Sunday, February 02, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Iraqi’s government assault on Anbar continues.  Maliki’s Collective punishment is called “Revenge for the martyr Mohamed” which was preceded by a campaign with the title: “Revenge for martyrs”.
And the attacks have been indiscriminate leading many civilians to flee.  – The UN refugee agency on Friday reported[1] that more than 65,000 people had over the past week fled the conflict in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar province. Since fighting broke out at the end of last year, more than 140,000 people have been made homeless by fighting according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
This number comes on top of the 1.13 million people already internally displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces.
"Many of the displaced, nonetheless, are still in desperate need of food, medical care, and other aid. As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again," according to UN.
The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. Currently, it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq.

--  Iraqi novelist and activist Haifa Zangana, "The continuing deterioration of women's rights in Iraq" (BRussells Tribunal).

Truest statement of the week II

Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.
Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide. The potentially most devastating Obama contribution to economic inequality is being crafted in secret by hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers and their revolving-door counterparts in government. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as “NAFTA on steroids,” would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom that has made a wasteland of American manufacturing, plunging the working class into levels of poverty and insecurity without parallel in most people’s lifetimes, and totally eviscerating the meager gains of three generations of African Americans.

-- Glen Ford, "American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week III

It is notable that even though it is an election year, Obama made no call for voters to elect individuals pledged to implement his proposals. Rather the speech was an assertion, from an individual who more than any other has presided over the shredding of large sections of the Constitution, that the president has the power to act regardless of opposition. The target of these actions is the working class.
There was almost no mention of the vast police-state spying apparatus that has been revealed over the past year. The president sits on top of a military-intelligence complex that monitors the communications of virtually the entire planet. The day before Obama’s remarks, the latest information from Edward Snowden revealed that the US and its UK partners collect data from cell phone applications in order to determine the “political alignments” of millions of users worldwide.
Obama’s only reference to the collapse of democratic rights was to defend the “vital work of our intelligence community” while promising token reforms in order to boost “public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.” In fact, these reforms are intended to ensure that the government can go on violating this privacy.
As Obama spoke, Snowden remained in exile in Russia, facing death threats from US military and intelligence officials.

--  Joseph Kishore, "Obama’s State of the Union address: An empty and reactionary charade" (WSWS)

A note to our readers

Hey --

One more Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
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),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with:

This truest was chosen by Third, plus Betty, Wally, Kat, Mike and Elaine.
This was chosen by all listed above in the "who worked on the edition" section.
Also chosen by all.
Everyone listed in the link list above -- and Dallas -- worked on this.  We worked on it Sunday morning.  We rushed the edition.  I (Jim) wanted to be sure it was done before the Superbowl and that I could get a long nap in as well.  I admit it, I cop to it.  So what happened was a few hours after the Superbowl -- which Jess, Ava and C.I. skipped to go the movies -- when the skippers returned, I explained my attitude which was the entire edition sucked.  Would they be willing to work on it again?  So this was rewritten and tightened in another round by Betty, Kat, Wally, Mike, Elaine, Dona, Ty, Jess, myself and Ava and C.I.
Ava and C.I. surprised me by immediately agreeing to a re-working.  They had written a piece they weren't happy with (not uncommon for them, they rarely like their own writing).  At the movies, they had thought of all they should have said.  So they rewrote this?  No.  The original piece was about a show that sucks because the show lost an actress.  They thought of all the ways women were screwed over by the entertainment business currently and they planned to add that to this but it went off on its own direction.  This is a very great piece of reporting and it's much stronger than their other piece.

With a brief final draft by Betty, Ava and C.I., this is more or less what we all worked on early Sunday. 
This was a piece for the second edition.  Why?  Because we had a much smaller group which I hoped would make a roundtable easier.
You've wanted it back.  We've noted that in roundtables.  We've said we'd bring it back.  And then we didn't.  Over and over for two years.  At least two years.  It's back.  Thank Dona and Elaine for that.
Ty wrote an incredible piece.  It started with him complaining about something in gay porn and C.I. replying that it was "like a porn rule or something."  This led Ty to joke about other porn rules in gay porn.  We were all laughing.  C.I. said, "Ty, you've got to write something on this."  Ty said no.  Then we got an insulting e-mail and, when we got back together for the let's-do-it-again writing session, Ty agreed to do this piece.

Goes to Noam Chomsky.

Pretty damn racist.  I wasn't aware.  I learned a lot on this one.  The piece was started by Jess.  He wrote the first two paragraphs in the Sunday morning edition.  It then went through a draft with everyone and really didn't work.  So it went to the trash heap.  The second time we got together, Dona asked Jess to pull up his first version and we then worked -- Kat, Betty, Wally, Mike, Elaine and those of us with Third -- on it till we got it right.

The e-mail that made Ty (and the rest of us) mad is in this piece I wrote.  I tried to grab the e-mails that I couldn't fit into the roundtable. 
Repost from Workers World.

Press release from Senator Wyden's office. 
Repost from Workers World that I hope you will share with everyone you know -- a very important article.
Mike, Elaine, Wally, Betty, Cedric, Ann, Trina, Isaiah, Ruth, Rebecca, Kat and Marcia wrote this and we thank them for it.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: War Crimes

The headline that probably captures the ongoing assault best?

"Helicopters renew bombing areas south and southeast of Falluja."

Saturday, National Iraqi News Agency reported an attack on an al-Sicher checkpoint left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured, a Hamman al-Alil attack left 1 person dead and two more injured, a Latifya bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, a Muzaffar car bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, 3 Daash fighters were killed in Ramadi, an eastern Baghdad car bombing (Palestine Street) killed 1 person and left nine more injured, a Muzaffer Square car bombing claimed 3 lives and left eleven injured, a Meshahdea roadside bombing left five Iraqi soldiers injured, a Rahseed roadside bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, Baghdad Operations Comand announces they've killed 9 suspects, and the Ministry of Defense announces they've killed 15 suspects.

For those who missed it, chief thug and prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, started an assault on Anbar Province as December and 2013 drew to a close.  Anbar is largely Sunni and if one thing has stood out in Nouri's two terms as prime minister, it's that he hates the Sunnis.

He's repeatedly targeted Sunni politicians.  To the point that Iraq's own Vice President, Tareq al-Hashemi, can't enter Iraq.  A sham of a court, controlled by Nouri, convicted al-Hashemi in absentia.  The judge refused to allow Jalal Talabani to testify.  Talabani wanted to testify.  If you're not getting how wrong the denial was, you may not know that Jalal was (still is) the President of Iraq.

They wouldn't let the president of the country testify.  They also tried Tareq al-Hashemi despite the fact that he has immunity while in office and only Parliament can remove the immunity.  That means until he's out of office, he can't go on trial unless Parliament agrees to it.  Parliament didn't agree to it.

That's just the most extreme conduct.  (Although his early dawn raid on MP Ahmed al-Alwani's home -- a raid that left six people dead, including al-Alwani's brother -- may come close -- and if al-Alwani is tried -- for 'terrorism' -- it may top what he did to al-Hashemi.)  There's a long list of Sunnis he's gone after.

Sunni politicians.

There's also the Sunni people.  In Anbar and elsewhere, they have been protesting Nouri's government non-stop since December 21, 2012.

How does Nouri respond?  Well  January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul,  January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.

And as bad as that sounds, it got worse. The April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

He kicked off the assault on Anbar by sending his forces in to tear down the protesters tents and to harass and physically remove them.

That's how he treats the Sunni people.

Sahwa are mainly Sunnis (according to then-Gen David Petraeus in 2008, they also included a few Shi'ites).  These are fighters who were attacking the US military and the US military's property.  So they put them on the US payroll.  Until Senator Barbara Boxer asked, in April 2008, why the Iraqi government wasn't paying for this itself?

They were supposed to.  But the US kept making payments even after McClatchy Newspapers and a few others (falsely) announced that the Sahwa had been turned over to the Iraqi government.

Nouri didn't want to pay them.  He didn't want to make them part of the country's security forces either.

He didn't mind arresting them.  He didn't mind when they quit due to non-payment.


Why do you think?  Because they were Sunni.

January 23rd, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi spoke at the Brookings Institution in DC. al-Nujafi is Sunni.   His remarks included:

So the political components in Iraq were not able to build the Iraqi political system or to implement the Constitution and to reach a genuine partnership and a genuine reconciliation.  They were not able to implement the laws as it should be and get rid of corruption and abuses and they did not respect all the Iraqi components as to represent them  in a fair manner in the armed forces.  According to the Constitution, they did not provide the provinces with enough funds. Also we did not adopt the law on hydrocarbons oil and gas which is very important to set a balanced relation between the provinces and the center for the production and exportation of oil.  
So some parties are implementing the Constitution based on their own perspective and this is hindering the building of the state, the national cohesion and is leading to more division.  And more and more people are being disappointed and do not trust the political process at this point as we have seen by the very low turnout in the last general elections [2013 provincial elections] and the ones before [2010 parliamentary elections]. We believe that Iraq is, at this point, at a crossroad.  The key to situation is clear and we can find a solution.  What we need though is a strong determination and the political will for everyone to agree on the Constitution and to forget the past, to move beyond the fears and to stop punishing the Iraqi people and move to reconciliation and prevent Iraq from sliding into even greater troubles.  
In the Kurdish provinces [Kurdistan Regional Government, three semi-autonomous provinces in northern Iraq] there was a law adopted to amnesty every one who committed a crime against the Kurdish people and worked with the previous regime.  Some of them were accused of violent crimes but they decided to amnesty everyone.  And the situation in the Kurdish provinces is stable and everyone is part of the political process.  The Kurdish provinces are now an example of security and successful investment and  wise politics.  
But in central Iraq, we are still arresting people and we are also still implementing the law on the Justice and Accountability in a partial sectarian way.  We are still banishing some of the Iraqi people who were not part of the previous regime and doing so for political reasons.  That is unfair. 
So we have failed in implementing this law.  

Iraq is violent right now for many reasons -- chief among them (1) the US government (along with the UK government) started an illegal war that devastated a country already torn and harmed by US sanctions and (2) that the US government refused to allow Iraq to choose their prime minister in 2006 and imposed Nouri on them and, in 2010, when Nouri's State of Law lost the election to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, the US government again insisted Nouri would be prime minister.

But those aren't the only reasons there is violence.

After those two US government actions, there's also Nouri himself.

Nouri doesn't want the country to heal, he wants to destroy the Sunnis.  He blames them for forcing him to cowardly run from the country he now pretends to qualify to rule.  He was a chicken who wouldn't fight Saddam Hussein.  But he would spend years as an exile imploring the US government to take out Saddam.

And he blames the Sunnis and now intends to have his revenge.  That's his ruling pattern.

So now, pretending he's going after 'terrorists,' Nouri assaults Anbar.

Falluja General Hospital?

It's off limits, it's a hospital.  But that didn't stop Nouri from ordering it to be shelled.

He's also shelled and bombed residential neighborhoods in this assault.

He's carrying out collective punishment which is defined as a War Crime.

And innocents, as pictured below in Falluja after Nouri ordered a residential area bombed last Thursday, are the victims of his War Crimes.

احد الجرحى الذين اصيبوا اليوم بسبب القصف المتعمد من قبل مليشيات المالكي التي تستهدف الاحياء السكنية في ،

And he's doing it with weapons that US President Barack Obama keeps supplying him with.

That makes Barack a War Criminal.

These are War Crimes and most people in the US won't even acknowledge what's taking place.

So much for the so-called peace movement.

Excuse us, we called it the peace movement because we believe in peace.

It was more commonly referred to as the anti-war movement.

And, of course, for false leaders like Leslie Cagan, it was really just an anti-Bully Boy Bush movement and they lost all interest in peace when they got Barack into the White House.

TV: Who gets the green light, who gets the work?

Last fall in "TV: The sewer that is NBC" and "TV: NBC provides the glee," we noted how NBC had presented a new slate of programs but not one program starred a woman.  And there wasn't much to brag about in their returning programs.

Ty informed us of all the positive e-mails that noted "good catch" and wondered why other critics hadn't noticed it.  They didn't notice it because, read their work, they don't value women.


In that way, they're a great deal like NBC, in fact.  Remember, NBC had the chance, in 2012, to greenlight a new Roseanne Barr comedy -- one that would not only find her playing a character similar to her character in the ground breaking and hugely popular Roseanne sitcom but it would also reteam her with John Goodman who played her husband on that sitcom.

How does that not get on the air?

How do you not get behind that?

You are the ratings loser.  You've got a shot at Roseanne's first follow up sitcom since Roseanne left the air in the 90s.  John Goodman will be her co-star. And you can probably count on many other members of the cast of the previous sitcom to guest star.

Roseanne's a stand up comedian who has been doing stand up since the previous sitcom ended.  Why does that matter?  Because she knows funny.

Let's look instead at the last three sitcom stars NBC gave new shows too.

There's Paul Reiser.  That turned out awful.  That was 2011.  Fall 2013 found the network offering two more sitcom stars: Michael J. Fox in The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Hayes in Sean Will Save The World.

Fox is an actor.  Where is the idea that he knows funny coming from?

There's never been any proof that he knows funny.

He did play a sitcom character.  On Family Ties and Spin City -- one was a hit, one really wasn't -- he played the same character.  Parkinson's meant he made the decision to leave Spin City.  He didn't think he could continue to play the character.  In the time since, he's done some dramatic work and been very effective in those roles (see his guest spots on The Good Wife for an example).  But he can't play Alex Mike Flaherty-Keaton anymore.  The first real star of TV sitcom Lucille Ball couldn't keep playing Lucy as she learned in 1986's Life With Lucy.

Part of the reason that The Michael J. Fox is so awful -- and it's the worst sitcom airing -- is because (a) it's not funny and (b) Fox is trying to play Alex Mike Flaherty Keaton.  If Fox were doing stand up, he might have developed a new persona.  He didn't.  And to watch him struggle -- against age and against his disease -- to play a character he can't pull off -- a quick to the punch smart mouth -- depresses a number of viewers which is why the show is the lowest rated sitcom NBC has had.  Fox could have played a different character and should have.

But he couldn't see that and NBC put him in charge of the show.  The failed film actor.  The sitcomer who had never been in charge of a hit show (Spin City was not a hit and, while they humored his rage -- they confused it with dedication to craft -- he really wasn't in charge of the creation of the show or scripts).

We bring that up for a reason but let's move on to Sean.

Sean actually was a better selection.  He was a star of Will & Grace and was actually funny -- when his part was written smart or when scripts appeared to have no idea who Jack McFarland even was, Sean pulled it off.  He and Todd Milliner run Hazy Mills Productions which is responsible for the hit sitcom Hot In Cleveland as well as for Grimm, The Soul Man and Hollywood Game Night. Hazy Mills produced Sean Saves The World and Sean and Todd were producers.

Sean was their only smart choice of the three.  And Sean did deliver.  The last nine episodes of the show drew higher ratings than The Michael J. Fox Show.  Michael J. Fox has blamed Sean (and Sean being gay) for driving viewers away from his show.  See, Sean Saves The World has been the lead-in for The Michael J. Fox Show.  It really doesn't make sense that Sean's show was driving away viewers if Michael was so popular because wouldn't that mean that Michael would be beating Sean in the ratings?

Tired of hearing Fox's gripes and wanting to shut him up (and see a point), NBC swapped the shows for a week, making Fox the lead-in.  Did Fox's ratings sky rocket?

No.  Without Sean as his lead-in, Fox's show posted it's second worst numbers -- only 2.18 million people watched.  (Sean had 2.58 million.)

The reason for the move, two at NBC explained, was that they hoped Fox would leave the state of denial, or at least come to the border, and admit that Hayes wasn't destroying Fox's show, that the fact was no one wanted to watch the show.

They were gambling Fox would grasp that and announce production was ceasing.

To get Fox, they had to agree that NBC would commit to 22 episodes.

It is NBC's lowest rated sitcom and, last month, became NBC lowest rated sitcom ever -- not just on Thursday nights this year, but the lowest on any night ever for the network.

And they thought switching the programs would finally drive home the point to Fox that not only was no one watching but that he was embarrassing himself by continuing the series.

Never doubt a male actor's vanity.

We told them that last week.  They responded they couldn't believe that he was going to continue with this show, that instead of asking to be released from the contract allowing the show to stop airing.

This is when we brought up Roseanne as we often do to these two execs.  But we weren't bringing up the failure to get behind the repairing Roseanne with Goodman sitcom, we were griping them out for NBC's latest Roseanne stunt.

They took a lot of heat in the industry for passing on Roseanne and Goodman.  So much so that they decided to try again.  They went after Roseanne for a new sitcom.  They wanted her to work with a show runner, Linda Wallem.

Linda Wallem has a lot of talent -- mainly as a writer.  More to the point, mainly as a writer on TV shows other people have created and established the characters of.   Her attempts at creating shows have been awful.  For example, the quickly cancelled That 80s Show and the non-sitcom Nurse Jackie.

And of Nurse Jackie's 56 episodes, Linda only wrote one herself.  (She co-wrote six others.)  She wrote two episodes of Cybill and co-wrote ten episodes and provided the story idea for five more.

Teaming her up with Roseanne didn't have to be a bad idea.  Roseanne knows funny, Roseanne knows characters.  Her groundbreaking sitcom was her stage act.  Because she was new to television, she didn't realize that her characters, created for her stage act, being written into a sitcom meant that she should get credit for that.  She didn't realize she was being ripped off.

On this proposed show, using Linda would be wonderful -- provided you let Roseanne create the characters and then let Linda work on some scripts with Roseanne.

That's not what happened.

Linda had a little -- very little -- contact with Roseanne then went off to write what she'd always planned to write, refusing to include any details and characters Roseanne had come up with.  She didn't even return Roseanne's calls during these weeks and weeks of writing.  She returned with a script that wasn't funny and that wasn't worth filming.

Roseanne sounded off -- and was right to -- and NBC responded by dropping the project.

First off, any TV episode that takes weeks and weeks to write is of no value to anyone, even if it's half-way good.  Why?

You don't get weeks and weeks to write an episode for a weekly TV show.  You need to have it written in a week.  If you can't manage that, you can't manage writing for TV.

Second, the conflict present was NBC's fault and they should have realized that.

Nurse Jackie is not a sitcom and it's not a Roseanne point of view.

Third, Nurse Jackie averaged .7 million viewers in its most recent season -- which was actually up from the previous one.  Is NBC really trying for .7 million viewers?  If that's the goal, why not just announce the renewal of The Michael J. Fox Show for another season?

Now that one stung and they were both hurt and pointed out that we've repeatedly given them grief in person and here in our writing over the failure of NBC to produce sitcoms around any of TV's established female comedy stars such as Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Helen Hunt, etc.  Here, they insisted, they were seriously trying.

No, they weren't.

Paul Reiser, Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes were all allowed to develop the shows they wanted with the people they wanted to work with.

Roseanne wasn't trusted to develop a show or to choose who she did or didn't want to work with.

And, hate to break it to them, but Roseanne is bigger than any of those three men and funnier than all combined.

Roseanne was the star of her hit show.  On Mad About You, Paul co-starred with Helen Hunt (who made him look so much better than he was).  Michael was only the star of Spin City and that was never a top ten show any year he starred in it.  Family Ties was a top ten show but he and Meredith Baxter headed an ensemble cast.  Sean was a supporting actor to series leads Debra Messing and Eric McCormack.  Mad About You does well today in syndication. Roseanne does better, but Mad About You does well.  Spin City and Family Ties?  Not so good, not so good at all.

So since she's clearly the one with the strongest track record, why weren't her instincts trusted?

"If we were sexists," one immediately responded, "we wouldn't have gone for the pairing with Wallem."

Yeah, they would.  They didn't trust that a female performer could have a larger vision, could envision a show, they wrongly assumed she'd just be counting her lines and worrying about her character's wardrobe and how she looked on camera.

They also feared that she would be hard to control, hence the addition of low key Wallem.

Roseanne does have a reputation of being combative.  She fought for her hit sitcom.

Thing is though, in the industry, Fox and Reiser had similar reputations.  Only their antics, their stunts, weren't about the quality of the scripts.  They were fighting to have people fired (Reiser didn't get Hunt fired despite his  attempts, Fox got an actress fired on Family Ties and one fired on Spin City -- these weren't guest stars.)

Equally true, NBC went out of their way with Fox, Reiser and Hayes.

But with Roseanne, they paired her with Wellam.

Again, Wallem can write a funny script about characters created by others.  The only time she had a hand on a pilot script was That 80s Show and Insatiable -- need we say more?

Equally important is where Wallem hails from:  Carsey-Werner.

Roseanne, like many lead actresses, didn't have pleasant relations with Carsey-Werner.  They flat out lied to Cybill Shephard -- repeatedly. Madeline Kahn found them unresponsive on the first show she worked on them with (Oh, Madeline!) and knew on the second (Cosby) to ask Bill Cosby when an issue arose.  Justine Bateman walked on the then-hit show Men Behaving Badly (it tanked in the second season, after she left) because Carsey-Werner couldn't get their act and supervise the show leading to endless firings and a revolving door of producers. And we could go on and on.

With that for a background, Linda Wallem already had a strike against her.

But to repeat, she'd never been responsible for a pilot except for That 80s Show and Insatiable -- and both times she had co-writers.  That 80s Show is one of the '00s most notorious bombs.  Insatiable was such a bomb that it didn't even earn notoriety for its failure.

They didn't respect Roseanne enough to let her run her own development and then they insisted she be paired with someone who was unqualified to create characters and whose previous work carried baggage that wouldn't mesh well with Roseanne.

"Does it matter!!!!"

There we're quoting the e-mail Ty passed on to us, the only one complaining about our previous reporting of how NBC introduced a slate of new programs last fall and not one of them starred a woman.

"Does it matter!!!!" exclaimed betchamydicksbigger@____.  "I see women all day as I go around.  Just because they don't get to star in a TV show doesn't mean they don't exist.  It just means they're not funny enough to star in sitcoms and they aren't mature and wise enough to carry a procedural."

Does it matter?

We'd argue the opinions of betachmydicksbigger@____ demonstrates that, yes, it does matter.

Last fall, for example, two women of color starred in hour long TV shows (Kerry Washington in Scandal and Maggie Q in Nikita) and a third co-starred (Lucy Liu in Elementary).  While we applaud the work of Washington, Q and Liu and especially the work of writer, producer, show runner Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy and Scandal), we realize how sad and appalling those figures are.

And we realize how awful its been for all women and how recent the change has been.

Those two promotional photos above ran in the October, 1974 issue of Ms. magazine. Sue Cameron's "Police Drama:  Women Are On The Case" opened with, "Not since Barbara Stanwyck starred in The Big Valley has a woman had the lead in a weekly dramatic series. This year Angie Dickinson and Teresa Graves have hit prime time as the leads of two police stories, Police Woman (NBC) and Get Christie Love (ABC)."  The last new episode of The Big Valley aired in May of 1969.  From then until September 11, 1974, when Get Christy Love debuted, there had been no female star of a TV drama.  (Police Woman debuted September 13th.)

39 years later, NBC thought it was acceptable to unveil a fall season without one show -- sitcom or drama, 30 minutes or hour long -- that starred a woman?

Yeah, it matters.

Ty tells us three people e-mailed objecting to this section of our "TV: Feminism is telling painful truths:"

We don't question  Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' personal feminism.  But, even while we allow that she's amazingly talented, we are bothered by her back sliding professionally.
On her previous show, Kari Lizer was the show runner.  The cast was a balanced cast in terms of gender. Women could also write for the show.  And did.
The New Adventures of Old Christine was easily the finest sitcom CBS has had in the last 20 years.  The Water Cooler Set ignored it.
They love Veep.
Is it just a coincidence that in two seasons not one episode has been written or co-written by a woman?
We love Julia.  But we'd be hard pressed to promote her as an artistic feminist since she could use her star role (and the power that comes with it) to demand that women be allowed to write episodes.
See, feminism isn't 'you-ism.'
It's not good enough for you to 'succeed'  while others' lives remain unchanged.
You need to be bringing others along with you.
Again, we love Julia -- as an actress and as a person.
And we know what we typed will hurt her.
But it's not 'youism.'
It's feminism.
It's a movement, not an individual.
And we need to stop looking at what one woman has done for herself and focusing more on what women are doing for women. 

One wanted us to know that Veep is a new show so we shouldn't judge it the way we would other shows.

First off, two seasons have aired (season three starts in April).  Second, even if this was their first season, what's being suggested here?  That the people in charge have to be given time to get accustomed to women? Our apologies.  We thought show runner Armando Iannucci was from Scotland.  We didn't realize he'd just arrived on earth from a planet that had no female inhabitants.

One wanted to argue that Julia had "paid off her debt with The New Adventures of Old Christine."  Using female writers is a debt?  It's something you can pay off?  Was it like charity work or, more to the point, court-ordered community service?

The third insisted, "HBO is and always has been a network programmed for male viewers.  Of course, they're not going to use female writers.  Entourage is the gold standard for HBO, it's why people watch."

Goodness do we feel stupid and are faces are red.  HBO isn't trying to get female viewers.

We did not know that.  And neither did HBO.

Sex in the City remains HBO's biggest half-hour hit.  In its final season, it average 7.9 million viewers an episode with the series finale being watched by 10.6 million. (Of all of HBO's original programming, only The Sopranos posted more viewers for their series finale: 11.9.)

And Entourage?  It's not in production anymore and its final season saw an average of two million people watching each episode.  It was a much written about TV show by the media, it just wasn't as popular as either The Sopranos or Sex In The City.

Another popular HBO show was The Larry Sanders Show.

Do you know who Rosie Shuster is?

If not, you don't know much about comedy writing.

But in terms of Sanders' show, she, Garry Shandling, Paul Simms and Peter Roaln co-wrote the third episode ("The Spiders Episode"). That was the first of 21 episodes of The Larry Sanders Show to be written or co-written by a woman (the number's higher if we also include those who came up with the story idea).  21 isn't great, especially when you consider the show aired 89 episodes.  But 21 is a hell of a lot better than zero.  15 of True Blood's episodes have been written or co-written by women.  8 of Boardwalk Empire's 48 episodes were written or co-written by women.  4 of Game of Thrones 32  episodes have been written or co-written by women.

This doesn't suggest a men-only policy.  It does suggest that HBO grossly undervalues women.  And no where is that more obvious than with the awful series Girls.  Of the first 28 episodes, men wrote or co-wrote 11.  And  men, just FYI, have directed 11 of the first 28 episodes of this alleged feminist show.

Does it matter who writes?

Yes, it does.

Because real writers bring their own life experiences to a script.  (Pretend writers just re-write movies they've seen.)  We do not believe that men can't write convincing female characters.  But we also don't believe women can't write convincing male characters.  We think both have something worth saying and that when both are utilized, there's a greater chance of saying something worth saying, of having meaning, of having a better laugh or a better cry.

And we think that women have been shut out of the conversation, shut out of the debate, for too long in television.

So, yeah, it does matter.

It matters to viewers who complain of a sameness on television -- gee, how do you get sameness?  By resorting to the same stories told the same way.

Diversity's only an enemy to boredom.  Everyone else should gladly welcome it.

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

movie montage

The 20th century proved one thing for film: multiple drafts of a good screenplay, a succession of writers brought in over and over to rewrite destroys all that was good and original and interesting in the first place.

Tootsie is the film exception.

Among the writers who took turns at the screenplay?  Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, Don McGuire, Barry Levinson, Elaine May and Robert Garland.

The end result?

Sydney Pollack directs not just one of the great comedies of the 1980s but one of the great comedies of the 20th century.

The basic story?  Michael Dorsey is a controlling actor who has an opinion that must be expressed and followed as we see in a series of auditions at the start of the film.  No one denies his talent, but no one wants to work with him because of his perfectionism which has earned him a reputation as being difficult.  Michael's oblivious to this and focused on his the play he wants to do, Return To Love Canal, written by his roommate Jeff.  At a birthday party for Michael we get more insight into Michael and meet his friend Sandy who is an actress who also believes in Jeff's play.

Along with being trapped in the bathroom for a good portion of the party, Sandy has other problems as we learn when Michael walks her home.

Sandy:  I did have a good time. I really did.

Michael:   You didn't. Wait! Money for cab fare.

Sandy:  That's okay. It's cheaper to get mugged. Let's walk. The fares are really insane now anyway.

Michael:  Why didn't you have a good time?

Sandy:  I did have a good time.

Michael:  What's wrong?

Sandy:  (crying) Nothing's wrong. What?

Michael:  What?

Sandy:  Nothing! I'm perfectly fine. I just cry like this, like a tic.

Michael:  Tell me what's wrong, or I'll kill you.

Sandy:  Nothing's wrong, Michael. I'm really very up.

Michael:  You're worried about your audition. Why?

Sandy:  Because I'm not going to get it.

Michael: Why not?

Sandy: Because I'm completely wrong for it.

Michael:  What kind of a part is it?

Sandy:  A woman!

Michael ends up staying to run lines with her..  Sandy's audition is for a soap, Southwest General.  The character she's up for, Emily Kimberly, is a strong woman, a hospital administrator.  Michael and Sandy work on her bringing anger to the part and Sandy's worried that she won't be able to work up the anger on her own so Michael says he'll accompany her to the audition.

Bad news for both.  The soap's director, Ron Carlisle, won't let Sandy read.  She's wrong for the part, he insists.  Michael tells her she'll get the audition and they walk over to the receptionist where Michael asks if his friend Terry Bishop is working today.  This is where the second bad news comes.  Bishop has left the show to do The Iceman Cometh -- a part Michael was supposed to be up for.

He runs to his agent George who explains that no one will hire him, that Michael Dorsey is only a name if you're sending back a steak, that no one wants to hire him.

No one in New York wants to hire him, Michael asks?

Not just New York, California as well.

George: I can't even get you a commercial.  You played a tomato -- and they went over schedule because you wouldn't sit.

Michael:  Yes.  It wasn't logical.

George: You were a tomato! A tomato doesn't have logic!  It can't move!

Michael:  So if he can't move, how's he going to sit down?

Told that no one would hire him, Michael Dorsey dresses up as Dorothy Michaels and goes out for the part of Emily Kimberly on Southwest General.

Ron takes one look at Dorothy and says no.

Michael/Dorothy immediately realizes the problem, she's too genteel.  Ron, a sexist, believes powerful women are masculine and odd and he doesn't believe Dorothy is "threatening enough."

Dorothy:  I think I know what you want.  You want a caricature of a woman to prove some point like power makes a woman masculine or masculine women are ugly.  Well shame on any woman that lets you do that.  And that means you, Miss Marshall.

That's Rita Marshall, the producer of the soap and she wants Dorothy to audition and then wants Dorothy for the part.

Dorothy follows George to the Russian Tearoom and sits down with him.

George is shocked to find out that it's Michael.  He thinks the whole plan is insane -- but he's an agent and not turning down a commission.

Jeff will have the money to stage the play thanks to the role.  Sandy will have a lead part in the play.

At Sandy's, while she's showering, Michael tries to see what he'd look like in her clothes.  She finds him semi-undressed and to explain it, he announces he's always been attracted to her and the two sleep together.

The next day, is Dorothy's first on the set and many things happen including meeting April whom she shares a dressing room with.

April, the actress who refers to the scripts as "s**t" and is kind of bitter and kind of suspicious of Dorothy.  Mainly though, it involves Dorothy meeting the soap's lead actress Julie Nichols.   Julie's doing a scene with Rick that Dorothy's Emily and John Van Horne's character will walk in on.  Dorothy has questions about the scene but Ron just wants to provide direction to Rick and Julie.

Ron: Now, Julie, honey, when he grabs you, you've got to be torn.  You've got to struggle because you know you've got to get those tubes stuck back up his nose.  But at the same time, you  realize you're in the arms of a man whose music was-was everything to Anthea.  It was her whole life.  I mean this is a man who stood by you after Ted's breakdown. Bernie, get me a bagel and cream cheese, will you?

Bernie: Julie, you want anything?

Ron: No, no, she's fine, thanks.  (to Julie) So it's a struggle, but you're struggling with yourself as well, do you understand?

Julie: And I lose, right?

Ron: (Squatting) Get down here.  Now Rick, it says when she comes down to her knees, it inflames your desire.  God knows, (patting her on the butt) it always inflames my desire.

The scene makes clear that Ron is a sexist and that Julie's no dumb blond.  The even-handed and cutting way she delivers, "And I lose, right?"

Dorothy never gets time from Ron so she does it her way in the scene.  It works but petty Ron explodes and Dorothy says she was wrong not to have consulted him before hand.  We also see Julie back Dorothy up ("It was a good instinct.  It would have been mine.").

At this point, the film gets even more complicated.  Dorothy and Julie become friends, Dorothy learns Ron cheats on Julie, Michael is attracted to Julie, Julie's father Les is attracted to Dorothy.  And Michael is becoming Dorothy.

Michael:  I am Dorothy. Dorothy is me.  No one's writing that part. It's coming out of me. 

George:  You're Michael acting Dorothy. 

Michael:   It's the same thing. It's a woman in me.  I'm experiencing these feelings. Why can't you get me a special? Please, I could sing as Dorothy I could do some monologues.  I feel I have something to say to women. 

George:  Listen to me, Michael.  You have nothing to say to women. 

Michael:  That's not true! I have plenty to say to women. I've been an unemployed actor for 20     years, George!  You know that.   I know what it's like to wait for it -- waiting for it to ring! Then when I finally get a job, I have no control! Everybody else has the power and I got zip! If I could impart that experience to other women like me -- 

George:  You've got to listen, Michael, there are no other women like you. You're a man! 

Michael:  Yes, I realize that, of course. But I'm also an actress. 

George:  Michael, I don't think we should argue about this, I mean really -- .

Michael:  A potentially great actress! I could do Medea, I could do Ophelia, I could do Lady Macbeth. Just like they did in Shakespeare's days. Why don't you get the writers at the agency --

George:  I got --

Michael:  I could do a great Eleanor Roosevelt. 

I got a terrific idea -- 

 We can do the Eleanor Roosevelt story! 

George:   The Eleanor Roosevelt story? 

Michael:  What's the matter with that?

George's idea is Michael attending a party.  Michael will end up at the big party -- a big party that Julie's at. He will try to come onto her using a line Julie told Dorothy she wished a man would use.  Julie throws a drink in Michael's face.  Michael's taken Sandy to this party.

That's not all.  Sandy complains to Michael about the woman they hired to play Emily Kimberly.  "She's not tough!  She's a wimp!"  Michael defends the actress Dorothy Michaels and works to make Emily a stronger character. Michael not only wants to develop the role of Emily, he wants to develop  Dorothy.

Ron:  I'll need Alan, Tom and John. Tootsie, take ten.

Dorothy:  Ron? My name is Dorothy. It's not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll. 

Ron:  Oh, Christ. 

Dorothy:  No, just Dorothy. Now Alan's always Alan, Tom's always Tom and John's always John. I have a name too. It's Dorothy, capital D-O-R-O-T-H-Y. Dorothy.

Complications continue to increase.  Ron's ticked off that Julie's friends with Dorothy and crediting Dorothy (and not Ron) for improved acting.  John Van Horne's stalked Dorthy and under the impression that Jeff is her live-in lover.  Les proposes to Dorothy.  Sandy has a loud break up with Michael.  (Sandy: "I don't care about 'I love you!' I read The Second Sex and The Cinderella Complex! I'm responsible for my own orgasms! I don't care! I just don't like being lied to!"). Michael, as Dorothy, will realize how he can be just as despicable as Ron and lose Sandy as a lover and a friend.  (Sandy: "No, we are not friends. I don't take this s**t from friends, only from lovers!") Julie breaks up with Ron.  Michael learns he can't leave Southwest General after a year on the show because his option has been picked up.  And he wants off the show.  Michael comes on to Julie -- while dressed as Dorothy.  Julie now thinks Dorothy Michaels is a lesbian and asks her to break the news gently to her father Les.  George is just confused.

George:  What happened?

Michael: Yes, yes, she thinks I'm gay! I told her about Julie.  Now she thinks I'm gay.

George:  Julie thinks you're gay?

Michael:  No, my friend Sandy.  I mean, it's crazy.

George:  Sleep with her, and she'll -- 

Michael:  I slept with her once.  She still thinks I'm gay.

George:  Oh.  That's no good, Michael.

Michael:  Look, I gotta get back to my life.  Now you've got wall-to-wall lawyers in this office.  There must be some kind of way to get me out of this show.

George:  We've been through this a million times.

Michael: Why can't I die?  Why can't Dorothy have an accident?  I mean we can use our imaginations.  This isn't the toughest problem.

George: You want to kill somebody and bring me back the stiff?  That's okay.  But she'd better look exactly like you because, I'll tell you something, those people don't miss a trick.

Micheal: These are nice people, these are good people, George.

George:  Something -- what is weird about you?  Since when do you care so much about what other people feel?

Michael: I mean if I didn't love Julie before, you should have seen the look on her face when she thought I was a lesbian.

George:  Lesbian?  You just said gay.

Michael:  No, no, no.  Sandy thinks I'm gay.  Julie thinks I'm a lesbian.

George:  I thought Dorothy was supposed to be straight?

Michael:  Dorothy is straight.  Les, the sweetest man, the nicest man in the world, tonight, asked me to marry him.

George: A guy named Les wants you to marry him?

Michael:  Yeah.  No, not mar -- Wants to marry Dorothy.

George: Does he know she's a lesbian?

Michael: Dorothy's not a lesbian!

George:  I know that, but does he know that?

Michael: Know what?

George:  That -- Well, I  -- I don't know.

With all this taking place, a videotape of an episode not yet aired is accidentally destroyed and they have to perform the episode live on air, an episode based on a big party where Emily Kimberly gives a big speech.

Which is when Dorothy Michaels decide to ignore the script and ad lib a speech for Emily Kimberly.

Dorothy:  I can't tell you all how deeply moved I am. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be the object of so much genuine affection.

Dorothy stops speaking.

Ron (in the booth): Uh-oh.

Dorothy:   It makes it all the more difficult for me to say what I'm now going to say. Yes, I do feel it's time to set the record straight. You see, I didn't come here just as an administrator, Dr. Brewster, I came to this hospital to settle a little score.

Ron (in the booth): What score?

Dorothy:  Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man.  He built this hospital. What you don't know is that to his family he was an unmerciful tyrant. An absolute dodo bird.

 Ron (in the booth):  Oh, no! Not live.

Rita (in the booth):   Let's see where she goes.

Dorothy: He drove my mother to drink. In fact, she-sje went riding one time and lost all her teeth.

Rita (in the booth): What?  What?

Dorothy:   -- the oldest daughter, the pretty, charming one, became pregnant when she was 15-years-old and was driven out of the house. In fact, she was so terrified that she would -- That-that the baby daughter would bear the stigma of illegitimacy that she changed decided to change her name and she contracted a disfiguring disease . . . after moving to Tangiers, which is where she raised the little girl as her sister. But her one ambition in life --

Ron (in the booth):  Any preference of shots on this one, Rita?

Dorothy:  --was to become a nurse. So she returned to the States and joined the staff right here . . . at Southwest General. When she worked here and had to speak out  wherever she saw injustice and inhumanity. God save us.  You do understand that, don't you, Dr. Brewster?

John Van Horne:  I never laid a hand on her.

Dorothy:  Yes, you did. And she was shunned by all you nurses too.

Ron (in the booth to the camera men):  Give me something, one. I don't need backs. Two and three go left and right. No, two go left! Three go right! 

Dorothy:  Her outspokenness threatened you doctors. But she was deeply, deeply, deeply loved - by her brother.

Rita (in the booth):  Her brother?

Dorothy:  It was this brother, who on the day of her death swore to the good Lord above that he would follow in her footsteps. And-and-and-and-and-and  just-just-just-just-just-just --

Rita (in the booth):  Don't, don't, don't panic.

Dorothy: -- owe it all up to her! But on her terms!

Ron (in the booth):  God. Here come the terms.

Dorothy:  As a woman.  And just as proud to be a woman as she ever was.  For I am not Emily Kimberly, the daughter of Dwayne and Alma Kimberly. No, I'm not. I'm Edward Kimberly, The reckless brother of my sister Anthea.

Sandy watching at home screams.

Ron (in the booth):  Holy Christ!

Dorothy:  I'm Edward Kimberly, who's finally vindicated his sister's good name.

Les watches at home stunned.

Dorothy:  I'm Edward Kimberly. Edward Kimberly.

Rita (in the booth):  I'll be damned. 

Dorothy:  -- but proud and lucky enough to be the woman that was the best part of my manhood. The best part of myself. 

Jeff, watching the episode at home, will declare, "That is one nutty hospital."  As they go to commercial break, Julie will storm over and punch Michael in the groin while John Van Horne will wonder, "Does Jeff know?"

The amazing cast is headed by Dustin Hoffman who plays Michael, Dorothy and Emily.  The director of the film, Sydney Pollack, plays Michael's agent George.  Teri Garr plays Sandy, Bill Murray plays Jeff, Jessica Lange plays Julie, Dabney Coleman plays Ron, Charles Durning plays Jeff, Doris Belack plays Rita, George Gaynes plays George Van Horne and, in her film debut (and a very strong debut) Geena Davis plays April.

The film was a huge hit and received ten Academy Award nominations.

Though nominated for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman did not win.  A real shame.  He lost to a so-so performance by Ben Kingsley in a well meaning but poorly made film (Gandhi).  (Dustin would win a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.)

Which is really too bad because Kingsley's mechanical performance in that lifeless film is so easily forgotten but, as Stan has noted, Dustin Hoffman's performance of Emily Kimberly as played by Dorothy Michaels who is really Michael Dorsey is one of the most complicated and skilled performances -- in fact, it's the best lead acting by a man in the 20th century.

No one topped Dustin's performance in that role.  Not Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, not Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, not Jack Nicholson . . .

Al Pacino, in Godfather III or Dog Day Afternoon, may match Hoffman's performance, but he doesn't top it.

With ten nominations, you might think the film cleaned up Oscar night.

It didn't.

Only one award went to Tootsie.

The best supporting actress category found Teri Garr and Jessica Lange both nominated for Tootsie and vying with three other actress for the award.

Teri's Sandy is a comic gem and one of her great performances.  Had Jessica not been in the cast, Teri would have rightfully won.

But Jessica is in the cast and she's amazing.

Her character Julie is funny, she's wry, she's lived in but dreamy, aware but not too aware.  She's allowed herself to be fooled by Ron and knows that on some level but, early in the film, can't admit it.  Dustin Hoffman is so amazing in his role that it's easy to overlook how the film would fall apart without the skill of Jessica Lange.

Julie's not a dumb blond.  But she's taken in by Dorothy in ways that no one else.  A false note from Lange and the whole film falls apart.

As great as she is in the part, the part's pretty great itself.

1982 saw two films where people disguised their sex: Tootsie and Victor/Victoria -- Blake Edwards' remake of First A Girl.  (Yes, he cited Viktor und Viktoria as the source material but the attitudes in the film are from the first English language remake, 1935's First A Girl.)  Both Tootsie and Victor/Victoria were huge steps forward for the US film industry which had a very poor track record when it came to gay characters. In Victor/Victoria James Garner is relieved to find out that the Victor he's attracted to is actually a woman (Julie Andrews).  Which takes a way a bit from the notion that he was seriously in love.  In fairness, his bodyguard (Alex Karras) comes out in the film and is a real character and not an insulting stereotype.  While both advanced the way the movie industry addressed gay issues, it was Tootsie that did the better job.

It helps that the film's setting is the US and modern day.  While it's true that there are no gay characters in the film, the breakthrough is Julie.

After Julie breaks up with Ron and returns home, where Dorothy has been babysitting Julie's daughter Amy, Dorothy attempts to kiss her.

And Julie assumes Dorothy is a lesbian.

There's no  storming off -- like Days Of Our Lives handled it in the late seventies.  Julie's surprised.  She's concerned about her father, who is in love with Dorothy, and she wants Dorothy to let her father down easily.  But her own reaction is, "No, it's me.  I'm not well-adjusted enough.  I'm sure I've got the same impulse -- I mean obviously I have the same impulses."  Because, right before Dorothy moved in for a kiss, she'd spoken of a longing -- one for Dorothy.

Julie:  And I don't want you take this the wrong way, but since I met you, I'm so grateful to have you as a friend and  yet at the same time I've never felt lonelier in my whole life.  It's as though I want something that I just can't have.  You know what I mean?  Do you?

When the two next meet, Dorothy's visiting Julie's dressing room with a present which Julie's not going to accept until Dorothy explains it's for Amy.  In the talk that follows, Julie makes it clear she's not pleased that Dorothy didn't end it with Les, but she also has none of the typical disgust with gays present in so many films (such as Leslie Ann Warren's character in Victor, Victoria) -- thrilled to pall around with strangers who are gay -- a lark, a walk on the wild side -- but nasty and mean when she thinks someone close to her is gay.

Julie's not seeing Dorothy as unnatural.  In fact, she allows that Dorothy's urges are not just understandable but, on some level, shared.

Julie:  Dorothy, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you how much you've meant to me these past couple weeks.  You taught me how to stand up for myself because you always stand up for yourself.   You taught me to stop hiding and just be myself because you're always yourself.  And I'm grateful to you.  But -- Well, I just -- I just can't see you anymore, you know?  I just feel that it would be leading you on.  It wouldn't be fair to you.  I really love you, Dorothy.  But I can't -- I can't love you. 

In the world before Tootsie and, sadly, in the world after Tootsie, a film character being revealed as gay or assumed gay was a chance to howl with laughter or express disgust.  And in this way, film perpetuated homophobia.  Adults and teenagers saw that the 'normal' reaction to someone being gay was to attack them, to draw a line between them, etc.

Jessica Lange's Julie reacts to Dorothy in a different way.  Not only is Dorothy not 'strange' or 'unusual,' Julie's even willing to admit that she had the same impulse.

It was a huge step forward.

And Tootsie is still amazing to this day, a film classic that more than holds up and one of the best comedies of the 20th century.


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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