Sunday, September 14, 2008

TV: The Fringes

Fringe debuted on Fox last week and re-airs tonight. It's a roller coaster ride that, if you don't pay attention to what's actually happening, will move quick enough to keep you entertained. If you pay attention, you'll most likely be repeatedly outraged.

When we shared that judgment with a writer for the show, we were asked to wait until the mid-season to review the show (changes are promised -- don't believe it). We're more than happy to wait because the fringe was what really interested us. Not the show, not the writing, the fringe. Or, as some might call it, the lunatic fringe.


Which brings us naturally to Democracy Now! Lat week, Goody aired a segment entitled "Following Disparaging Comments at RNC, Community Organizers Respond to Republican Attacks on Their Profession" and the real question is: What was the point?

Amy Goodman explained that Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani had "undermined" and "made fun of" Barack's non-stop reference to having briefly been a failed community organizer. She brought on John Raskin who was among those offended by the remarks. Remarks?

"He said you can only go so far in organizing. You help people get some solutions, but it's never as big as wiping away problems." Golly, what an insult to community organizers from Rudy G. Thing is, that's not Rudy speaking. That's Michael Evans ("a DCP organizer") speaking of Barack for David Moberg's "Obama's Community Roots" (The Nation, April 16, 2007). So in other words, Barack stated community organizing wasn't the same as elected office?

At the age of twenty-two, Barack graduated from Columbia University. He then struggled in the corporate world (Business International Corporation being one of his failed jobs). In June 1985, he began his brief stint as a community organizer (at the age of 24 and he would continue as such until May 1988). As a community organizer, his work with Gamaliel Foundation would provide funds for him to travel to Kenya and meet his father's family finally. That's a nice scholarship/gift for someone who would leave the organization shortly after cashing in on the trip to Kenya.

Barack was a failure as a community organizer and his disenchantment with community organizing is why he quit and went to Harvard Law School (see, most recently, John B. Judas' "Creation Myth," The New Republic -- and pay attention to Barack's remarks two years after he left community organizing). His failure was so huge that even starry-eyed Kenneth T. Walsh (US News & World Reports) has to admit, "By Obama's own admission, there were few big victories."

Goodman found time to play Governor Palin explaining, "I guess a small-town mayor is sor of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." Goodman left out the declaration that "community organizing was too localized and too small.” A clip of that does exist only it's Barack saying it, saying it on The Charlie Rose Show in November of 2007.

John Raskin would declare, "I cringe whenever I hear Sarah Palin or Rudy Giuliani say that." As usual, Barack's own remarks are left out of the picture. And, hate to break it to Raskin, a community organizer and a mayor do not have the same or similar responsibilities. One can, as Barack did, walk away whenever they like.

Goodman asked Raskin to explain community organizing and he (and she) failed. They failed because they've yet to grasp that the entire country is not NYC and doesn't want to be. They failed because they're so insulated in their own little worlds they couldn't grasp why Barack's failure might be worthy of a laugh, let alone what a mystery 'professional' community organizer Raskin strikes some people as.

And it's not just people across the country ("the unenlightened masses," as Goody might call them) that suffered from confusion. Shira Boss-Bicak notes in "Barack Obama '83" (Columbia College Today): "Upon graduating from Columbia, Obama attempted a career as a community organizer. He wrote that when classmates weren't sure what that was, he didn't have a sufficient answer for them." So not only did the 'enlightened' students of Columbia not know "what that was,' Barack wasn't able to explain it to them.

No surprise Goody and Raskin can't either.

So let's leave Snooty-ville and break down what Goody and Raskin couldn't. A community organizer is in every neighborhood of every town or city. They organize and rally for any number of things, from a stop sign or red light, to funding for a library, blocking a Wal-Mart, etc.

But the thing is, outside of the biggest of cities, these community organizers are paid in 'civic pride.' They do it because it is their civic duty and they do it without a paycheck. And thing is, most people grasp that. It's only the Goodys and Raskins who didn't.

Part of the mocking of "Barack community organizer" is that a grown man with a degree from Columbia, wants credit for doing what PTA parents and many others do all the time for free, without payment.

When you're over forty and your resume is scant, you're left to highlight whatever you can which is why Barack and his campaign have repeatedly highlighted "first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review" and "community organizer." In other words, he bloomed early and then faded. (Not unlike his performance this year.)

Palin's mocking of Barack was mocking a failed community organizer whose 'experience' is from over twenty years ago. Three brief years, two decades ago. Repeating, he got payment, he got a trip to Africa out of it. Your neighbor collecting signatures to get a red light at an intersection will most likely never see money let alone trips across the globe for his or her work.

It was a ridiculous segment from Goody and Raskin as neither grasped that people across the country knew damn well what community organizing was. It was the fact that someone would actually take money for it that surprised many in small cities and towns.

Goody being Goody, it was really important for her to interject race in it. (Amusing considering she and the guest she booked were both White. It's always a laugh to hear racism charges from those who practice racism.) She would site NY Governor David Paterson's ridiculous claim of "racial coding."

Which brings us to the other fringe artist, self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders who popped up on KPFA's The Morning Show last week to explain that White women who were going from supporting the Democratic Party to the Republican one were racists. Yes, Laura, toss that lie out because it's really all you have left. You have no credibility (and your 'facts' were laughable) but go the well one more time on "racism." As Joseph Cannon (Cannonfire) observed of those playing that little trick, "Racism, they say. It wasn't anything we said; blame racism. White women shifted to McCain because they're racist. Of course, they weren't racist earlier, when they supported Obama. A virus must have hit earth -- sort of like the one in 28 Days Later, only this virus turned white American women into slobbering bigots."

It's really the only card White Goody and Laura have to play and they've played it non-stop. Barack's support is eroding so it must be racism! But as Cannon points out, these are former supporters that Barack is now losing. Did they just realize Barack was bi-racial?

Along with Barack's repeated caving on issues (the Iraq War, the FISA vote, etc.), there's also his annoying supporters and his annoying campaign. As if US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declaring Barack a gift from God wasn't annoying enough, US House Rep Steve Cohen surfaced last week to declare, "Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus, who our minister prayed about, Pontius Pilate was a governor." So Democrats in the House are now on record as seeing Barack both as a gift from God and as being like Jesus. And Laura Flanders thinks the problem is racism?

Someone get Mel Gibson on the phone and tell him to start prepping The Passion of the Barack!

ABC's Charlie Gibson got the first interview with Sarah Palin. (On PBS' Washington Week, it was stated that Sean Hannity of Fox 'News' would have the next interview.) And how did he prepare? Not very well at all. The interview was broken up so that it could be shown on multiple programs -- Good Morning America, World News Tonight, Nightline. Gibson is now the anchor of World News Tonight so you might assume he would be especially concerned about the segment that aired during that program.

If he was concerned beyond his own hair, it wasn't evident in the broadcast. [Click here for World News Tonight's official transcript, click here for the video.]

Gibson's long walk into Crazyville began with, "You said recently, in your old church, 'Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.' Are we fighting a holy war?" Palin responded, "You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote." Gibson insisted, "Exact words." No, they were not. Nor was the next quote Gibson confronted Palin with, " I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, 'There is a plan and it is God's plan'."

Again, Gibson was wrong. Palin stated:

Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.

She stated that in church. She did not issue that statement from the governor's office. She stated it in the privacy of her own church. In the privacy of her own church, she asked church members to pray for those serving, for the country, for the leaders, and to pray that service members are being sent out "on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is plan and that that plan is God's plan."

It's not a sentiment we agree with but we don't find it shocking. Of course, we're not non-believers dashing down to the Riverside Church every time there's a political action so maybe we're confused as to why so many of the 'left' voices find Palin's statements in her own church so damn shocking.

More confusing is how Charlie Gibson could have ended up misquoting Palin. Was it a deliberate error on his part or just sloppy journalism? (We're told it was a combination. We're told he was provided with the actual quote but was too busy to read through the research and only skimmed it.)

While ABC News couldn't get right what Palin actually said, Sonali Kolhatkar could Friday on KPFK's Uprising and in a world where facts fly out the window, it's especially important to note someone who actually practices journalism.

Goody? Last week she also offered, "Sarah Palin and the Wasilla Church of God," where Esther Kaplan and Frederick Clarkson were invited to offer their opinions on Palin's religion. Neither knew Palin, but that didn't stop them. Equally of interest is the fact that Goody never offered a segment asking what Jeremiah Wright's beliefs meant to Barack Obama. Throughout that sordid tale (after Good Morning America aired the clip of Wright, at the front of the church, damning the United States), we were repeatedly told that it didn't matter, we were repeatedly told that it had no influence on Barack, as late as the DNC convention, DN! was offering a woman saying that everyone disagrees with their pastors on some beliefs.

It was hilarious to hear Esther Kaplan work herself into a frenzy on one of Palin's many pastors over the years: "He has actually talked about it, about his beliefs specifically in relationship to electoral politics, saying in '04 that if people voted for Kerry, he questioned their salvation, saying that if they criticized George Bush, that they--that was a path straight to Hell. No question that she comes from a milieu that really understands politics, electoral politics, in biblical terms." Wow. A church leader taking to the pulpit about an election. Good thing Jeremiah Wright never did that, right? Oh wait, he did. But that went unexamined by DN!, his entire "Hillary ain't never been called a n***er!" speech, delivered from the front of his church, was no cause for alarm. It's apparently only frightening to Kaplan, Goody, et al. when the church leader is a right-winger. How does that work? "Separation of church and state for Republicans only!"? Amazingly, Clarkson has called out the way Barack speaks about religion and politics. Strangely, he's never been invited on to Goody's show to discuss that.

But when it comes to Palin, her religion is not just an okay target, it's one to fiercely pursue.

No one's supposed to notice that or question Barack getting a pass. (For those who have forgotten, with Bill Moyers, Wright likened sodomy to rape, murder, lynching and more earlier this year. Barack used homophobia in South Carolina to scare up votes. Wright's beliefs on same-sex relations and Barack's 20-year attendance of that church do warrant exploring.)

And what are the fringes without Mad TV which has had yet another cast shuffle and still has so damn little to offer. They made their season premiere last night -- which means they'll most likely be back to repeats in two weeks. They did two skits with actors portraying John McCain and Barack Obama. In both skits (one of which involved dancing -- if they can't tie it into a TV show and do a parody, Mad TV has no idea how to even attempt to write a comedy sketch), jokes abounded about McCain's physical disability (due to torture as a POW, he cannot fully raise his arms). It wasn't funny. But it was in keeping with the fringes. Barack was never made fun of. There were no jokes about him. But McCain was ridiculed and mocked.

Saturday Night Live also aired its season opener and, if you missed it, no doubt you will catch all of those sketches mixed into future 'new' broadcasts (as happened last year).

The show opened with a dreadful sketch involving Tina Fey and Amy Polar Bear. Pressure was put on Fey to come in and do the sketch (where she portrayed Sarah Palin and Amy portrayed Hillary). Fey should have said no. The sure to be repeated segment was insulting to women and, as SNL writers told us they intended to do (told us last April), the only 'joke' they have to aim at Democrats is Hillary.

The show would have provided more political 'commentary' and 'jokes' had Barack Obama not backed out at the last minute. We're told they are angry about that (they should be). And they used that last minute change to excuse their very bad show. A high school quiz show was one of the skits. That tired and stale joke has not only been repeated over and over on SNL, it was even transported over to Square Pegs. On the latter, the amazing Jamie Gertz' Muffy Tupperman managed to provide a mnemonic device for remembering the order of presidents: "Rough Tops Eat Kool Jello" -- Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson. SNL provided nothing of lasting value, certainly not laughs.

"Yes, but we had Michael Phelps," insisted one writer over the phone. Hey, SNL chooses who to book as a host and Phelps' biggest problem was not being properly miked (especially during a scene where he played a teenage cousin). Well, the writer insisted, we got some funnies in Weekend Update.

Was a wide-cam being used on Amy Polar Bear? What was up with that? She'd never looked so awful on camera. "But Seth wore a jacket that fit," the writer said in reference to a previous criticism of Meyers that we'd offered. Yes, he did. And he spent the whole Update preening to the camera. When Amy leaves the show, it's time for a completely different Weekend Update team.

"But Amy's Palin jokes were funny," he insisted. They were? We can't even remember them now but remember that one of them offended us.

The season debut was an unremarkable yawn-fest. The commercial about opening jars was clearly always going to be on tonight's schedule (it was taped ahead of time). Guess what? Not funny. It probably read funny. There was a rhythm to the narration. But it played out lifeless. If you missed it and think we're wrong, SNL's very proud of that bit, so you'll have plenty of time to catch it in 'new' episodes this year.

Among the many things that would have helped the skit was the camera zooming in tight on certain lines. The camera work was a disaster throughout the broadcast. We asked did they have new people, what was the deal?

Typical writer, he didn't want to talk about that. Just how funny we thought his lines were.

It wasn't funny. It was tired and stale and that included yet another coach pep-talk scene.

Back to the opening sketch. Not only should Tina Fey have refused the skit because (a) it wasn't funny and (b) it was anti-woman, there's also the fact that Fey has her own damn show. Last year we again noted the deploring number of women in the cast. That really hasn't changed. There's Amy and Kristen and someone as a bonus player ("featured player"). The orginal Not Ready For Prime Timers were Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtain, Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi, Garret Morris and Laraine Newman. (Bill Murray would become part of the cast when Chevy departed.) Seven cast members and almost half were women. (Only one was a person of color. The same statistic for this season.) This year's cast has three addtional members, all men. The ten member cast features only two women. When the stastics are that bad, Tina Fey has no business taking a role that could have been played by Kristen. Repeating, Tina Fey has her own damn show.

Mad TV and Saturday Night Live started off the fall season begging to be put down. If that should happen, comedy fans should lose no sleep, merely tune into the fringe programming passing itself off as 'news' and 'public affairs' and the laughs won't stop coming. Such as Friday when Gwen declared her program the longest running news program. Washington Week is not a news program. It is public affairs. It is also not the longest running. Gwen, meet 60 Minutes which actually is a news program.

In closing, a reader wrote last Monday that we were too harsh and not helpful to Amy Goodman and her arrest. He wrote back Tuesday to state, having watched Goody's RNC coverage reel broadcast that day, the previous week had been all about Goody (he noticed a few bits that were not aired previously and grasped that there wasn't time to air those and still make it all about Goody). We're not worried about being "too harsh" to Amy Goodman; however, if she wants helpful, we're advised that the sheriff's office is monitoring her statements about what went down. So, helpful hint, it probably wasn't a good idea to go on WBAI last Friday and yet again tell another version of her arrest during the pledge drive. If they do decide to put her on trial, it's not helpful to her if she continues to change details of the story as she repeatedly tells it.

[Ty adding this note to Ava and C.I.'s article on Monday 9-15. Reader Larry e-mailed to note that the right-wing Newsbusters has discovered ABC News edited Palin's interview in a way to make her come off uninformed. He wondered if it could be highlighted? Ava and C.I. said sure. Click here for the Newsbusters article.]
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