Monday, November 24, 2014

The Newsroom #303 11/23/14 "Main Justice"

by Catherine Giordano
Grace Gummer plays Hallie

Boisterous Buffoonery

A “bacchanal of boisterous buffoonery”—that pretty much describes every episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, although this was the first time a character on the show flung out that over-blown phrase.   

If the previous episode was all about ethics and honesty, this episode was all about ethical lapses and dishonesty.

The FBI has raided the newsroom to confiscate hard drives and who knows what else.  They are thwarted and the effort is aborted when Charlie has the crew turn the cameras on the newsroom and threatens to broadcast the raid live. It was a bluff, but the FBI backed down.  

All the bed-hopping that happens among the newsroom’s staff is about to have consequences. There is a new director of HR and he is coming down hard on producers having sexual relationships with the people they supervise. He’s suspicious of don and Sloan and they are lying through their teeth about their personal relationship.  

The Lansings are trying to save ACN from a hostile takeover by finding a friendly buyer.  They have a possible buyer, but the cure may be most than the disease. He wants to turn ACN into some hydra-headed network of mini networks catering to 100 different niches. At last the buyer is honest. The Lansings are trying to sell the station before the news of the FBI raid gets out. That kind of news would definitely hurt the sales price. 

Hallie has a new job. She’ll be working for an online news group with a pay-per-view policy. Are these payments bonuses or commissions? Will Hallie sell out her journalistic ethics in order to pander sensationalism?  It looks like she will? 

Neal’s source got in touch with MacKenzee. The source is a beautiful young Pakistani woman and she gives Mac an ultimatum—release the news about the CIA disinformation that caused 39 deaths or she will dump all of the 17,000 documents that she has onto the media.  Mac wants to handle the news responsibly, but will she cave? 

The FBI has found Neal.  He is in Venezuela—a country without an extradiction policy with the U.S. so much for standing up for principles.  McAvoy has heroically tried to protect Neal.  He got Neal to tell him the name of the source so the FBI would focus on him instead of on Neal. The plan worked out great--to a point.  McAvoy thought that the FBI would not dare to arrest at TV news anchor star.  But at the end of the episode, he is served with a subpoena. McAvoy's boisterousness is definitely subdued as he wonders if he is as big a star as he thought he was.

There was one segment of the show that didn't seem to fit.  The government climate scientist that Peggy met the airplane. McAvoy interviews him on air apparently without a pre-interview. The government guy announces the end of the world due to climate change. No buffoonery; only bleakness. His message: We are doomed and it is too late to save us. Newsroom often weaves true facts into its stories. Is this one of those times?  Id the future of the planet as bleak as this guy presents it? The show gives us no clue. McAvoy just shrugs. Maybe there will be a follow-up in the three remaining episodes.

If you enjoyed this review and recap, please like, share , and tweet.
The Newsroom DVD
Order the Newsroom DVD
If you are a fan of the show, you might ant to order a copy of the DVD. Both season 1 and Season 2 are available.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #337, 11/21/14 "Tis the Season to be Stupid"

Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen
by Catherine Giordano
Tis the season, the season for stupidity and jollity on Real Time with Bill Maher, #337, which aired on November 21, 2014 on HBO.  Maher, the avowed atheist, even came out in favor of Christmas.
Obama and Immigration
In the monologue, Maher got right to the issue of the day, Obama and immigration.  “If you like your gardener, you can keep your gardener.” Maher said, Republicans are in a snit about it—it really is a Mexican stand-off.”

Michelle Bachman said the illegal immigrants will be voting. Maher said, “There is no evidence of illegals voting. Maybe they should because voting is another job that Americans won’t do.” He added that if Obama is (acting like) a king, the Boehner must be a knight—“Sir Rhosis of Liver. (Ha Ha. Boehner is widely known for liking his drink. He fact he is something of a lush.) 

During the panel discussion, Maher said that Obama just insured Hillary Clinton’s election.  Chris Mathews (host of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Mathews and author of several books including his most recent book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked) agreed. “You can’t spot the other team 15% and expect to win.”
During the panel discussion, Maher said that Obama just insured Hillary Clinton’s election.  I say, “Don’t be so sure.” 

Roland Martin
Roland Martin
Roland Martin, a journalist, host of TV One News and author of Speak Brother: A Black Man’s View of America pointed out that a lot of Latino’s are not registered. I say, “Where were they in the mid-term elections?” Even the ones who were registered did not vote. And while some Latinos are crying tears of joy because they won’t have to worry about their families being deported, others are complaining Obama did not do enough.  

 Martin said the Boehner made a stupid mistake when he refused to bring the bi-partisan Senate Immigration bill to the floor. The votes were there to pass it, but Boehner did not want to pass it with Democratic votes plus a few Republican votes.  (He cited the Hastert rule that legislation must be able to pass with a majority of the votes coming from the majority-party. Denny Hastert said he never had such a rule.) If they had passed it, Republicans would have looked good. Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote—stupid.
Mathews said, “Obama did the nice stuff. Now they [Republicans] could do the hard stuff --law enforcement and illegal hiring.”(He meant that the anti-immigrant base would never go for the nice part but would vote for the harsh part.)
Maher said, “When has America ever been welcoming to immigrants. Certainly not to the Irish, the Italians …”

Christia Freeland, journalist, politician, and author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else is Canadian.  She said, “America’s strength is being able to absorb immigrants. Canada’s too. Europe can’t do it.  That is why Europe is fading.”
John Cleese
John Cleese

John Cleese
The interview was with John Cleese, an actor, comedian, film producer, Monty Python cast-member, and author of several books. His latest book is Say Anyway…

Maher was fawning over him as he did last week with Rand Paul. Only this time, the fawning was totally justified.  Maher said, “I swoon over you.”  Me too.

Maher said, “You lampoon the establishment because you are one of them.” (Cleese is a lawyer—I did not know that.) “Your book is so great. It explains your work.”  And, “Life of Brian” is the best movie ever made.”

Cleese said that he is a member of The Church of England.  He called it “The Conservative Party of Prayer.”
Cleese said, “I’m against stupidity, but the world wouldn’t work without it. Comedy is about people being stupid and screwing things up. Almost nobody has any idea of what they are talking about.”

Bill Cosby
The panel discussed the allegations of rape made by 16 women (so far) against Bill Cosby. Maher joked about it in the monolog.  “Vegas cancelled him.  How sleazy do you have to be to get cancelled by Vegas? Now black teenagers can tell Cosby, ‘Pull up your pants.’”

Maher said, “Celebrities are targets, but when this many women come forward with no financial incentive you have to think there might be something to it.”

Seth Rogen, an actor and comedian who starred in The Neighbors, said, “It was well-known in the community I was in.” Essentially he was saying people who were in a position to know, knew." (Read more about Seth Rogen and his new movie, The Interview at The Bumbler, The Dictator, and the Senator.)
Of course, the question is why didn’t the women say something at the time of the rape.

Christia Freeland
Christia Freeland
Freeland, the only woman on the panel, had to explain it to the men.  “There has been a cultural shift. At the time, it wasn’t OK to say anything. I hope this is a turning point. “What people don’t understand is that women blame themselves, they fell embarrassed, they are afraid of hurting their career and that no one would believe them.  Maher talked about how attitudes had changed. It used to be OK for Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners sketches to threaten to punch his wife. (Likewise, it used to be OK for powerful men to rape women. That is just how it was and women could be ruined if they spoke about it publically.) 

Martin said, “We will never have finality. There won’t be a trial because the statute of limitations has run out and lawyers always advise their clients not to speak about it.”

Jonathan Gruber
Stupidity is in the news because of Jonathan Gruber. He is a consultant who worked on the Affordable Care Act.  Gruber said that the behind the scenes, the drafter of the act were saying that the American people are stupid.   

Maher said, “You know who else has called the American people stupid? Me” He showed clips of him saying it. He said, “42% of Americans don’t even know there are three branches of government and even more can’t even name one.” “They believe the Noah’s ark story is true, “You have to slip the pill in the ham to get the dog to swallow it.”  

I agree Americans are stupid, not because they are unintelligent and incapable of understanding, but because they prefer to be ignorant and to act on emotion and not reason. Why did they vote to put the party that caused an economic collapse that was only narrowly averted by Obama’s leadership back in power? Why do they vote by huge margins for an increase in the minimum wage and then, in the same election, vote for the people who have promised to block a minimum wage increase? Why do the ones who don’t vote say “It doesn’t matter who gets elected”? Why did Latino’s sit out the mid-term elections and let the people who want to deport them take office instead of the people who would protect them? Why do people say that because Democrats only gave them half a loaf, they’ll vote for the ones who will not only give them none, but take away the crumbs they already have? Why?  Why?  Why?

Rogen was right when he compared America to the movie Dumb and Dumber.
Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews

Politically incorrect
Maher and Cleese discussed “political correctness” and how stupid it is.  Cleese said he could do jokes about Swedes, and the French, and the Germans, but if he did a joke about Mexicans, everyone gasped.   

Maher said that it was like not doing jokes about Islam. “Islam is a religion of peace. A piece of you over there, another piece of you over here.” 

Cleese said that Jesus did not expect his words to be taken absolutely literally. He was too smart for that.    

Mid-show comedy segment.
Whenever Maher goes on hiatus (the show will be back in January), he gives a series of predictions for newspaper headlines for the period he will be off the air. They are ridiculous and funny. For example: 

  • Amazon to Offer Baby Delivery
  • Pope Francis OK with Just About Everything
  • San Francisco Bans Straight Marriage
  • U.S Tour of Liberian Monkeys Sees Low Ticket Sales
  • Bruce Jenner to Plastic Surgeon: Give me Renee Zellweger’s Old Face

Read more about headline predictions and see the video clip at Bill Maher #337 Headline Predictions Winter 2014 ( I do some predictions of my own and I invite you to do some of your own.)

New Rules: “Present Tense”
In New Rules, Maher said Christmas needs saving. He likes Christmas. “As a fable, it is cute.”  Also, “How can you not like eggnog? It’s like getting wasted on ice cream.” 

One problem with the holidays is that they start in October. There should just be one holiday: Thankshallowismas.  “The whole family gets together in costume and gives thanks for a big meal of turkey and candy and then gathers around a tree decorated with toilet paper to exchange presents and tell ghost carols.”

Another problem is that the stress of families getting together is worse than ever. “Thanks to the internet and Fox News, half your family is insane and impossible to talk to.” Then Maher gave a list of things it was OK and not OK to talk about.

Finally, there is the stress of gift-giving. “You are spending money you don’t have to buy stuff for people that they don’t want. The parking. The shopping. The returning. Sometimes I wonder how my assistant does it. “

Maher said despite being an atheist he likes the holiday season. (Me too.) It’s fun. Then Maher ended the show with an orchestral version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as snowflakes floated down on him and the panel.

(I bet they liked the snowflakes part in Buffalo, the ones who still had power.)

Read more about this segment and see the video clip. Bill Maher Wishes you a Merry Thankshallowismas.
Merry Whatever
Enjoy the holidays and don’t do anything stupid. Unless it is really, really fun.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Newsroom #302 “Run” Where's the Truth

Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing
Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing
Where's the Truth

by Catherine Giordano

The theme for episode 2 of Season 3, titled “Run” of The Newsroom is truth, lying liars, and ethics. Very lofty! The problem with a theme on The Newsroom is the hit the viewer over the head with it.  A little subtlety would make the show more enjoyable. 

The Lansings
Where to begin?  Reese Lansing, president of ACN News and son of founder Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda) are the owners of the ACN Network which is just one piece of their media empire. The evil twins, children from Leona’s husband’s second marriage, will inherit 45% of CAN from their father’s estate on their 25th birthday which is just about a week away.  They are planning to sell their shares to another company which will then execute a hostile takeover. Leona offers to beat the competitor’s offer. No the truth will come out. Are the twins selling their shares for the money as they claim or are they doing it to punish their father’s first family? There’s also another truth involved. Leona doesn’t actually have the money. 

Maggie, a young producer for ACN is one her way back to Boston.  She is on a train. She overhears a government official discussing the EPA.  Realizing this will be a great scoop, Maggie slides down in her chair, out of the official’s sight and records the conversation.  When he is finished with the call, Maggie tells him that she has recorded it and asks for a comment.  He begs her not to use it even though she is legally able to do so. The official claims no fair because she hid herself.  Maggie decides that it would not be ethical to use the story. (What!  He could have seen her if he had just looked a little more carefully.)  The man offers to trade her story in place of the embarrassing one she has just recorded. She says no because that would be blackmail.  (What! That kind of horse-trading is done constantly between journalists and news reporters.) The man then gives her an advance copy of a report anyway. So Maggie will have a scoop after all.  See how things always work out when you play nice. 
Neal Sampat as played by Dev Patel
Neal Sampat as played by Dev Patel
Back in the newsroom things are not working out so well.  Neal, a reporter,  (played by Dev Patel) has obtained stolen documents from a source.  He will not reveal his source.  The news value of these documents is tremendous.  He has evidence of how a USA disinformation campaign resulted in the deaths of 38 innocent people. Neal stands firm to his journalist ethics and says he will go to prison if he has to because he will never reveal the source. 

Neal will be in the clear if ACN doesn’t air the story because the FBI will never know that he has the documents. But, if the FBI finds out, he could be charged with treason.    

There is a big ethics argument in the newsroom.  MacKenzee, the executive producer, says they must air the story. It is their moral duty to air the story.  Will, the anchor and finance of MacKenzee is more interested in protecting Neal.  Rebecca Halliday (played by Marcia Gay Hardin) is the lawyer for CAN.  She warns them of the dire consequences if the FBI learns about that CAN has the documents. 

Neal is all about ethics and he sneaks out of the room and calls the FBI and tells them about the documents.  Within the hour, an army of FBI agents has swarmed into the newsroom. confiscating the hard drives on all the computers. Will had previously told Neal that he needed to go into hiding. Neal said he wouldn’t run. Now, Neal forgets his high and mighty ethics and runs.  

Another ethical dilemma.  Hallie (played by Grace Gummer) is new to the staff of the newsroom. Jim, who she is “sleeping” with, is her boss.  Hallie sent out an inflammatory tweet on Will’s account which results in a mega-ton of bad publicity for ACN.  Hallie is ethical enough to admit that she did it.  She also tells the truth and says she did it for the “retweets.”  Haillee has to be fired.  Jim says, as her boss, it is his duty to be the one to fire her.  Charlie, the general manager, spares Jim this painful task and fires Hallie himself.  

Don and Sloan
And finally, a silly little romantic subplot.  Don, a producer and Sloan (the station’s money-honey”) have been having an affair.  Or something.  The way they try to figure out what it is they are having is to take turns lying to each other only so they can then pounce saying, “It was a test, and you failed the test.”  In the end, they admit that they have serious feelings for each other and decide they have to bring their affair into the open. 

Even the occasion for their story-telling is a lie. Don and Sloan are at a buffet restaurant and Sloan does not want to be seen in public going off her diet.  She makes Don pile up his plate and then surreptitiously stuffs the food into her own mouth.   

Liar! Liar!
Liar. Liar.  All kinds of lies.  All kinds of reasons for the lies.  Bam!  That’s the sound of my brain being crushed by the heavy-handed theme.
If you enjoyed this review and recap, please like, share , and tweet.
The Newsroom DVD
Order the Newsroom DVD
If you are a fan of the show, you might ant to order a copy of the DVD. Both season 1 and Season 2 are available.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #336 11/14/14 "Revelations"

by Catherine Giordano
Obama is in Ninja mode.

It was a night of revelations on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 336, which aired on 11/14/14 on HBO. I’ll reveal what I heard and learned from Bill Maher and his guests in this recap and review.

Obama as ninja
Maher began his opening monolog by revealing that “Obama went all ninja on them” and “He was like Pacino at the end of Scarface. He compared Obama to the idealist President Bartlett on the defunct TV series The West Wing. (I always wished we could have a real-life president like President Bartlett.  

Here is what Obama did that earned Maher’s (and my) respect.  
  • He went to China and got a carbon-capping deal that can help reduce global warming.
  • He came out strongly for net neutrality.
  • Obama announced that he is going to use executive action on immigration. 
Obama will allow illegal immigrants who have close relatives who are citizens—this usually means the parents of children who are citizens because they were born here—to obtain green cards and will not deport them. This is a family-values policy because it keeps families together.
Republicans are going ballistic at the mere thought of this action. They are threatening to shut down the government and to stat impeachment proceedings in retaliation. Ninja Obama is fearless. He has nothing to lose and he has finally realized that Republicans will never cooperate with him on anything.  It’s a shame that it took the loss of majority control in the Senate for him to let his inner ninja out.

Maher also joked about “fake outrage.” The President was chewing gum.  And walking at the same time. Maher quipped, “It’s a blatant attempt to show up Bush.”
Government Bullies Rand Paul
The interview with Rand Paul
Maher began the interview with Rand Paul by showing the cover of the Time magazine that featured Paul with the headline “The most Interesting Man in the World”. The introduction set the tone for the whole interview. Maher said he was open to voting for Paul if he ran for president.  (Maher began his political career as a libertarian.  He has since matured into a liberal, but he still sometimes has a weakness for libertarians.)

Rand acquitted himself well in the interview.  He said, “It’s a low bar” about his title as “most interesting man in the world.” 
Rand revealed his progressive side to us. He came out in favor of restoring voting rights to felons. There are 200 million people who can’t vote because they are felons.  He is also in favor of prison reform.  H objects to prisons as a for-profit business.  He also objects to the expense of keeping people in prison when it does not add to the public safety.

If Maher was going for a gotcha moment with a question on climate change, he didn’t get it.  Rand said he favored a “balanced solution.”  He said we should pursue renewable energy, but not shut down one source of energy [coal]. Darn. Why aren’t Democrats saying that? Of course, we can’t shut down the coal industry overnight; it has to be phased out while coal-miners are trained for new jobs in renewable energy.  I can’t imagine there are many coal miners who wouldn’t jump at the chance to earn a comparable wage without having to do the dirty and dangerous job of coal mining.

Rand is for ending the drug war and ending the shooting war in Iraq and the Mideast. He pointed out that every time we topple a secular dictator, things get worse.  

If he keeps talking like this, I might be open to voting for him. However, I’m hoping the Democratic candidate will take the same stands on these issues because Paul is wrong about a lot of other things. Also with common sense rational views like this, I doubt he can win the Republican nomination.   But you gotta give Paul credit--he tailored his message to his audience.  Let’s see what he says when he is talking to Republicans in the primary debates.
The mid-term elections
Maher bemoaned the fact that Obama waited until after the elections to reveal the good news.  If he had done if before the elections, he might have motivated some more people to vote.

New Gernation American Conservatives Margaret Hoover
Panelist Margaret Hoover, a Republican political commentator and author of American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party was magnanimous. She said “The map was just not in your favor this year” because the majority of the elections were in red states. 

Love Undetectable Andrew Sullivan
Panelist Andrew Sullivan is Blogger- in-Chief at The Dish and author of six books.  (His most recent book is Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival.) He said, “Show that you believe in something. No one wants to vote for the guy mumbling and shuffling away.”

Dirty Wars Jeremy Scahill

Panelist Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist and author of two books. (Blackwater and his new book Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, said, “It is like an acting troop that comes out for the encore, but they never did the show.”
Hoover said that the Republicans are “quietly back-channeling” that they are will to move on this.  Maher retorted with disbelief, “VERY quietly.”  Sullivan was also skeptical. He said, “When have they ever won out over the crazies.”

The mid-East and ISIS
Maher said it would take 30,000 ground troops to defeat ISIS. Scahill said this war was a continuation of the war against Bushes troops and that the Bathists had joined a coalition with the Muslim radicals. Sullivan said we need a president to say “This is not our problem.” Maher agreed that we should just let them fight it out among themselves.  

Maher said that there are power struggles in the Vatican as Pope Frank (as Maher calls Pope Francis) tries to move the church into the new age.  He canned Cardinal Raymond Burke, a very conservative cardinal. (Actually, you can't fire a cardinal. The Pope just transferred him to some minor post.)

Pope Frank has to serve in the unusual circum stance of having another living Pope, the retired Pope Benedict. Maher said Pope Benedict was the Dick Cheney of the Catholic Church. Maher then launched into the mid-show comedy segment where he showed a mock war-of-words on twitter between the two popes. 

The conversation about religion continued when the mid-show guest, Martin Short—comedian, actor, and author-- joined the panel. Maher said the he and Short and Sullivan were all raised Catholic and the only one stuck with it.  “The gay one! “(Sullivan.)

Sullivan said, “We can leave room for doubt.  If you have never doubted, you have never really believed.”

Scahill said Pope Frank is trying to push for economic change.  Hoover said he is trying to go back to “the simplicity of Christ.”  Maher pointed out that after he does these things, he comes out for exorcism. “He’s a good politician, throwing a little something to the base.”

Maher brought up the Mormon religion. The Mormon Church has been trying to modernize by being honest about the history of the church.  They are admitting that Joseph Smith, who founded the religion in the 1930’s had 30 to 40 wives, one of whom was a 14 year-old girl and others who were already married. Maher called it “a sex-cult.”  Maher said, “They can’t hide the facts because this history is so recent.”    

Sullivan then tried to claim that the stories in the Bible wee history true.  There was a virgin birth and Christ did come back from the dead—it can’t be empirically disproved.  Maher said that none of the Bible stories about Christ were written until 40 years after his death.  “It is like no one noticed the Beatles until 2010.” 

Martin tried to end the discussion by saying that the truth of religion is not important: “Who cares if it gives you strength.”   

Maher had one more point to make.  He said that the Mormons have Revelators who get messages from God and that even the Mormon missionaries will no longer go to Syria and Iraq. 
Martin Short I Must Say

Martin Short
The mid-show guest was Martin Short, an actor, comedian, and author of several books. Maher discussed Martin Short’s new book I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend.  Maher praised Short for his beautifully written memoir and for his honesty in talking about the losses in his life the death of his brother, his parents, and his wife of 36 years. In the book Short reveals a lot of personal details about his life and career including the fact that Gilda Radner was his first real love.

New Rules: The Importance of Voting
Maher was on fire about people not voting. He started with the little stickers that say “I voted” that are given to people after they vote. Why should people get a sticker just for doing what they are supposed to do? It is like getting a sticker for flushing the toilet.  Instead, there should be stickers for non-voters that say “I couldn’t be bothered.”

He castigated people like comedian Russell Brand who made a statement saying don’t vote because the system is broken. (It got broken because people didn’t vote.)  Politicians are all the same? Tell that to the 700,000 people in Florida who would have gotten health insurance if the Democrat had been elected governor. Obama didn’t deliver? Maybe you missed it because it wasn’t on TMZ.
President Mitt McCain
President Mitt McCain
Maher asked us to imagine life if we had elected President Mitt McCain instead of Obama. (He morphed pictures of the two into one. It was very funny.)  Maher revealed what would have happened.

  • There was no stimulus and the auto industry was allowed to die.  We are in the sixth year of Great Depression II.
  • Paula Dean and Joe the Plumber is on the Supreme Court.
  • The Attorney General is Dick Cheney’s head.
  • The nearest abortion clinic is in London.
  • There is no renewable energy but one trillion dollars was spent on an electrified fence on the Mexican border to keep out the one Mexican who still wants to get it.
  • Homeland Security chairman Ted Cruz deported all 12 million Mexicans and now we have no fruit.
“No fruit, no jobs, your girl friend is having a baby you don’t want, no health insurance and your tap water is on fire!  But you didn’t dirty your hands in the gutter of politics.” I think the bit should have ended with this line. 

The last line seemed a little weak to me. Maher ended with, “If your hands are not dirty, it is not because you are pure. It is because you are not helping.” The writers should have battered that one around a little more. 

Yu cn read more about this and see the video clip at Bill Maher: President Mitt McCain
Martin Short
Bill Maher’s Guests: November 14, 2014
Rand Paul:  Senator (R, KY), and author (with Ron Paul) of Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Fed  

Martin Short:  Actor, comedian, and author of several books. His most recent book is I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend

 Andrew Sullivan: Blogger-in-Chief at The Dish, blog and author of six books.  His most recent book is Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival

Jeremy Scahill: Journalist and author of two books.  His most recent book is Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Newsroom “Boston” #301 "The Redemption Tour"

"The Redemption Tour"
Olivia Munn and Alison Pill
Olivia Munn and Alison Pill

by Catherine Giordano

The premiere episode of the third season of “The Newsroom” made me think that the show runners have been reading my posts. Episode 301 that aired on November 10, 2014 focused on the Boston Marathon attack of April 2013.

It was very interesting to see the behind-the scenes action as the fictional news station ACN covered the bombing from start to finish. Having been burned by last season’s “Genoa” story where they got it terribly wrong, the newsroom proceeded very carefully with the story. It served them well. The redeemed their reputation as a reliable news channel.
Long Mile Home
While they may have been the last to drop their regular programming to begin covering the Boston Marathon story, they got it right while other stations made errors rushing stories to air before they we vetted. This episode showed the pressure that news stations are under—it is important to be first with the story, but it is important to get it right. Sometimes those two mandates collide.
The episode also showed the importance of traditional journalism. As the story unfolded, there were a lot of predictions that this would be the first major event solved by social media. It did not turn out to be true. Social media tried, but crowd sourcing the news engendered more problems than it solved. Case in point, men that social media identified as suspects began to receive death threats. They had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing. It was the professionals who found the culprits.

Will McCoy (played by Jeff Daniels) the news anchor at ACN summed it up nicely: “The FBI and the police did a great job. They found two needles in a haystack the size of the world in just four days.” 

The main sub plot featured Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn), the financial reporter for the station. By studying economic data she realized that CAN was about to become the target of a hostile takeover. This sub plot reinforced the message of the main plot—the painstaking study of data and facts is the way to uncover plots.  

The only romance story of the evening was in the very beginning of the episode. Will McCoy and his executive producer and fiancĂ©e, MacKenzie McHale (played by Emily Mortimer) were bickering about their upcoming wedding. Mackenzie wanted nine bridesmaids, but Will thought it was a little excessive because he did not want to have nine groomsmen. In the middle of this argument, the bombing occur in Boston and there is no more talk about weddings. Except in the middle of the show, Will says he cannot survive “without being married to this woman.” A bit over the top which only goes to show why the show must stay away from personal relationships.  

The show goes over the top a few time when both Charlie Skinner (played by Sam Waterston), the president of the news division, and Will make histrionic speeches to the newsroom. There’s a crisis going on and they are making grandiose speeches. The speeches trail off when the characters realize they look ridiculous. Apparently, the producer of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin, has a point to make and the only way to do it is to put the words in the mouths of his characters no matter how foolish it makes them look. 

Another subplot concerned the redemption of Margaret Jordan (played by Allison Pill), an executive producer who had quite a few public meltdowns, personally and professionally, in the previous seasons. The Newsroom is caught short-staffed so Margaret is sent to Boston to cover the investigation of the bombings. When the anchor is sidelined by an allergic reaction, Margaret, who has been doing a great job as a producer, must go on camera. She acquits herself well in both roles. 

I’m hoping that Season three, which is scheduled for only six episodes is planned as the redemption tour. The Newsroom wants to go out as a serious show and not the unintentional comedy of errors that it was for the past two seasons.
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The Newsroom DVD
Order the Newsroom DVD
If you are a fan of the show, you might ant to order a copy of the DVD. Both season 1 and Season 2 are available.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Newsroom Returns to HBO

by Catherine Giordano

The Newsroom Season 3 poster
The Newsroom Season 3 poster
It’s baaack! 

It’s like the little girl with the curl—when The Newsroom was good, it was very, very good. The show was very, very good when it dealt with the news and the behind-the- scenes look at the workings of a television newsroom

And when it was bad, it was horrid.  When the show dealt with the personal lives, particularly the office romances, of the characters, it was very, very horrid. The characters are all high-powered professionals with serious careers, but most sixth graders handle romantic attractions better.

At the end of season two it seemed like all the story lines had been tied up, and the series was going to its well-deserved eternal rest. But now it is back for season three which will have only six episodes.

Have the writers and show runners have managed to grow up in the year since the last episode? I hope so. You can see it on HBO on Sunday November 9th, 2014 at 10pm.

For all my complaints, it was a well-loved show among the viewers who loyally tuned in each week. You can read my reviews of all the previous episodes.  Just do a search on this blog for “The Newsroom” Or you can start here with the review of season one, episode one, titled The Newsroom.  

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If you are a fan of the show, you might ant to order a copy of the DVD. Both season 1 and Season 2 are available.
The Newsroom DVD
Order the Newsroom DVD

Real Time with Bill Maher #335 11/07/14 'Talking Nice"

Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow
by Catherine Giordano

Real Time with Bill Maher, episode #335, which aired on November 7, 2014, was the perfect antidote for post-election depression. It was one of the best for good conversation. Everyone was talking nicely. Here is the review and recap.

The monolog
In the monolog, Maher got right to the Democratic defeat in the mid-term election. He said, sarcastically, “Finally white men are getting a seat at the table.” How will Republicans govern now that they control both the House and the Senate? I’m not optimistic. Neither is Maher. He said, “The day after the election, they all talked nice; the next day, they were right back to where they were before.”

Maher said that all you had to do to win was have an “R” next to your name. Even Sam Brownback in Kansas, who destroyed the state’s economy and credit rating, got re-elected. Maher quipped, “The Republicans are the party of Reagan, but that shouldn’t mean when he had Alzheimers.  

He called Joni Ernst the new Michelle Bachman. I said it first. (See the Comments Section of my review of the October 31 show, Crazy, Scary, and Weird.) Ernst prides herself on being a hog castrator, so Maher said, “If you want to cut off the Democrats balls, good luck finding them.” This harks back to the New Rules segment from the October 31 show (Crazy, Scary, and Weird) where he urged Democrats to stand up for their principles. I’m so with Maher on this one. If you are going to go down, at least go down fighting for your principles. 

Here’s the kicker. People voted by huge majorities for raising the minimum wage, and for making recreational pot legal in those states where it was on the ballot and, at the same time, they voted for the people who blocked those measures. I can only assume they didn’t know that Democrats were with them on those issues because the Democrats were too busy trying to be “Republican Lite” instead of drawing a distinction between the two parties. Dumbasses! I’m not talking nice here because it makes me so mad. All the candidates who lost on Tuesday will have a job as a lobbyist by the end of the month; it is ordinary Americans who will have to pay for their mistakes.   

P.S.: A thought just came to me. If voters knew that the minimum wage was a Democratic principle, maybe they would have voted it down. They seem to have a blind hatred for anything Democratic.

The panel discusses the election
Bernie Saqnders
Senator Bernie Sanders

On the panel, Bernie Sanders, senator (I, VT) and author of Bernie Sanders’ 2010 Filibuster on Corporate Greed: An Historic Speech, was, as always, a joy, speaking with intelligence and passion. Robert Costa, a political reporter for the Washington Post brought facts and reason to the debate. And the third panelist, Kristen Soltis Anderson, co-founder of Echelon Insights, a Republican opinion research firm, columnist for The Daily Beast, and author of The New Vote contributed to the conversation without spewing out Republican talking points. 

Maher said the election was about the continued resentment towards the first black president. Costa said, “It was about people staying home.” Sanders added, “Ordinary people are hurting and they have given up on voting.” Anderson said it was about “people being really ticked off.” 
I say that people stayed home because the Democrats didn’t give them a reason to vote. Instead of talking about all the accomplishments of the Obama administration (listed in Crazy, Scary, and Weird), they treated Obama, according to Maher, “like “a teenager treats his mom. I don’t know her.”  
Also, as Maher pointed out, the Republicans didn’t give voters a reason not to vote for them because they never talked about their principles. They didn’t tell Americans that they are against everything that Americans really, really like—Social Security, Medicare, a higher minimum wage--and for everything that Americans really, really hate--tax breaks for the rich, personhood for fertilized human ova (in some cases, just the ova).  
Maher joked about one of the best things about the election. Scott Brown lost. In New Rules he said, “You have to appreciate the irony of Brown being the hunky pin-up who lost two elections to two women. Scott Brown is like Kris brown only with Scott, women beat him.” 

Poverty in America
Hand to Mouth Linda Tirado
In the interview, Linda Tirado, a relative newcomer to the public arena, was poised and spoke very well about poverty in America very well, using wry humor to good advantage. About a new ago, she was talking to her friends on gawker about the difficulties of living in poverty, working two or three jobs while raising kids, and it went viral. (It was picked up by the Huffington Post.)

She got out of poverty when she got a book deal to write about her experiences, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. Maher quipped that if Romney was asked about how to get out of poverty, he’d say, “Just get a book deal.” 
I expect that her book will be just as popular as her previous writing.Tirado appears to be very intelligent and personable, and without her lucky break, she might never have been able to climb out of poverty. Poor people just can’t get a toe hold.  
Robert Costa said that Republicans celebrating their win will be a short celebration. Sanders said that Americans want a jobs program repairing the infrastructure. They want young people to be able to afford college.

Read more about the Linda Tirado interview here: Working Harder, Getting Poorer
Climate change
Congress will have to deal with climate change. Maher cited the U.N. report saying that carbon dioxide levels were up, the oceans were getting too acidic to support marine life, the sea levels are rising, and then added “the geniuses in America elect a bunch of climate deniers.” 

Maher quoted Senator Inhofe (R, OK) who said “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” Sanders said Inhofe really believes it, but some of the others know better. He is worried though because we are being governed by “the greedy, the cynical, and the truly stupid.”  

Sanders said that the debate within the scientific community of over. Maher mocked Republicans who try to avoid the issue by saying they are not a scientist. Maher said, “You are not a gynecologist either, but you still talk about women’s vaginas.” 

I think about the people who know better. I ask myself, “Don’t they have grandchildren? Don’t they care what kind of world their grandchildren will have to live in? Is there nothing more important to them than their greed?” 

Maher was forthright about Flip-A-District. “It went up in flames.” His consolation was, “It was always a long shot.” Then he found the humor in defeat. He did the mid-show comedy segment about other things that need flipping. 
  • Flip Mississippi: It is the fattest state in the nation. Challenge them to lose a billion pounds. 
  • Flip a Brother: Each congressperson gets their own very large black man to follow them around. 
  • Flip a Bigot: Pat Robertson has to engage in receptive anal sex with Michael Sam. The only problem will be in getting Sam to agree to it.

Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish in
The Comeback
Lisa Kudrow
The mid-show guest was Lisa Kudrow, an actress, currently starring in Showtime’s Web Therapy and HBO’s The Comeback. She creates such wonderful characters.

Kudrow is excited about the second season of The Comeback which premiers on HBO on Sunday 11/9/14 at 10pm. It has been nine years since Season One ended. Kudrow joked, “I always knew we’d catch on during the second season.”
Maher complimented her on how well she captured the dysfunction and insecurity of her character. He said, “Show business sucks if you are not in the top 1%.” Kudrow said, “It is about how much dignity you would give up for success.”

Endless Governor
In the final New Rules segment, Maher had a lot of very nice things to say about Jerry Brown, the Democratic governor of California. He had a lot of very not-nice things to say about ageism.

Governor Brown is 76 years old, and Maher said his record qualifies him for president—he took the broken state of California and fixed it. He’s active—he runs three miles a day and does yoga, but too many people think he is too old to be president. (Maher quipped, “He’s so old, his sex taps are on Betamax.”

He said that age gives people wisdom. He showed a picture of a beautiful young woman. It was a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (perhaps her highschool year book photo) at the age of 18. “We are beautiful when we are young and wise when we are old.”

Warren Buffet is 84 and he’s the one everyone wants financial advice from. Larry King is 80, and he’s still the best in the talk-show host business (on the web now instead of on TV where he was replaced by a younger less effective host.) The Rolling Stones are great and Beiber sucks.

Then Maher digressed to a rant about America’s current fascination with big asses on women. He said, “Millennials should be called ‘Generation Ass’.” I think he was making the point that America is still a teenager of a county.

Returning to the subject of the linkage of age and wisdom, Maher said, “Wisdom is not something you can just google. Governing is where we need wisdom.”

His final punch line was an ageism joke, but because I am a nice person, I’m going to omit it and let Maher go out on a high note.

Bill Maher's Guests for November 7, 2014

Linda Tirado: Author of Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, a book about what it is like to live in poverty in America
Bernie Sanders: Senator (I, VT), author of Bernie Sanders’ 2010 Filibuster on Corporate Greed: An Historic Speech
Robert Costa: Political reporter for the Washington Post
Kristen Soltis Anderson: Co-founder of Echelon Insights, a Republican opinion research firm, columnist for The Daily Beast, author of The New Vote
Lisa Kudrow: Actress, currently starring in Showtime’s Web Therapy and HBO’s The Comeback