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Thread: IDIOT BOX: The General TV Thread

  1. #61
    Did this ‘Biggest Loser’ contestant lose too much weight?

    By Caitlin Dewey

    February 6 at 11:35 am

    Celebrity trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper wore twin expressions of shock when “The Biggest Loser” contestant Rachel Frederickson had her big reveal Tuesday night — but the only surprise, really, is that this hasn’t happened sooner.

    Reaction of the trainers on the biggest loser to Rachel.. Clearly something isn’t right

    — Nikki-Taylor Dow (@nikktayyy) February 5, 2014

    Frederickson, who weighed 260 pounds when the show began, shed 60 percent of her body weight during the show and ended at 105 pounds. Since she’s only 5’4”, that puts her body mass index at 18 — below what the National Institute of Health considers a healthy minimum. In other words, the Twitter masses have claimed, Frederickson lost too much weight. It’s impossible to say whether that’s true based on numbers alone — more on that later — but it’s equally impossible to see why anyone’s surprised by Frederickson’s “scary” weight loss.

    Scary skinny! RT @ENews 105-pound #BiggestLoser winner Rachel Frederickson insists she feels “amazing.” Is her weight loss too extreme?

    — Mary Baum (@mebaum) February 5, 2014

    The popular reality show, which just wrapped its 15th season on NBC, has (literally) made its name off dramatic weight loss — the person who loses the most wins $250,000, which basically amounts to a quarter-million reasons to drop as much as possible, at any cost.

    Of course, as nutritionists and eating-disorder advocates have pointed out, viewing obesity as a pure numbers game is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the human body works. For one thing, different people have different body compositions and nutritional needs. For another, how you lose the weight matters — a healthy, moderate, maintainable diet and exercise regimen is better for the long-term than the “PTSD-inducing” hoops “Biggest Loser” contestants get put through. (Fredrickson’s trainer on the show, for his part, said on Facebook that her health “is and always has been my main concern.”)
    Click here to subscribe.

    And therein lies the whole problem not only with the concept of the show, but the whole cultural dieting complex: This shallow obsession with numbers has more to do with appearance than with actual health, despite protests to the contrary. And that preoccupation with and scrutiny of appearance — even when it’s well-intentioned, as in the case of all the Twitter users expressing “concern” over Fredrickson’s reveal — ultimately undermines healthy weight loss.

    “As a society we often criticize people for being at higher weights — that’s part of why we have the TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’ — and then we feel free to criticize lower weight,” Jillian Lampert, the director of an eating disorder treatment program in St. Paul, told the AP. “We certainly see a lot of people who struggle with eating disorders who use the same behaviors on that show to an extreme.”

    But unfortunately, watching Fredrickson and her competitors cut the red meat out of their diets and take up a casual walking routine would not make for riveting television. And so we have “The Biggest Loser,” where apparently either the loser is too big … or the loss is.

    A suggestion: If you’re concerned about all this, stop watching the show.

  2. #62
    Changes in the TV landscape

    By Raul J. Palabrica |

    Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:20 am |

    Monday, July 7th, 2014

    Ahead of the signing of a sales purchase agreement, radio-television giant GMA Network Inc. announced recently that businessman Ramon Ang will acquire a minority interest in the company.

    Ang, the top honcho of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), is investing in his personal capacity, reportedly paying P15.3 billion for an initial 30 percent equity interest. The shares will be drawn from the shareholdings of the three families that have majority control of the network.

    Word in the market is Ang, in recognition of his status as GMA’s biggest individual stockholder, will assume the position of chair, which is presently being held in a concurrent capacity by CEO Felipe Gozon.

    Earlier, Gozon expressed admiration over Ang’s skillful handling of SMC’s diversification program and said “he will bring a lot of ideas” to the network which is in close competition with ABS-CBN for primacy in the radio and television industry.

    Ang’s smooth entry is in sharp contrast to two abortive offers by business tycoon Manuel Pangilinan, chair of ABC Development Corp. which owns TV5, to buy into GMA.

    The negotiations then were marked by not-so-pleasant exchange of words in the media between Gozon and Pangilinan that made the proposed buy-in look like a hostile takeover attempt.


    Although Ang’s investment in GMA is personal in character, it cannot be totally dissociated from his shareholdings in SMC and its affiliate companies.

    At present, the erstwhile beer distilling company that traces its roots to the Spanish colonial period either fully owns, has majority control or is part owner of several corporations engaged in food manufacturing, mining, infrastructure development, energy production and airline management.

    All these businesses are closely supervised by government regulatory agencies and often invite widespread public criticism if they fall short of their customers’ expectations.

    They are also the favorite whipping boys of congressmen and senators who want media mileage or concessions for their personal benefit.

    It helps that, in case any of these corporations get caught in the sticky situations mentioned, they have in their corner media entities that can give full play to their side of the story, provide favorable coverage, or soften the effects of adverse publicity.

    This is not to say that GMA will be less scrupulous in living up to its “fair and equal coverage” slogan, but it is common knowledge in the media industry that the interests of their owners or benefactors are not completely set aside in the treatment of news events if they are, one way or the other, affected.

    After all, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.


    The score is now even on the TV platforms of the reputed “frenemies” in big ticket government projects. Pangilinan has TV5 and Ang has GMA7.

    It will be interesting to see how GMA will be able to maintain its image of impartiality or fairness in the treatment of news in situations that involve SMC and its affiliate companies, including those owned by Ang.

    To the credit of TV5, whenever a news report relates to a company that is owned or managed by Pangilinan (or the First Pacific Group he heads), the station discloses such ties at the end of the newscast.

    The disclosure enables the listeners to make their conclusion on whether the news report was presented in an objective manner or biased in favor of Pangilinan’s interests.

    The thin line that differentiates honest-to-goodness news from propaganda can be easily spotted by discerning TV viewers. And if they catch it, a flick of a finger on the TV remote control to change channels will provide quick relief from the spin story.
    What’s more, a deliberate omission of important details or “messaging” of the news risks being exposed by social media or a recording uploaded to the Internet.

    Never in our history has credibility in news reports been able to be tested in many ways and quickly relayed to a wide audience at the press of a button.


    For now, the forthcoming change in ownership structure in GMA is no cause for concern by its principal competitors in free TV, ABS-CBN and TV5. The three TV stations have their respective audience targets depending on their age, gender, income, social class, content preference and viewing hours.

    According to some surveys, factors specific to certain regions in the country also affect viewing habits in those places.

    The advertisement contracts they have for the season will remain in place until they reach their expiration dates or supervening events occur that justify their early termination. After that, it’s going to be a different ballgame for advertisers, advertising agencies and GMA’s competitors.

    It is reasonable to expect SMC and its affiliate companies, including those identified with Ang, to give preferential treatment to GMA in airing its advertisements.

    Charity begins at home, so the saying goes. And home for these companies is where someone of their own or with whom they maintain close financial ties has substantial interests.

    And because they are considered family, price and placement concessions can be reasonably expected.

    For strategic reasons, ABS-CBN and TV5 will not be totally shut out from the advertising budget of these companies. But it is doubtful if their advertising revenues would be as lucrative as before.

    It remains to be seen whether the coming changes in the country’s TV landscape will be redound to the public’s benefit.

  3. #63
    4 Shows That Returned to Awesomeness After Sucking for Years

    By Gladstone

    November 06, 2014


    We all know lots of shows turn crappy after a while, but that's not what I'm writing about today. Or, to put it another way, we all know lots of shows turn crappy after a while, but that's not what I'm writing about today. Oh, did I put it exactly the same way? Yes, I did. And do you know what's amazing? I bet everything I own that you will see plenty of comments about shows that started out good but turned crappy. But here's the thing: although lots of shows turn crappy after a while, that's not what I'm writing about today.

    Today's topic is shows that lost their way ... for a bit, before fixing things. Shows that started off fine before forgetting what made the show work and going down a wrong path for a while. Got it? Not just a gradual decline into garbage.

    #4. Doctor Who

    I believe I was the first Cracked columnist to write about Doctor Who, when I did my column three years ago explaining how Doctor Who became my religion. Quite simply, the show did nothing short of alter my conception of God. It's not a religious show by any means, but it is about an incredibly old and powerful alien who loves humanity more than all the creatures in the universe. He often fights for us. Most never know him. Most are never aware of everything he has done to perpetuate the world and keep us safe. And, sometimes, despite all his power and love, he loses himself, makes mistakes, and fails.

    These days, Doctor Who has become a bit of a whipping boy, with Cracked's own Soren Bowie and Adam Tod Brown taking shots at the show, and I understand their criticisms, but I tend to disagree. I'd tell them myself if they would return my calls, but I'll tell you instead. And I will tell you as a fan who loves The Doctor. I'll also tell you as a writer who thinks that the last two showrunners, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, although not infallible, are full-blown geniuses.

    Doctor Who is at its best when The Doctor is saving humanity or other worthy victims from evil, not with violence but intelligence and faith in others. Even though he is capable of great destruction, he tries to live by impossible ideals in a universe filled with unspeakable evil. His ability to regenerate means that even though he is now about a thousand years old, his persona has been portrayed by actors who look like old men and youthful dreamboats.

    What Went Wrong? Season 7 of the Reboot

    Season 7. Season 7 went horribly wrong. Y'see, after 16 years of it being off the air, the BBC brought the show back in 2005 with a hip young Doctor portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. After a season, he was replaced by David Tennant. Tennant's Doctor was notable for his good looks, romanticism, and, perhaps most importantly, his ability to make me doubt my heterosexuality.

    Tennant made The Doctor sexy, and the show exploded in popularity in America. When Tennant left, they replaced him with an even younger actor, Matt Smith, who continued the explosion of fangirlism. And that was fine. Smith was a great Doctor. But in Season 7 we said goodbye to The Doctor's human companions Rory and Amy and found a new woman to take their place: Clara.

    No offense to the super dreamy and talented actress, Jenna Coleman, but the Clara character is the most underdeveloped companion of the series reboot, and it's created a lot of weird, unnecessary sexual tension with The Doctor. Season 7 gets cutesy in a way that made it seem like Moffat is pandering to hordes of new American fangirls. And it's not all about Clara. In Smith's final episode as The Doctor, he is moments away from regenerating -- the "death" of his character in its current form before taking a new, related but different identity. Logically, he should want to see his wife. (Yes, turns out The Doctor was married at some point in his 1,000-year life.) But instead he dreams of Amy -- his sexy companion from the previous seasons. Why? I dunno, because awwwwwwwww.

    How'd They Fix It?

    Well, they haven't fully, but they're on the right path. The Doctor is now played by the much older and less romantic Peter Capaldi, who is bringing a touch more angry indifference to the role (at least on the outside). There is no longer any weird flirtation with Clara, as they have given her a boyfriend. And, best of all, it really seems Clara is on the way out -- hopefully replaced by a character who has, y'know, some character. If the show can do that and up the stakes on The Doctor being the savior he was meant to be, we might continue to see the improvements of Season 8 into a glorious Season 9. (At the time of writing, the season finale has not yet aired, but it seems like maybe we're on to something ...)

    #3. Friday Night Lights

    I'm sure I don't have to tell you about Friday Night Lights. I mean who doesn't love Friday Night Lights? Well, me actually. I'd never watched the show at all, but my buddy hipped me to it, and wouldn't you know it? It's actually the best entry on this list, because something super weird happened to the show. It's an adaptation from the film of the same name, and both are based on a nonfiction book about life in a small Texas town centered around a high school football team. Unlike most TV adaptations, where a successful movie is boiled down to the least common denominator, the film's director, Peter Berg, brought the project to television so he'd have more time to tell smaller and more intimate stories. Essentially, the show centers around high school football coach Eric Taylor, his family, his football team, and his community. The show also examines the interpersonal issues of an ensemble cast.

    What Went Wrong? Season 2

    Turns out that a quiet show about life in a small, football-minded Texas town was not the ratings bonanza you might expect. And some have speculated that the network began interfering in Season 2. Because, suddenly, a large part of the season deals with ... MURDER! Yep, in Season 2, viewers are treated to a storyline that features attempted rape and murder. Somewhere between storylines about accidental pregnancies and college recruiters, it was decided to liven things up with one of the students killing a man who tries to rape the coach's wife.

    How'd They Fix It?

    They resolved that storyline by having a heartfelt confession, and then never spoke of it again. Even better, NBC made a deal with DirecTV to co-produce the subsequent three seasons of the show on DirecTV's 101 Network. With that reduced production cost, it seems there might have been less pressure to deliver big drama storylines to this small show.

  4. #64
    ^^^ (Cont'd)

    #2. Dexter

    I can hear you already. You're saying, "No mom, I'm not abusing myself in the bathroom again, I'm just reading Cracked articles on the crapper." But you're also saying, "Jesus, Gladstone, I thought you said you weren't writing about shows that just turned to crap, and Dexter certainly turned to crap." Well, to you I say two things: 1) yes, the overall show turns to crap in later seasons, but we're focusing on the mediocre third season that precedes the awesome fourth season, and 2) you should really wash your hands after you wipe and before you touch your phone again, because otherwise you're just carrying fecal matter around everywhere.

    For those who don't know, Dexter tells the story of a Florida medical examiner who has an extreme murderous blood lust, but he was raised by a cop who knew how to harness it. He gives Dexter a code to live by that ensures his murderous instincts don't get him caught and that he's not killing anyone who doesn't "deserve" it.

    What Went Wrong? Season 3

    So yeah, we already have sort of a hard-to-believe premise for Dexter, so you have to be careful not to push the show into completely bombastic parody. I mean, after the first season, where we watch Dexter track a serial killer while he, himself, carries out serial killings, we wondered, uh, just how many serial killers are in Florida? And how will they repeat this for every season? Serial killings don't pop up in the same location each and every year.

    The showrunners apparently realized that, and the second season is great. All of the bodies Dexter has been dumping are discovered, and the feds come to town to investigate. The investigation becomes the overarching story arc. Then Season 3 starts, and I guess everyone realized it would be hard to have a full-blown serial killer again, so they introduce a crooked DA who sometimes kills people, y'know, just to shore up a case.

    Then, perhaps realizing that a crooked DA is kind of boring (and it sure is), they also introduce a character who likes to skin people alive, probably just to add some of the missing, creepy goodness. Except he is more like a gory hitman, not a serial killer, so ... yeah, it sounds silly to even type out. The show loses all focus and just kind of features random killing, because they hadn't figured out how to reinvent a new season.

    How'd They Fix It?

    With John Lithgow! Season 4 is arguably the finest season of Dexter, and that's because it finds a way to stick to the formula while raising the stakes. Season 4 has another serial killer, but to up the credibility, he is a killer that murders in seven-year cycles and moves around so we don't have to swallow that Florida is the serial-killer capital of the world, instead of just the batshittiest, gun-loviest place in the universe. Dexter wrongly believes Lithgow, the Trinity Killer, has found a way to work murder into his everyday life while heading a normal household -- Dexter's ambition. A mentor relationship gone awry. And unlike Jimmy Smits and some faceless hitman with a weird MO, Lithgow's Trinity is terrifying.

    #1. The Sopranos

    I've never been a huge fan of mob movies. Of course I recognize The Godfather and Goodfellas as significant works of art, but for every person who recognizes them as cinematic achievements, there are 10 guys with wife-beater T-shirts and too much cologne who get murder boners for organized crime. I don't approve of a show that glorifies crime. For the most part, The Sopranos does not do that and should not be blamed for those people who misguidedly make fictional New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano their idol.

    So despite my deep discomfort with the glorification of crime, I greatly enjoyed the first two seasons of The Sopranos. Although the show takes you inside the day-to-day life of a murderous crime boss, it does not apologize for who Tony is. The show makes you watch it by filling episodes with interesting, if not likable characters. There is always a power struggle the viewer can watch without taking sides.

    What Went Wrong? Season 3

    By Season 3, it seemed the writers of The Sopranos started to like the characters as much as some of the show's fans. The wrong fans. The fans who hung up posters of Tony Soprano in their apartment and practiced smoking cigars like a badass in the mirror. Instead of engaging us by showing us the power struggle within the mob community, Season 3 seems to attempt to have the audience relate to the characters on a more emotional level. Nowhere is this more clear than the storyline about henchman Paulie Walnuts and his mother at the retirement home. Seems she just isn't satisfied with the care, much to the dismay of her put-upon son.

    Yes, The Sopranos shows us the mundane side of the mob, but it is best when that mundane side terrifies us. When it makes you realize that the guy sitting next to you at the PTA meeting might kill, torture, and extort as part of his day job. The majority of the show doesn't reveal everyday travails to humanize on an emotional level. But Season 3 features a different kind of emotional investment.

    How'd They Fix It?

    Well, they just cut that shit out. After that hiccup, repeatedly, the characters are shown to be the criminals they are, despite owning some suburban homes. If need be, Tony has no problem killing ... [SPOILER ALERT] ... his own nephew, just like Michael Corleone of The Godfather has no problem killing ... [SPOILER ALERT] ... his own brother.

    The Sopranos rights its course and finishes strong, up until that final scene that we will not discuss. At all.

  5. #65
    The real-life Bill Cosby show: Follow the sanctimony

    Meghan Daum



    The phrase “follow the money” was popularized in the Watergate docudrama “All the President's Men.”

    “I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just … follow the money,” Deep Throat supposedly told reporter Bob Woodward in the shadows of that parking garage.

    Though there's no evidence that anyone during the Watergate investigation said those words in real life (more likely they were the creation of screenwriter William Goldman), they've evolved into a useful rule of thumb for getting to the bottom of a shady situation.

    When it comes to Bill Cosby, who has recently faced allegations of sexual assault and misbehavior from more than a dozen women, some of them involving drugging and rape, the catchphrase might be this: Follow the sanctimony.

    I'm not just talking about the sanctimony of the actual Cosby, who gave speeches censuring lower-class blacks, accusing them of embracing ghetto culture and playing the victim rather than examining their own failures. These appearances, which began in 2004, may have represented the most literal manifestation of Cosby's penchant for self-righteousness, but they were hardly without tonal precedent.

    The main ingredient of Cosby's TV-and-beyond “America's Dad” persona was a kind of goofy affability — seasoned with more than a dash of smugness. In “The Cosby Show,” as paterfamilias at the Huxtables' Brooklyn Heights brownstone, he wielded his authority lovingly but also imperiously. A quip to his young daughter in the third season, “Your mother and I are rich. You have nothing,” was a typical zinger. It was funny, but it was also sanctimonious.

    Of course, that sanctimony contributed mightily to Cosby's crossover appeal. Part of the reason white audiences loved Cosby so much, was that his character Cliff Huxtable's upper-middle-class trappings alleviated white guilt by suggesting that we were in a post-racial society. Because sanctimony is a privilege afforded mostly to those who have cause to feel superior — and, as a result, it is not a trait typically associated with people of color — Cosby's smugness functioned as a form of whiteness. No wonder the show ran for eight seasons and was No. 1 in the ratings for five years straight.

    But as we've learned from the empty moralizing of countless evangelists and politicians (think Ted Haggard, who railed against gays but was felled by accusations that he secretly had sex with men, or William Bennett, who edited a guide to self-discipline, “The Book of Virtues,” that belied his own gambling problems), sanctimony can often function as a clever disguise for serious moral failings. Follow it far enough and you're likely to find behavior that flies in the face — sometimes at lightning speed — of all that piety.

    Granted, Cosby's sermonizing has mostly been focused on the importance of education and good parenting, where he does have some legitimate bona fides. Unlike today's reigning America's Dad, Louis C.K., whose hands-on parenting style is taken as a given and represents a generation of men raised on feminism, Cosby was never particularly held up as a champion of women's rights. Still, he was so hellbent on holding himself up as a pillar of the community that in retrospect it seems almost logical that he might be hiding a more sinister side.

    Nonetheless, the public was caught off guard by the cascade of charges. And if the audience that gave Cosby a standing ovation at his comedy show in Florida on Friday is any indication, some people remain unwilling to believe that Cosby's actions were as bad as they now look to be.

    Part of that is surely a function of the special brand of denial we reserve for beloved celebrities. But an even greater part might be the degree to which so many people are swayed by sanctimony and moral censure. As much as it hurts to be scolded, there can also be a masochistic pleasure in it. Moreover, there's no pleasure quite like watching others get scolded, especially when the scolder is calling out members of his own community in a way that outsiders cannot.

    Cosby, who perhaps understood his audience better than they understood themselves, delivered that pleasure by the truckload. His smugness functioned not just as a cover for his own actions but as a pacifier — a drug, even — for a public too seduced by sanctimony to trace it back to its less-than-noble roots.

  6. #66
    Bill Cosby allegations meet with mostly silence in Hollywood


    With the sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Cosby topping headlines this month, some of the most critical comments directed at the embattled 77-year-old star are coming from his fellow comics.

    "Here's where we say goodbye, Bill Cosby," tweeted Patton Oswalt, after writing that it was Cosby who inspired him to pursue a stand-up career.

    The rest of Hollywood, however, seems gripped by a strange silence.

    From the former costars of the 1980s smash "The Cosby Show" to such Cosby pals as Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson, the entertainment industry has mostly offered zero, at least publicly, on the subject of claims that the beloved sitcom patriarch and author of the No. 1 bestseller "Fatherhood" was a serial abuser who drugged and sexually assaulted young women.

    NBC dropped development plans for a comedy pilot in which Cosby would play the grandfather of a multi-generational family. And Netflix postponed a special on tap for the comic's 77th birthday. But the companies offered no comment or explanation for those decisions.

    Carsey Werner Co., which produced "The Cosby Show," wrote in a terse statement that the "recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension."

    During a taping of ABC's daytime chat fest "The View," co-host Whoopi Goldberg argued for restraint before judging Cosby. "People jump on the bandwagon. … For me, I'm going to wait," said Goldberg, who outraged some in 2009 with a defense of director Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory rape.

    "The silence from the entertainment community has been obvious, and frankly, disappointing," said Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University. "Cosby's pals are hesitant to disrupt his legendary status over old allegations. The Hollywood culture protects each other from scandals because few of them have spotless pasts."

    Like many Americans — and until recently, most of the news media — industry veterans seem torn between the public image of Cosby as an avuncular, sometimes cranky authority figure and his accusers' portrayal of a sexual predator who followed a pattern of incapacitating victims before assaulting them.

    In a town where success is the only calling card that matters, insiders are also burdened with the knowledge that Cosby is a singular success, a comic who worked his way up from clubs to TV stardom and is now worth an estimated $400 million. He is credited with helping turn NBC into the No. 1 network starting in the 1980s, creating a dynasty that endured for years.

    "There are people that are not going to want to believe it, that are still huge fans of Bill's," Sharon Osbourne said on CBS' "The Talk," when discussing a former NBC employee who claimed he helped Cosby pay hush money to women.

    And then major entertainment figures fret about getting embroiled in the violent spin cycle on Twitter and social media, where outrage over offhand remarks about emotional subjects can within minutes prompt trolls to hurl abuse or even death threats.

    "There's this concern about the media and the feeding frenzy in general," said Dan Hill, a crisis public relations executive at Ervin Hill Strategy in Washington, D.C. "People are reluctant to participate in these kinds of conversations."

    This is not the first time, of course, that Hollywood has averted its gaze from an unpleasant topic. It's hardly news that a mythology-creating town that rushes to embrace every glamorous trend runs away from ugliness, at least until it's safely tucked in the very distant past. Films and TV series about slavery and the Holocaust may win industry adulation, but it has proved difficult to get celebrities and top decision-makers to acknowledge serious present-day problems that threaten the industry's natural order.

    Silence, however, grows complicated when claims of sexual assault are involved. In fact, the very word "silence" is a loaded term for accusers and advocacy groups, who say the tendency of society to turn away worsens the harm caused by the initial crime.

    "Survivors of rape continuously face disbelief, blame and silence when they attempt to share their stories," Chitra Panjabi, a vice president for the National Organization for Women, wrote in a statement. "The cases that have unfolded around Bill Cosby are no different. Since the first accusations arose in the early 2000s, these 13-plus women have been ignored, shamed, interrogated and silenced."

    Thus the silence from a celebrity such as Winfrey is noteworthy. The former queen of daytime talk TV and creator of the cable network OWN revealed to her audience that she was sexually abused at age 9 and has done countless shows featuring survivors of rape and sexual abuse. She has also interviewed Cosby and his wife, Camille, who has not addressed the abuse allegations.

    The big network late-night hosts usually live to feast on the foibles of the famous, but they, with few exceptions, have stayed away from Cosby. Conan O'Brien and Jon Stewart made passing jokes about the scandal.

    Comedians, however, seem to be having less of a problem addressing the Cosby issue. In fact, it was a routine last month from comic Hannibal Buress — in which he derided Cosby's image — that ignited the current firestorm.

    On his HBO show "Real Time," Bill Maher said, "Sorry, but this guy is such a creep. I've had to reevaluate everything I ever thought about him."

    He added: "I get it. Celebrities are targets. But 16 women? All with the same story? Even for a guy who did a sitcom in the 1980s, that's a lot of wacky misunderstandings."

    Sarah Silverman, who has made a career out of close-to-the-edge humor, tweeted: "Bill Cosby gave me one of those 'don't be dirty' lectures, but I was rendered unconscious." She later apologized after users criticized her for trivializing rape.

    Whether Hollywood wants to talk about it or not, though, Cosby's career — certainly his unofficial role as America's Dad — looks to be over. While his colleagues may choose to remain silent, experts say, that's not a viable option for Cosby given the seriousness of the accusations against him. Last week he told a Florida TV station that he wouldn't respond to "innuendo."

    "He just can't use silence as a response to such allegations," McCall said. "If he continues his public life, he will be merely a curiosity."

  7. #67
    The sun sets on Stephen Colbert's sterling satire

    Mary McNamara



    In 2006, Stephen Colbert performed at the White House correspondent's dinner. For almost 25 uncomfortably hilarious and immediately divisive minutes, Colbert performed as the titular character of his Comedy Central show, damning virtually all the attendees, including then-President George W. Bush, with praise faint and otherwise.

    If neither the audience nor those covering the event knew exactly what had hit them, the millions who viewed the subsequently viral video did: Event planners thought they had invited a political comedian; what they got was America's Satirist Laureate.

    It was an easy mistake to make, particularly at the time. "The Colbert Report," which comes to an end Dec. 18, was just beginning its nearly 10-year run. (Colbert will take over CBS' "The Late Show" after its longtime host, David Letterman, retires next year.)

    A spin-off of "The Daily Show," which overtly deconstructs the hypocrisy, spin and blatant inaccuracies at work in politics and the media's coverage of it, "The Colbert Report" took on the far trickier task of satirizing same. Tweaking the inappropriate obliviousness of his correspondent on "The Daily Show," Colbert and his writers created a Bill O'Reilly-like commentator who, without any hint of guile, filtered the news through a prism of right-wing politics, self-righteous ignorance and complete narcissism.

    The performance was so spot on that Colbert the performer quickly became virtually indistinguishable from his creation. For years, many viewers, and some guests, were not quite sure if "The Colbert Report" was a send-up of right-wing politics and the cult of personality or an example of it.

    And that, of course, is the mark of truly brilliant satire: The baffled pause in which the audience is forced to think. About what is real, what is outrageous, and how often the two words refer to the same thing.

    Is he really running for president and could he win? Is he really creating a super PAC, and is it actually legal to not disclose where campaign money comes from or how it is used? Did Daft Punk really last-minute ditch its appearance, forcing Colbert to put together an emergency song-of-the-summer video, and is that Henry Kissinger?

    Comedy is tough, subversive satire is tougher, and sustained subversive satire is nearly impossible. To embody an object of ridicule that is itself a symbol of many larger themes requires a constant tension between opposing forces: sincerity and mockery, outrage and sentiment, wit and humanity.

    Most great satire cloaks itself in other guises, running through classics as varied as Ovid, Austen, Dickens, Voltaire, Twain. Modern satirists like Vonnegut, Heller and Orwell grew less sentimental. Shows including "Laugh-In," "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" and "MASH" brought political satire to television. Christopher Guest popularized the mockumentary that in turn gave us "The Office" and similar comedies. Garry Trudeau, certainly a fellow laureate, re-invented the cartoon; Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane and others took the sensibility to television.

    But no one has ever created a single character with both the continuity and elasticity of "The Report's" Stephen Colbert, much less kept it going it for nearly a decade.

    By its very nature, satire is stinging and people can tire of being, or watching others get, stung. But Colbert, like Charles Dickens (who hit many of the same points about politics, social divisions and the perils of ignorance) understands that the point of satire is not pain, it's the desire for change. For the joke to really work, it has to start from a resting point of sincerity.

    And no one on television is as sincere as Colbert. Unlike many modern performers, he does not approach his comedy as a wounded, jaded or discombobulated outsider.

    Though he deals daily in the outrage, neither does he seem particularly angry. Geek culture may be generally ascendant, but it's difficult to imagine another white, liberal, 50-year-old Elvish-speaking Southern fantasy geek with kids and a decades-long marriage who could be so openly devoted to both Catholicism and his mother while still hitting all those Power/Hot lists.

    Yet there is no reason to believe that Colbert is not a genuinely nice guy.

    Which is exactly why he's been able to get away with one of the most scalding and significant satirical performances of this or any decade. Neither cruel nor kind, his performance was driven instead by the rare ability to harness passion without taking it personally.

    No matter how off, convoluted or contradictory the screeds became, there was never the slightest gleam of viciousness, maliciousness or contempt in the performance. "The Report" could be brutal, but Colbert never was; the performer was happy to roll the character through the swamp of sanctimony and stupidity, to expose his toxicity, meanness as well as the environment in which they festered, but you sensed that, at some level, he loved him all the same.

    It's useless to speculate what Colbert and his team will bring to "The Late Show." Under Letterman, "Late Night" has long been a dry and sardonic alternative to the celebratory showcase of "The Tonight Show," but it's not subversive and it's certainly not satire.

    Watching as Colbert recently interviewed Jennifer Lawrence, whom he introduced by reading what appeared to be her IMDB listing, it was difficult not to feel a pang. He may succeed in re-inventing the show, or even the genre, but there will never be another "The Colbert Report," and it's hard to say goodbye.

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