Monday, March 13, 2023

TV: The Tired and The Disappointing

THE BLACKLIST is currently staggering to its conclusion  on NBC.  Ten seasons after it began, the show is unwatchable.  Why is it still airing?




It started on shaky ground creatively.  Only Harry Lennix was delivering when the show began airing.  By season two, Megan Boone began delivering and the best scenes were between Lennix' s FBI boss Harry and Boone's FBI agent Elizabeth.    Season two also benefitted from the addition of Mozhan Mamo (Samar) who never hit a wrong note in her time on the series and from Ryan Eggold (Tom) and Diego Klattenhoff (Ressler)  hitting their strides.  Suddenly, the cast was delivering in the way Harry Lennix had been from the start.  As twists and turns piled up, questions were raised and viewers were left with the impression that there was a long running story arc and the show was building to something.

Judging by season nine, all that time had been wasted constructing the television equivalent of California's Bridge To Nowhere.  

Season eight saw Elizabeth killed off in the second to last episode.  A huge mistake.  The series revolved around Elizabeth and her attempts to hold Red (James Spader) accountable while also attempting to navigate whatever the strange relationship between the two was.

The show runners never appreciated how important Liz was to the show.  Red's just a persnickety killer, with the blood of so many on his hands, if you don't have Liz.  Agnes (Liz's daughter) can't stand in her mother's place because she's a child.  Agnes cannot 'vouch' for Red.  Liz could.  

For THE BLACKLIST to work, the audience needs to believe that there must be some good -- even a small amount -- in Red. 

Season nine played out like 'who gives a s**t?' because, at this point, who honestly did.

And Red became a common killer who had some frou-frou ideas and notions about how to live life.  Viewers fled the crime scene even as the writers and show runners missed the fact that it wasn't about out doing themselves with violence and depravity, it was about that basic bond between Elizabeth and Red.  We knew, going in, that Red did bad things.  But if FBI profiler Liz thinks there's a possibility of good in Red, the audience was willing to hang around and find out.

The best thing about season ten is that Amir Arison has left after a brief appearance in the season's first episode.  That's not a slam at Arison's acting.  He was wonderful as Aram but, especially after Aram's romance with Samar ended, the writers never really used him for much more than comic relief.  Season nice was dreadful and it was tough watching someone as likeable as Aram in those awful episodes.

Now it's a piece of garbage and only Harry Lennix manages to deliver an actual performance -- the show's back to where it was in the first season.

Who in the world thought viewers wanted a tenth season?

Speaking of not making sense, last week Congress held a hearing.  The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled "The Weaponization Of The Federal Government On The Twitter Files."   The hearing lasted approximately two-and-a-half hours and had two witnesses: Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger.  Both men were scorned by Democrats on the Committee (and those not on the Committee but brought into pose and preen).  

Shellenberger is a complicated and "a real piece of work" as a few Democrats in Congress noted to us in the days since the hearing.  We were appalled by the way the Democrats acted in the hearing, attacking both witnesses, refusing to let them speak, etc.  It was offered by one Senator and three Representatives that if Shellenberger had not been at Matt's side, it might have gone better for Taibbi.

Shellenberger carries his own baggage.  For many, many years, he got applause from Democrats because he was one.  He's also someone who was -- maybe still is? -- a friend of Susan (Medea) Benjamin's -- translation: He's a quack.  Which is why it's no surprise that he's run to the right, that he writes quack 'science' books and that he's now a shill (paid or unpaid?) for the nuclear industry.  

Those are only some of the reasons to avoid Shellenberger (racism was another reason members of Congress gave).  

One of us wrote about the hearing at THE COMMON ILLS last Friday and avoided Shellenberger in part due to comments noted above but also because a hearing on The Twitter Files with Matt Taibbi as a witness should focus on Taibbi since he's been Tweeting about it from the start.

Republican members of the Committee focused on Taibbi's work.  And, the Democratic response to that after the hearing, in comments to us, argued that was due to the fact that Taibbi's work has favored a Republican narrative that Twitter has punished conservatives in the last six or so years prior to Elon Musk's purchase of the company.  

"Lois Learner was a crook," one House member said to us, conceding that there had been hearings the two of us attended that weren't about getting to the truth but about sporting a united front and projecting lies and spin to cover for the party.

Lois was a crook, we agreed.  We attended the hearings.  We knew she was a crook.  She misused the IRS in a manner that should have left her behind bars.  A few Democrats were honest in hearings -- a small number -- but the bulk instead wanted to act as if what she did was no big deal and nothing harmful.

It was very harmful.

And we hadn't brought Lois up.  But as we talked to members of Congress on Thursday and Friday and two on Saturday, we kept noticing that they brought Lois up.

Was there a connection?

Yes, there is.  It's the same thing all over again.

Democrats -- for the most part -- avoided tying in what Lois did to leftists.  (A few Democrats in Congress did raise the issue and call it out -- look at our real time reporting for those names.)  But most were more interested in concealing the truth of what took place.  

What took place with Twitter was that anyone who offended the centrist government officials -- too right, too left -- became a target.  It was a pattern that started under Barack Obama.  That's exactly who Lois was targeting during the IRS scandal.

Are you supposed to be protecting the party or the country -- that's what we asked.

Despite assurances that their goal was to protect the country, their defense of their peers (and, in the case of one who sits on the Committee) and themselves paints them as liars, hypocrites, self-deluded fools or possibly all three.

Twitter targeted Republicans and Democrats, it went after rightists and leftists.  And Matt was happy to talk about that when he was allowed to speak and actually asked about it.  The Committee Chair is a Republican.  As such, it would have been nice if Jim Jordan had spent a large amount of time going over how Twitter censored leftists, but it wasn't all that surprising that he didn't spend his time on the topic.

Democrats could have.  But few bothered.  Instead, they wanted to attack Matt.  To destroy him so they could avoid the reality of what the reporting was.

We're not that clear on the reporting -- especially that via Tweets.  We're not going to waste our time reading your Twitter thread.  Regardless of whether you're Matt or a singer-actress explaining your latest beef with another female entertainer.  "Shhhh, no rumors," as Mama Cass used to say.  

What we do know about The Twitter Files is what's been presented on YOUTUBE programs.  And enough has been presented there for even casual observes like ourselves to grasp that government officials and government agencies were contacting Twitter to censor free speech.

One area that Matt and others appear to have not emphasized is the tax payer issue.

Rightly, they have spoken about free speech and how these moves go directly against The First Amendment.  That is absolutely true, no question.

But it's equally true that if, for example, the FBI has employees monitoring Twitter in an attempt to censor free speech, that's a problem for many other reasons.  Firstly, why are we, the taxpayers, paying government employees to violate the Constitution.  Secondly, why are we paying these people for this when there are actual jobs to be done?

9/11 could have been predicted and, in fact, was -- the Presidential Daily Briefing,  August 6, 2001, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US."

As government employees and government agencies work overtime monitoring Americans on Twitter and then trying to get Twitter to censor them, what actions are being missed?

It is not the role of government to censor its citizens -- not in a democracy.  

And if there are government agencies that have people on the payroll doing that sort of thing, it's not only unconstitutional, it's also arguing for fault and blame at these agencies should another national tragedy emerge in the immediate future.

For those too young to remember, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the media did a bit of accountability as they admitted to wasting time on various junk news items (and the gossipification of some serious news) while real issues went unreported on.  The media really didn't improve -- as any nightly news broadcast makes clear -- but with the exception of a few people like Sibel Edmonds, no one in government really addressed what our government was doing wrong in the lead up to 9/11.  (Sibel was a translator for the FBI.)


If we see another 9-11 in the immediate future, don't just blame the media and these agencies and officials that wasted our time and our money as they tried to cripple free speech, also blame the members of Congress who had the chance to call out these actions but refused to do so.


The FBI, the Dept of Homeland Security and various tax-payer funded Non-Governmental Organizations have been lobbying Twitter to censor free speech.

Democrats at the hearing on Thursday were disgusting.  They attacked, they interrupted, they lectured, they hectored.

And we kept thinking, "Wait, even if they think it's only right-wingers who got censored, do they think The First Amendment only matters for those on the left?  How would that be free speech?"

That's the issue that they should have been confronting, that's what should have had them outraged, not Matt Taibbi.

At one point, the eternally ridiculous Debbie Wasserman Schultz felt the need to tell Matt that he was a Republican witness and that alone made him suspect.  

No, Debs, he was a Congressional witness.  Has all that grease on your oily face clogged up your ears and impaired your hearing and comprehension?  

Debbie, Stephen Lynch, Gerry Connolly and  Stacey Plaskett were the worst offenders.  They were bitchy, they were rude, they were the stereotype of a do-nothing member of Congress who screams and yells to avoid getting anything done.  

Stacey wanted Matt to reveal his sources.  

When he pointed that out, she immediately snarled that wasn't what she was trying to do.

Yet she then went back to demanding information about his sources.

We saw her at the hearing so we know she understands cheap weaves but, having seen her in action at the hearing, we seriously doubt she understands the Constitution.  

Let's explain it slowly to the four bitches, American citizens want to know that if their rights are violated then Congress is going to step up to defend them.  

It's that basic.

And Stephen, Stacey, Gerry and Debbie failed that test.  

They were an embarrassment -- just like too many actors and too many scenes in MEL BROOKS' HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART II.  HULU has served up a meandering, over-long, cross-cutting nightmare of hit-or-largely-miss attempted comedy.  Nick Kroll is the only thing consistently good.  At one point, a gang of Moscow plotters are in yet another dull and pointless scene that bad writing and bad acting can't save no matter how many times the actors involved resorted to using the f-word.  Nick pops into the scene and it immediately -- and finally -- comes to life.  Far too much that makes it onto the small screen in this mini-series feels like filler that should have been left on the cutting room floor.  And, let's be clear, our objection is not the f-word.  Nick uses it throughout.  We use it in real life.  Our problem is we're not five-years-old and not going to chuckle just because someone said a naughty word.


Other than Nick, there's nothing to praise.  It's not just the dialogue and the 'comedy' bits that lack humor, it's the performers.  Wanda Sykes can't do anything fresh or funny with "Shirley" -- a 70s 'Black' sitcom, they note, about Shirley Chisholm.  But could anyone?  We doubt it.  It's not 1982 and about all the laughs that could be wrung out of this tired notion had been done by then.  Ike Barinholtz has been doing too many films and single-camera TV shows.  As a result, he's lost whatever timing he had when he last regularly worked before a live audience on MAD TV.  He keeps getting smoothed out and looking more and more generic just as his comedy flair seems to sputter out.

Stephen Lynch's reputation is sputtering out after his performance in the hearing.  It's causing people in Boston to remember that Lynch took part in a hate crime back in 1979 when he attacked six Iranian students at a protest.  He was charged with assault and battery but a back door deal got him whisked out of town and allowed him to avoid a trial.  His snarling and screaming just reminded his constituents of what a nightmare he used to be -- and apparently still is.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn't doing any better.  Her attacks on Taibbi during the hearing made fresh her conniving schemes to fix the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination for Hillary Clinton -- actions, please remember, that saw her resign in disgrace as DNC chair on July 24, 2016.  That was two months after calls for her to resign began in the media.  Her response to that was to go after Mika Brzezinski -- first by whining to Chuck Todd (over the NBC political coverage) and then to MSNBC president Phil Jackson demanding that Mika issue an on-air apology.  With that history, are we really surprised by her raving like a crazy person in the hearing?


But, again, we really are surprised that NBC was stupid enough to give THE BLACKLIST a tenth season.  We're more surprised that they're still keeping it on the air after the ratings.  Only 2.32 million tuned in for the first episode.  That dropped to 1.76 for the second episode.  The third is airing tonight (Sunday -- we have no idea when this will be published).  So it's not pulling viewers to NBC?  Worse.


It's running viewers off.  The Sunday lead in on NBC is MAGNUM P.I.  The night BLACKLIST got 2.32 million?  MAGNUM had delivered 3.7 million.  The night BLACKLIST only managed 1.76 million?  MAGNUM delivered 3.56 million.  It's not that people won't watch NBC on Sundays, it's that they won't watch THE BLACKLIST.  And if they watch THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 2 or certain member of Congress, they'll wish they hadn't.  We have no idea why some things hang around.


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