Sunday, September 20, 2009

TV: Republicans should boycott SNL

Republicans should boycott Saturday Night Live. Any thinking person should, actually, despite their political persuasion, but Republicans especially.

The SNL season proper -- you know where they air two new episodes and then repeat those for four weeks, then air two more new ones? -- hasn't yet started on Saturdays but NBC's hideous fall schedule is so thread-bare that they have to turn over thirty minutes for the first few Thursdays to SNL.

Or rather, to Weekend Update. If there's anything worse than those SNL in 'prime time' specials, it's the idea that the sketch of Weekend Update can be expanded to fill a half-hour slot. That's what they did, Weekend Update plus a make-fun-of-Republicans skit. What viewers most likely noticed on the Thursday debut was that Seth was yet again wearing an ill-fitting jacket. And maybe they noticed that the show just wasn't funny.

If they really paid attention, they grasped why.

Amy Poehler (who needs to spend more time trying to salvage her sitcom) and Seth decided to do an insulting bit on Joe Wilson. Insulting to Joe Wilson? Yeah but pretty much insulting to everyone. US House Rep Joe Wilson hollered, "You lie!" And did so in the midst of a speech Barack was giving.

It's all too much for the Cult of St. Barack (led by weasel and limp noodle Seth).

"No one is impressed," scolded Amy, "when you go after 19-year-old girls, tiny Asian ladies, or the first Black president," Really?


"Tiny Asian ladies"? That's a reference to a Williams sister (we don't follow tennis) who was angry at a call made by a referee. It's really funny that 'bad boy' John Mac got away with screaming and tantrums but let a woman be offended by a call and it's time to tell her that she's 'threatening' to "tiny Asian ladies"? She called out a referee. It wasn't the end of the world and it was nothing compared to what McEnroe used to do when he was playing tennis.

The 19-year-old "girls"? That's Taylor Swift who was giving her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Awards when Kanye West walked out on stage, interrupted her and said Beyonce should have won. For the record, Taylor Swift's a woman, not a "girl." Your first clue? That's she's 19-years-old.

But note the grouping before we move further. According to Seth and Amy, Barack is the same as a 19-year-old "girl" and a "tiny Asian" woman. Poor defenseless little Barack. Poor little fella. Well don't worry, Barry, some day you could grow up to be president.

What's that?

He already is president?

Yeah, and it's insulting as hell that Saturday Night Live's crap-fest can't call out Barack.

In April of 2008, we were (again) noting that SNL was blowing it from a comedy perspective by pulling the punch:

Weekend Update works best with anchors who are either news junkies off screen or flat out funny. Occasionally, they'll get lucky and find a performer who is both. What they have currently is neither in Amy or Seth. Add in a lack of perspective that leads to the Clemens 'bit' and you start to notice how many punches are being pulled.

Not just in Weekend Update, but throughout the show. Seth is a Bambi Groupie so Bambi skits aren't going to be written by him. That explains how ripe for parody Jeremiah Wright has still not been featured. That explains why so many skits about Obama have not been written. Fred Armisen has demonstrated he can do a dead-on parody of Barack. It's a pity that he will apparently never be provided with the material to go further.

Or do they think that viewers don't grasp that? Do they think viewers aren't noticing that Barack's manner of speaking has been captured by Fred but not notice that the Barack character exists in a vacuum? Do they think that viewers don't notice that Saturday Night Live is pulling punches? Is this how they intend to be 'cutting-edge' (something Lorne still thinks is possible, don't wake him)? By lampooning every rumor about Hillary, by including that into what Amy really wants you to believe is a character she's created (don't wake her either) while creating a 'safety zone' that must never be violated for Obama? That's not how you do comedy.

That is how you do weak sitcoms. But weak is all SNL has to offer. It's why they repeated the menstrual medication skit last night. It's why Amy thought she was 'pithy' in Weekend Update offering a joke about -- pay attention -- how tired Madonna is. No question, Madonna is tired. But what does that say about SNL? Weekend Update is doing a joke about someone they consider yesterday's news. Who is more pathetic? Madonna or Weekend Update?

Did we repeat ourselves?

Well so did SNL Thursday. Weekend Update featured a Madonna "joke" yet again. In this one, 'Madonna' walks on to remember an elderly woman who died but makes it all about herself. Did we miss something? In the last two years, did Madonna suddenly become news worthy? No. But the writing's tired and the writers ignorant.

Since their April 2008 Madonna 'joke,' Madonna has released three singles. One ("Miles Away") failed to chart on the Hot 100. Another ("Celebration") only made it to number 71. The 'hit' ("Give It 2 Me") made it to 57.

If there's any thing more tired than Madonna's career, it's SNL's attempt to do 'jokes' about her.

But that passes for 'bravery' on a show that refuses to send up Barack.

Barack's like a 19-year-old 'girl,' you understand. Or a 'tiny Asian' woman. He's weak. He must not be called out.

For those who've forgotten, SNL sucked as bad as it does currently once before: After 9-11.

Now you maybe wrongly assuming that they suddenly declared George W. Bush off limits after the September 11th attacks. You would be assuming wrong. What they did, instead, was deify Republican Rudy Giuliani. Rudy G did nothing worthy of praise, but damned if Tina Fey didn't work overtime to write him as a mythical creature. That lasted for a couple of months. Saturday Night Live's deification of St. Barack began in 2007 and has never let up.

It's what's ruined Saturday Night Live.

"Is SNL the class clown mocking everyone or the little suck-up trying to brown nose the teacher?" If you'd asked Bill Murray, John Belushi, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris and Dan Ackroyd that back in 1977, every single one of them would have said class clown.

But Seth's intent on brown nosing. He's the little class kiss up praising Miss Barack on her new dress and offering her an apple.

This is how Lorne Michaels intends to play out a season of SNL?

Is he serious?

When SNL ended its run last spring, the Cult of St. Barack was thriving like an infection. We were really feeling like Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman's character in The Invasion). But, over the summer, America started emerging from the virus. Republicans no longer felt the need to sing Barack's praises and most on the left began grasping that Barack wasn't Jesus. Or at least not the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost combined.

And the polls bear that out.

But Seth's not an educated person. You grasp that when you read a 'joke' he writes. You grasp that really quick. And what you're left with is a minority of the country still claims membership in the Cult of St. Barack and NBC's going to allow SNL to cater their show to that niche crowd. NBC's going to allow SNL to be one-sided and not funny. You can't pull the punch and be funny.

The virus that infected so many Americans was spread by the media and it's a media that refuses to let go and face reality. (At least the MSM can claim they did the same thing under Bush.) Friday on CounterSpin, Peter Hart declared of the Van Jones' resignation, the September 12th Tea Parties and the ACORN scandals, "These stories are of minor importance and have actually received major attention in the media."

We don't necessarily disagree that these are not major stories but we haven't spent the last two weeks obsessing over them. Take pretend journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! In two weeks, she's broadcast nine hours of programming (we're ignoring the canned Labor Day repeat). Over an hour of that has been devoted to Van Jones and ACORN. Apparently we need to instruct Peter Hart on some finger exercise because his pointing digit is must be too weak to draw attention to his own crowd.

Peter Hart naturally had us thinking of Friday's Bill Moyers Journal. If you don't get it, we'll get to it. But let's note the first segment. 'Journalist' Bill wanted to explore the state of the Republican Party so he sat down with? Republicans? No. No.

He sat down with Sam Tanenhaus and some might know his New York Times credentials and wrongly think he's just a mainstream, objective reporter. Wrong. Objective reporters don't write articles entitled "Ann Coulter, treasonous blonde." That article was published by Slate in July of 2003. Let's not pretend that Tanenhaus was going to be objective, fair or informed. He was going to do what he always does which is serve up conventional wisdoms of the left as facts.

Speaking of leaving out the facts . . .

Where is organized labor? Why are unions so impotent when workers are so exploited? That's what I want to know from my next two guests. Bill Fletcher is a long-time labor and community organizer who was once an official of the AFL-CIO He now works for the American Federation of Government Employees, although he is here speaking for himself and not his organization. He is also the co-author of this new book SOLIDARITY DIVIDED: THE CRISIS IN ORGANIZED LABOR AND A NEW PATH TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE. Michael Zweig has been at this table before. He is active in his own union, the United University Professions. He teaches at the state University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also runs the center for study of working class life. His most recent book is this one, WHAT'S CLASS GOT TO DO WITH IT: AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE 21ST CENTURY. Welcome to both of you.

That's Bill Moyers at the start of the show's main (and longest) segment. Bill talking it up with labor 'experts' Bill Fletcher and Michael Zweig.

Now were this Crossfire or even Firing Line, viewers would know who they were hearing from. Guests would have a little word on the screen below their necks when on camera and the audience would know this person is this or that.

Bill Moyers doesn't worry about that. So he invites on two Socialists to discuss labor issues. Now that's not a problem in and of itself. Some might rightly point out that it tilts the so-called discussion. But the real problem is this failure to disclose.

It's a problem for Socialists (or Communists) because they're pretty much rendered invisible and it makes it difficult for their movements to get off the ground if the average American doesn't know they're out there. It's a problem largely due to the fact that so many Socialists (and Communists) of a certain age hide in political closets.

It's a problem for the viewers as well. If we're watching a critique of a new Jane Campion film and the guest discussing it is Hugh Hefner, we've got a right to know that he's a sexist. We've got a right to know that he publishes skin magazines. And if someone hates capitalism and they're discussing it's evils (or 'evils' depending upon your view), we have a right to know that they're Socialist (or Communist).

Though Bill Fletcher couldn't come out of the political closet on Moyers' program, he couldn't shut up about McCarthyism and we're not in the mood. We're not in the mood to pretend (as he does) that it was good Democrats standing up to bad Republicans back then.

It is not McCarthyism today for viewers to be informed of who the 'expert' is and what they believe. It's the basic background that needs to be provided and, if it can't be provided, the 'expert' doesn't need to be on air.

We talked about how the political closet hurts the Socialist (and Communist) movement and how it hurts the audience by attempting to trick them but let's talk about another group that's hurt.

Barack is a Corporatist War Hawk. He is not a Socialist and he is not a Communist. We have said that since 2007. Yet the rumors persist. One reason they do is because of stunts like the one Moyers pulled on Friday. Viewers watching that segment heard two guests offer a critique. It's a valid critique, but it's a Socialist critique. Neither the critique nor the guests were labeled as Socialist. So to the average viewer, the guests must have been Democrats. That's how the right ends up so confused as to what is a Democrat, what is a Socialist and what is a Communist. Only the Democrats get labeled and the inference is that the unlabeled are Democrats as well.

Now Michael Zweig publishes regularly in the Socialist journal Monthly Review. So, on some level, he's out of the political closet. It's just when he's dealing with the MSM that he hops back in. Similarly, Bill Fletcher Jr.

Remember we used Peter Hart as a transition? It was only last year that Bill Fletcher and Peter Hart were ridiculing Democrats on CounterSpin and now Fletch wants to pretend he's a Democrat? He's a Socialist and he was publicly a Socialist for many, many years. He's one of the many who ducked back into the political closet in order to endorse Barack in the Democratic Party primary. It wouldn't look good for Barack if his Communist and Socialist supporters were endorsing him publicly, so a large number of 'names' hopped into the political closet (nearly stepping on poor Francie Fox Piven's shoes in the process!).

Bill Moyers should have told his audience that both of his guests were Socialists. He owed it to the audience. He didn't tell and, this is what worries PBS friends, in refusing to do so, he proves Kenneth Tomlinson right.

Remember Tomlinson? The right-winger whom Bush appointed Corporation for Public Broadcasting chair. He launched an investigation into various programs (including Moyers and Diane Rehm's NPR program) to check their balance. He was horribly misguided and became a laughing stock.

But, as PBS friends point out, more and more Moyers is pulling little stunts that are going to allow for a reconsideration of Tomlinson. They cite Friday's segment as a good example of that. If Moyers can't tell the audience that the guests criticizing capitalism are Socialists, why are the guests brought on? It's this kind of trickery (trickery of the audience) that will outrage enough people to the point that they'll begin to think that Kenneth Tomlinson was right about Moyers and everything else.

Moyers isn't just f**king up his own image, he's f**king up PBS' as well and it's pissing a lot of people off. (Let us note, Friday's program featured three guests: All male.) A number of PBS stations decided not to air Bill's program on Friday. We're aware of only one station that pulled it because of Bill's inability to identify his two Socialist guests as such. We spoke with the station manager who told us they'd instead air a British import of some kind. It's not just the CPB people that are upset with Bill (and not that pleased with the ombudsperson whom they feel is sleeping on the job), it's also the people running PBS stations who decide what their station airs and what their station doesn't air. Bill Moyers is becoming a liability. And most station managers expected that. We spoke to another who pulled Friday's program for a series of reasons and he told us that everyone knows Bill goes soft when a Democrat is in office, everyone knows Bill's fiery talk about the Constitution and freedoms only gets served up during a Republican presidency. But even he couldn't believe what Bill's pulled in the last months.

"We are supposed to be serving the American public, hence 'public television.' It's amazing that he [Bill Moyers] is being allowed to pull the network so far to the left and to present himself as a newsman when all he's offering is opinion journalism."

We agree it's amazing. But, and we offered this as comfort to friends on the CPB, it's not like Bill Moyers is alone in deciding that he should ignore a broad-based audience and tailor his program to be an echo chamber for a small segment of the left. That's what Saturday Night Live does as well.

And as we said at the top, Republicans should boycott SNL. And so should any thinking person. They've chopped the legs off one side of the coffee table but want to insist that they're balanced and are trying to appeal to all viewers. Bill Moyers tries to pull the same trick as well. Is it really comedy when one group of people is consistently picked upon? Is it really 'journalism' when one group of people are consistently slammed? To us, that seems a lot like bullying and we don't find any entertainment value in that.
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