As part of $1 billion in cost savings, the BBC is going to cut 12 percent of its staff. As a British television nerd, I am, of course, sad to hear this, and as someone who cares about good reporting, especially concerned to hear that about half of the cuts will be in news. It’s a reminder of how great it would be to get more British content more widely syndicated in the U.S., whether it’s Hulu streaming Misfits, or getting a lot of the content that’s available through DVD only on Netflix available streaming, or getting shows on networks other than BBC America. I would dearly love to be more of a revenue stream for the BBC.
Ask and ye shall (sort of) receive: Netflix just licensed the original Being Human. To which I say huzzah!
It was inevitable, given its low ratings, but I remain sorry that NBC has cancelledFree Agents, one of the shows that felt most promising to me (in an admittedly weak season). As I wrote when the show first began, what was so appealing about it to me is that Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hanh’s characters felt like actual grown-ups. They had been through some seriously rough stuff, and the show didn’t try to pretend that sleeping together minimized the impacts of a devastating divorce or the untimely death of a fiance. The characters had definitive preferences, priorities, and personalities that didn’t vanish the minute they met someone new. Work matters to both of them. Romance is not the ultimate value, though it’s not unimportant, either. There was no clear answer or destination here, but watching them negotiate each episode, each encounter, was a pleasure — it would have been find for the characters not to end up together, and it still would have been interesting.
Maybe that just speaks to the poverty of romantic comedy thinking today, where no character has traits or preferences that can’t be sacrificed when true love, the highest value of all, comes along, where the prospect of not ending up with somebody is the biggest obstacle anyone can dream up. Relationships happen at a lot of ages, not just when people are in their 20s, and at a lot of different stages in life. Part of romance is negotiation, and mutual self-actualization. That Free Agents felt so comparatively fresh says much more about the market than about the quality of the show itself.
Of course Snoop Dogg’s sold a family sitcom to NBC. Of course he has. Ice Cube’s already paved the way, going from roles in Boyz n the Hood to a mini family entertainment empire built around movies and TV spin-offs like Are We There Yet? Up next, he’s doing what Ice-T did in transitioning from “Cop Killer” to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, by playing a cop in the remake of 21 Jump Street.
I don’t really begrudge anyone who sees an opportunity to make some money, and I do appreciate it when the market tips people away from treating women like objects. But there’s space between, say, Snoop Dogg with a houseful of Glee-like misfits and something like “Fuck tha Police”:
Racial profiling, say, doesn’t stop when you get extremely rich and famous, even if you don’t have some of your old problems, like having to share a car while you cruise around trying to pick up girls. It’d be nice to see folks like Snoop and Ice use their power to produce a compromise with mass culture rather than a total capitulation to it. It’s possible to be an adorably bumbling dad who also encounters institutionalized racism — and maybe to be an even more effective spokesman in that kind of role.
After consumer finance advocate and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren joked that she didn’t take her clothes off to pay for college, Scott Brown decided that an appropriate rejoinder would be to call up talk radio and tell listeners how relieved he is that he doesn’t have to see his opponent naked:
Warren probably shouldn’t have made the original comment, but Brown’s sin here is vastly worse. Warren’s comments about Brown’s posing for Cosmopolitan were a judgement of Brown’s behavior, Brown’s comments were a superficial, inappropriate, and degrading judgment on Warren’s appearance, on who he thinks she is. This is an ancient script, and a sadly typical way to try to take the focus away from the relevant qualities of smart, strong women, like when Don Imus calls Hillary Clinton “that buck-toothed witch, Satan.” And men aren’t entirely immune either: Brown’s comments come after several weeks of fierce national debates over whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight disqualified him from the presidency. But as ugly as the conversation about Christie has been, I can’t even imagine the vitriol that would be aimed at a woman of Christie’s age and equivalent body weight if she were poised to be a national political figure.
Of course, this is probably where Brown would like the debate to be. Last time out, he won his Senate seat on the strength of a barnyard coat, a pickup truck, and an opponent who didn’t know her Red Sox trivia as well as she should have. At the time, one of his campaign consultants said that the jacket proved that “Scott is the Rocky Balboa of Massachusetts politics.” But this time, Rocky from Wrentham’s going up against Warren, who may name-check Wonder Woman in debates, but she doesn’t need a Lasso of Truth—she has actual ideas and credibility. If I were Brown, I’d be worried. But bodysnarking Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to make Brown’s status as Wall Street’s favorite Senator go away.
My ultimate boss, Center for American Progress President John Podesta, is a deeply devoted X-Files fan, so it’s the official ThinkProgress position that we’re pretty excited about the show ABC just bought from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, Star Trek writer Roberto Orci, actor Seth Green, and Michael Dougherty. Called Ex-Comm, it follows a newly-inaugurated president and his administration who get into office only to find out there’s a whole other set of issues they have to deal with than the ones they campaigned on: paranormal threats.
I like the idea of a counterpoint to the X-Files* vision of a shadow government, not least because it would be decently hard to hide a giant Defense Department warehouse and operations of that magnitude without making some Inspector General extremely suspicious and cranky, and you can’t just keep killing or converting those guys forever. Where X-Files was a show about government’s power to conceal and contain operations, Ex-Comm could be about the capacity of the government. The presidency is already a giant job, and the existence of aliens or other paranormal phenomena wouldn’t just add an extent foreign policy threat. It implicates scientific knowledge and research, diplomacy, cross-species ethics, cultural exchange, and, presumably, the economy. Managing all those implications while maintaining the public facade that everything is fine would be a huge strain, and a huge amount of work for both the president and multiple Cabinet departments. Seeing that argued out from multiple dimensions, rather than as the subject of a two-way antagonism, would be completely fascinating.
Also, I nominate a post-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston to play a Podesta-like chief of staff.
*I should note that I watched The X-Files only very sporadically, though my cousin once wrote me the world’s awesomest pre-Wiki guide to the show.
Steve Jobs’ death doesn’t come as a particular shock — he clearly wouldn’t have stepped down from his role at Apple had he not been extremely ill. And people other than me will do a better job of summing up his impact on the international technology market. But what stands out for me is how astonishing Apple under Jobs was at creating incredibly powerful desires. Thanks to him, we all live, in bits and pieces, in a Jetsons-like vision of the future.
When I bought my first laptop in preparation for college, Apple wasn’t particularly on my radar, even though the iPod had come out the fall before (Jobs passed away just short of the 10-year anniversary of the product’s announcement). I bought a Dell on the advice of the woman who did IT at my summer job because it was comparatively inexpensive and powerful. But within a year, I was sighing over a friend’s used iPod that I just didn’t have the money to buy myself. I remember vividly unwrapping the iPod my parents gave me for my birthday a year later, and the moment several years later when I lost that one on a post-college train trip, and realized that the prices on them had come down enough so that I could effectively make the replacement an impulse buy. To a certain extent, Apple has replaced McDonalds as a threshold consumer experience: with caveats for socioeconomic class, sometimes it seems like everyone has some sort of Apple product, and getting one of your own is a membership badge.
It doesn’t actually seem likely that Dylan will win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but given how dense and narrative his lyrics are, I’m glad he’s getting actual buzz for it. Here are five Dylan songs that make the case that he’s as much a short-story writer as a musician:
1. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” (1964): Many recent laureates have won for work that exposes injustice or examines the impact of oppression. The subject of Dylan’s stark description of racial violence may have protested its accuracy during his lifetime, but the song endures as a biting indictment of a system that values some deaths more than others.
2. “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” (1966): Dylan’s view of Mobile as a shot-up, burned out, gorgeous ghost town full of mythic figures would be an amazing first chapter for a Southern Gothic novel.
3. “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” (1975): Until Deadwood came along, one of the best Westerns about women. The little detail about Lily washing the dye out of her hair is particularly beautiful.
4. “Desolation Row” (1965): It’s not as if Dylan was the first person to re-appropriate fairy tale characters and juxtapose them in new and striking ways. But “Desolation Row” smashes together archetypes, immortal characters from literature, poets, and Albert Einstein and puts them up against the barricades of the riot police in a striking take on the first half of the twentieth century that’s a prescient prediction of the second:
5. “My Back Pages” (1964): Even his songs about disillusionment and artistic transition are great.
Lady Gaga may have topped Forbes’ annual list of the highest-earning celebrities, but when it comes to the rest of the list, it’s good to be a white guy. Sixty-seven of the 100 celebrities or groups on the list are men, 32 are women, and 1, the Black Eyed Peas, is made up of men and a woman. Seventy-six of the 100 are white, 23 are black or Latino (there are no Asian individuals on the list), and the Black Eyes Peas are, again, the lone representative of mixed-race groups.
These results aren’t really that surprising, and I feel some temptation to dismiss them as telling us what we already know: that white men have a lot of financial power. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that if you pull this kind of bank, you have power beyond your pocketbook. As a proven earner, you’re likely to have more creative power than someone who is critically acclaimed but not necessarily commercially successful, or someone at the start of their career. And that means you can take time to do prestige projects, get your own ideas greenlit and have someone else pay to make them happen, or pay to make your own projects happen without the requirement that you listen to anyone. If Tyler Perry’s the only black movie producer on this list, then we’re probably going to get a lot more Tyler Perry-style characters on movies and television and not much else. If we want mass entertainment to get more interesting, supporting your favorite artists with your dollars actually matters. It doesn’t just support them. It can help buy them creative freedom.
Alyssa Rosenberg is the Features Editor for ThinkProgress.org. She is a columnist for the XX Factor at Slate, and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com Alyssa grew up in Massachusetts and holds a B.A. in humanities from Yale University. Before joining ThinkProgress, she was editor of Washingtonian.com and a staff correspondent at Government Executive. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast,The New Republic, Esquire.com, The Daily, The American Prospect, and National Journal. Read more.