Posts Tagged ‘Big Media’

Dear NBC: Please Don’t Ruin Next Week’s “The Office”

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The Office premiered a few weeks ago, and it’s been a pretty good run so far this season. But there’s a ‘special event’ coming up this week *mdash; Jim and Pam’s wedding — and I’ve got a certain feeling of dread thinking about it. Let’s face it: TV networks love to let us down. So I’m asking you, NBC, from the bottom of my fanboy heart, not to ruin what should otherwise be an enjoyable and eventful episode of your fine show. I realize that the show is already in the bag, but I want to complain anyway, so I will. Got that?

Please, no drama. The Office is a comedy, after all. Drama can be good every once in a while, but you don’t need to inject it into every damn episode. This week’s show is a big one, and it would be nice if, just for once, everything could go off without a hitch. Can you imagine that? A fun episode through and through, with no cold feet or misunderstandings about such-and-such or reappearances of sketchy former boyfriends to install a feeling of doubt or any of those other tired, old wedding clichés… it would be refreshing.

The trend over the last decade or so has been to inject drama into sitcoms, and it’s worked pretty well in general. But… there’s always to danger of too much of a good thing. Just because it can make a certain series interesting and engaging (Scrubs comes immediately to mind, ditto Pushing Daisies) doesn’t mean that every episode ever needs it. Sometimes, I just want to laugh. There once was a time when adding a bit of emotion into an otherwise funny show was a rare thing and something to be admired. But then it became a fad, and everyone started doing it. I blame Friends, and Ross and Rachel. But as it has become the norm instead of the exception, it’s become a bit old. And now we’ve come half a circle, NBC, and you can do the new and different thing by not injecting some sort of crisis or epiphany or disaster into this week’s episode.

I’ve been pulling for Jim and Pam for a long time, NBC. After all, Jim is a guy I can relate to, and Pam is smokin’ hot. I just want them to be happy. The best moments on the show are the ones where we see them as a pair, happy and glad of each others’ company and relating like human beings. Yes, their drama worked early on and even drew me into the show, but now is the time for smiles and celebration. I want to see Michael be an idiot, and Dwight show some of that weird, off-putting ‘expert’ charm, and Andy fail with the ladies. I want to see all those things. But I also want to see Jim and Pam smiling and happy at the end of the episode, without some formulaic romantic comedy grade BS to foul up the hour. Is that too much to ask?

The biggest surprise of all, NBC, would be if you were to surprise me with no surprises. Just let things happen the way they should. I want a sense of finality when I turn the show off, not some lingering cloud of doom over the characters’ (and my own) heads.

Hurting America

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Remember when Jon Stewart went on CNN’s Crossfire (transcript for those who don’t want video) and told its hosts that they were “hurting America”? Truer words were never spoken, and as we get deeper and deeper into the debate on health care in America, I can see that things are getting worse. I’m thinking specifically of this incident at a ‘town hall’ meeting wherein a woman yells “Heil Hitler” at a man who is praising Israel’s health care system. Jokes about Godwin’s Law aside, is this really what the state of debate in the United States has come to?

Before I go on, I’d like to point out that I’m not exempt from this type of shameful discourse; in my younger years I was vehemently against George W. Bush, to the point of name-calling, and I’m sure some of that vehemence still exists in this blog’s archives. I’d like to think that as I became older and more mature, I left some of this partisan name-calling behind. At one time I was the very type of person I am criticizing now. Please center your Blame Ray squarely on the vagaries of youth.

The problems with our political dialogue are many, but one issue in particular is most responsible: an overwhelming majority of trouble arises because of our two-party system. Most people pick one side or the other, and the fact that there are ‘only’ two choices polarizes them. It frees the Democrats and Republicans to perpetuate an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which is what George Washington warned about in his farewell address. Ah, Mister Washington, if only we’d listened! People treat their political affiliations like sporting teams competing against each other, and forget that actually, we’re kind, sorta, in this all together.

If it were just a matter of hating someone’s ideas there wouldn’t be a problem. But people today get into the troubling habit of hating someone because of the party they support. It’s not “I hate him because he thinks like a Democrat,” it’s “I hate him because he is a Democrat.” We refuse to even listen to someone whose opinion differs from our own. The comforting bosom of a political party exacerbates the problem, smothering us and drowning out anything but what we already want to hear. How are we supposed to have a thoughtful, intelligent discussion when our party provides us with all the talking points and all the names we need to throw to think we’ve won?

Things got pretty bad leading up to the election. The Right labeled Obama a “Socialist” and someone who “pals around with terrorists” (with an undercurrent of racism in the subtext that he was a terrorist), while the Left labeled McCain as an “old man” approaching senility and Palin as a “pitbull with lipstick.” The name-calling ramped up to a fever pitch in the media, and the real issues we were facing got lost because nobody felt like treating the American people like adults. It was much easier to deal with the voters as if they were children. Even Saturday Night Live got a boost from the election.

Another problem that’s dragging the state of American debate down is that if we listen to our opponents, it’s perceived as weakness. This also played out in the last election, as the Right looked at Obama’s willingness to talk with North Korea and Iran as tantamount to surrendering to them. What both sides fail to recognize is that they are never going to get 100% of what they want. This thing we call political debate needs to be called compromise. Those on the Left should realize that we will probably never have a nationalized health care system. Those on the Right should realize that the Left is currently in power and they’re forcing the issue, so it’s time to negotiate instead of sitting immobile with arms crossed.

Listening to what your opponents say is a strength. Since neither Democrats nor Republicans are going to get everything they want, they need to seek out the common ground. Any kind of health care reform that is forced down our throats (as the Democrats seem poised to do) will surely fail, because so many people will want it to fail. It’s amazingly easy to learn something from what your opponent says, as well, either to further your own argument or to help sway your opinion. Examining evidence and making a decision (or even changing one you’ve made before) is the mark of a reasonable person, not the brand of a cowardly flip-flopper. Clinging to decisions you’ve made because of a gut feeling and loudly singing songs while you cover your ears is actually cowardice; it’s the mark of someone who is afraid of their opponent’s words. If the point your adversary makes is making you uncomfortable, perhaps you should re-think your position.

Above this, however, is the most infuriating result of this political culture: the willful amnesia that both sides partake of any time there is a shift in power. When Obama was elected, the Right immediately shifted from defense to offense, just like when the ball changes hands in Football. Suddenly, instead of demanding that we should love America or leave it, they were crying foul about all sorts of changes the new President was planning. They forgot that mere months before they had been howling for the blood of dissenters. You can’t change your ideas of what is acceptable behavior just because of who is in charge. This show that your affiliation lies with your party, and that your convictions aren’t convictions; they’re just talking points designed to bolster your side and weaken your opponents’ stance. I didn’t care enough about politics when Clinton left office to notice, but I’m sure a similar about-face happened as soon as Bush was sworn in. This is worse than Hypocrisy. It’s flip-flopping with a vengeance, and being spiteful to boot.

There’s a certain vitriol to all this, a gleeful fanning of the flames which threaten to swallow us a whole. I shudder every time I read a comment on a discussion forum that suggests that the opposition should die or suffer horribly for what they say or believe. True, much discussion online is emboldened by anonymity, and even more can be shrugged away with claims that the poster was just joking. But underlying every jest is a grain of truth, and some of the things we read online are simply terrifying. The situation is made even worse by talk radio and pundits on TV. I hate to keep using the Right as an example of this because my whole point is about looking beyond the left-vs.-right line, but I lean to the left so this is what I tend to read.

The entire culture of politics in the United States is toxic because so many people resort to name-calling as a substitute for a measured, well-reasoned back-and-forth. They draw a line in the sand, pick a side, and set out determined not to listen, not to compromise, and not to treat the issues we face like the serious business they are. There’s more ratings in the childish chanting and parroting of talking points. We lose the signal of valuable discussion in the noise of the Keith Olbermanns, the Anne Coulters, the Rush Limbaughs, and the Michael Moores out there. It’s all so much hand-waving, and we’re playing right into their hands everytime we hurl an epithet instead of offering an argument.

Why is OLGA down?

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Why is OLGA down? Because musicians want to A) find out how to play or B) share with others how to play their favorite songs. And apparently the musicians are upset, instead of flattered (which any other decent human being would be). What a way to say thanks to your fans, jerks.

By the way, if you ever needed another reason to hate KISS, here it is. (Read the ‘take-down letter’).