Wednesday, January 28, 2015

She's still here, dammit

There's been some gossip out there that this blog will wrap when David Letterman exits his CBS show in May, but that's probably not true. In only our 11th year, there's not much incentive to time it that way and invite unflattering comparisons for endurance.

This post marks the second in a series commemorating the best of Letterman in late night. This time I want to shout out to the elegant Miss Sandra Bernhard. She was one of the great guests during the NBC years, one that has appeared too infrequently since the show's move to CBS.

The natural link is to the clip of Sandra and Madonna appearing together, but instead, I've attached a clip in which Sandra stops by 30 Rock to say goodbye to the 1980's.

Bonus: In February 2001, my brother and I made our only trip to the Ed Sullivan Theater to see a recording of The Late Show. The episode we witnessed from prime balcony seats featured James Caan, hockey players crashing into stuff, and this network TV debut performance by Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado. Look closely for Moellers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

American populism

Saw American Sniper last week. It made me feel dirty. If red-state Americans want to feel good about themselves, they don't need a jingoistic, hypermasculine, hate-filled propaganda film that ignores inconvenient realities and casts Muslims half a world away as untrustworthy and inhuman savages, they just need to zone out for a few minutes to John Cougar Mellancamp's "Small Town." John has nothin' against the big town. In fact, he's still hayseed enough to say "Look who's in the big town." The man is modest. He doesn't just make shit up to feel good about himself. He doesn't wallow in the self-pity of delusion that's central to Clint Eastwood's film.

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I still read stories daily about Bill Cosby. Not so much about Alan Dershowitz, Prince William, and Bill Clinton.

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Basketball teams with short players should secretly let the air out of the basketball. They don't have to dribble as high.




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Illuminating indecency


A TV fan asks the question: How can I get my husband to watch Mad Men when he thinks that the main character, Don Draper, is such a bad person?

When will people realize that shows about "bad people" are not "bad shows"? We've been dealing with this for a half-century already. Forget Archie Bunker, forget even modern "anti-heroes" like Tony Soprano. TV Guide's all-time favorite television character is Taxi's Louie De Palma, an unrepentant heel. I grew up with him.

I do not need my characters to be likeable to enjoy a show. I don't even need my characters to be likeable for me to like them. Was I supposed to like Hank more than I liked Walt on Breaking Bad? Because I never did. Arrogant prick. His business was more crooked than Walt's. I need cynicism. In fact, that's the only type of show I can enjoy anymore. The darker Mad Men gets, the better it gets in my mind. The further Don strays into misanthropy, the more I feel that the world around him deserves what he gives them. (Except for Sally. She can do no wrong in my eyes.) Don't pander to me with your cuddly Parks & Rec-style sullenness either. I want the real thing. That's why Mad Men and The Sopranos are the two best series ever made. Real misanthropes there. Even The Wire is not cynical enough for my taste. David Simon lets too many groups off easy. His cops are not realistically depraved enough, his politicians not sufficiently cruel or greedy enough, and his journalists not vapid enough.

That's why I call myself an idealist. An idealist is always being let down by the world. Idealism is cynicism, not optimism. Most people get that wrong. Give me jaundice or give me the remote.

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What do some football fans expect to happen in the aftermath of Deflategate? The New England Patriots are going to be disqualified from the Super Bowl? It's an event that brings the league 500 million dollars and one team's not going to show up?

I hate the Patriots as much as any person that really hates the Patriots, but the scandal we should still be talking about is when they videotaped the Rams' practice prior to Super Bowl 36.

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Am I the only guy surprised to find out that NFL teams are allowed to provide their own footballs for use when they're on offense? No wonder this shit is going down. The Colts supposedly only found out that the Deflate-triots were letting the air out of the balls when one of Tom Brady's passes was intercepted. Normally the defensive team doesn't touch the ball.

And again the sport of baseball is found to be unique.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sniper Nation

 
Thank you to Michael Moore for calling out what was never obvious to me-- that snipers are effectively cowards. I confess that that particular thought had never occurred to me, but it's an interesting point to make. Then again, most acts of war are cowardly when they're examined under a certain light.

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Evidently it's not covered in the new film about Chris Kyle, American Sniper, but the former soldier claims to have parked himself on the roof of the Louisiana Superdome during the chaos following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and to have shot dozens of people dead, most if not all of them presumably African-American, and people Kyle certainly believed were, like his Iraqi victims, "savages." Either Kyle really is a personification of evil, or this story that he himself promoted before he died is just more unverifiable nonsense

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An idiot that collects a government paycheck as a supervisor for the Iowa State Patrol joked on Facebook Saturday that he wanted "a sniper at Carver Hawkeye (Arena) to shoot" the ESPN color commentator Dan Dakich in the head during the Iowa/Ohio State men's basketball game. Because, in the cop's words, "he is driving me nuts."

Discipline might follow, and if it does, some would then predictably complain something to the effect that white men-- and/or cops-- have no free speech rights anymore, and/or are "under attack." But I'm wondering what the punishment would be for a television sports commentator that posted a comment saying that a police officer should be shot in the head, and then proceeded to call that particular cop out by name. If anything, the offense this weekend is the worse of the two since this highway patrolman effectively has a public license to shoot and kill.

This is why some people hate the police.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life's mysteries


 Bill Cosby Netflix special nixed after Janice Dickinson accusations
I don't know what Bill Cosby is guilty of, and neither do you, but I know that reruns of The Cosby Show can no longer be found on cable, and Woody Allen just got a series deal with Amazon.

Cosby is getting shouted down during the live comedy performances on his 2015 tour that haven't been cancelled, had his production deal with NBC nixed, received a relentless mocking by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes, despite not a lick of evidence that the man has ever committed a crime in his life, and right now, there are a couple Hollywood acting careers that are in jeopardy simply because the actresses refused to publicly criticize Cosby during live television interviews. All the while, Mark Wahlberg continues to get offered A-list acting parts and has a license to print money producing television series on HBO even though the public record reveals that he committed multiple hate crimes as a young man, once calling a Vietnamese man he had never met a "Vietnam fucking shit," then proceeding to punch the man in the face and render him permanently blind. Wahlberg says he "takes full responsibility" for this and other shameful actions of racially-motivated violence during his youth, but nevertheless admits he has never sought out his victim to try to make amends, claims he "(doesn't) have a problem going to sleep at night," and two months ago, filed in application in Massachusetts requesting a full and unconditional pardon for his most celebrated crime.

Roman Polanski can't return to the U.S. without being imprisoned because he skipped out on sentencing after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl after a photo shoot in 1977. His 33rd film, Venus in Fur, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

In 1972, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin kidnapped a 14-year-old girl and kept her in hiding for three years while maintaining a sexual relationship with her, and he was honored at the Kennedy Center 13 months ago for his lifetime contribution to the performing arts.

I wonder what in the world Allen, Wahlberg, Polanski, and Page have going for them in the court of public opinion that Cosby doesn't have.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The War for Late Night


David Letterman has begun his victory lap. Thirty-three years in late night television comes to an end on Wednesday, May 20th. Between now and then, I'll link to my favorite moments from both of Letterman's shows. The first is a series of "desk chats" from 2010 (totaling approximately half an hour in length) after NBC's decision to move Jay Leno onto the nightly prime-time lineup blew up spectacularly in the networks' face. I'm currently re-reading Bill Carter's book "The War for Late Night" and started jonesing to watch these. The series of clips boasts the finest of Dave's Leno impressions, possibly the best seen on television since Chris Elliott.(See what I did there? Bonus clip.)

Leno/Conan Volume 1 through 10


Conan on Letterman 5/17/12

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The actual numbers

Interesting statistics on the death rate of police officers in our increasingly fascist country. The rate in 2013 was the lowest in well over a century, despite the heated rhetoric of late, and 2014 likely finished lower still. In about half of the nation's largest cities, it is statistically safer to be a police officer than to be a resident of that city.

Deadlier professions than policing include logging, fishing, air piloting, roofing, iron and steel working, refuse and recycling collection, power-line technician, farming, and construction. According to the raw numbers, it is twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as it is to be a cop. Not all police deaths are homicides either. In 2013, the murder rate for police was 3.77 per 100,000. The average murder rate for people living in U.S. cities was 5.6 per 100,000.

So put your military toys away, boys, and go back to following orders. Time to chill out and grow up.

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Incidentally, isn't it great that we have such thorough statistics available regarding the deaths of police officers on the job? There are absolutely no national stats available on the numbers of U.S. citizens killed by police. There is no requirement that these records be kept, and they aren't.

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I read a lot of the critics' year-end lists highlighting the best in television for 2014, but not on any of those lists did I see the moment I thought was the most extraordinary.

This one.