Sunday, May 25, 2014

TV: The Brave New World?

The internet was supposed to be an amazing equalizer.  It was going to clear the way for many.  But, reality, many was mainly many men.  Women are left out repeatedly.  It's not a new phenomena.  As early as 2005, it was being noted how male bloggers linked to one another but avoided women.  This outcry led to a few token linkings, nothing more.

But what about the world of original programming?

Surely, that's been better, right?


Netflix has a woman problem -- it's only got one original show which is female led (Orange Is The New Black).  Hulu can only point to the animated Mother Up.

A man like the hideous actor Tyler Labine can get his own Hulu series (Deadbeat) despite his previous three (TV) shows failing (Reaper, Sons of Tucson and Mad Love).  But where are the women?

Julia Stiles stars in Blue.  She's very good in the show.  But we're more interested in the work of two other women because they acted, produced and wrote their online TV shows.

Illeana Douglas came to most people's attention via the film Cape Fear.  Her strong acting was on full display in Allison Anders' amazing Grace Of My Heart.  Those are just two of Douglas' strong credits. Starting in 2008, she starred in the web series Easy To Assemble -- starred in, produced and wrote.  The premise of the 48 episode sitcom was that Illeana feels disconnected and thinks working at IKEA may be a way to find herself.  The series show cased her dry wit and featured guest appearances from Justine Bateman, Keanu Reeves, Jeff Goldblum, Tim Meadows, Ricki Lake, Patricia Heaton, Tim Meadows and many others.

The show debuted online in September 2008.  At that time ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW were airing thirteen comedies.  Only two of those thirteen starred women:  Samantha Who? and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

So the fact that Illeana got a sitcom online was even more of a big deal.  The fact that she was responsible for the show and that it was consistently funny should earn her a page or two when the history of internet programming is written.

The thing about Easy To Assemble is that, after four seasons, when it ceased production, it didn't go away and people continue to discover and enjoy the program.

Felicia Day is the other actress we want to emphasize.

While most know Easy To Assemble is no longer in production, many refuse to believe The Guild has ended its run.  The series ran for six seasons and 70 episodes.  And, yes, the series finale was filmed and broadcast.

Unlike Illeana's program, The Guild revolved around six characters including Day's character of  Codex.  The other five were part of her online gaming world.  There was the   Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh), Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda), Vork (Jeff Lewis), Bladezz (Vincent Caso) and Clara (Robin Thorsen).

Did you notice that?

It's a six person cast and, shocker, there are three women and three men.

Watching last week's output from the not-so Young Turks (forty is not young, kids), we were really marveling over the world Felicia Day created.

The Young Turks is an internet program starring middle-aged men.  They were all White last week.

Supposedly, this is a public affairs program with a focus on politics.


It doesn't have a focus on facts, that's obvious.

In a segment on a young college student who took her own life, Whitney Mixter felt the need to declare, "I believe she was a freshman."  You're the one providing background and you don't even know if the woman was a freshman?

The Young Turks cannot be bound by facts, you understand.  Facts weigh down their ability to craft pleasing narratives and ratchet up the outrage.

"Look, this is speculation and I really don't know," Ana Kasparian declared as an intro to her 'background' on Mark Cuban.  She didn't know what she was talking about, she didn't even know enough to know he was frequently controversial (apparently, she missed 2008's "The Burns and The Bees" episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns tries to emulate the antics of Cuban).

But nothing to be ashamed of there, the show is full of uninformed commentary.  A Fox News host was arrested for drunken behavior.  This prompted a lengthy segment in which John Iadarola felt the need to offer this 'insight,'  "I was not there.  We don't know the exact details of what happened.  But I have to imagine there was a 'Do you know who I am?' thrown at the police at some point."

Why does he have to imagine it?  Why does Kasparian have to insist Mark Cuban's under investigation when she's also stating that she's not sure that he is?

Because if The Young Turks weren't allowed to use fantasy role play in order to improve on the facts, their tired program would be even more threadbare than it already is.

This is a deeply stupid show.  And it's a deeply sexist one.  Ana Kasparian and Whitney Mixter were lucky to get one segment a show last week (it was one or the other on each episode, you got an Ana episode or a Whitney one).  They were brought on as the Mommy to these middle-aged men who thought f**k was the most important term in the English language.

Mommy Ana or Mommy Whitney would pop out for one brief segment and their role was basically to set the segment.  To act as moderator while a man or two men speculated.  Then they were gone and the segments after, like the ones before, featured John and Ben Mankiewicz (and sometimes a third man).

Ben was especially offensive as he mangled facts with regards to the VA scandal and then added this nonsense:

Ben Mankiewicz: This is veterans coming home from wars that we're fighting now.  You know, this isn't Vietnam, we're not sneering at veterans --

John Iadarola: Yeah.

Ben Mankiewicz:  -- thankfully anymore.

Thankfully anymore?

So The Young Turks, an allegedly liberal program, exists to repeat hoary lies about the left being against veterans?

It's unclear why this awful show exists at all.

Women may make up over 50% of the US population but they barely register on this program and when they do appear in their one segment each episode -- when one woman shows up -- she's tasked with playing Mommy putting out the toys for the little boys to then play with.

We should also point out the 'politics' they tackled.  Episodes last week dealt with such 'political' issues as what is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban like deep in his soul and whether he was 'under investigation,' a young woman took her own life after a porn film she made became public knowledge in her home town, a Fox News host was arrested at an airport for apparently being drunk, Wendy Davis campaigning in California  and being greeted with signs proclaiming her "Abortion Barbie," etc.

Now Davis jetting over to California was news -- news the show avoided.  She's campaigning for governor of Texas.  There was a story there about deep pockets and issues of who is being represented.  All that got avoided to focus on "Abortion Barbie."

This, we were told, is an offensive phrase.

That surprised us.

Not because we urge people to call any woman "Barbie" -- implying she's a doll.

But because we'd only heard that term once before.

No, not from conservative Erick Erickson who The Young Turks attacked.  (Attacked and didn't really explain who he was despite a whole segment on him.  We'd never heard his name before and don't feel we learned much about him from their segment.)

We heard the phrase, "abortion Barbie,"  back in March and heard it used on MSNBC.

We noted it when we reviewed Ronan Farrow's hideous show:

Besides calling her "abortion Barbie," he gushed of Wendy Davis, "I am a fan of hers, personally."

Maybe The Young Turks called that out?

(No, they didn't.)

This is a deeply stupid program where faux issues like a high school principal recalling prom invitations is treated as news with global impact.

We watched all week in vain as we waited for the program to raise the issues of War Crimes.

That, in fact, is the sole reason we watched.

Early last week, we were noting how the world press looks the other way as Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki kills Iraqi civilians.  He's long labeled Falluja -- where he is deeply unpopular -- a city where 'terrorists' have a foothold.  At the end of December, he began assaulting Anbar Province (whose big cities include Falluja and Ramadi), a Sunni dominant province which fueled the long standing charges that Shi'ite Nouri targets the Sunni population.

Labeling Falluja a hot bed of terrorism, Nouri began bombing it.

Falluja is a major city.  It has a huge population.

Nouri began bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja at the start of January.

This bombing continues all these months later.

Even if you believe there are 'terrorists' in Falluja, you are not allowed to kill civilians.

This is what is known as "collective punishment."  It is a legally defined War Crime and has been for decades.  The US government recognizes it as a War Crime in various laws and treaties.

Nouri is committing War Crimes.

Each day people are injured and/or killed.


And no one in the US government speaks out, the western press offers no fiery editorials.  At one or three dead a day, it doesn't apparently seem that much.  But as the days turn to weeks and as the weeks turn to months, the tolls of the dead and wounded add up.

Nouri's also bombed hospitals in Falluja repeatedly.  This too is a War Crime.

And yet, all we get is silence.

No, a male college student insisted last Monday, "The Young Turks wouldn't ignore this."  Two hours later, another fan of the show told us we needed to catch The Young Turks because they would be "all over this."

In both cases, we stopped and apologized.  We were unaware that The Young Turks had tackled the issue. We were happy to be corrected, thank goodness for The Young Turks.

What, we asked, did they say about the issue?

It turned out, no one could answer that question.

They hadn't seen The Young Turks cover the issue, you understand, they just felt that it was an issue The Young Turks would tackle.

Even their own 'fans' apparently don't bother to watch the episodes.

But we did.

Last week.

And we found a lot of nonsense, a lot of gossip and nothing of any real importance.

We think TMZ does more socially responsible work than The Young Turks which exists to tell you how awful this person or that person is -- while insisting that in comedy you "punch up" -- and that some morning shock jocks got fired for saying rude things.

They agreed, the two men discussing the topic introduced by a female Mommy, that shock jocks saying outrageous and offensive things was nothing new and that even the firing may have been nothing new.  And yet they devoted an entire segment to this.

Iraq came up briefly.  Sort of.

As an aside.

A thundering monologue (so you know it was a man) touched on Karl Rove and how he was responsible for the Iraq War and that 4,000 Americans had died and at least 100,000 Iraqis because of Karl Rove.

First, the number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.  When you're grandstanding on Iraq and don't know that number, you unknowingly expose your lack of caring and lack of knowledge.

Second, we'd go with The Lancet's study from a few years back which found over a million Iraqis died.  We'd assume the number now stands at 1.5 million but note that the numbers were deliberately kept vague, that the US government lied that they weren't keeping a count, etc.

Third, Karl Rove controlled Hillary Clinton?

We did not know that.

He controlled John Edwards and John Kerry?

A number of Democrats -- including those three -- voted for the Iraq War.

We didn't realize Karl Rove controlled them.

Or that he controlled Josh Micah Marsall, Ezra Klein and other 'left' voices who advocated for the start of the Iraq War.

We didn't realize that he controlled The New York Times, ABC News and every other outlet that promoted the 'need' for an illegal war.

We didn't realize he controlled John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, who joined in on the war campaign.  Or that Karl controlled Tony Blair, the UK prime minister who was shoulder-to-shoulder with Bully Boy Bush.

We think Karl Rove is a liar and that he has no ethics.  We have no problem classifying him as a War Hawk and a promoter of the illegal war.  But to hear the bluster of The Young Turks in full blown profanity because Bill O'Reilly called Rove "Mr. Rove"?

It was more than over the top, it was unstable.

Having briefly remembered the Iraq War, we thought, "Okay, when they're done with this nonsense, they'll make a point to talk about Iraq today."

They never did.

They apparently prefer nonsense to reality and, as much as they love the f-word, they love wasting everyone's time with trivia passed off as news.

And, again,  The Young Turks is a deeply sexist show.

This show was created for the web.  Where are the women?

This isn't an entrenched TV show on for decades that women have to fight to get even a little representation.  This is a show created on this 'brave new world' of the internet and no one, not one of the modern thinkers, thought to include women.

Forgive us for scoffing at the notion that the web will be the great equalizer.

The Young Turks includes Cenk Uygur and that's good because it gives them at least one person of color.

They had none last week so, realizing how hypocritical they may have come off attacking Rush Limbaugh for his very real verbal racism while they themselves employed systemic racism, they rushed to include a staff member, an African-American staff member, in the conversation.  Mainly to ask him how long it took him to put together the reel of Limbaugh's comments and also to ask him if he had eaten lunch.

And then they were more or less done with him.  Because White men should control the discussion of racism in this country, right?

If you answered back with a sincere "right," you might be a conservative or a Young Turk host.

And Toni Braxton's abortion and what she feels about it now?  Wasn't it great, after a Mommy set the boys up, to have two men pontificate endlessly about abortion?

We really appreciate the faux insight Ben Mankiewicz had to share.

We kept waiting for him to offer his best Helen Reddy as he burst into song, "Yes, I am wise.  But it's wisdom born of pain."

Even on abortion, the middle-aged men of The Young Turks want to grab center stage and act as the voice of the issue.

Which brings us back to Felicia Day.

How did she manage to create a sitcom that valued women?  That had three female cast members and three male cast members?  That included an Asian-American cast member and a Indian-American cast member?

Amazing that Day looked around for inspiration for her show and chose to reflect the world she lives in and not the White and Male world of TV broadcasting.

And maybe it was wanting to portray this world that made The Guild so rich?  The character details were amazing, the twists of plot lines surprising.

The Guild is probably the best series created for the internet.

Yes, we think it's far superior to Netflix's House of Cards but if that offends your Water Cooler sensibilities, grasp that House of Cards was not created for the internet, it's a remake of a British TV program.

We think Illeana Douglas has earned her page in internet video programming history and we think Felicity Day has as well.

But there's more with regards to Day.

She's one of the creators of Geeks & Sundry, a two-year-old YouTube channel.  You can find The Guild there, yes.  You can also find Wil Wheaton's Table Talk (board games game show), Arcade Arms with Nika Harper, Felicity and her brother Ryon Day's Retro: Let's Play, The Flog, Swords & Lasers, and much more.

The Young Turks took a distorted view of the world broadcast on TV for decades, a primarily White and male world, embraced that view and amplified it.

Felicity Day, however, personifies what the net was supposed to provide us, a wider range of voices.  Some may dismiss the sitcoms, gaming shows, vlogs, cooking shows, book and comic book shows, etc. as "just entertainment."  There's a lot of life coming out of these "just entertainment" programs.

Furthermore, The Young Turks fails at political and is just a messy gossip show.  Too bad they can't even rate as "just entertainment."

Reactionary is the term for what the boys of The Young Turks are offering.  We're not sure we'd call Felicity Day a "visionary" (we wouldn't object if someone else called her that) but she's certainly a pioneer and one who represents the best that the internet can and should offer.

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