Sunday, February 02, 2014


Jim: We're doing a roundtable.  As is often the case, the topics come from e-mails and remember our new e-mail address is Please note that change.  Participating our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); and Wally of The Daily Jot..  Mike and Elaine are participating by phone, the rest of us are face to face.   Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): So let's start with two angry e-mails regarding Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The Habit Is Old."  Lester insists, "How dare you say the Winter Olympics are unimportant!"  Wilam just wants to know why Ava and C.I. hate the Winter Olympics.

Ava: I'll go.  We didn't take a position on the Winter Olympics.  We didn't say they were unimportant nor did we say we hated them.  We offered no personal opinion on them.  If you want my personal opinion, I could care less.  Which is to say, they don't matter to me, not that I hate them.  We were writing about how so many networks were not planning to stand up to them, they were going to throw in the towel and offer nothing but repeats.  CBS was going to offer a mixture of a tiny amount of new programming and a lot of repeats, we're now being told that it's going to be more competitive.  Good, it needs to be.  And that was our point in the piece, that the networks -- ABC and CBS and, yes, The CW -- were going to hand the ratings over to NBC by default.  I'm not interested in watching sports on TV, sorry.  We didn't make that point in our piece but I'm making it now.  And I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Those who are going to skip the Winter Olympics -- a large number of people in the US deserve counter-programming.  That was our point that the two complaining missed.

Jim: Alright.  Elaine's "Hands off the nun! (Sister Megan Rice)" dealt with a serious issue.  Sister Megan Rice committed an act of civil disobedience. Now she's facing life in prison.  Last Tuesday, she was supposed to learn her sentence.  As Elaine noted in ""Illegal spying and Clapper," that didn't happen.  Elaine explain who she is and what's going on.

Elaine: Well she's a nun with a history of civil disobedience and it's interesting that now it's a big deal, a big move is being made to punish her.  She, Michael R. Walli and Gregory I. Boerje-Obed entered the Y-12 National Security Complex.  This was not breaking in, they didn't expect to go in but when they tried the door it was open.  Inside they spray-painted on the wall, outside they splashed blood on the walls.  That was what they did.  Nothing that can't be removed or painted over.  The three faced misdemeanor charges -- trespassing, for the most part minor and in keeping with the charges people face for civil disobedience.  But the Barack's officials decided to slap on charges under the sabotage act -- calling the nun and her two friends, in effect, terrorists.  This charge would lead to up to 20 years in prison for each of them.

Betty: Let me interrupt to voice my opinion.  A president who believes in Jesus does not try to say nuns are terrorists.  Barack's a fake and crook.  And a president who believes in the Constitution does not try to say that civil disobedience is terrorism.  Again, Barack's a fake and a crook.

Jim: And the nun was supposed to be sentenced last Tuesday.

Elaine:  Betty's birth place, Atlanta, Georgia was snowed under last week, they weren't the only ones.  Sister Megan Rice was to appear in nearby Tennessee but the Knoxville courthouse she was to be sentenced at closed down due to the snow.  To be clear, they appeared in court Tuesday, the judge began speaking and stated that they weren't contrite but no sentence was handed out because the court was quickly shut down -- the entire building -- due to the snow.

Jim: How old is the nun?

Elaine: She's either 84 or about to turn it.

C.I.: She turned 84 Friday, January 31st.

Elaine: Thank you.

Jim: Elaine's asked for songlists here, like we used to do.  This is pointed out in an e-mail from Angie W. who says she misses them and Elaine wants them and so does Dona.  We say?

Dona: I do want them.  We didn't listen to much music in the early one.  There have been two writing editions.  The first one was a slap together that we hated and now we're pulling another all nighter.  I can't think of an illustration to use.  If readers are okay with that, we won't have an illustration this edition but we'll have one next time.

Jim: So we are noting the music we've listened to in the post-Superbowl writing edition?

Dona: Yes.

Jess: How are we going to rank them?

Dona: I don't know how we used to do it, sorry.  What about we just list them in the order that we listened?

Jess: That's fine but my thought was the illustration this time could be an album cover.  And however we listed -- chronologically, alphabetically, if we ranked them, whatever, the first one listed would be the album cover we used.

Dona: I like that idea.

Kat: I do too.

Dona: And those that you've reviewed, Kat, we'll link to your reviews.

Kat: You don't have to do that.  But are we going to rank them?  I know what I'd rank.

Betty: Me too.

Ty: And we're laughing right now and are readers are as in the dark as Mike and Elaine because we had not gotten on the phone yet when this happened.  We were listening to an album by Animal Collective in here and it had just gone off.  Ava and C.I. were in the hall and we heard "Oooooh Ooooh Ooooh" -- or something like that, I'm tired.

Betty: And we looked at each other and, Kat, Ty and I said all at once, "The Boss!"  They were singing along with Diana.

Ty: They were writing on a laptop and had it down low so I ran out and told them to pump up the volume so we could all here.

Dona: Now that's a great story and I'm thinking maybe we should rank them so that Diana can be number one.  I was here and I was out of the loop on that because I was doing Mommy duties when that happened and was in the kitchen.

Jess: Yeah but --

Mike: Jess stopped, I'm not cutting him off.  I'll offer my objection and take it or leave it, this has been a long writing edition -- editions -- and taking the time to rank ten albums may lead to discussions and disagreements that continue the conversation and delay the publishing.

Jim: Good point.  Are we going to even do this feature.  I know Elaine and Dona do want it and Angie W. is only the latest to ask that we return to the feature.

Dona: Yeah, we're doing it.  We'll do it in place of short feature I had planned.  We'll do it in the order we listened to them in to save time as Mike pointed out.

Jim: Okay and time, let's move on.  Mike, you've been covering Dracula and Elementary at your site of late.  You were really into Dracula, watched the season finale, without knowing it was the finale until after you started to blog about it.  Paul, Donald S., and Jean all e-mailed noting they were enjoying your coverage of Dracula -- and Paul noted your coverage of Elementary as well.  They're afraid, all three, that NBC won't renew the show.  Thoughts?

Mike: Ten episodes?  Come on, now, that's too short for a season.  But it was a great show.  I'm afraid NBC won't renew it as well.  But I hope it gets a second season.

Jim: Ten is short.

Mike: Yes, it is.  And Marcia watched it too and she asked me if I thought NBC might give a summer schedule if they made a second season which is a possible idea if they're only going to do ten episodes each season.

Jim: On that note, we move to Alexis' e-mail.  "I just read at Marcia's site that Halle Berry's going to do a summer series for CBS that's produced by Steven Spielberg and I'm so excited!  When I read it, I thought about how Ava and C.I. have spent years writing pieces advocating for the networks to do scripted programs in the summer.  CBS finally went all out with The Dome last summer and ended up with the ratings hit of the summer.  Now it looks like they're going to double down and that makes me really happy. I hope they're happy too.  And could you please ask a favor of Betty for me?  Ask her to please, please blog about the show when it starts airing.  I think it would be helpful the way she and Marcia and Ann became the Whitney bloggers and really turned the tide."

Betty: First off, absolutely.  Thank you Alexis for making the point you made.  I can tell you Ann will blog about it as well, I can promise you that.  So that will be Ann, Marcia and me blogging about it.  We will make sure that Halle isn't left hanging.

Jim: You three were going to tell how you changed the tide on Whitney.  Do you mind sharing that here?

Betty: Not at all.  Wally hasn't spoken so can I ask him to do the background because Dona just passed you a note which I assume is about the time ticking away.

Jim: You are right.  Wally, you know funny, give us the lowdown on Whitney.

Wally: Sure thing.  Whitney was a sitcom on NBC created by and starring stand up comic Whitney Cummings.  She's very funny on stage.  This was her first acting role, as far as I know.  She had also created 2 Broke Girls which was airing -- which is still airing, and it's a funny show on CBS.  So the show revolves around Whitney and Alex who are a couple who live together -- he's a web/app creator or something and she's a photographer.  Their friends are Roxanne, Lily, Neil and Mark.  The show was funny.  But it was slammed like crazy by the critics.  To the point that, if you believed them, no one was watching.  But Whitney's Thursday night ratings were better than Community's.  And their Wednesday night ratings, which they were moved to mid-season, were stronger as well.  It was a hit show for NBC but it was in danger of the axe just because of the rabid reviews.  Betty?

Betty: Thank you.  The first two episodes had aired when Ava and C.I. wrote "TV: The perverts still drool over Shirley Temple."  That, as Jim can tell you, was a hugely read piece.  We're talking 30,000 views in the first two days alone.  And I see Ava and C.I. wincing so I'll shut up about page views.  But it was a huge piece and it just got bigger and bigger.  I don't remember if Jim was still living here, in C.I.'s home.  If he and Dona had already moved out, they were just a few footsteps away in Ava's home.  But I was seeing Jim constantly, as I still do, my kids and I and Ty and his boyfriend live here with C.I.  And so I was hearing every day that first week about how many page views, Jim couldn't believe it.  But it was a powerful piece, addressing the sexism and how Whitney was being attacked while non-sexual women, little pixies for the men, were being praised.  Let a woman have opinions -- let alone act on them -- and suddenly the pitchforks come out.  And Marcia called me and asked, "Betty, have you watched this show?"  I hadn't.  She loved it so I went to Hulu to stream the episodes I'd missed.  I called Ann after because I loved the show and knew she would -- she is a Lily and I mean that as a compliment and she saw Cedric as her Neil.  Before we found out Neil was gay.  But anyway, she says, "I love the show!  Why is it being attacked so much!"  And she agreed Ava and C.I. had nailed the why but she wondered why in this day and age?  So we asked Ava and C.I. for a conference call.  The five of us were on the phone, Ann, Marcia and I saying this show is hilarious, how can we help it?  Ava and C.I. said that there was pushback against the attacks on the show.  But if they weren't critics, if they were just blogging about the show, they would realize that critics aren't going to admit they're wrong.  And I think it was Ann who got the point right away and interrupted with, "You're saying if we say, 'Oh, the show's funnier now' or that it's improved, it will give the critics attacking it -- who are now being called out for their attacks -- the space to walk back their nastiness by saying the show has improved?"  And that's exactly what they were saying.  So that's what we did.  Each week, we said the show was getting better. Which allowed the Water Cooler Set to write more kindly of the show without ever being forced to say they were wrong.  That was the first part of a three part plan that the five of us came up with.  Dona's going crazy about the time so I'll stop there.  But the third step, the step where the three of us worked collectively to ensure NBC would fear cancelling the show is probably the most important step.

Jim: I agree with you.  But we have run over time.  So we'll stop there.  This is a rush transcript.

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