Cheneyism Legalized

Appeals court rules that the FCC cannot fine broadcasters if someone blurts out a suggestion that someone go Cheney themself.

(The subplot seems to have disapeared from Studio 60, but this should sure help NBS, which was under pressure from the government when an American soldier used a Cheneyism while being interviewed.)

SciFi Friday: Daleks in Manhattan, Jenna Supports Obama

SciFi Channel has announced the summer schedule. A remake of Flash Gordon premiers on August 10. The third season of Doctor Who starts July 6. I’ll be out of town for the 4th of July holiday, but that won’t matter as by then I’ll have seen the full third season thanks to those kind people in Great Britain who faithfully upload each week’s episode the night it airs. While I haven’t verified the math, I’ve also heard that in the past week Doctor Who passed Star Trek for most episodes, counting all versions of both shows.

I knew I’d love this week’s episode as soon as I saw the Tardis materialize at the base of the Statue of Liberty, followed by The Doctor and Martha walking through Central Park. The episode ends with a cliff hanger as the Daleks present a new threat to make up for them being an endangered species. While I enjoyed the show, such time travel stories always present some problems. If the few surviving Daleks have come back in time to the 1930’s, this would be before most of them were wiped out and there should still be lots of Daleks out there. Of course the same could be said about the Time Lords being killed as there would still be ones roaming through time from before the war.

While it is still early in the season for Doctor Who, network shows are coming towards their season finales. Jericho appears on the verge of war with a neighboring city. It s a good thing they have both a tank and a nuclear bomb hidden away in town. Next week I believe Heroes shows the aftermath five years in the future if New York had been destroyed by the explosion. Considering that the show started around the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and before the Republicans were thrown out of office, I’m wondering if there will be any analogies to the authoritarian pathway the Republicans tried to go down using fear of terrorism as an excuse. Lost appears to be heading towards both wrapping up the story line about The Others as well as returning to the Desmond/Penny story started at the end of last season. Naomi’s identity remains unclear, but fans on the web have answered one small mystery. When Naomi was talking to Bakunin, who looks quite well after his recent “death,” it is not surprising to find that she was not really thanking him for his assistance. Word on the web is that Naomi was saying, “I am not the only one.”

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry will be inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in June.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip returns on May 24 to air the six remaining episodes. As they were still filming the final episodes when it appeared clear the show had little chance to be renewed, hopefully they came up with a good ending for the show.

While Studio 60, a drama about the making of a comedy show, did’t make it, 30 Rock, the comedy about making a comedy, has been renewed. The show aired its season finale this week, and earlier in the season the show presented some political analysis as Jenna took on Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson:


Studio 60, Comedy, and Politics

Just because its posted at MSNBC, don’t expect a commentary on the new NBC show Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip to be entirely complimentary. While its no secret to readers here that I’m a big fan of Aaaron Sorkin and have been rooting for this show, it doesn’t mean that I cannot recognize its imperfections. The article complains that:

The problem isn’t that “Studio 60” is taking comedy too seriously. It’s that the show isn’t taking comedy seriously enough. Despite aiming for intelligence and meaning, the show simply shows no signs of knowing enough about comedy to be credible…

Mostly, Sorkin has reached for importance by dousing the scripts with overwrought discussion of public-policy issues. He has covered how the fictional “Studio 60” runs into racism, religious prejudice, and conservative excesses. He has, in only seven episodes, centered plots around the war in Afghanistan, the blacklist, homophobia, and drug laws. This show is as serious as a heart attack. It would arguably be impossible to create a show about comedy that was less fun than this.

The criticisms are largely true, but miss the point. Those looking for a show about a SNL-type show are inevitably going to be disappointed. It fails to capture how such a show is really written, and fails to show its humor. However, Studio 60 is no more about a comedy show than Sports Night was really about a sports show. Studio 60 is really just a way to continue The West Wing in a new venue. The ultimate tip off is having the White House Deputy Chief of Staff as producer of the show within the show. When looking at these characters, I’ve also been curious as to how Sorkin plans to develop Harriet Hayes. My suspicion is that she is going to turn into the show’s Arnold Vinick. Just as Vinick played the Republican which liberal Democrats could love on The West Wing, Harriet Hayes shows signs of becoming the old fashioned religious person that us secular liberals can learn to love. We saw signs of this Monday when her views on homosexuality led her to being attacked from both the left and the religious right, and as we see her willingness to participate in all those skits mocking the religious right.

Studio 60 is about Aaron Sorkin characters speaking Aaron Sorkin dialog about the issues which matter to Aaron Sorkin. It doesn’t matter whether these characters are in the White House or on the set of a television show. Those who want a funny show about making a television show should buy the DVD’s of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Studio 60 is a totally different type of show, but hopefully setting it in an SNL-like television show is enough to get enough people to give it a try and possibly get hooked.

Studio 60 Picked Up For Full Season

Despite both mediocre ratings and all the rumors that it will be cancelled, E Online reports that additional episodes of Studio 60 have been ordered to complete a full twenty-two episode series. Reportedly the president of NBC supports the show and wants to give it time to build an audience.

In the past, many hit shows took time to find an audience but in recent years networks have been quicker to kill of shows if they didn’t do well immediately. Considering how weak NBC’s schedule has become compared to previous years this certainly makes sense. While not yet up to the quality of Sports Night or The West Wing, few people can write television like Aaron Sorkin and such a show about a Saturday Night Live type televisions show is likely to appeal to a wider audience than one about a sports show or the White House.

As for the earlier reports that Studio 60 was to be cancelled, it just shows once again that Fox News cannot be trusted.

Studio 60 Reportedly To Be Cancelled

Fox News is reporting that Studio 60 is to be cancelled. I’m awaiting confirmation from a more credible source but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. I’m sure the conservative media will claim that this is a rejection of a show with a liberal bias which has mocked the religious right. The truth is that this is another example of how difficult it is for well written, quality shows to survive on network television.

Update: It’s old news by now, but this post keeps getting search engine hits from people asking about the cancellation of Studio 60. Since this original post, NBC did order a full season of the show. More on Studio 60.

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SciFi Friday: Save the Cheerleader, Save the World

“Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” is the unlikely tag line to this season’s newest television SF hit. This week I finally got around to watching two of the shows I’ve been recording until I could determine whether they are worth watching, Heroes and Brothers and Sisters. Heroes is reminiscent of X-Men except the mutants with super powers are living among us rather than separately in a school. It even has an intentional comic book feel which makes for an entertaining hour. It will never have the serious social commentary of Star Trek or Babylon 5, but that is not its goal.

Heroes starts out with the individual stories of people who find they have super powers, as well as the son of a genetics professor who discovered their existence. Ultimately they get together, and the paths of some of them cross in Las Vegas. It is probably inevitable that the politician and the stripper were among the first to meet. Also in Las Vegas we see the almost-perfect way to cheat and win. Once united, the heroes must prevent a nuclear explosion in Manhattan, but it appears that first they must save the cheerleader.

For those who have missed Heroes, NBC is running a three episode marathon on Sunday night.

The other recorded show I started catching up on, Brothers and Sisters, doesn’t fit into SciFi Friday, but any show staring Rachel Griffiths (Brenda on Six Feet Under) along with Callista Flockhart (Allie McBeal), Sally Fields (Gidget and The Flying Nun before many far more substantial roles), Ron Rifkin (the perfect villain on Alias), and Patricia Wettig (Thirtysomething) is worth mentioning. Ken Olin (Thirtysomething and Alias) is also executive producer.

Despite my irresistable urge to give Rachel Griffiths top billing above, the actual star is Callista Flockhart who plays a right wing television pundit, but do not fear being forced to listen to right wing drivel. Her professional life is only a small part of the show, and she is outnumbered by liberal members of her family. Reviews of the first episode were mediocre as it attempted to introduce several family members, but the show has improved tremendously from there. Perhaps the deciding factor, beyond the cast, which led to me watching rather than deleting these recordings was a review which said this was a show which could have been done for HBO. So far I’d rank it below Studio 60 and The Nine, but it is still among the top new shows of the season.

Newsweek reports on a new battle on Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore and NBC Universal are fighting over the residuals for the web episodes.

Last week’s SF television highlight was on Doctor Who as Sarah Jane Smith got a chance to see The Doctor once again, and to properly say goodbye to him. Seeing her brief relationship with Rose will also remain a classic moment in Doctor Who history. K-9 Mark III, always the good dog, sacrificed himself but was rebuilt to be ready for the proposed new BBC television show featuring Sarah Jane. Next week, The Cybermen!

Doctor Who has also entered the Guinness Book of World Records. With over 700 episodes since it started in 1963 it is the longest running SF show. There have already been ten versions of the timelord, and The Sun reports we may be getting another. David Tennant is considering leaving after the third season of the remake, despite an offer of one million pounds from the BBC to remain.

Studio 60 and the Culture Wars

I finally found time to catch up with Monday’s television shows, including the second episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Now that the premise was set up in the pilot, this episode is more likely characteristic of what the series will be like. In some ways, The West Wing was also a good preview of this episode and perhaps the series. The show starts with Jordan handling a press conference while Matt and Danny watch on a monitor until it is their turn to come out. It felt like a scene in which Josh Lyman is watching C. J. Cregg at a press conference while talking with another member of the West Wing staff.

The press conference provided the opportunity to quickly recap the what the series is about and then show where it is going. A reporter for Rapture magazine asks if the “Crazy Christians” sketch Danny wrote will be aired. When it comes out that they plain on showing the sketch, a red state boycott of the show is launched. Jordan, as president of the network, stands up for principle similar to how President Jeb Bartlett would, except looking a lot cuter and perhaps a little less convincing in the role. This all leads to the grand finale of the episode, complete with a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. They even managed to bash television bloggers along the way.

Andrew Sullivan on Mr. Conservative

I’ve posted a couple of times (here and here) on CC Goldwater’s documentary, Mr. Conservative, but will have to postpone actually watching. My high definition recorder (required for pay cable) only handles two shows at a time and the documentary was on at the same time as both Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip and Weeds, and therefore I only watched part of the documentary and am recording it during a later showing this week. The part I did watch reminded me of an aspect of Goldwater I previously knew but totally forgot about while thinking of the political issues. Goldwater was an avid shortwave radio hobbyist. (For those of you too young to know what this means, think of instant messaging over radio with spoken words or Morse code rather than a keyboard.) Goldwater would sit on the shortwave radio talking to people all over the world. If he was around today, there’s no doubt he’d be active in the blogosphere.

Unitl I can view the entire documentary, I found Andrew Sullivan’s comments interesting:

Goldwater was an adamant defender of states’ rights, a principle he stuck with even though it meant being smeared as a bigot and a racist. Bush’s GOP has no principled interest in federalism, from its education policies to its attacks on states that violate religious doctrines on such issues as marriage, end-of-life matters and even medical marijuana. From the 1970s, Goldwater recognized Falwell and the religious right for what they are: charlatans who have as much concern for traditional conservatism as big government liberals do. What Goldwater would have said about the Schiavo case would not be broadcastable on network television. He also adhered to the old conservative notion of live-and-let-live. He never had a problem with gays, and although he clearly found abortion an awful thing, he wasn’t about to remove a female citizen’s right in the early stages of pregnancy to control her own body. He was, in other words, a conservative. Or as his great book put it: a conservative with a conscience. And if he was a conservative, then the current Republican party and the current president simply aren’t.

Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act is often mistaken for racism, but more likely it was an expression of his opposition to the federal government intervening in activities of the states. In his later, more liberal years, Goldwater did admit he was wrong on this. Sullivan finds another significance in Goldwater’s vote:

The irony of Goldwater’s career is that this decision, made on a principled stance of federalism and limited government, became something else on the ground. It shifted the Republican Party base away from California and the sun-belt into the Deep South. Goldwater was a Western conservative, not a Southern one. And whichever party the South controls will have a hard time reflecting the kind of skeptical, libertarian, tolerant principles Goldwater believed in. So he both created American conservatism and laid the grounds for its eventual implosion.

While far too many Republicans defend George Bush regardless of his acts, Sullivan doesn’t hesitate to differentiate between Bush and the Goldwater-style conservatives:

All these years later, the end-result is a Texan president who hasn’t seen a civil liberty he wouldn’t junk at a second’s notice, who bases campaigns on subtle appeals to prejudice and fear of minorities, who has doubled the debt of the next generation, expanded government at a pace not seen since FDR, engaged in two reckless wars without the preparation or manpower to succeed, presided over a government riddled with incompetence and cronyism, and who has nominated candidates to the Supreme Court using their religious faith as a criterion. Whatever else Bush is, he is not merely not Goldwater. He is, in many ways, his nemesis. Which is why conservatism as we have known it has been strangled – by the Republicans.

Sorkin Returns with “Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip”

Aaron Sorkin is back on television with an amazing cast. It was strange to see Stephen Weber play the straight laced Chairman of the network, as I’ll always think of him as Brian Hackett on Wings. It’s always great to see Lou Grant, I mean Ed Asner again, as well as Timothy Busfield (Elliot Westin of Thirtysomething and Danny Concannon of The West Wing). The show opens with Jud Hirsch doing a fantastic Howard Beale (Network) type rant.

Bradley Whitford (who previously played Josh Lyman on The West Wing) and Matthew Perry (like there’s anybody who doesn’t know he was Chandler Bing) will likely dominate the show, but Amanda Peet was the highlight tonight. Seeing Amanda Peet in the pilot of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip made me think of one of my favorite movies, Something’s Gotta Give. I could come up with an excuse tying these pictures into tonight’s show, but who really needs an excuse to either recall a favorite movie or look at pictures of Amanda Peet?