TV postsThursday October 15, 2015
TV: What the Hell Happened Between 1974 and 1977?
TV in 1974: Showing us to us.
While doing a little research on another project, I came across some Nielsen figures that were a little surprising to me.
Here are the top 5 TV shows for the 1974-75 season:
- All in the Family
- Sanford and Son
- Chico and the Man
- The Jeffersons
I knew “All in the Family” was popular but I had no idea about “Sanford and Son,” “Chico and the Man,” and “The Jeffersons.” Two of the five shows have black casts; three of the five focus on the working class. There's a sense that TV is trying to show us to us.
Now here are the top 5 shows three years later: 1977-78:
- Laverne & Shirley
- Happy Days
- Three’s Company
- 60 Minutes
- Charlie's Angels
The working class is either slapsticky and nostalgic (“Laverne and Shirley”) or sunny and jiggly (“Three's Company”). There's less dysfunction, more fantasy. It's also much younger and much, much whiter.
And three years after that? It gets a little yee-ha:
- The Dukes of Hazard
- 60 Minutes
- The Love Boat
That was the turn—where we went wrong. It happened right in there. Why?
TV in 1977: Younger, more jiggly, and very, very white.
Colbert's Guest List is So Personal It Makes Us Wonder Who We Would Choose
A few weeks ago, the day after Jon Stewart's last “Daily Show,” Patricia and I got rid of our cable box. These days that means TV, which means I won't be able to watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” when it debuts next week. Except, as he says in his last pre-show web video, “on the internet.” Even so, I'm afeared of missing it in real time. Have you seen his guest list? Persons of interest (for me) include:
- Sen. Bernie Sanders
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
- Carol Burnett
His guest list is so eclectic, and seemingly so personal, it made me wonder who *I* would book if I had a choice. And a show. And talent.
- Louis CK
- Marion Cotillard
- Joe Henry
Others to book before I get the hook:
- Ricky Gervais
- Jon Stewart
- Stephen Colbert
- Jim Jeffries
- Chris Rock
- Tina Fey
- Philip Roth
- John Irving
- Tobias Wolff
- Milan Kundera
- Toni Morrison
- Bill Bryson
- Jill Lepore
- Martin Scorsese
- Michael Mann
- Terrence Malick
- Jacques Audiard
- The Coen Bros.
- Craig Wright
- Jim Walsh
- David Simon
- Joe Posnanski
- Jane Leavy
- Paul Krugman
- Jelani Cobb
- Jackie Chan
- Penelope Cruz
- Salma Hayek
- Berenice Bejo
- Carey Mulligan
- Steve Earle
- The National
- Iron & Wine
- Paul Simon
- The Decemberists
- John Lewis
- David Boies
- Ron Safer
- ANY U.S. Supreme Court justice, but generally in this order: Stevens (ret.), Ginsburg, Scalia, Sotomayor, Kennedy, Breyer, Roberts, Kagan, Thomas, Alito.
It's endless, really.
What about you? First show.
I'm going to miss this.
The day after Jon Stewart's final show on “The Daily Show,” we got rid of our Comcast cable box. We probably would've done that anyway, and sooner, but we held onto it for an extra two weeks or so just to watch Stewart's last shows.
I was late to that party, by the way. Not sure when I began to watch him regularly. For certain periods in the 2000s I didn't have cable, certainly 2005 to 2007, so maybe I caught up with him via the Web? I mean, I know I knew him in 2005 when Stephen Colbert broke off for his own show, because I—like the great prognosticator that I am—thought that wasn't such a good idea, that a half-hour-long spoof of Bill O'Reilly just couldn't last. (You're welcome.) I certainly knew Stewart by the time he hosted the disastrous “Crash” Oscar ceremony in March 2006 and by the time that Colbert took it to Pres. Bush and the D.C. establishment in the greatest White House correspondents dinner roast ever.
But I know I began to watch him regularly in the fall of 2007 when Patricia and I moved in together. He and Colbert were my guys in the last sad days of the Bush II administration and the awful leadup to the 2008 presidential election, followed by the even worse right-wing reaction to that election: the rise of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck and all that nastiness and stupidity. The bullshit, the bullshit.
Did you see the segment from Wednesday, “The Daily Show: Destroyer of Worlds,” where Stewart pretends to revel in in all of the hyperbolic headlines about how he and the show eviscerated or crushed or annhilated this or that enemy of the show (racism, Wall Street accountability, FOX News), only to discover, oops, that the enemy was stronger than ever? It leads Stewart to wonder what it was all about. “The world is demonstrably worse than when I started!” he cries. “Have I caused this?”
I actually think that this is what finally got to him and why he decided to leave. Not that he made things worse; but that he was purposeful and funny and true and on target ... and the bullshit didn't go away. In some cases, it got stronger.
Did you see the final episode? All the talent he helped create? The heartfelt praise he was forced to accept from Stephen Colbert? That's truly one of the loveliest, most heartfelt and educational moments I've seen on TV in recent years. And then his final words to us? Warning us about the bullshit, as he has all these years, with a take on the “If you see something, say something” civic vigilance campaign:
Bullshit is everywhere. ... Comes in three basic flavors.
One: Making bad things sound like good things. “Organic All Natural Cupcakes” because “Factory-made Sugar Oatmeal Balls” doesn't sell. “Patriot Act” because, “Are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records Act” doesn't sell. So whenever something's been titled, Freedom, Family, Fairness, Health, America, take a good long sniff ...
Here's another one: simply put, banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red. Bullshitly put it's, hey, this. Dodd-Frank. Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right? Of course not, they can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501c4 if 50 percent is devoted to issue education, otherwise they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign coordinating Super Pac with a quarter... “I think they're asleep now, we can sneak out.”
And finally, it's the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. “We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything. We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns. Until then, I say teach the controversy.”
Now, the good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy and their work is easily detected. Looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an “I Spy ...” of bullshit. So I say to you tonight, friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.
He's asking us to pick up the slack. I don't know if we're worthy.
It's only been a few days but it's still chaos on bullshit mountain. We got all the blah-blah of the GOP debates, and Trump's umbrage at Megyn Kelly, and then his Twitter and verbal attacks on Megyn Kelly, not to mention the idiots at #BlackLivesMatter, or some subset, disrupting a Bernie Sanders rally in downtown Seattle, and dooming, to my mind, his already quixotic campaign. (Future attack ad: “If he can't stand up to two girls in the middle of downtown Seattle, how can he stand up to ISIS in the middle of a war?”)
As I heard about all this stuff, I kept wondering what Stewart was thinking about it. Was he going, “Damn, I left too early” or “Phew, glad I'm outta there”? Either way, today, for the first time in 16 years, I won't be able to find out.
Let Us Now Praise a Funny Man
Some encomiums and links on the way out, as Jon Stewart hosts his final “Daily Show” tonight ...
“He is not so much pro-left as he is anti-bullshit.”
--David Remnick, “Exit, Stage Left,” in The New Yorker
“The narrative you helped give us, to navigate the madness that is this world, cannot be overstated.”
-- J.J. Abrams on “The Daily Show” last week
“He says he's just a comedian but he's more than a comedian and I think he knows that. I spent three decades-plus doing network news but if you ask me today, what do I pay more attention to, John Oliver and Jon Stewart or the evening newscast, it's not close. I get much more out of Oliver and Stewart when he's cooking than I do out of those formulaic 22-minute newscasts.”
--Jeff Greenfield, in “Jon Stewart, Sarcastic Critic of Politics and Media, Is Signing Off,” in The New York Times
“Only Megyn Kelly and her ilk will breathe a sigh of relief when he’s gone.”
-- Charles Kaiser, “Jon Stewart made sense of the insanity all around us,” Columbia Journalism Review
“You had the guts to address yourself in the mirror, and say, 'Jon? It's not working.' For 17 years you've banged yourself against this desk, and we've all watched this trainwreck go on. You never found your voice, you never found your audience, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.”
-- Will Ferrell on “The Daily Show” in March
Louis C.K. Prefigures the Lesson of 'Inside Out' by Two Years
The lesson is in the final third of the video, but the whole thing is worth it:
My review of “Inside Out.”
Comparing Louis C.K. to Proust.