Monday, November 30, 2015

TV: Norman Lear's an idiot and other thoughts

Norman Lear was once an important force in TV.  As with many who have success in that field, it wasn't good enough for him.  So he turned his back on the medium and ran to film.  It didn't work out well for him and by the 90s he was failing in his attempted TV return.

He would fail repeatedly.


Today, he's 93 years old and thinks he can talk entertainment when he really should just sit on the porch reflecting on his past when he actually could create watchable TV.

It would avoid embarrassments like the ones Ted Johnson (VARIETY) recently reported on:

Legendary producer Norman Lear had high praise for the latest "Scandal" episode in which Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has an abortion, calling it an "adult moment, and it was nothing more or less."
"And it was so well done. It is a helluva show," Lear told Variety.

It was not well done.

And it's long past the time we let politics color our judgment of art.

To be clear, political films and TV shows can be made.  Jane Fonda successfully acted in and produced many including COMING HOME, THE CHINA SYNDROME and 9 TO 5.  These films were successful not because they were political but because they were entertaining.

Early in the 70s, Jane starred in TOUT VA BIEN -- Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's very political and very unsuccessful film.

Also to be clear, we are pro-abortion.

That doesn't make us applaud the winter finale of SCANDAL where Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) apparently had an abortion.


It would be just like Shonda to f**k with the viewers when the show returns and have it not be an abortion (it was a dream!) or offer some detail about how the fetus was damaged and that's why Olivia had the abortion or . . .

Shonda doesn't write good television anymore.

Shondaland is a drug that no longer provides the needed fix.

And the abortion storyline made it abundantly clear that Shonda's turned to shock for its own sake.

The late director Alfred Hitchcock is considered the master of suspense.  His films include PSYCHO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, LIFEBOAT, ROPE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, VERTIGO, NOTORIOUS, TO CATCH A THIEF, REAR WINDOW, THE LADY VANISHES,

There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean. 
We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!"
 In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.

What Hitchcock grasped, Shonda can't.

If you watch the series, you know when the audience learned of Olivia's pregnancy -- when the abortion scene aired.

This was not suspense, this was pure shock.

It was also bad writing.

Norman Lear would know that if he actually watched the series he's yacking about.

But instead, it's a way for him to toot his own horn and talk MAUDE (his seventies hit sitcom) yet again.

When Maude (played by Bea Arthur) had an abortion, audiences knew she was pregnant.

The issue was explored.

Not only was Olivia's abortion bad entertainment, it was also bad politics.

Olivia and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) are supposed to be a love couple.  So are Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley).  Like a tennis ball, Olivia bounces back and forth between the two men never sure who she's in love with from one month to the next.

If Shonda could make up her mind on who Olivia's in love with, maybe Huck wouldn't have said, in the abortion episode, what he said?

Described the TV news coverage of Olivia as "a whore, a homewrecker, a slut who repeatedly spread her legs to get to the top"?

That's interesting to have Olivia called those things in Huck's recap to her father.

But whether you're team Jake or team Fitz, there's a good chance you may be upset that Olivia will not be having a child with the man.

Now Shonda could do a 'reveal' where Olivia was raped while she was kidnapped last season.

And the pregnancy resulted from that.

But chances are Jake or Fitz contributed the sperm.

And Olivia didn't inform either man.

She also fed into an anti-choice stereotype of a woman who has an abortion -- she didn't discuss the decision with anyone and, after, she was happy to sit on her couch watching TV, munching on popcorn and sipping wine.

Though the use of "Silent Night" in the abortion and murder scene (yes, Jake shot someone dead during "Silent Night" -- a fact many overlooked) was tasteless, we were surprised that the anti-choice contingent was objecting to the episode because it fed every lie they've ever told about abortion.


Friday, a Planned Parenthood was the setting for a shooting.  Jennifer Markovsky, Ke'Arre Stewart and Garrett Swasey were shot dead.

Some are using the crimes to argue against free speech.

The attack, they insist, is the result of rhetoric.

We oppose Planned Parenthood's 'repursing' (our term) of fetal tissue in at least five states but we're not blaming that for what happened.

Nor will we ever join in an attack on free speech.

The crime happened because of decisions an individual made -- decisions that may or may not have been influenced by his level of sanity.

Abortion is an issue that divides many groups.

Each side needs to argue its position passionately.

There is no need for barriers to public debate.

And it is always shameful for any side in a debate to point to some act of violence and claim it derived from speech

We didn't approve of that tactic when the Bully Boy Bush administration used it and we don't approve of it when our side uses it.

Some are calling the crime spree an act of terror (see NOW President Terry O'Neill's statement here).

It may well be.

However, it might not.

We'll wait to see what evidence is entered.

It is a crime, it is a tragedy and it is shocking.

It may be more than that as well but the term "terrorist" is used far too easily these days.

We describe Ike Turner as a "terrorist" for what he did to Tina Turner.

We wish others would stop using terms like "spousal abuse" for what is terrorism.

And it's very likely that the attack that left three people dead was "terrorism" -- we're just saying we want to see the case made on facts.

Ike Turner a terrorist?


Tina was beaten regularly.  She had to seek medical care constantly.  He threatened her.  He terrorized her.

To us, the case has been made.

And it may be made with regards to what took place Friday in Colorado Springs.

Right now, it hasn't been.

And we're not senile Norman Lears who will rush to spit out any soundbyte without examining the facts or weighing what they mean to us.

The reaction to SCANDAL's winter finale made it very clear that on the left we're becoming so insane that we're unable to judge by its merits but instead rush to applaud even the worst crap if it backs up our political beliefs.

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