SciFi Weekend: Timeless Finale; SHIELD In The Framework; The 100; Doctor Who Trailer; Sense8; The Discovery; Bill Paxton Dies

Timeless ended its first season on the bubble, and the season finale was written without knowledge of whether it will return. I am still waiting for Trump to actually do something useful, such as issue an Executive Order banning cliff hangers on shows which aren’t known to be coming back. If there must be one, it was handled well on Timeless. The season finale did wrap up the running story line of the first season, and could work as a series finale. It also had a huge reveal in the final minutes which changes how we see some of the season, and leaves a lot open for a second season, if the series is renewed.

Deadline spoke with Shawn Ryan, who co-created and executive produces Timeless with Eric Kripke:

DEADLINE: Up until the last few minutes, the series was heading to a happy ending. Why did you decide to add the major cliffhanger at the end?
SHAWN RYAN: We had thought for awhile about what the best way was to give some closure for Season 1 while also setting us up for a new dynamic in Season 2. We wanted to bring Garcia Flynn’s journey to some kind of end, though I’m sure we’ll see more of him going forward. So while many people might see our Season 1 conclusion as a cliffhanger, we see it as a wrap-up of Season 1 and a launch point for Season 2.

DEADLINE: Did you have an alternate ending that would serve as a series finale in case Timeless does not come back?
SHAWN RYAN: No. Eric and I planned for success. We’ve been working towards this ending ever since the season began.

DEADLINE: In the cliffhanger, Rittenhouse takes control over the time machine. What is the plan for Season 2? Will our heroes continue to chase the mothership, trying to prevent Rittenhouse from implementing their sinister plan?
SHAWN RYAN: We are working on our overall plan for Season 2 right now and we’ll pitch it to NBC in April, so I’m reluctant to get too much into it because we’ll want to take a deep breath and evaluate the whole season before we commit to what we want to do in Season 2. What I can say is the current plan involves our heroes traveling to the past to stop history from being perverted and changed too much…

DEADLINE: What will be Lucy’s mom role going forward, and why wasn’t she arrested along with 100+ Rittenhouse members in the government sweep?
SHAWN RYAN: Lucy’s mom will be influential in Season 2. We don’t presume that every member of Rittenhouse was identified and apprehended in the first 48 hours after our heroes returned from 1954, though the organization was definitely dealt a big blow. So we will owe an answer in Season 2 as to why Lucy’s mom was one of the Rittenhouse members not to be identified right away.

DEADLINE: Had she been onto the time machine project from the very beginning, including the arrangement of Lucy’s involvement in it?
SHAWN RYAN: Yes. Eric and I had it in our minds even from pilot stage that Carol was secretly a part of Rittenhouse and was keeping her eye on Lucy this whole time…

DEADLINE: Will Flynn resurface in Season 2 or did his story arc end with the season 1 finale?
SHAWN RYAN: Well, Goran was fantastic for us this season and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Garcia Flynn on the show, though obviously his role would be different going forward

DEADLINE: How did Emma, seemingly a fugitive on a mission to take down Rittenhouse, turn out to be a Rittenhouse operative? Is she earmarked for a major role in the Season 2 developments?
SHAWN RYAN: We will definitely owe some answers and explanations for this in Season 2, but once again, it was always our plan that she was secretly Rittenhouse and she was hiding out in the 1880s for Rittenhouse reasons that we will need to explain. We’ll see what stories we want to tell and how available our actress is to be on the show…

DEADLINE: Will Lucy be able to get her sister back or will she succumb to her Rittenhouse fate as her parents suggested?
SHAWN RYAN: I certainly think she’s going to continue to try to get her sister back. We’ll see if her mother or father can persuade her otherwise.

I posted excerpts from an interview with both Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless last week.

It was only a matter of time until Agents of SHIELD found a way to bring Agent Ward back in some form. This is being done by having the show move into the Matrix. Actually it is called the Framework. The probably couldn’t call it the Matrix for copyright reasons, just as Ray Palmer said he couldn’t call his saber which used light a lightsaber for trademark reasons in the Camelot/3000 episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Jed Whedon discussed Agents of SHIELD with E! News:

How long was it in the works to bring Brett back? How long had you been planning on this?
Well, we knew that at the start of the third pod as we’re calling them, we were going to get into the Framework, so there were a lot of options of things to do there, but that was always sort of at the top of the list. We love him and the fans love him and so we didn’t want to undercut the stories we’ve told with him, but this felt like a way to bring him back in a thrilling fashion that didn’t negate what we’d done earlier with him.

Was there talk at the end of last season when he was written out that this was an option, or was this something that came about later?
His end was his end, but this is Marvel and our show is built upon the foundation of a man who was brought back from the dead. And we had actually done that with Ward. So, it’s always an option that someone can find a way to appear back on our show and I think that this next pod will prove that out.

How would you tease what this Framework version of Ward? Because he’s wholly an Aida creation, it would seem.
The Darkhold has given them this amazing ability to sort of recreate reality, but we know that some small changes were made, repairing regrets for everybody they’ve put in there, so that seems to have had some sort of ripple effect. Who Grant Ward is in this world, we’ll have to wait and see, but they set out to recreate our world in every way and recreate everyone in it and everything in it, so there will be some familiarity to the man when you get to know him right off the bat in the next episode.

Another big surprise was learning that Jemma isn’t alive in the Framework. Are we going to cut to poor Simmons waking up in a coffin when she enters the Framework? How will this work for her?
We’ll have to see, but she didn’t wake up in a warm tub, that’s for sure. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but the two of them are going in and how she comes to be we’ll have to see. I have a feeling that she’s not gone from the series. That’s not how we would end Elizabeth’s run. [Laughs.] That’s a wait and see, as I have a feeling a lot of these questions will be…But that’s the fun part about the Framework. It’s a what-if world and we don’t really know what to expect.

Talk to me a little bit about the decision to have Hydra in control in the Framework. What is this Hydra going to be like and what was the thought process behind going in that direction?
Well, you know, Hydra is sort of the opposite of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the simplest version of the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. And we’ve told a lot of Hydra stories, but this story is more about our characters and sort of dealing with questions of identity and the nature of reality and whether or not you have a true nature or whether or not you’re made up of your experiences. If you’re made up of your regrets. Is there a true you or are you just an assembly of your experiences?

More at TVLine.

Jemma’s death on Agents of SHIELD is only in the Framework, but it appeared that we were seeing a string of deaths on television. There was the death of Alice on The Magicians recently. Connie Britton’s character died on Nashville. In this case I assume it was a matter of Britton not wanting to commit to a series on CMT for more than a brief season after it was cancelled by ABC. The question now is whether the show can survive her loss. It reminds me a little of how Dallas couldn’t survive the loss of Larry Hagman after the revival of Dallas on TNT. The one difference is that Hagman’s death came as a surprise, as opposed to Herskovits and Zwick having planned on Britton’s departure from the start.

For a brief time I thought we also had a major death on The 100. I actually went into the episode expecting a death based upon headlines of articles I had put off reading. The 100 has a history of killing off major characters, including Lexa and Lincoln last season, but Octavia seemed too important to kill off. Between having a sword go through her body and falling off that cliff, she sure did look dead, but the rules for survival are different on television than in the real world. Perhaps the bigger question of how she survived this is how her horse managed to make it down the cliff to her.

At least I am glad that they did show her get on the horse at the end of the episode as opposed to leaving viewers with a false belief that she was killed if they did plan to keep her alive. Now the question is how long it will take for Bellamy to discover that the news he heard of his sister’s death was premature. Plus Clarke’s story line got quite interesting last week, reminiscent of the types of issues raised in the first season.

The above teaser has been released for Doctor Who series 10, which will premiere on April 15. It features the Doctor’s new companion, Bill, speaking about him:

The first time you meet him, he’s funny.The second time, he’s amazing. The third time, you realize he’s the most dangerous man in the universe. He says he’s a man of peace, but he walks in war. I’m having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world–even if it kills me.

As Pearl Mackie has only been signed for a single season, and there is talk about a clean slate when Chris Chinball takes over as showrunner, perhaps she actually will die.

In other Doctor Who news, the spin0ff Class has been cancelled after a single season due to low ratings. It aired in the UK last fall and will be shown in the United States this spring following episodes of Doctor Who on BBC America. I did download the episodes last fall and found it to be a decent show to watch while there was no Doctor Who available, but it is hardly must see for those who have not seen it yet. The eight episodes do wrap up a story for the season, so it can easily be watched as a stand-alone season.

Sense8 returns on May 5, after a teaser Christmas episode.  Here is the (rather vague) synopsis for the upcoming full season:

Picking up where season one left off, Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton) , Sun (Donna Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) come together both physically and mentally, plunged into the middle of each other’s tragedies and triumphs. On the run from Whispers (Terrence Mann), and forced to question their very identity, it’s a matter of survival as the Sensates must find a way to live with, understand and protect one another against all odds.

Some pictures have been posted on line. As we already got the obligatory orgy in the Christmas episode, I don’t know if there will be another in the full season.

Netflix has released the above trailer for The Discovery, a movie in which the afterlife has been scientifically proven to exist and millions of people commit suicide to get there. My bet is that there is a catch.

The 2016 Nebulla Award nominees have been announced.

In this time of peak TV we already have one excellent series by Noah Hawley running (Legion). A second will return soon as the third season of Fargo is schedule to premiere on April 19.

Starz has announced that the long-awaited series based upon Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods will premiere on April 30.

Looking at the winners of recent awards ceremonies can help predict the winners of the Academy Awards tonight. Based upon recent winners, I predict that La La Land will win Best Picture, and Rumor the German Shepherd will win Best in Show.

Bill Paxton has died at age 61 of complications of heart surgery. He starred in Big Love, and has had genre roles including Aliens and Agents of SHIELD. There are many comments on his death on Twitter today, including several from cast and crew of Agents of SHIELD, with TVLine having a compilation. He has also had lesser genre roles including being killed early in The Terminator. The Mary Sue points out the science fiction villains he has faced:

In the course of his career, Paxton faced three of science fiction’s most famous villains. In Aliens, he faced the xenomorphs; in Predator 2, he faced a Predator; and in The Terminator, he played one of the punks from whom Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character demanded clothes. /Film wrote that this makes him “the only actor to have been killed by a Terminator, a Predator, and a Xenomoprh,” and I personally can’t think of anyone else who can come for that title.

Trump Rejects Facts When Intelligence Report Contradicts His Arguments For Travel Ban

Donald Trump’s travel bans aimed at Muslims are clear efforts to pander to the bigotry of his base and to encourage fear. He has tried to justify his actions based upon national security but the facts do not support him. The Wall Street Journal, hardly a left-wing publication, reports that intelligence reports contradict his claims:

An intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security contradicts the White House’s assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists and should be blocked from entering the U.S.

The report is the latest volley in a struggle between intelligence officials and the Trump administration that has rippled across several agencies. Some officials have critiqued administration policies, while the president and senior members of his staff have accused officials of leaking information to undermine his administration and the legitimacy of his election.

The report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, came from Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. It said that its staff “assesses that country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” The White House on Friday dismissed it as politically motivated and poorly researched…

Only two of the seven countries targeted by Mr. Trump—Iraq and Somalia—are among the top origins countries for foreign-born individuals who engaged in terrorism in the United States, the report found. Those countries, in order, are Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan.

The findings track similar studies by think tanks and news organization. The Wall Street Journal in January found that of 180 people charged with jihadist terrorism-related crimes or who died before being charged, 11 were identified as being from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan or Somalia, the countries specified in Mr. Trump’s order. No Americans were killed in any of the attacks by those 11 individuals.

The DHS report found that countries targeted in Mr. Trump’s immigration order already accounted for a small portion of total visas issued in the fiscal year 2015, with no country accounting for more than 7% of visas granted in the Middle East, North Africa or Sub Saharan Africa, the report found. The country accounting for the largest percentage of visas issued in those regions was Iran, the report found, which the U.S. designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984.

As is usual for Trump when the facts contradict his actions, Trump has decided to reject the facts. The Atlantic reminds us of what can go wrong when decisions are made based upon politics rather than the facts:

What is the cost of politicization? As of 2013, it was estimated that the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 cost an estimated $1.7 trillion, and saw over 4,000 Americans killed in action and over 30,000 wounded in action. Those numbers don’t include the families of the fallen; the innocent Iraqis killed or wounded during the conflict; or the insurgency that evolved into the extremist threat that we now know as ISIS.

The irony is that President Trump is a vocal critic of his predecessors’ decisions to invade, occupy, and ultimately withdraw from Iraq. In the run-up to that war, the Department of Defense formed an Office of Special Plans, conceived by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, which as Seymour Hersh argued in The New Yorker, “was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true” about Iraq the threat it posed to the world. By trying to shape analysis to support his administration’s world view, Trump is creating the conditions for committing our country to courses of action that have the potential to be as costly or disastrous.

Trump Losing Fights With Media, But Far Too Many Believe Him

Public Policy Polling reports, Trump Badly Losing His Fights With Media, but their findings do show that the news media, and reality, are doing far less well than they should. From their findings:

PPP’s newest national poll finds that Donald Trump is losing all of his fights with the media- and voters really think he needs to reduce his cable news consumption.

62% of voters nationally think Trump should keep his cable watching to less than an hour a day, and 82% think he needs to keep it under 2 hours a day. Just 6% of voters in the country think it’s a good idea for Trump to spend more than 2 hours a day watching cable news.

Last week Trump declared that the news media was the ‘enemy of the American people’ but we find that only 35% of voters believe that, to 53% who say that isn’t the case. By a 48/44 spread they say it is actually Trump who is the greater threat to the American people than the media. We asked voters who they thought had more credibility between Trump and each of the outlets he singled out for attack last week, and Trump loses out to every one of them by double digits.

They put up various media outlets in head to head polls against Donald Trump. The New York Time came out the best, beating Trump by a 52 to 40 percent margin. NBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS came out just slightly less well, beating Trump by ten to eleven points.

They also reported that, “We also in general find that voters find the media outlets Trump considers hostile to him credible, while it finds the outlets more friendly to him less credible.” They compared the number seeing each media outlet as credible versus not credible and reported net credibility. The New York Times and the major network news had net credibility ranging from 19 to 25. CNN lagged behind at 15 but still was seen far better than Fox, which had a positive net credibility at 6. Daily Caller, Info Wars and Breitbart had negative net credibility ranging from negative 31 to negative 36.

To a pollster’s mind this would be a big victory, but we are not looking at general election polling. In a general election, a win of ten points or more would be a landslide. While we saw how a three point victory was not enough for Clinton to win in the Electoral College, there is no question she would have had a large victory in the electoral college if she could have achieved a ten point victory.

However, this is not a general election poll. I still find it discouraging that in a question of who is more credible, Donald Trump, who has lied every day since taking office, is seen as more credible than major media outlets by forty percent of those polled. At least the more mainstream media was seen as more credible than the right wing sources which do intentionally spread misinformation.

This is not to say that the media doesn’t have its faults. CNN, for example, concentrates on star power over in depth coverage. They spend a tremendous amount of time with talking heads trying to tell people what they should think as opposed to giving the facts. Despite these faults, their errors in fact are rare compared to the constant deluge of alternative facts spread by Donald Trump and his administration. It is valid to complain that CNN presents superficial coverage and biased opinions. That is not the same as being “fake news.”

Donald Trump has received considerable well-deserved criticism for his attacks on the news media, including calling the media the”enemy of the American people.” Trump continued to attack the media at CPAC today, including a threat that “we’re going to do something about it.” He claimed that he was only attacking “fake” news, but his attacks have included many mainstream media outlets. He bases his attacks on coverage which is negative towards him as opposed to opposing news which is actually fake.

The Trump administration has also been packing the press briefings and his new conference with friendly newspapers and blogs and primarily taking questions from these sources. They have escalated this in blocking news media they see as unfriendly to them from covering today’s briefing. The Hill reports:

Spicer decided to hold an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the traditional on-camera briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN.

The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend.

Quote of the Day: James Corden On The U.K. Banning Donald Trump

The British parliament is debating whether or not Donald Trump should be allow to make a state visit to the United Kingdom after a petition to keep him out garnered 1.8 million signatures. Hey, Donald, how’s that travel ban feel when it’s on the other foot?–James Corden

All We Hear About Is Trump, But The Resistance Is Winning (So Far)

If you feel that all we hear about these days is Donald Trump, you are right. Due to a combination of factors including his breaks with conventional norms and his own use of social media, Donald Trump is dominating the news more than is usual for a newly-elected president. His impact on the media extends beyond the conventional news. Farhad Manjoo even found a way to measure this:

Consider data from mediaQuant, a firm that measures “earned media,” which is all coverage that isn’t paid advertising. To calculate a dollar value of earned media, it first counts every mention of a particular brand or personality in just about any outlet, from blogs to Twitter to the evening news to The New York Times. Then it estimates how much the mentions would cost if someone were to pay for them as advertising.

In January, Mr. Trump broke mediaQuant’s records. In a single month, he received $817 million in coverage, higher than any single person has ever received in the four years that mediaQuant has been analyzing the media, according to Paul Senatori, the company’s chief analytics officer. For much of the past four years, Mr. Obama’s monthly earned media value hovered around $200 million to $500 million. The highest that Hillary Clinton got during the presidential campaign was $430 million, in July.

It’s not just that Mr. Trump’s coverage beats anyone else’s. He is now beating pretty much everyone else put together. Mr. Senatori recently added up the coverage value of 1,000 of the world’s best known figures, excluding Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. The list includes Mrs. Clinton, who in January got $200 million in coverage, Tom Brady ($38 million), Kim Kardashian ($36 million), and Vladimir V. Putin ($30 million), all the way down to the 1,000th most-mentioned celebrity in mediaQuant’s database, the actress Madeleine Stowe ($1,001).

The coverage those 1,000 people garnered last month totaled $721 million. In other words, Mr. Trump gets about $100 million more in coverage than the next 1,000 famous people put together. And he is on track to match or beat his January record in February, according to Mr. Senatori’s preliminary figures.

This includes Trump dominating conversation beyond the news. He is everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Reddit. He comes up elsewhere:

It wasn’t just news. Mr. Trump’s presence looms over much more. There he is off in the wings of “The Bachelor” and even “The Big Bang Theory,” whose creator, Chuck Lorre, has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits. Want to watch an awards show? Say the Grammys or the Golden Globes? TrumpTrumpTrump. How about sports? Yeah, no. The president’s policies are an animating force in the N.B.A. He was the subtext of the Super Bowl: both the game and the commercials, and maybe even the halftime show.

It is impossible to ignore Trump. His impact has been seen in many areas already, but probably the most on immigration. This excites the haters on the right, and is met with appalled criticism from others. The New York Times is not exaggerating in writing, Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values.

Probably the most fearful narrative about Donald Trump is that he is an authoritarian, in Putin’s mold. There has been increased attention paid to George Orwell’s  1984 and other books about authoritarianism. Jonathan Chait has looked at these fears:

The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country. Timothy Snyder, Masha Gessen, and other students of Putin’s methods have essentially treated Putinization as the likely future, and worked backward to the present. A second category of knowledge has come from scholars of democracy and authoritarianism, who have compared the strengths and weaknesses of the American system of government both to countries elsewhere that have succumbed to authoritarianism and those that have not. Their approach has, more appropriately, treated Trump’s authoritarian designs as an open question. Trump might launch an assault on the foundations of the republic. On the other hand, he might not.

What are the signs of impending authoritarianism? Trump has rhetorically hyped violence, real or imaginary, committed by enemy groups, while downplaying or ignoring violence or threats from friendlier sources. He said nothing about a white-supremacist terror attack in Canada that killed six people before denouncing a knife attack a few days later by an Islamist radical in France that killed nobody. He quickly directed a government program on countering violent extremism to focus exclusively on Muslim radicalism and stop work halting white-supremacist terrorism. Just as he urged his campaign crowds to rough up protesters, he treated news that pro-Trump bikers would patrol his inauguration not as a threat to create chaos but as a welcome paramilitary force. “That’s like additional security with those guys, and they’re rough,” he gleefully told reporters. Trump’s rhetoric follows a pattern of politicizing violence, simultaneously justifying stringent government action against enemies he has designated while tacitly justifying vigilantism by extremists sympathetic to his cause.

Since his election, Trump has obsessively fabricated a narrative in which he is the incarnate of the will of the people. According to his own concocted history, he won a historically large Electoral College victory, and would have also won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes. He has dismissed protesters against him as paid agents, denied the legitimacy of courts to overrule his actions, and, most recently, called mainstream media “enemies of the people.” This is an especially chilling phrase to hear from an American president. Totalitarian dictators like Stalin and Mao used designation of a political figure or a social class as an “enemy of the people” as a prelude to mass murder.

Fortunately, while Trump has done many undesirable things, the talk of the loss of American democracy remains only talk. Checks and balances on the presidency still work. We are seeing the start of a strong anti-Trump protest movement. While far too many liberals were willing to ignore Hillary Clinton’s extremist positions on American interventionism, with many even defending her positions on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and ignore her views on restricting civil liberties which are nearly as far right as those of Donald Trump, the left (and others) are already forming a resistance against Trump. Chait notes that, at least for now, the resistance has the upper hand:

It is worth noting that, so far, normal political countermobilization seems to be working quite well. “The Resistance,” as anti-Trump activists have come to be known, has already rattled the once-complacent Republican majorities in Congress, which Trump needs to quash investigations of his corruption and opaque ties to Russia. Whatever pressure Trump has tried to apply to the news media has backfired spectacularly. His sneering contempt has inspired a wave of subscriptions that have driven new revenue to national media, which have blanketed the administration with independent coverage. Popular culture outlets, rather than responding to Trump’s election by tempering their mockery, have instead stepped it up, enraging the president.

The most plausible (to me) mechanism by which Trump might ensconce himself in power was laid out by Matthew Yglesias three months ago. The scenario Yglesias described would be one in which Trump used the authority of the federal government to compel large firms to give him political support. Companies that opposed him, or who even refused to offer support, might be punished with selectively punitive regulation, while those that played ball might be rewarded with lax enforcement of labor, antitrust, or other regulation.

So far there is no evidence such a scenario is playing out. To be sure, Trump is attempting, sporadically, to bully the private sector. But the effort has backfired. Firms whose leaders make favorable statements about the president have seen their stock get hammered. A long list of prominent CEOs has openly criticized Trump. The reason for this is obvious. Trump’s supporters may have disproportionate power in the Electoral College, but his opponents have disproportionate power in the marketplace. Firms cater in their advertising to the young, who overwhelming oppose Trump, rather than to the old, who strongly support him.

If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.

Donald Trump’s Lying Streak Since Taking Office

The 2016 election was a contest between two of the most dishonest politicians in America, with Donald Trump probably taking the lead in this category. Donald Trump has continued to behave the same since taking office with The Washington Post’s Fact Checker keeping score. He counted 132 false or misleading claims in his first 33 days in office, with at least one per day. Many of these were fairly significant:

Donald Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s president, he has continued his proclivity for making dubious, misleading or false statements. He also often repeats the same debunked claims even though they have been fact-checked. It’s hard to keep up with all of Trump’s rhetoric, so the Fact Checker is assembling in one place all of his suspect statements from his first 100 days as president. You can sort them by various categories and see how many times he has repeated the same false statement.

The most frequent topic of these claims is immigration, which came up 24 times. Other frequent topics are biographical record (17 claims) and jobs (17 claims).

The most common source of false claims was Twitter, but there were also plenty in other remarks, prepared speeches, and interviews.

Will this matter? Chris Cillizza questions whether people care:

Will that affect Trump’s political future? Perhaps less than you might think. In a Fox News poll conducted earlier this month, 45 percent of people said they trust his administration more than the media to tell the truth to the public while 42 percent said they trust the media more. That distrust of the media coupled with Trump’s aggressive efforts to discredit the press make stats like those above irrelevant to many of his supporters.

It is understandable why Donald Trump has been attacking the press, including calling the news media an enemy of the people. While this is having some success, polls have also been showing a drop in support for Trump.

Trump Continues To Receive Criticism For His Attacks On The News Media

Donald Trump’s attack on the media as an enemy of the American people has received widespread criticism. Carl Bernstein has called Trump’s attacks on the media worse than those which came from Richard Nixon:

“Trump’s attacks on the American press as ‘enemies of the American people’ are more treacherous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press,” former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said Sunday on CNN.

Trump’s comments — made publicly, whereas Nixon attacked his enemies in private — brought to mind “dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler,” Bernstein said.

He immediately walked back a comparison to the Nazi leader, while doubling down on the comparison to Nixon.

Bernstein — whose reporting of the Watergate break-in and coverup helped bring about Nixon’s resignation — said Trump’s rhetoric is potentially more dangerous than Nixon’s attacks on the news media.

“There is no civic consensus in this country like there was at the time of Watergate about acceptable presidential conduct,” Bernstein said on “Reliable Sources.”

“Trump is out there on his own, leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy,” he said. “We are into terrible authoritarian tendencies.”

“We’re not enemies of the American people,” Bernstein said on CNN. “In fact, we’re the last resort of the American people to a dictatorial and authoritarian-inclined president.”

Even Fox was critical of Trump, with Chris Wallace saying he crossed the line:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network’s viewers Sunday that President Trump’s latest attack on the media had gone too far.

“Look, we’re big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that’s fine,” Wallace said Sunday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it’s the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”

The “Fox & Friends” anchors had shown a clip of Trump recounting that past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had fought with the press. They then asked Wallace whether Trump’s fraught relationship with the media was a big deal.

In response, Wallace told his colleagues that Jefferson had also once written the following: “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Context was important, Wallace said. All presidents fight with the media, but Trump had taken it a step further in making them out to be “the enemy,” he added.

“Yes, presidents have always had — and politicians have always had — problems with the press. They want good press. The press doesn’t always give it to them,” Wallace said. “But what Jefferson [was saying] is, despite all of our disputes, that to the functioning of a free and fair democracy, you must have an independent press.”

My previous post on this subject quoted John McCain in criticizing Trump, along with other comparisons to Richard Nixon.

John McCain isn’t the only Republican who has been critical of Donald Trump recently. The Wall Street Journal has a story on how Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Congressman from Michigan, has emerged as “Leading Critic of Fellow Republican Donald Trump.”

President Donald Trump’s “constant fear-mongering’’ about terrorism is “irresponsible and dangerous.’’ He needs to “stop attacking the legitimacy of the judiciary.’’ He picked an attorney general with “anti-liberty” positions on surveillance and police seizure of property…

Mr. Amash says his opposition is based on principle, as a libertarian concerned about government overreach and adherence to the Constitution. While many Republican lawmakers hold similar beliefs, Mr. Amash has been an especially outspoken proponent of smaller government, even on issues—such as reducing surveillance—where his views put him out of step with the more mainstream elements of the GOP.

SciFi Weekend: Timeless; Legion And Other Wednesday Genre Shows; Doctor Who; Renewal And Returning Show News; A Sci-Fi Explanation For Donald Trump; Oscar First Thoughts

Timeless started out the season as an entertaining time travel series, even if not the most significant genre show on at present. As it approaches its season (and possibly series) finale, the show has gotten even better as the Rittenhouse backstory progressed, and the series moved on from its initial formula. Screenrant looked at Why Everyone Needs To Be Watching This Time Travel Show.

TV Line spoke with producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless:

TVLINE | How would you preview the finale?
SHAWN RYAN | I’m proud of the finale. It answers a ton of the questions that we’ve raised. We’ve had a pretty good plan from the beginning of the season. There are things that happen in the finale that we had plotted out in our first couple weeks in the writers’ room back in June. We’ve known for a while that we were going to make 16 episodes this season, so we were able to plan for that and build to this…

TVLINE | The last episode left off on quite a cliffhanger, with Rufus in very dire straits. How that will play out in the finale?
ERIC KRIPKE | It’s not so much about whether Rufus will live or die, because — spoiler alert! — he lives. He’s one of our main characters and a popular one, and we’re not going to kill him. So as long as there’s a Timeless, Malcolm [Barrett] has a reasonable amount of job security. It’s more about the storyline that it leads to. Rufus is unable to pilot the lifeboat alone because he’s wounded, and so he needs some help, which comes from some unexpected places, and it kind of turns the story into a new direction, and then turns again.

I think the show’s gotten better and better the more we’ve focused in on and doubled down on the characters. The thing I’m most proud about in the finale is that it’s really a character piece. So many finales, especially the genre shows, are just about people running around and fighting, and ours really digs down to the thematics and the character issues that our people have been facing all year. It’s a uniquely thoughtful and emotional finale, and I’m really proud of it because of that.

TVLINE | How much did not knowing whether the show was renewed or not impact the finale and how you chose to end it?
RYAN | It did not have a great impact. We had a story that we wanted to tell from the beginning. We’re moving forward optimistically. We think there will be a Season 2. I’ve been in a situation before on Last Resort, where it was clear as we were making Episodes 10 and 11 that the show wasn’t going to continue, and we chose at that point to write what was essentially a series finale for Episode 13 to give closure. I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism for a Season 2. We’ll find out in two or three months. We’ve always set out to tell this one-season story that then would provide a launching point for a Season 2, but that would answer a lot of things, and I think we did it. We didn’t have any conversations where we were pulling out ratings and trying to do the math. We’re just writers, and we told the best story we could. So we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
KRIPKE | When you write these things, you plan for success. You just sort of have to, and whatever happens happens. But you write it as if the show’s coming back, because I think doing it any other way, you’re compromising the story you set out to tell.

Legion remains one of the more intriguing shows of the last  couple of years, and is already being compared to recent greats like Mr. Robot and West World. It deals with mental illness and an unreliable narrator as in Mr. Robot. While it might not be a major feature of the show after the premise is established, it handled time jumps far better than West World. While the themes are quite different, it also raises comparisons to Noah Hawley’s recent work on Fargo, in which Hawley adapted another universe in his own way. Uproxx interviewed Noah Hawley:

When you first got the material, what was going in your head in terms of how you wanted this to look?

When I sat down to write it, there was nothing specifically contemporary about it, but I don’t think I assumed it wasn’t a contemporary story. Then, I guess we talked about, since the movies jump from decade to decade, should we be in there somewhere? Then it just seemed to me like the subjectivity of the show gave us this opportunity to create a reality and I don’t know why, I just found myself drawn to these ’60s movies, British ’60s movies; Terence Stamp movies and Quadrophenia. There was a sense of the young punks and these are a band of outsiders and there is that sense of teenage rebellion that exists in this thing. In a modern day sense I think we’re over that and yet there’s something about that period in us that makes something familiar unfamiliar.

It started with just thinking like, “Well, let’s embrace the brutalist architecture and let’s not have any cars, because cars date something, so then if you’re in a reality without cars, where are you when you’re outdoors?” We shot on this University of British Columbia campus where there were no cars allowed. Then the hair and the costumes, this idea of the track suits that they’re in and all of that was a process of figuring out what it was and then the music plays into that as well. This idea, as I said to our composer Jeff Russo, that the show should sound like Dark Side of the Moon, so he went out and he bought the patch cord synthesizer they use in the show.

It is this mixture of visuals and the sound and music of it that’s trying to create something that’s not about information but that’s about experience.

Yeah. It’s almost a ‘60s vision of what the future would look like.

Right. Some of the elements seem futuristic and some of them seem dated, but I wanted there to be a certain whimsy to it as well, and a playfulness. I always loved about that genre and genre in general was the pure inventiveness of it and the way like a science fiction story. The example I give is Battlestar Galactica, the remake. It’s the Cylons who have God. It takes God and it takes robots and it creates something completely new. It’s not something that you would do in a drama. It’s something you would only do in a genre and so what are the genre elements that will allow us to take a show that would work as a dramatic story, two people in love, trying to define themselves rather than being defined by society and it turns it into something that I hope every week there’s something that blows your mind a little…

David alone has, in theory, an infinite number of powers. You get a bunch of these other characters with their own abilities that seem to, for the most part, be your own creations, so you can give them the powers to do whatever you want. What was that process like of figuring out, for instance, what Syd can do?

For me it was about creating characters and saying, what makes a tragic love story? A tragic love story is about people who want to be together but can’t be together for one reason. If they physically can’t touch then that creates this seemingly unleapable obstacle. Then it became about her having a power where she couldn’t be touched, and obviously I think there are characters in comic book lore who have different versions of, “If you touch me, something happens.” I took the creative license to say, “Well this is my version of that.” The danger with a character with a hundred issues of mythology is you’re always turning around and realizing you can’t do something because someone’s going to get mad or it’s going to conflict with what they know and it’s going to be confusing.

It just seemed more and more that I could take David and take this multiple personality disorder that he has in the comic and I could create a sort of metaphorical version of that, which is not to say we won’t ultimately realize that’s what he has, but it’s to say that that’s not what he’s diagnosed with in the show. Then to surround him with characters of my own invention so that I’m not hamstrung about what stories I can tell.

There has been a recent TV trend of unreliable narrators. How do you keep the audience from looking at the show as a puzzle to solve?

You have to solve the mystery. The narrator has to become reliable. It’s a lot to ask an audience to take a perpetually unsatisfying journey where it’s like you’re never going to know for sure. It’s another thing to say, “We’re going to take a character out of confusion into clarity and an audience out of mystery into clarity.” That’s the goal of it which is to say, there’s a contract and you watch that first hour and you like, “I don’t know. There’s a devil with yellow eyes and there are these other elements that I’m not sure what they mean, but I trust the filmmaker and I know that I’m going to understand it eventually.” You do. It becomes clear by the end of the first year what’s going on.

Before this era of peak TV, The 100 might have been the top genre show on of the night. Now it shares the night with Legion, The Magicians, The Expanse, and Arrow. The 100 really deserves more attention than I’ve been paying to it, but TV Line does have some comments on the revelations in Wednesday’s episode.

Spoiler TV reviewed last week’s episode of The Magicians in the aftermath of Alice’s death.

Plus information from the producers on Arrow here and here.

Vox has more on The Expanse.

Although they have no inside information, and the decision probably won’t be made for several months, the odds makers seem to like Tilda Swinton as the favorite to replace Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who. Chris Chibnall will be making the actual decision, and says it will be made in the traditional way:

We’ll cast the role in the traditional way: write the script, then go and find the best person for that part in that script. You couldn’t go out and cast an abstract idea.”

He adds: “The creative possibilities are endless, but I have a very clear sense of what we’re going to do, without even knowing who’s going to play the part.”

Steven Moffat says that Chibnall did try to convince Peter Capaldi to stay. He also says he does not plan to write further episodes of Doctor Who for a while after he leaves as show runner. He seems to have thrown all his ideas into Doctor Who the last several years, but perhaps he will come up with something new down the road.

Odds are looking good that The Big Bang Theory will be renewed for two additional seasons.

Fox has renewed Lucifer for a third season.

I gave up on Once Upon A Time a while back, and  from the ratings it looks like many others have too. The producers are talking about wrapping up the current narrative at the end of season six, and possibly rebooting the show in a different direction for a seventh season.

Fox is considering a reboot of Firefly, but only if Joss Whedon is on board. That makes perfect sense. I question if there is any point in rebooting the show, as opposed to leaving it as a brief , but excellent, old series. I really see no point in having someone else do a reboot.

Netflix has announced that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on May 19.

Outlander returns in September. The production is moving to South Africa, which might be a stand-in for Jamaica.

Goliath has been renewed for a second season.

The Flash deals in multiple parallel universes, including the one in which Supergirl takes place. Screen Rant explains the most important Earths in the CW multiverse. This got me thinking after hearing Donald Trump’s comments on what appears to be an alternative Sweden…

It increasingly looks like the best explanation is that Donald Trump and his top aides have been replaced by their counterparts from an alternate universe in which there have been terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta and Sweden. Also, in their universe, Barack Obama really was a Muslim born in Kenya, and scientists never did figure out the connection between human action and climate change. Presumably orange skin and that hair are also commonplace there too.

I’m still racing to catch as many of the top Academy Award nominees as possible by next Sunday. Looking at the favorites, at this point I enjoyed La La Land and am okay with Emma Stone as Best Actress, but I would not pick it as Best Picture. Based upon what I’ve seen so far I’d go with Arrival, but not expecting a science fiction movie to win, I’d also pick Lion above La La Land. It would be a toss up with Manchester by the Sea, depending upon whether I want a more upbeat or downbeat movie. Casey Afflect is justifiably a strong contender for Best Actor.

This could change by next week. My immediate goal is to at try to get in Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight before the awards.

Donald Trump Versus Freedom Of The Press

Donald Trump got off to what might be the worst first month of a presidency since William Henry Harrison (who died after his first month in office). While  the apparently impotent White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denies it is a reset, The Washington Post reports that Trump attempts a reset with a rally, new staff and a renewed fight with the media. Regardless of whether it is part of a reset, Donald Trump appears to be further escalating his war on the media. This includes some of his latest Tweets, such as this one proclaiming the media to be “the enemy of the American People.”

Balloon Juice responded to the Tweet in asking if Trump is “a paranoid, unhinged demagogue who doesn’t understand the role of the press in a free society.”

The news media, broadcast more than press, does have serious problems, but we must not confuse legitimate criticism of the media with opposition to the free press, or ignore the importance of the role of the press in a free society. Just look at Donald Trump’s Twitter account, or watch his last press conference. Imagine if there was no free press, and this was our main source of information. Look at the media in totalitarian societies. With all failings of the news media, their reporting is far more representative of reality than what we would get from Trump. As John McCain warned, “That’s how dictators get started.”

CHUCK TODD: I’m curious of your reaction to a tweet that the president sent Friday night. “The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.” You believe the press is the enemy? You believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?

JOHN MCCAIN: I was talking about the period as, you know, of the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.

CHUCK TODD: That’s how dictators get started, with tweets like that?

JOHN MCCAIN: No. They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.

Daniel Politi put this in further historical perspective at Slate:

Trump blasting the news media is nothing new, of course. Even a day earlier, Trump uttered the phrase “fake news” seven times during a White House news conference. Yet labeling the media the “enemy of the American people” seemed to take things to a new level and many quickly drew parallels to tyrants throughout history that were fond of the phrase. Although it harkens back to ancient Rome, many remember that the phrase was used during the purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. “It is one of the most controversial phrases in Soviet history,” explained Mitchell Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “What it basically meant was a death sentence.”

The expression was also a favorite of China’s Mao Zedong, who used the “enemies of the people” label against anyone who opposed his policies. Identifying and later punishing those enemies was central to Mao’s rule. A Chinese journalist, Li Yuan, pointed out the parallel on Twitter, noting that “every dissenting voice was ‘the enemy of the people’ under Mao.”

Beijing seems to be welcoming this fresh attack on the news media with glee. China’s state-run newspaper Global Times noted in an editorial that Trump’s “war with mainstream media” would make it difficult for the president to challenge Beijing on “ideological” issues such as human rights. “His war with mainstream media makes it difficult for Trump to ally with the media on [the] ideological front against China,” the newspaper said. “Many have predicted that Trump’s presidency would exacerbate the recession of liberalism.”

Presumably we will also hear some Democrats speaking out against Trump, but far too often they give the impression of opposing Trump more based upon opposition politics and not principles. The Democratic Party has put itself in a poor position to defend civil liberties after nominating someone with as conservative a record on First Amendment issues as Hillary Clinton in 2016. (The nomination of Clinton similarly weakens the position of Democrats on foreign policy and matters of government corruption.)

While written before his latest attack on the media, Jonathan Rauch looked at comparable problems under Richard Nixon and George Bush when writing Containing Trump for the The Atlantic:

The 45th president, Donald Trump, might pose the gravest threat to the constitutional order since the 37th. Of course, he might not. Perhaps we’ll get Grown-up Trump, an unorthodox and controversial president who, whatever one may think of his policies and personality, proves to be responsible and effective as a chief executive. But we might get Infantile Trump, an undisciplined narcissist who throws tantrums and governs haphazardly. Or perhaps, worse yet, we’ll get Strongman Trump, who turns out to have been telegraphing his real intentions when, during the campaign, he spread innuendo and misinformation, winked at political violence, and proposed multiple violations of the Constitution and basic decency. Quite probably we’ll get some combination of all three (and possibly others).

If we get Strongman Trump or Infantile Trump, how would we protect our democratic institutions and norms? “Don’t be complacent,” warns Timothy Naftali, a New York University historian who was the founding director of the Nixon presidential library. “Don’t assume the system is so strong that a bad president will be sent packing. We have someone now saying things that imply unconstitutional impulses. If he acts on those impulses, we’re going to be in the political struggle of our lifetimes.” Meeting that challenge, I think, hinges on whether civil society can mobilize to contain and channel Trump. Fortunately, that’s happening already.

It’s tempting to think of Trump as a fluke, and to believe that at the end of his administration everything will return to normal. Many people hold a darker view, though—among them Yascha Mounk, the co-founder of a new watchdog group called After Trump. A lecturer on government at Harvard and a fellow at the New America Foundation, Mounk thinks the stakes are high. “Most people,” he told me, “are thinking about Trump as a policy problem: how he will lead to the deportation of undocumented immigrants or lead the U.S. to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. But I think Trump is also potentially an authoritarian threat to the survival of liberal democracy.”

The bad news is that we are not seeing any signs of this fictional Grown-up Trump. The good news is that resistance is already mounting to Strongman Trump and Infantile Trump:

“Civil society had a huge and unprecedented impact during the Bush administration,” Goldsmith told me. The networks that constrained Bush are still there, and Trump has put them on red alert. “Every single thing he does will be scrutinized with an uncharitable eye,” Goldsmith said. “That’s true of most presidents, but it’s true to an even greater degree with Trump.”

The forces are already mobilizing. In the first five days after the election, the American Civil Liberties Union saw what it called the greatest outpouring of support in its history: more than $7 million from 120,000 contributors, a 25 percent increase in Facebook followers (to nearly 1 million), and 150,000 additions to its email list. By early January, the ACLU had raised an impressive $35 million online, from almost 400,000 contributors. Meanwhile, according to Politico, progressive donors were discussing “forming a liberal equivalent to the right’s Judicial Watch, which spent much of the past eight years as a thorn in the Obama administration’s side, filing legal petitions under the Freedom of Information Act.”

I have seen evidence of mobilization firsthand. Just days after the election, a friend told me that he and others were organizing a network of law firms willing to provide pro bono legal services to people fending off harassment or bullying by the new administration or its allies. Before November was out, the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank in Washington, announced a project to bring together intellectuals and activists and politicians (especially Republicans) to make the case for liberal democracy, hold the line against incursions, and try to prevent Trump’s excesses from being normalized. “It’s important for people coming from the center and center-right to resist the forces and ideas coming out of the Donald Trump campaign,” Jerry Taylor, the center’s director, told me. “We’ll be keeping a very close eye on administration undertakings and events on Capitol Hill, and when things cross the line we will be energetically pushing back.”

Update: Trump Continues To Receive Criticism For His Attacks On The News Media

Late Night Comics On The Trump Press Conference

After yesterday’s bizarre press conference from Donald Trump, which has me now wondering if Trump has gotten to the talking to pictures on the White House walls stage yet, it was inevitable that the late night comics would concentrate on it. It would have been comedic malpractice if they had not. Here are the highlights:

Stephen Colbert changed his monologue to cover the press conference for obvious reasons.

Jimmy Kimmel played the highlights.

Seth Meyers took A Closer Look.

Jimmy Fallon gave his impression of the press conference for his cold open.

James Corden gave his break down of what occurred.

Or perhaps the funniest commentary of all comes from the right wing which took Trump seriously. For example, Michael Goodwin wrote, Sorry, media — this press conference played very differently with Trump’s supporters. 

The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on Earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kid stuff next to his high wire act.

Next time, the White House ought to sell popcorn.

Amid feverish reports of chaos on his team and with Democrats fantasizing that Russia-gate is another Watergate, Trump took center stage to declare that reports of his demise are just more fake news…

He did it his way. Certainly no other president, and few politicians at any level in any time, would dare put on a show like that.

In front of cameras, and using the assembled press corps as props, he conducted a televised revival meeting to remind his supporters that he is still the man they elected. Ticking off a lengthy list of executive orders and other actions he has taken, he displayed serious fealty to his campaign promises.

Or there is the laughable claim from Rush LimbaughTrump Triumphs Over Press.

To be fair to conservatives, many do see through Trump. For example, David Brooks wrote, What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like. He began:

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued…