Sunday, October 13, 2013

TV: Ugly Little Liars

It really was a toss up as to what was the worst sitcom of the fall season -- Michael J. Fox's idiotic sitcom which is not set in the 70s but just feels that way or CBS' ridiculous We Are Men.  Was there a man in the cast?


Maybe Christopher Nicholas Smith.  Maybe.  Kal Penn was never firm but he went beyond soft, beyond Pillsbury Doughboy to become what exactly?  He's not just overstuffed for his frame, he looks like he's in his fifties (and he hasn't even reached his forties).  The cast also included Tony Shalhoub who reached all he could reach on broadcast TV in the supporting role of Antonio Scarpacci on Wings -- a sitcom which finally came alive in its fourth season, had a triumphant fifth season and then tanked but remained on air for three more seasons in an apparent effort to make Caroline in the City appear gritty, hilarious and of the moment by contrast.  From there Shalhoub took his stale act to basic cable -- a place many the camera refuses to love will eventually turn to -- and, with the help of The Water Cooler Set, perpetuated the fraud that he was a great actor.  People, he's not even a bad actor.  He can't build a character, he can't shape a performance.  He made that even more clear in We Are Men.

And then there's Jerry.

Eating disorders are not attractive.  Jerry O'Connell was the fat kid in Stand By Me.  He got applause early in his young life (Sliders) as America noticed the fat kid had slimmed down.  Can Jerry act?  He so rarely tries.  He instead goes for the easy (and comforting) applause of, "The fat kid in Stand By Me is so skinny!"  Jerry's been doing shirtless scenes for about two decades longer than he should have and that sadly includes on We Are Men.  Jerry's saggy boobs were featured so often they were practically the Lenny and Squiggy of the sitcom.  No muscle definition.  In places, you can see bones.  Jerry has an eating disorder.  It's not attractive.

Neither was the crazy of last week. 

First, applause for Thom Hartmann.  We were on the phone with a friend at MSNBC.  We'd been discussing the crazy all week with the friend who called to say, "Thom Hartmann right now!  He just called [Speaker of the House of Representatives John] Boehner a 'killer'!"  We had just left Congress having spent Thursday at a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing and then a few hours visiting members of Congress and were en route to a campus where we'd be speaking.  To say we were a little tired and scattered was putting it mildly.  "What channel!" we screamed in unison looking for the show on satellite radio when we were told to go to terrestrial radio, 1480 AM.

We got there and right as the program was returning from commercials.  Hartmann admitted he'd called Boehner a "killer" in the previous segment and stated that was incendiary ("over the top" and "inflammatory")  and going too far.  While "killer" would have gotten him included in this piece, it wasn't the worst thing we saw the media serve up.  But we do want to note that he took accountability and attempted to steer the conversation back to reality.  We applaud him for that and wish others possessed a similar self-measure.

To be clear, we're not clutch-the-pearls type.  We believe in open discussions and in heated discussions.  Tone really isn't a big concern to us.  Had Thom not retracted "killer" and been the only one to make an over-the-top remark last week, we would have looked the other way (in part because Thom Hartmann doesn't usually go in for melodrama).

But supposed public affairs programming last week became little potboilers, it was as though daytime soaps had staged a comeback and everyone was vying to be Secret Storm.  What had passions so on display?

The worthless ObamaCare.  Reality, it's not our fight.  You want to offer single payer, universal health care like many other 'advanced' countries have?  We'll fight for that.  We'll add it to the topics we speak about on the road.  We'll write about it.  We'll demand it.

But ObamaCare is not Medicare for all.  ObamaCare imprisons citizens and the country to the insurance companies -- the same big business that has driven up the costs of health care.  Barbra Streisand may still be able to hit a few notes but, as they say, the elevator no longer goes up to the top.  She could be found last week defending (in her mind) ObamaCare by explaining it was just what then-Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney had done with RomneyCare.

Yes, Babs, it is.  And that wasn't a good thing.  Our own local radio station (Pacifica's KPFA) spent weeks calling out RomneyCare in real time, bringing on guests like nurses for universal health care who explained that forcing people to buy medical insurance is not universal health care but it is yet another hand out to big business.  Though Barbra is not a natural blond (especially at her age today), lately she has become a natural idiot.

KPFA is as guilty as many others on the left in whoring for ObamaCare these days.

But we don't whore.

If you don't get what a lonely position that can be, you missed the fact that MSNBC -- in all last week's hours spent yacking about ObamaCare -- couldn't bring on Physicians for a National Health Program's Dr. Quentin Young.  Russell Mokhiber (CounterPunch) did manage to note and quote Young last week:

Had I been in Congress, I would have unequivocally voted against Obamacare. It's a bad bill. Whether it's worse than what we have now could be argued. We rather think because of its ability to enshrine and solidify the corporate domination of the health system, it's worse than what we have now. But whether it is somewhat better or a lot worse is immaterial. The health system isn't working in this country --  fiscally, medically, socially, morally.
[. . .]
I don't have any sympathy for the idea that the president had to compromise because his opposition was strong.  Winning is not always winning the election. Winning is making a huge fight and then taking the fight to the people -- re-electing people who are supporting your program and defeating those who aren't.

If there was something to fight for, we'd be in there fighting.  But this isn't a plan that helps people.  So the only ones fighting for it are the whores from the Cult of St. Barack who, in less than four years, will be calling out this program and pretending they didn't waste their time -- ignoring serious issues -- to propagandize for a bad policy and a bad program.

And, as Kate Randall (World Socialist Web Site) pointed out earlier this month, the con game "will leave a staggering 31 million people without coverage by 2023."

Maybe those realities are why the whores have to go so over the top?  And when crazy gallups across the airwaves the animal droppings always lead back to MSNBC.

A woman billed as an "MSNBC political analyst" declared of the government shutdown, "But this is beyond a hostage situation.  They have shot a hostage." That's what Joy Reid declared on Lawrence O'Donnell's Tuesday night program.  To be clear, no one billed as a "political analyst" -- even on MSNBC should sounds like one by making those remarks.

Does Joy Reid know anything about hostages?  Has she been shot at as a hostage?

Why in the world would you use such melodramatic and charged language?

Maybe because, in civil discourse, you'd be unable to score any points?

She reminded us a little of the man who wants to use rape as a metaphor -- and it's almost always a man.  He never understands how insulting or uninformed he comes off.  Often, he'll even make some ridiculous statement like, 'And we were raped of our innocence.'  There's no point in trying to explain to him how wrong that sentence is, he will never grasp it.  And that's Joy Reid.

MSNBC airs Republican turncoat Ed Schultz's program which is not broadcast from a child's playhouse -- Big Ed's mighty girth just makes all the surrounding features appear tiny and doll-like.  Last week, he bellowed, ". . . they[Republicans] will shut down the government and they will not pay the bills to get their way.  The word is treason, the treasonous John Boehner."

Confession.  "Treason" appeared at this website.  Briefly.  We'd done an editorial awhile back -- our memories are vague on the details because this was not a happy moment -- and were all pleased with it (or pleased enough to publish it).  Then it was time to gather for "A note to our readers" which Jim writes.  And then we see the editorial has "treason" in the headline. 

We rarely write the headlines. 

Jim usually does (even on our TV pieces, Jim writes the headlines).

That headline resulted in a huge eruption and our threatening to walk.  It's the only time we ever have threatened to walk.  Many weeks, we say we're sick of writing and want a relaxing Sunday.  But we don't say, "We're quitting!"

We did then.  We said change the headline right now or we walk.

In fairness to Jim, what the editorial described, the behavior?  Calling that "treason" wasn't an unreasonable leap. 

But "treason" carries with it a punishment of death. 

That makes the charge very serious and not one to be bandied about.

We had not written an editorial charging anyone with treason.  Due to the nature of that crime, if that had been the goal of an editorial, we would have skipped it. 

We don't care about tone.  Tina Brown, for example, called John Boehner's Rand Paul's "bitch" this week.  We don't think it was one of her finer moments (glass houses and all) but we didn't feel it was the end of the world or even a moment we needed to call out.

When you accuse someone of treason?

That's one of the most serious charges you can make in this country.  You do not make it lightly.

We happen to believe Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were railroaded.  We happen to believe that when terms like "treason" are lightly bandied about, it shapes and shades what follows.  We do not believe "treason" is ever to be used lightly.

We're all for free speech (unlike the awful Nick Robinson).  We're not calling for MSNBC to fire Ed Schultz or Joy Reid.  We are, however, saying that people who want serious discussions of issues just got two more reasons not to waste their time on MSNBC.  (To be clear, we don't watch MSNBC.  We may to review Alec Baldwin's new program.  The incidents discussed here were raised by a friend with MSNBC -- a friend who is a Cult of St. Barack-er but who does realize MSNBC has gone way too far.)

These are not informed discussions or even political discourse.  Saying, of a government shutdown, that a hostage has been shot is gross stupidity at best.  Screaming charges of treason is the sort of demagoguery best left to Joe McCarthy.

And sitcoms are probably best left to people who can be funny.

We're not sure Jerry O'Connell can.

Not after 2007's Car Poolers, not after 2008's Do Not Disturb and especially not after We Are Men.  Jerry's  failed as a sitcom lead on ABC, Fox and CBS.  No doubt NBC is now calling.

If they are, hopefully, they're smarter than CBS.  Jerry O'Connell ran around on the show with his shirt open or off and his ratty, long hair in disarray.  His character was a 'ladies' man' -- and this wasn't played for laughs.

The scrawny chest which screams of eating disorder does not set pulses racing.  The ratty hair would have been out-of-date on a man 20 years younger (O'Connell hits 40 in four months). 

In that cast, only Christopher Nicholas Smith could have attracted any significant number of women. 

Demonstrating the stupidity of both CBS and Rob Greenberg (producer and creator of We Are Men), Smith was cast as fumbling and fearful Gil to O'Connell's strutting stud Stuart.  Not since Warren Beatty was cast as the nerd and Dustin Hoffman the stud in Ishtar have the roles been more laughable -- but Beatty, Hoffman and director Elaine May played their casting for laughs.  Gteenberg and CBS expected you to take them seriously.

O'Connell has the limited capacity to play juvenile leads -- the Sal Mineo type roles, for example.  He stupidly never attempted to learn his craft.  And it shows.  Most of all what shows is his age.  We're reminded of the sixth season of Will &  Grace, the episode Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally wrote specifically.  In "A Gay/December Romance," Hal Linden guest stars as an older man attracted to Will (Eric McCormack) who, when rejected, points out the obvious, "Face it, you're getting to be a little long in the tooth for a boy toy."

So is Jerry O'Connell.  And if there's anything sadder than a 'comedic actor' who brays like a frat boy, it's one who is 20 years too old to play a frat boy.

Watching the nonsense NBC is putting Michael J. Fox through is hard to stomach.  Even more so was watching Jerry O'Connell.  If last week proved anything, it was that TV is no place for self-respect.

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