Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The Daily Show
Must See TV on NBC? I don't think so . . . This is required viewing.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Review: Coupling on NBC
Coupling's first episode ran last night: Understand that I'm a huge fan of the original BBC version, so I'm somewhat biased. And, I missed the first minute of the show, as it started at 9:25, not 9:30. (TiVo was busy recording CSI).
First, the good news: NBC's Coupling isn't nearly as bad as some of the harsher reviews made it out to be. The cast, a toothsome group of hardbodies, tries hard (maybe too hard). They are prettier than the BBC version.
The bad news: Some of the racier adult dialogue was cut: The aforementioned swallow joke didn't make it into the pilot. The biggest risk to an edgy show with mature content is that it gets toned down, dulling the sharp repartee. That's definitely a risk factor here; so far, the show seems to have made it to the US with its "British accent intact."
Some other weaknesses: Imitations often pale when compared to the original, and this one is no different. There's little in the way of pacing -- the show moves along in a hurried fashion, no doubt due to the 6-9 minute time difference in a 30 minute show.
Its also worth noting the differences in casting: In the BBC original, the players range from attrative (Sally) to sexy (Jane) to gorgeous (Susan). All the men are good looking, including Jeff who is cute in a Kramer kind of way ("loathsome, offensive, brute, yet I can't look away").
The NBC version is a collection of pretty hardbodies and hollywood glamourpusses. All the woman are strikingly beautiful: Jane is exotic, Sally (Sonya Walger of "Mind of the Married Man") is a stunning blond, while Susan, with her pale blue eyes and dark hair, is simply gorgeous. The men too are handsome, in a male model sort of way. If this gig doesn't work out, they can always do ads for Tommy Hilfiger. The exception is Jeff, who looks a bit like Andy Richter.
A word on the reviews: Most of the reviews I've read seem to be written by prudish 50 somethings who apparently think that all television programming should be suitable for 12 year olds. Apparently, this group of critics believes any adult content --and by that i mean mature, and not XXX -- over the airwaves is inappropriate. Since the vast majority of Americans recieve their programming evia satellite or cable, its a distinction without much of a difference. On my dish, NBC's Coupling is on channel 241, BBC's Coupling is on 135, and Sex and the City is 300.
My takeaway: I'll continue to watch it, unless it veers away from the cheeky and literate tone of the original. But to anyone else, I strongly suggest you either get BBC America, or order the first 2 seasons on DVD.
Friday, September 26, 2003
There is a terrific blog covering chow in New York:
Check it out . . .
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Thursday night is the premiere of Coupling on NBC. Do yourself a HUGE favor and set your TiVo to start recording the Beeb’s version; The first show of the season will come up in a few weeks or so.
Coupling is the latest television import from Britain, following in the footsteps of The Weakest Link, Trading Spaces, GroundForce, While You Were Out, What Not to Wear, etc. The BBC version of Coupling falls somewhere between Sex and the City and Seinfeld. Smart, sharp writing, likable cast, clever plotlines, fearless subject matters. If you meander over to Radio and Telly, you can see a plot synopsis of the first 3 seasons.
The easy -- and false -- comparison is to Friends, because the ensemble cast has 3 males and 3 female leads, most of whom have been sleeping with each other. That’s about as far as the parallels go.
To me, Friends was always a poor man's answer to Seinfeld. Friends started well, but the clingy, cloy shmaltz was far too sentimental; eventually the show became far too Hollywood, right down to its big season finale wedding cliffhanger (I mean really!).
Coupling’s subject matter covers everything from hiding pornography from your girlfriend, penile inadequacy, the melty man (impotence), breasts with brains, to vibrators. The dialogue was beyond sharp (“Some men are born lucky. Some are born very lucky. Patrick was born a tripod.”) We’ll see if that carries over.
The premiere episode of the BBC version has the following repartee in it:
Susan on Patrick: "One swallow doesn't make a summer."
Steve on Jane: "One swallow does not make her my girlfriend."
Let's see if that carries over to the States . . .
Where Seinfeld’s target audience were the smart 20- and 30-somethings, Friends targeted both younger and dumber, with the fat tail of the demographics rich with teenage girls and suburban wannabes.
Friend’s had some (but not much) in the way of balls, while Seinfeld had big, hairy cojones. The BBC version of Coupling owed much more to Seinfeld in terms of subject matter, tone and attitude. The casual use of the words “Fuck” and “Shit,” in the BBC version obviously won’t make it to NBC; I expect the “implied blow job” -- you see the recipient’s face and hear their moans during the act -- doubtfully won’t either.
The clips I’ve seen of the first NBC show follow the plotline pretty closely; I wonder how much will get lost in translation from English to American -- "two nations divided by a common language."
The one hope for the NBC show is that the orginial writer and producer (Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue) are working behind the remake. Maybe the producers will stay true to the ribald and edgy format. Already, two affiliates -- WNDU in South Bend, Indiana and KSL in (shocker!) Salt Lake City, Utah -- have announced they won’t carry the show.
Perhaps there’s some sliver of hope . . .
Life imitating Art
A sitcom starring former Monty Python star John Cleese has been dropped from US television after just two episodes. Bosses at ABC television made the decision because the show, Wednesday 9.30, failed to pull in high ratings.
Cleese, 61, who played an Australian TV executive who axed shows because of low ratings, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying US TV executives were "scared" by the war for ratings and had "no idea." But the comedian told BBC News Online that he was not angry at the show's demise, but that he had "laughed" when he heard the news. He said: "It's very funny that a sitcom about the insanity of American television executives should be cancelled immediately after the second episode was transmitted - it's just plain silly.
"Many good shows need time to find an audience. (Sitcom) Cheers is famous for its poor viewing figures at the start, but (NBC president) Brandon Tartikoff kept it on because he trusted it - and we all know what happened.
US drops Cleese sitcom
Tuesday, 9 April, 2002
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Economics can, at times, be fascinating, enlightening and challenging. Other times, it's just so much bullshit. Especially in the hands of an intellectually dishonest partisan.
Inconvenient statistic? Just rationalize them away.
Here's a prime example: In "Election Economics," Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute gets out the big shovel:
When government officials asked people if they had a job last month, 137.6 million said "yes." But when employers were asked, they said they had only 129.8 million on nonfarm payrolls. There are several reasons why the number of people on business payrolls is bound to undercount the number of workers. If more people are working at home as self-employed consultants, or working through temp agencies, they would not show up as payroll employees. And "nonfarm payrolls" ignores the fact that agriculture added 155,000 workers in August. What is nonetheless quite remarkable is that these two measures of employment are now much further apart than they were back in early 2001.
Ahhhh, yes, the work-at-home-consultant. Haven't we all, at one time or another in our lives, either been, or known, a "work-at-home-consultant?"
It sounds so much better to say "work-at-home-consultant" than it does to to say "He's unemployed."
All I can say is "wow."
(click on the photo for a full size pop up)
CALIFORNIA TO RECALL LOS ANGELES
More amusement from Borowitz:
CALIFORNIA TO RECALL LOS ANGELES
Arianna Huffington in Bid to Become State's Largest City
Recall fever swept across the Golden State once again today as California activists pushed forward a new ballot initiative that would recall the entire city of Los Angeles.
Anti-Los Angeles sentiment has been building in California for the past several years as the city has grown steadily more annoying, but few political insiders predicted that the state's voters would go so far as to vote it off the map.
Providing fuel for the recall movement, however, was a report in last Thursday's Los Angeles Times indicating that the city of Los Angeles, while comprising far less than half of the state's population, currently consumes over eighty percent of the state's supply of botox.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
The RED Pill or the BLUE pill?
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
-Morpheus, The Matrix
Red Pill or Blue? Nader supporters chose “none of the above,” and took the Green pill instead. Like Neo in the Matrix, they now find themselves wishing they took the Blue pill.
Had they chosen differently, a lot of the issues besetting the country would likely have happened anyway. The market would have crashed. Terrorists would have attacked. Many of the corporate scandals would have erupted just the same (although I think Ken Lay of Enron would have been indicted by now). The CEOs of Tyco, Worldcom, Enron, et. al. would have been shown to be the same nefarious gang of thieves they turned out to be. (yeah, Grasso would probably have been forced out just the same).
But many other issues would be different: We probably wouldn’t be losing soldiers in Iraq on a near daily basis, and the budget deficit would likely be much smaller. From tax cuts to corporate reform to the environment to judicial appointments to the Partriot act, even to Tom Delay fooling the department of Homeland security into tracking quorum fleeing Texas Democratic state legislators, an entirely different agenda would be dominating the headlines. The world would be a very different place.
The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
What's changed the most for the Greens is their raison d'etre. The underlying philosophical pillar supporting the entire political structure of the Greens has been demonstrated to be but a myth. That’s something plainly visible in the alternate universe we now live in. If Gore was President, the Green's could have still kept on believing their mythical premise -- their belief that there is no difference between the the two parties could have safely endured. They would have been in a position to snicker: “See, we told you so. It was a choice between tweedle dum and tweedle dee.
The end result was the same. The actual Gore administration would have been pretty similar to their imagined, Bush administration. No difference between the Red Pill or the Blue Pill.
Not only was that thesis factually wrong, the law of unintended consequences reared its head. Of course, the actual Bush administration turned out to be nothing like what a Gore presidency would likely have been. And, its only going to get more so. If you thought the two parties were the same before, consider this: now that the GOP has shifted so radically to the right, the Democrats will move to the center -- and still be called leftists. The void left in the middle, and to some degree, the middle right, might very well be filled by Democrats.
Thus, we can argue that the Naderites not only helped W become President, they helped tilt the entire political spectrum rightwards. It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad.
In the comments on 3rd Party Candidates, Mike implies a loaded question:
“Is it worse to attack the mistakes of one's 'natural' political allies, or to make excuses for the crimes of one's political 'adversaries'?”
I neither excuse the crimes of my enemies nor attack the mistakes of my allies. Indeed, I try to have neither politcal enemies or allies. Instead, I point out facts that some people find inconvenient:
It's a fact that 3rd party voters have an impact on elections; It's a fact that their impact often results in an electoral victory by the party furthest away on the politcal spectrum from the minority 3rd party. These are facts. Rail against them, tilt at windmills, blog deeop into the night; It won’t change the political reality of what 3rd parties do in America.
I do not disagree or deny with many of the accusations that have been made; they are valid and true regarding all the dirty politics and constitutional crimes that took place. But I am also aware that these things have been going on forever, and by both parties (Chicagoan Democrats can tell you what “vote early, vote often” means).
OK, I admit it -- the system has been corrupted by bad people. But that doesn’t change anything about politics in America. It's too late to go back down the rabbit hole.
You have two choices and only two choices; Pick one: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
"I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?" -Cypher, The Matrix
Saturday, September 20, 2003
3rd Party Candidates
I always feel suprised when I read naive commentary about the political system. There are lots of ways the 2004 election results could have had a different outcome. But the bottom line, in hard numbers, is that Nader took away enough votes from Gore that Bush was in a position to ascend to the presidency, if that phrase offends you less than saying he won.
I'm not talking about votes in California or NY or other blue states where 100,000 one way or another didn't matter. Nader voters created a tiny opening in Florida for James Baker & Co. to accomplish what they wanted. Without that, W is not Prez.
Nader voters can mea culpa all they want (i.e., RepentantNaderVoter.com).
We can discuss the what ifs forever:
-What if Gore ran a better campaign (his was awful);
- What if he didn't run away from Bubba;
- What if it rained more in Ohio, etc.;
All the issues raised about purged voter rolls, etc. are valid; They certainly had a decisive impact on the final outcome. But if you are looking for a proximate cause, the primary event that allowed those issues to be relevant, was that 5%+ of votes were siphoned off by a legitimate candidate with legitimate issues -- who had no chance of winning.
In a Parlimentary system, a 5% candidate can negotiate their votes to form an alliance government, so that their key issue gets supported/legislated/funded whatever
In a two party representaive electoral college system, a 3rd party candidate hurts the candidate they are closest to politically. Its simple math. Greg Palast ("Best Democracy Money Can Buy") raises many issues that helped W win. But here's a newsflash: Politics is a dirty, nasty, sharp elbowed affair that has a rich tradition of lying-cheating-stealing to win.
Don't make it right . . . but its reality none the less.
So the point that Nader shouldn't have mattered if only everyone played fair and by the rules is charming but naive.
1) Its ugly out there;
2) Actions have Consequences;
3) In the US, 3rd party candidates help their politcal opponents the most.
If you like W, thank Nader; if you don't like W, blame Nader.