Sunday, September 29, 2013

TV: The sewer that is NBC

Tina Fey's 'triumphant' return to Saturday Night Live took place last night.  Sage Stossel (The Atlantic) struck us as giddy (and uninformed), Mike Ryan (Huffington Post) was a little more reasoned (but just as uninformed), and it only got worse from there.  The lack of awareness struck us as the real issue of the broadcast.

See, NBC has been airing public service announcements [PSAs] for so long, we half expect to come across a vintage one featuring Alf and McLean Stevenson taped on board Supertrain.

The More You Know is the PSA and NBC kicked it off in 1989 and they like to point out:

THE MORE YOU KNOW was honored with two National Education Association Awards for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcasting. This honor marks the first time in the NEA's history that a television network ever won twice for the same effort.

Yeah, well maybe it's time for NBC to start returning those awards?


Especially the one they won in 2004:


BURBANK, Calif. -- October 4, 2004 -- NBC Universal, Bravo, and "The More You Know" campaign were honored at this year's 2004 LAMBDA Legal Liberty Awards on September 30 in Los Angeles.

LAMBDA Legal honors individuals and companies that deal with LGBT issues and promote diversity and tolerance. NBC Universal, Bravo, and "The More You Know" campaign were recognized for presenting diverse and positive portrayals of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community through programs such as "Will & Grace," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Boy Meets Boy," and the numerous "The More Your Know" public service announcements that have focused on prejudice, diversity and tolerance.

Frances Berwick, Bravo Senior Vice President of Programming and Production and Emmy Award-winner, accepted the award on behalf of NBC Universal, Bravo, and "The More You Know" campaign. James Getzlaff, star of Bravo's hit "Boy Meets Boy," presented the award.

Yeah, that award especially needs to be returned. 

The PSAs?  They don't appear to have made a difference with TV critics who surely must have seen them and, even worse, it appears NBC employees missed the point as well.

In her monologue, Tina Fey barely managed to string together a few so-so jokes before expressing homophobia.  This took place when she brought the five men and one woman who joined the cast this episode on stage and made them dance, thrust their crotches and shake their asses, while she declared, "It's a right of passage that couldn't be gayer."

What did that 'comic' just say?

Wanda Sykes:  Please don't say that.  Say that something is "gay" when you mean that something is dumb or stupid. It's insulting.  It's like if I thought this pepper shaker was stupid and I said, "Man, this pepper shaker is so 16-year-old boy with a cheesy mustache."  Just sayin'.  When you say "that's so gay," do you realize what you say?  Knock if off.

That's a PSA Wanda did in 2008.  In 2013, in the debut show of the season, Saturday Night Live, in the opening monologue, thought "that couldn't be gayer" was appropriate and Tina Fey -- who has a long history of homophobia via the portrayals and 'jokes' on 30 Rock (click here and here for two pieces we wrote on that in 2011 and 2012) -- was just the host to deliver the line.

As Wanda said five years ago, knock it off.

It's not funny.

But it's amazing because we read 23 pieces on last night's show and not one reviewer mentioned the line, let alone called it out.  Shame on them.

They create the climate for homophobia to grow.

And NBC really needs to be called out.

Ironside premiers Wednesday.  We love Blair Underwood.  Love seeing him on TV.  He was great at Mr. Harris on The New Adventures of Old Christine and as President Elias Martinez on The Event.  We raised our eyebrows at the thought of a reboot of this crime drama but Blair in the lead role, the one Raymond Burr played in the 60s and 70s?  That might make the show worth watching.

And then we watched.

And were so appalled, we thought about not even mentioning it. 

Kicking off the new season with a review slamming a new show?

It just seemed . . . so very us.

And we've done it and we wanted to do something different.

But then 'liberal' Tina Fey shows up on SNL last night and she's spreading homophobia and it just seems like NBC can't get their act together anymore.

Maybe you noticed their line up this fall?  And how little women matter in it?

On Sundays, for example, you will see women.  You will see them shake that ass and shake their pom-poms as NBC airs football.  First, on Football Night in America, you will see Bob Costas . . . and seven other men offer analysis.  You will see no woman.

After that, you'll get NBC Sunday Night Football.  Bob Costas will be back for that one along with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Hines Ward, Scott Pioli and, yes, Michele Tafoya.  Tafoya is the sole woman.  So in the first half of it's football line up, NBC will feature 8 men and no women as hosts and commentators, and in the second half you'll get eight men and one woman.  Sunday nights on NBC, not worth watching.

Monday's is two hours of The Voice and the laughable James Spader vehicle known as The Blacklist.
(We'll be going to town on that bad show real soon.) The Voice is allegedly a woman's program (talk to NBC, not us, we're not making that claim).  A woman's show?  That must be why this year's judges are three men (Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton) and one woman (Christina Aguilera), right?

Tuesday is another hour of The Voice followed by the new sitcom About A Boy (Minnie Driver is one of two women in the cast of this male-dominated show about how women dampen men's spirits) and then more crap  entitled Growing Up Fisher.  Two episodes into the latter, you'll be praising Parker Posey for dumping the show when NBC picked it up.  You'll also be wondering why Jenna Elfman elected to then take the role.  If there's any justice, this will be the fourth failed sitcom Elfman will have been in since Dharma &  Greg.  She is one of two women in a cast of five. NBC closes out the night with Chicago Fire and its eleven main characters -- only three of which are women.

Continuing the anti-woman sentiment: Revolution on Wednesday.  They had a year to move beyond sexism.  They don't appear to have done so.  As Marcia's pointed out, the whole point of science fiction is reconfiguring the world.  Instead, the NBC series just offers tired roles of women as victims with the token young female of faux-action (rescued repeatedly).  You then get Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  If you go to "about" on the show's website, you'll find the series stars Mariska Hargitay, Ice T, Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Kelli Giddish, Danny Pino and Raul Esparza.  In other words, the show stars five men and two women?  Is this 1913 or 2013?

Thursday night may be when NBC really runs off viewers as it seeks to ensure that not one woman between the ages of 20 and 50 appear as a happy single woman.  'Wait, wait! There's the great Rashida Jones!"  Rashida is great but Parks and Recreation lost interest in her character at the start of last season and Rashida is leaving the show after the first eight episodes.  (Hate to break it to Parks, but when Rashida goes, so does the show.)  More importantly, she's really not single this season and we're not just referring to Ann's pregnancy.  Welcome to the Family follows.  It is a family sitcom.  Outside of The Cosby Show, NBC's never really had any success with those in some time.  Credit Mike Sikowitz and Jamie Tarses with the fact that this show looks like it was filmed this century.   Mary McCormack fans, prepare yourself, she's created a completely different character than any you've seen her play before.  (We mean that as high praise and we thought she was great in In Plain Sight.)  But this is one of four sitcoms.  It's followed by Sean Saves The World and the question there is: For whom?  Yes, Megan Hilty and Linda Lavin are in the cast.  Megan's strictly second banana.  (We're referring to her emphasis, not her talent.)  Lavin gets a little bit more to do.  There are six adults in the cast -- only two are women.  Again, whom is Sean saving the world for?  (Don't bring up the child actor.  We've been on the beat forever and, in 2005, once covered a child's acting abilities.  A friend then called us on that.  We've never reviewed child actors since.)  There are eight cast members of The Michael J. Fox Show.  Two are children.  (The actress playing Fox's daughter just turned 18 seven days ago.  We're calling her a child.)  That leaves three males, three females.  And Candice Bergen will be joining the cast as Fox's mother!  Yes, and NBC demanded that.  They also want Katie Finneran fired and her character (Fox's sister) written off the show.  (Her character, it should be noted, is the latest in TV's supporting characters of the female gender that date back to Rose Marie on The Dick Van Dyke Show -- man hungry and unable to interest any men.)  Closing out the night, the 'drama' Parenthood featuring six adult women and five adult men -- and the generic and sexist outlook of Ron Howard and Brian Glaser but, remember, no one's ever supposed to notice that.

Friday and Saturday, this fall, NBC takes the night off.

And a grateful nation screams, "Thank you for that!"

Why is it that we're the only critics noticing how adult actresses are being screwed over this season and that NBC is not offering one show fronted and led by a woman.  Not one.  There is, for instance, no The Justine Bateman Show.  But we do have The Michael J. Fox Show.  Three years ago, while the Water Cooler Set were frothing over the 'trend' where women were taking over TV (we wish!),  we were left to note that it was three sitcoms with female leads (see "TV: The perverts still drool over Shirley Temple").  It would be really nice if the other lazy asses could maybe stop joking at the Water Cooler and actually do their damn job.

In case they've forgotten, that job is to review TV.

NBC offers not one female led show this season.  It disappears women on nearly every night (most so on Sundays) and not one peep from the critics.

And are we really going to be the only TV critics in the country who are going to object to David Bianculli's sexist take on TV that he presented on Fresh Air (NPR) last week which name checked 9 men in television but couldn't mention one woman while supposedly reviewing TV this fall?  Eight minutes that segment went on (and on and on) and he couldn't mention one damn woman.

Why does TV often suck so bad?  Because of the men reviewing it.  Never forget that fact.

Fun fact, the original TV show Ironside kicked off in September 1967 (after a TV movie the previous March) starring Raymond Burr and three other actors -- two men and one woman.  Four years shy of fifty years later, Ironside returns with a cast of six -- and only one of them is a woman.

We're going a long way, baby -- a long way backwards.

Again, where the hell are the supposed TV critics?

It's not just the inability to put women on the screen that harms NBC and Ironside.

It's also the embrace of torture and abuse.

The series will open Wednesday night with Blair's character in the back of a car with a suspect.  Blair will taunt and insult the man and beat him up.

A police officer will object.

Blair will point to a little girl being pulled from the trunk as a result of his torture and abuse.

The objecting officer will fall silent.

We're embarrassed for Blair Underwood and we made that very clear to three friends with the show.  We found it outrageous that (a) this would happen to Ironside and (b) this is how NBC and the producers chose to portray an African-American male lead.

We are aware, aren't we, that Kerry Washington only just became the first African-American lead of  a successful hour long TV show, right?  (Scandal returns with new episodes during the last hour of prime time this Thursday on ABC.)  And yet this is how NBC chooses to present their highest profile Black character?

As a little thug who beats up suspects because he's too dumb to figure out how to interrogate them?  Because he's too stupid to know how to do police work?

We're getting really fed up with TV and its insistence on selling police brutality as normal, on showing police breaking the law as a good thing.

We really think it's time that these shows were pulled from television.

They exist to destroy our rights as citizens and to glorify official abuse.

There is nothing funny or entertaining about it.

NBC uses the PSAs to pretend they're contributing to tolerance and education.  But this season's just begun and NBC's already promoting sexism, homophobia and, yes, police brutality.  The More You Know indeed.

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