Suck It, Racists! Progressive Television Shows Love For Interracial Love

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It’s no secret that I’m a fan of diversity in all its glorious splendor, consciously and unconsciously making sure that I don’t recognize the ugliness of bigotry if I can help it. As a lover of fairness and equality, I’ve made it my business to routinely champion for a future that strives against racial disharmony. Maybe it was something my dad taught me.

Immediately after I got a lecture from my mother on the importance of marrying black, dad pulled me aside and educated me on the “100% Rule.” He counted on one hand, saying there’s Red, Black, Yellow, Brown and Other, representing the color ratio of girls across the planet. (I assume “Brown” included South Asians) And my mom had just urged me to shoot for 20%. Well, dad said I shouldn’t reach for 20%f of anything. It’s 100% of everything, or nothing. Looks like modern television is taking dad’s advice. Let’s look at how things are going on the boob tube. Continue reading

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REVIEW: ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ – Superhero TV For People Who Don’t Like Superhero TV.

part 1I’ve been reading ‘The End Of Vandalism’ and halfway wanted my next blog post to be a highbrow review on literature. Not that the piece is your picture of intellectual writing, but it is a book, and books mean brains. Instead, I’m going to write about how I sat in front of the television for almost 13 hours and melted my mind with an adaptation of “funny book bullshit,” as my dad would’ve called it. Maybe one day I’ll come back to this page and dazzle everyone with stirring tales of my genius accomplishments, but not today. Today’s the day I rave about one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen on the boob tube – ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ on Netlifx. It’s an ambitious endeavor, rife with brave storytelling and compelling writing. Continue reading

10 Ways ‘Arrow’ And ‘The Flash’ Are The Same Show

first-images-from-the-flash-arrow-crossover-reveal_tz1p.1920When CW announced that they were capitalizing off the success of ‘Arrow’ with the spinoff series ‘The Flash,’ people wondered if the scarlet speedster would be able to capture the same magic boasted by the angry archer. But with dual showrunner Greg Berlanti at the helm, I had lots of optimism because his geek cred meant he’d care about the new project. In the end, ‘The Flash’s’ great impressions wouldn’t be so much about the quality of the work, but mostly because all they did was rehash a proven commodity, but with a few tweaks. In other words, you might be Arrow or The Flash if…
Continue reading

CNN’s Anti-Worker Villainy Rolls On With Another Appeal After Two Losses In Court!

CNN SUCKS
It’s the court case that just won’t die. After ten loooooooong years of fighting within the confines of the legal system, my former employer CNN got their asses kicked. That’s two losses in court but they still will not face the music and do the right thing by their former employees. The results included back pay and reinstatement. Now, my union has called for a rally outside their offices in NYC. Since I live in NC now, I’m gonna miss it. But it would be an IMMENSE help for anyone who believes in worker’s rights and just a fundamental law-abiding lifestyle to share this post around the internet. The more press this gets, the higher the probability that these wrongs get righted. Details below…

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A ruling of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) earlier (last) week ordered CNN to reinstate more than 100 unionized contract TV workers who lost their jobs in a 2003 restructuring of the 24-7 network — as well as to compensate hundreds of workers who lost pay as a result of the upheaval.

CNN, as it turns out, isn’t too eager to do those things. It has sought review of the NLRB decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Asked for comment on the petition, which doesn’t lay out its appeal arguments, a CNN spokeswoman replied: “CNN disagrees with the NLRB decision and we have filed an appeal in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The move allows CNN to at least delay the rather immediate impact of the NLRB order, which gave it just 14 days to offer employment to the 100-plus former contractors who’d lost their jobs. It also ordered CNN to cover the lost earnings and benefits of those former contractors as well as the ones it eventually hired as full-time CNN staffers. The workers in question were employees of an outfit known as Team Video Services (TVS), whose primary purpose in the world was to provide the technical muscle for the news gathering activities of CNN’s New York and Washington bureaus. Employees at TVS were represented by the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA).

CNN’s appeal disappointed NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce: “We had hoped that CNN now, after getting two significant findings, would do the right thing,” noted Joyce, referring to this week’s NLRB decision as well as a 2008 ruling by an administrative law judge whose conclusions were supported by the board.

The decision by CNN to rid itself of the unionized contract workers came in 2003. A press release called TVS “a fine company that had done an excellent job running its business and meeting the needs of CNN.” Yet CNN wanted something different, something non-unionized. An “antiunion animus,” noted the NLRB, motivated the reorganization plan. After ending its contracts with TVS, CNN indeed went on a recruitment spree, hiring back some of the TVS workers and other applicants to work in-house at CNN, without union representation.

That all sounds abstract. The NLRB decision, however, contains salary numbers that reveal how CNN saved itself some employee overhead in the switchover. The dismissed TVS employees that CNN hired as in-house workers, it notes, earned $3,000 to $30,000 less than they’d pulled in their new positions. Some examples: Onetime TVS White
House field technician David Bacheler got a slot at CNN as a “senior photojournalist studio operator” with a pay cut of $10,000 to $30,000. Stacy Leitner, who was a studio technician under TVS, became a media coordinator with a pay cut of $5,000.

Here’s a list of things that these employees lost once they left their unionized workplace: “CNN eliminated bargaining unit employees’ contractual premiums, including meal penalties, paid lunch hours, holiday pay, and doubletime pay after working 7 consecutive days. CNN also changed the unit employees’ leave benefits by replacing TVS’ policy of carried-over annual and sick with a use-it-or-lose-it-within-28-days sick and personal leave policy,” notes the NLRB ruling.

At its crux, the NLRB ruling holds that CNN operated a joint employment arrangement with TVS in supervising the workers. CNN big-footed TVS on the workers’ terms of employment, including “staffing levels, wages, hours, overtime, and training,
among other things,” argues the majority decision signed by NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce and member Kent Y. Hirozawa. In a dissent, NLRB member Philip A. Miscimarra challenged the joint-employer finding, arguing that CNN didn’t have “any direct and immediate control over the TVS employees’ terms and conditions of employment.”

Joyce says that while CNN seeks another hearing of its case, the back-pay liabilities will continue to pile up. The case has stretched out over 11 years, after all, and “some of these people are each due several hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Joyce. “This gets CNN more firmly entrenched in terms of how much money they’re going to have to shell out.”

Eric Wemple – Washington Post

My email from the union:

Dear NABET-CWA Local 11 members,

Please join your CWA brothers and sisters for a very important rally on Friday, September 26th, 4:30-6pm, at CNN’s New York Headquarters, on 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, to let CNN know that this is not over. We are not going to stop until justice is done. We want to get this story in the press while it is hot. We want to hear your stories! Tee shirts and whistles will be provided.

Thomas A. Cappo

President

NABET-CWA Local 11

New York City

212-757-3065

Love Letter To “Community”

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I jumped on board the bandwagon late in the game, just a few months ago, in fact. For any number of reasons, I ignored this series for a long time. But when I finally got around to it, I was completely blown away by it’s smart writing and diverse ensemble cast. Of course it was doomed to fail.

But this series was the “little engine that could,” always under threat of cancellation and mind-bogglingly slipping through the unlikely cracks of renewal year after implausible year. The seasons would get shorter and shorter as the cult fan base grew larger and larger. But the problem with that demographic is that it’s just never big enough.

If you build it, they will come: Jeff Winger is a disbarred lawyer jerk who has to go back to school and earn the degree he lied about having. Trying to get student activist Britta into bed, he offers to form a study group with just the two of them as members. But she invites five other classmates, ruining his sexy plans and leaving him to run a group he never even wanted. Hilarity ensued in the house that creator Dan Harmon built. Yet, nobody came to watch.

And I just don’t understand why. Was the series ignored because it couldn’t connect to a mass audience? Was there stiff competition in that time slot? As I’ve said, I discovered the show late, and could therefore be part of the problem, so I was never witness to its plight. But I do have strong opinions to offer.

This beautifully racially mixed cast brought great characters to the small screen and delivered their lines with expert lunacy. And how wonderfully written they were, with leagues of room to grow. Jeff is the self-impressed fashionista, dressed head to toe in sarcastic conceit. He later grows into a more sympathetic version of himself, but not at all less funny. Stoner Britta fails at first, as the writers didn’t seem to know how to keep her headstrong independence from being abrasive. But when she added on absent-minded buzzkiller traits, actress Gillian Jacobs surfed through the role like a comedic champ. Comparatively, former high school jock Troy (played by rap artist Donald Glover) is way too cool in the opening episodes. When his character embraces his geeky side and mellows out, it’s genius in the making. I will admit that the first season felt a bit rocky at times as the actors got used to their roles.

More about the characters. Danny Pudi’s TV-obsessed Abed is clearly autistic or perhaps dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome, leaving him with a difficulty in relating to others. Yet, somewhere along the line something magical happens! Abed and Troy somehow connect and become the cutest, funniest BFF duo since Harold and Kumar – minus the weed. It really is a touch that gave the show a pop (pop) that so many millions of viewers missed out on. Sometimes I found myself looking forward to an episode’s end tag, which commonly consisted of Abed and Troy doing something ridiculous during the credits.

Shirley is Jeff’s age, and a devout Christian who has mastered the art of kindness as well as ugly manipulation. And just when you’re bored of her, she has the potential to give the episode’s best line. She would also be the most ignored character on the show if not for veteran actor Chevy Chase’s millionaire, Pierce Hawthorne. Pierce literally just goes to school for the hell of it. He is lonely, selfish and passively racist/misogynistic. He so despises being left out of his friends’ plans that he’s been known to lash out hatefully. He has actually played the villain on a few occasions, both on and off the set. His war with Dan Harmon that ended with them both leaving the show is something to be Googled to be believed. Drama!

And then there’s Annie, the youngest…and hottest of the group. Overachieving and adorable, she’s commanded fanboy attention since the show started. I’d roll my eyes reading about some of my favorite bloggers’ obsessions with her…until I watched the show and witnessed it myself. Jesus God I love her so. And by the way, you haven’t lived til you’ve heard her freestyle rap in the show’s outtakes. She’s a charmer.

Backed by a wonderful supporting cast: the Dean, who steals scenes effortlessly in his bi-curious (or even flat-out gay) hilarity, will dress in drag, make passes at Jeff, and say every single line with perfect flamboyance. Senor Chang, the inept Spanish teacher who does a “Jeff Winger” and becomes a student when his lack of credentials are exposed, is probably the most insane TV character I’ve ever seen in my life. He never says or does anything rational and he’s the show’s secret weapon adrenaline shot. Lesser characters like Magnitude, Fat Neil, Todd, Leonard, Starburns…the list goes on and on and on…are a casting director’s dream. The unnecessarily panicky Garrett is pure brilliance all by himself. And Buzz Hickey, who joined the group in its final run, was a nice addition who just needed time to be developed. But we learned such great things about him! Amateur cartoonist, former cop, always carrying rope for some reason! God!  Thinking back on all this, I’m so sad to see these folks go. They were a perfect comedy team.

But it wasn’t a perfect show. It had its clunker episodes like the one where they were video game characters, but the standout entries more than made up for their failures. “Remedial Chaos Theory” is the quintessentially flawless example of a bottle episode. The one where they were all animated G.I. Joe characters was inspired enough to call to my childhood. Touching, darker runs like “Mixology Certification” were handled with the type of expert tenderness one needs to make sad stuff funny. Yes, time and time again this show proved itself, and more than earned the respect of its loyal and loving fans.  Fans like myself. Trekkie. Whovian. CloneClubber, and whatever the hell they are calling people who loved and lost when the truly darkest timeline would be to never have loved at all.

 

In Defense Of The “Bottle Episode”

imageWatch me do it, little man!

Thanks to Aspire TV, I’ve been introduced to something that I didn’t know existed: The Bill Cosby Show.

No, not the 80’s hit that reminded everyone that black people could be on TV too. And no, not the bad “Cosby” trainwreck that followed. Nor do I mean some variety or talk show or anything with “Fat” in the title. Not ringing any bells? Don’t feel bad – I was pretty surprised myself. In this early 70’s sitcom sans laugh track, Cos plays Chet, a Los Angeles phys ed teacher in a multiracial school taught by ethnically diverse teachers. He’s an everyman who gets into shenanigans with sprinkles of ballyhoo and balderdash. It ran for only a couple seasons because it’s an average show at best. Anyway, now we know.

On today’s show, Chet, the school cleaning lady, and Henry Fonda (playing a teacher) fall into tomfoolery and get stuck in an elevator. That’s where the whole episode takes place. That’s an example of a bottle episode. When you’re trying to save money on your series, now and again you’ll produce a bottle episode because they cut down on set building, location shooting and time. Now we know.

Wikipedia is here to help:
“The etymology of the phrase originates with a similar term used on the set of the original 1960s-era Star Trek . Cast and crew members of the show use the phrase ‘ship-in-a-bottle episodes’ for episodes that took place only on board the Starship Enterprise.”

Sounds like a cool scheme but they can sometimes catch a bad rap. Discerning viewers might consider it lazy or a cop out. In a certain light, a bottle episode from your favorite show might make you feel cheated. And you are if it’s badly written. That’s the trick with these things – you have to make sure you can make 30 minutes to an hour in one space interesting. “Seinfeld” was exceptionally good at this. Everybody points to “The Chinese Restaurant” as their best but I think “The Parking Garage” is better.

Furthermore, these challenges have been known to produce exquisite works. Star Trek’s “Balance Of Terror,” The X-Files’ “Ice,” Community’ “Remedial Chaos Theory” were arguably the shows’ best outings. Hell, almost every time Community does it, it scores! See “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” and “Cooperative Calligraphy.” They are masterpieces.

Even movies can do it. All of “Crimson Tide” is in a submarine. “The Breakfast Club” did it and most of “Speed” is on a bus. Truth is, I think most b.e.’s are pretty good. They offer a lot of exercise for the actors and writers and little for the rest of the contributors, and that’s okay. The bulk of my creative respect goes to writing anyway, but it’s that wonderful acting performance that makes the words come alive. Just check out Breaking Bad’s tour du force “Fly.” You’ll see.

So I’m not going to rattle off a ton of examples about bottle episodes and why each individual production is cool. That’s what Google is for. But I will go so far as to say that Lois and Clark’s “Ghosts” might be the worst bottle episode ever made.

Okay that’s no way to defend b.e.’s. Let’s rename this “In Defense Of The Bottle Episode Except That One.” Pure trash.

My Twilight Zone Series Review

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I thought I saw them all as a kid, but lately found out how very wrong I was after marathoning the hell out of the series thanks to Netflix and boredom. In fact, thank goodness for Netflix and boredom because I missed some awesome episodes.

Overall, the series is a winner. It stands bravely in the face of unforgiving years and creator Rod Serling’s writing still manages to amaze and surprise in most cases. There were times when I’d figured out the plot and denouement within the first couple minutes, making it a very boring viewing. Yet, there were other times, as with the creepy “After Hours,” that kept me guessing up until the end.

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Standout episodes in the series include “To Serve Man,” a story about alien inv…uh, visitation; “Time Enough At last,” with Burgess Meredith; the very unsettling “The Hitchhiker;” and the terrorizing “Living Doll,” starring Kojack himself. Part of the fun is seeing well established and retired actors show up in black and white with bright baby faces, like Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford. Conversely, you will see aging actors taking final bows, such as Buster Keaton. All in the same crazy series chock full of martians, space travel, hell breaking loose…absolute FEAR..

But they weren’t afraid to experiment and take chances. From hackneyed depictions of the future to outright soapbox preachy-ness, one could even consider the series as a trailblazer in showing what and what NOT to do. It’s safe to assume that, despite the writing, shooting some episodes on video to cut costs was a dismal failure. Indeed, the very last episode suffers from a case of the “fuck its”  where Scout from “To Kill A Mockingbird” plays a little girl with a crumbling home life. When the outside shoot had to be voiced over due to technical difficulties, they decided it would cost too much to fly her back to Hollywood, so her lines were dubbed by June Foray. So, sometimes the little girl sounds like Scout, other times she sounds like Rocky the Flying Squirrel from the Bullwinkle show. Not kidding.

The series also failed at producing two very important elements: funny scripts and showcasing minorities. Not even the comedy timing of Carol Burnett in “Cavender Is Coming” could float the terribly unfunny ship that had to resort to goofy music cues to tell the audience when to laugh. And despite the importance of entries like, “The Big Tall Wish,” we didn’t get any others with an all-black cast. This quote from Serling makes me feel like he’s not at fault for that:

“Television, like its big sister, the motion picture, has been guilty of the sin of omission… Hungry for talent, desperate for the so-called ‘new face,’ constantly searching for a transfusion of new blood, it has overlooked a source of wondrous talent that resides under its nose. This is the Negro actor.”

But, the series is legendary because of its triumphs. It spawned a movie and 1990’s revival. And though the comeback was unsuccessful, it gave us the fine sequel to the epic “It’s A Good life” starring original key cast members. So if you’re not revisiting this fantastic series or checking it out for the first time out of curiosity, then you’re missing out on a great example of TV’s strong childhood.