne and her co-horts, so she bends the truth. Barack has a real problem with working Americans and that's no one's fault but his own. There was no reason to speak in Iowa about the price of arugala at Whole Foods. Iowa doesn't have a Whole Foods store anywhere in the state. There was no reason for him to sneer that working class Americans "cling" to guns, religion and anti-immigration attitudes. That last one gets left out by Jeanne and her crowd. If you include it, Barack can't -- as he does these days -- lie that he wasn't insulting working class Americans. If you include it, he can't dance around what he said and insist it wasn't an insult.

As bad as Jeanne was, she was far from the only offender. The worst offender was actually Michael Viqueira of NBC and, apparently, Foreskin Fanclub. It takes a lot of stupid, fortunately Micheal has a lot, to gush about Barack's visit to the US House of Representatives. Michael did just that dubbing it "a conquering hero moment." Heroic? That was Thursday. He's a US Senator and he sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee. They held a hearing Wednesday on the veterans benefits and Barack wasn't present (as has happened too often for the freshman senator). So when he finally gets his ass back to DC, he's really got no business glad-handing on the House floor.

For the record, when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held their hearing, Barack wasn't campaigning. He was, again, resting. He had to rest in March as well because, apparently, giving a nearly 4,000 word speech on how he loved Jeremiah Wright and could no more turn his back on Wright than on his White grandmother tired him out. So he high tailed it off to the Virgin Islands for a few days of rest. If you're recalling how easily Bully Boy got tired on the campaign trail, if you're remembering him whining about wanting to sleep his own bed and missing his pillow, you're not mistaken. There's a lot of Bully Boy in Barack.

Michael wanted to laugh about Hillary and working class Americans. Why should he be left out? Hasn't The Nation and The Progressive sneered at and mocked the working class this entire campaign? (Yes, they and many others have.) So he laughed about the Clinton campaign's argument that Hillary was more electable and how Congress members of "about 20 districts" agreed. Laugh it up now while you can. More than likely you'll soon be repeating "Perhaps I've been there too long" to excuse your ignorance.

Michael did just that with regards to McCain's vigorous campaign. He just never saw that coming. And wasn't able to muster a laugh on that. He looked sad. Poor baby.

He wasn't the only one going for theatrics. Karen Tumulty (Time magazine) can usually be counted on for some common sense but, apparently thrilled to 'on the road' and before a live audience, she mugged like Bette Davis at the end of her career when the problem wasn't that no one asked her to tone it down, it's that Davis wouldn't listen. After Friday's 'performance,' we eagerly await the announcement that Karen will soon be starring off-off-off Broadway in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.

Her desire for theatrics was most evident in the double-take she attempted when Gwen noted a comment by Bill Clinton that Hillary could still get the nomination. Not content to mug like crazy, Karen added a slowly delivered, "Uh-huh." If only she was as precious as she thought she was in that moment.

Dan Baltz was the four guest. Baltz is like Charles Babbington, another regular, the program's seeming nod to reality. It's really amazing to watch Dan or Charlie appear on these programs and grasp how far from the rest of journalism those two are.

We're not insulting either man. They're meat and potatoes reporters who believe you look into something, you get the facts and then you write the story. They're not interested in selling narratives, they're not interested in making themselves the star. In a just world, that would be applauded. In today's world it makes them come off like freaks or relics of a by-gone era.

Dan rained on everyone's parade by sticking to reality. After he spoke, like Jack Nicholson slamming a fist down on the set, it had a calming effect on the crowd. But while Nicholson can restore order instantly and for the day, Dan was only able to restore order for a few seconds. Then it was back to the chuckles and nonsense. So much so that you had to wonder if the gasbags actually 'prepared' for journalism careers by playing Monopoly and not via training.

So in terms of Karen's bug eyed theatrics, Dan's comments that Hillary stood a chance in West Virginia ("If you look at the demographics, it's bad for" Barack) calmed her down for a moment, calmed them all done. For a few seconds they looked like adults and you could have mistaken for journalists or at least the ideal of journalists. But that's when Gwen brought up Hamas and Jeanne took a star turn.

Or there was the time, after Michael was crestfallen that John McCain might actually run his campaign with the intent of winning where Dan explained that, though they may disagree on politics, McCain and Clinton have a healthy respect for each other and, putting it mildly, "I think he's skeptical of Obama."

He is skeptical of Barack and that pre-dates the campaign season. It goes to his opinion that Barack stabbed in the back for a few headlines and though Barack quickly put his tail between his legs and whimpered an apology, the McCain campaign made it clear last week that they wouldn't take the garbage that all but the Clinton campaign took from Obama during the primary:

First, let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama's attack today. He used the words 'losing his bearings' intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama campaigning. We have all become familiar with Senator Obama's new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is. It is important to focus on what Senator Obama is attempting to do here: He is trying desperately to delegitimize the discussion of issues that raise legitimate questions about his judgement and preparedness to be President of the United States. Through their actions and words, Senator Obama and his supporters have made clear that ANY criticism on ANY issue -- from his desire to raise taxes on millions of small investors to his radical plans to sit down face-to-face with Iranian President Ahmadinejad -- constitute negative, personal attacks. Senator Obama is hopeful that the media will continue to form a protective barrier around him, declaring serious limits to the questions, discussion and debate in this race. Senator Obama has good reason to think this plan will succeed, as serious journalists have written off the need for 'de-tox' to cure 'swooning' over Senator Obama, and others have admitted to losing their objectivity while with him on the campaign trail.

PDF format warning, the memo can be found here. That memo, authord by Mark Salter, did what the media never did, contrasted Barack's words with his deeds. And, in that memo, you see how McCain's going to campaign against Barack should the Democratic Party be foolish enough to give Barack the nomination.

What's McCain's camp doing in that memo? They're first of all noting that Barack insists on the high road when things get uncomfortable for him and as soon as the other candidate agrees to take it, Barack's low roading it again. He's done that over. Whenever John Edwards called him out, Barack -- who was attacking Edwards -- would whine that the 'tone' was going negative and Edwards would back down. They really all did except Hillary. John McCain didn't need Hillary's playbook to know that you can't win without contrasting the other candidate's lies.

It's a pity other Democrats didn't grasp that as well but Joe Biden, complimenting Barack but stumbling while doing it, saw the first sign of how the Barack campaign (which includes Panhandle Media) would lash out. It sent a message early on. And, if you've forgotten, after Biden was slimed and slurred enough to improve Barack's standing, Barack showed up to vouch that he was sure Biden didn't mean anything wrong. Uh, that was clear in the fact that it was a compliment -- a badly worded one, to be sure -- but Barack had been praised by Biden. The Obama campaign did that repeatedly, drummed up a phony race issue and got the media focused on, took what they needed from it, and then had Barack show up with a statement where he claimed he didn't think the person was a racist.

If you want to know who gave McCain the playbook, it wasn't Hillary. It was Geraldine Ferraro who refused to be silenced with phony charges that she was racist. (Barack had made the same comments himself, Peter Hart had offered the same criticism in FAIR's Extra!) Ferraro hasn't been hurt by her comments. Because she stood up. Others who have been falsely charged -- who refused to stand up -- have been harmed.

We don't think McCain needed Ferraro to make that point but if Jeanne's going to credit someone, credit goes to Ferraro. But McCain's watched the same Democratic primary campaign the rest of the country has watched and, not being an Barack Groupie, he's surely been as puzzled as many others. He's no doubt that it was embarrassing for Democratic males, supposedly trying to win the nomination, to use their own debate time slobbering praise for Barack. That was out of fear of the race card being played on them. McCain's made it clear, in that memo, that he's not going to let the card played.

And if Barack's the nominee, McCain's not going to play that game. And he doesn't have to worry about it because "racist" charges will only rally the GOP base to him. Many, though not all, don't even see real racism when it's in front of them. If Barack tries to play the same con on McCain that's he's done on his Democratic opponents, he's going to find out really quickly that he's only increasing McCain's support. And when McCain fights back on those charges, he'll get support from across the political spectrum. That will happen because we're talking about a general election, not a Democratic primary. We're talking about people who aren't Barack groupies. And because we're talking about people who will slowly start to say, "Didn't the campaign try to claim that it was 'racism' to even talk about Barack's drug use? But didn't Barack write about it? Didn't he go on The Tonight Show and make jokes about it?" Barack's backlash has been created for him by his own campaign which repeatedly went to the well with the false charge of racism.

And a lot of knee-jerk 'leftists' may fall for it. But a lot of other people -- of all races -- will say, "Hold on a minute, I know racism and that's not racism." You can't build a national campaign on crying 'racism!' You can't build a national campaign by refusing to debate. You can't build a national campaign by going off to rest every time it gets rough. Hopefully a Democratic leaders are paying attention (some are). But it's the topic the media doesn't want to address . . . yet.

But they will address it if Barack's the nominee. Maybe Washington Week could kick-start that discussion?

Bill Moyers certainly won't and talk about men being the women of today. On Friday's Bill Moyers Journal, a guest brought up the fact that Hillary's health care campaign was stronger than Barack's and that was quickly pushed aside. Which should remind you for all of Bill's whining that serious campaign issues aren't addressed, he's three times since the year started devoted the show's examination of the campaign to race (and never gender) while refusing to explore issues. No doubt that's another reason Elizabeth Edwards still hasn't been invited on.

It's becoming obvious just how touchy masculinity is for so many. And if you doubted, you could have checked out a PBS 'documentary' aired on American Masters last week in some markets. The subject Marvin Gaye . . . or that was allegedly the subject. We didn't expect authorship to be dealt with -- no one wants to touch that outside of a very few music historians. But we did assume we'd get at least the level of reality offered in Intimate Portrait. It was no where to be found and, somewhere around the time it was being said that he was literally (and this was said seriously) an angel come down from heaven (apparently they sing his "Sanctified P**sy" in heaven, who knew?) and that he committed suicide (his father shot him to death and, no, Gaye wasn't hoping to be killed), you grasped that you were watching a revisionary, 'uplifting' piece of garbage better left to Pax. You grasped that as a woman bragged that she and Marvin raised their children -- while the program skirted over the public and known drug use of that period. She and other women spoke of love and it was soft and platonic -- yes, it was even necessary to strip Gaye of his very real, very strong sexual urges. (This is the man who, upon meeting Carly Simon, shoved his tongue down her throat -- apparently what you do when "Hello" just doesn't seem enough.) He was a penis-less, unich come down from heaven and, like a savior, willing to die and willingly going to his death. What that had to do with "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" or Marvin Gaye, no one knows. Most were probably left wondering, "Is this a special Pat Boone?" or "Who knew Marvin was so boring?" But as surely as Chris Matthews' new strawberry-blond shade indicates the crisis in masculinty for some males, so too did that 'documentary.' We look forward to a documentary on Jim Morrison next that says he was Buddah come to America, and ignores his drinking and drug use as well as sexuality. It no doubt will be the centerpiece of next year's American Masters and will continue the bad programming.

Big Shots was a really bad show that gave you a look at what some elite men (the ones behind the camera) really think about men and women. No surprise, women were seen as unnecessary (even to plot twists). You've seen that throughout the campaign season in your alleged news and public affairs programs as well. The final show of Big Shots was entitled "Who's The Boss" and viewers responded that they were by refusing to watch. That's why the show was cancelled. If only the American people could use that same power with other programs.
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