Television

Alec Guinness Gets a Makeover

The classic 1980s John le Carré miniseries Smiley's People is getting the Blu-ray treatment.

Sipa via AP Images

Rex Features via AP Images

Shonda Rhimes' Huma Abedin

The times are few and far between these days when news hounds and junkies—almost all devotees of Twitter—turn away from its blinking columns of information, away from the breaking story going through mitosis at the hands of a thousand bloggers and pundits, and focus their attention on the mother medium of television. A thousand ergonomic office chairs swiveled toward the boob tube late yesterday afternoon to watch the biggest boob in New York City—and that’s saying quite a bit, since I’m pretty sure Geraldo lives there—try to explain himself and his naughty texts to young women, rife with gonad selfies and the misuse of a certain Latin preposition.

All the News that's Fit to Reprint

Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

The opening scene of The Newsroom’s second season, debuting Sunday on HBO, won’t do a hell of a lot to increase creator Aaron Sorkin’s popularity with women. Marcia Gay Harden guests as a brusque in-house attorney deposing news anchor Will McAvoy about a story the fictitious Atlantic Cable News channel blew badly—erroneously reporting that the Obama administration used nerve gas during a black-ops operation in Pakistan.

“Fuck me,” our lady lawyer finally snaps, exasperated by Will’s arch banter. (She’s not alone in that feeling, believe me.) After a pause, Will—ever the gentleman—turns to the other dudes in the room. “Well, would one of you fuck Ms. Halliday, please?” he asks. You have to feel for Harden when her character is obliged to soften, smile, and concede that the joke’s on her.

Revolution Until Imprisonment

The documentary The Revolutionary, which documents the life of Charleston native and Chinese Communist Party member Sidney Rittenberg, looks at how political zeal becomes zealotry.

Flickr/ Rosario Ingles

Sidney Rittenberg's face fills the screen in a college auditorium where The Revolutionary is being shown. His eyebrows are bold brushstrokes of white above narrowed, intent eyes. His lips are firm. He has the wrinkles and gnarled neck of an old man. He does not, however, look like a man who is 90 years old, or like one battered by spending 16 of those years in solitary confinement in China for the offense, ultimately, of believing too deeply in the Party and the revolution. "If you put one drop into the long river of human history, that's immortal ... You either make a difference or you don't make a difference," Rittenberg says to the camera in his Southern gentleman's drawl. This is his credo. Outside the auditorium windows, night has fallen. Rittenberg's larger-than-life face is reflected, translucent, in the glass, as if his memory were speaking out of the darkness. "History," he says wryly, "rolled right over me."

John Oliver's Summer Audition

Jon Stewart's summer Daily Show replacement is doing just fine—but not fine enough that he endangers the Comedy Central king's reign.

Photo by Brad Barket/PictureGroup) via AP IMAGES

What did we learn from John Oliver's debut week hosting The Daily Show? We learned that Jon Stewart is nobody's fool. Stewart may be restless enough with his long-standing gig to take the summer off playing movie director, but that doesn't mean he wants a dauphin getting funny ideas.

Oliver is an ideal placeholder—skillful, amusing, adding just enough novelty that he doesn't come off as a direct imitation. But he's plainly not a guy to go rogue and seize the opportunity to make us not miss our Jon. Supposing Obama were temporarily incapacitated, could we rely on Joe Biden to resist the same siren song?

Game of Thrones and the Problem of Unhappy Endings

AP Photo/HBO, Paul Schiraldi, File

Throughout America, fans of HBO's Game of Thrones slept soundly last night, or at least more soundly than they had the week before. On the finale of the series' third season, no major characters were killed and no key story lines came to an abrupt halt. But last week's episode, featuring the dramatic "Red Wedding" at which three key characters met their end—including Robb Stark, the closest thing the series had to a protagonist—generated an unusual amount of consternation and even anger among viewer, directed at the show's producers and George R.R. Martin, the author of the books on which it is based. Twitter exploded with comments like "I WANT TO KILL THE WRITERS AND PRODUCERS OF GAME OF THRONES," and "I'm pissed right now. Seriously want to scream. Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, you evil, evil man," and "YOU RUINED MY LIFE GEORGE R R MARTIN + IF YOU DIDN'T LOOK LIKE SANTA I'D PUNCH YOU IN YOUR STUPID OLD MAN FACE." There are hundreds more, but you get the idea.

Why should a television show make people so mad?

"Pussy Riot Secret Headquarters,” Revealed

HBO’s documentary of the Russian performance artists is a riot for punk rock lovers and politicos alike.

AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

"These people made all of you say it out loud," Vladimir Putin tells a foreign interviewer he's just discomfited by asking for a Russian translation of "Pussy Riot" in HBO's remarkable new doc, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, airing Monday and well worth your time. He thinks he's scoring a point against Western media's vestigial squeamishness, and he's actually got one: The New York Times might never have printed the word "Pussy" otherwise. Still, could activists ask for a better endorsement from their nemesis? "These people made all of you say it out loud" ought to be carved on a monument someday, and it won't be Putin's.

How My 15 Minutes With Marc Maron Changed Everything

Talking politics and cracking un-wise with America's favorite over-sharer. 

AP Images/Dan Hallman

“A few years ago I was planning on killing myself in my garage, and now I’m doing the best thing I’ve ever done in my life in that same garage,” says comedian Marc Maron in the premiere episode of Maron. The eponymous new show on IFC is an extension of Maron’s real life, and the wildly successful WTF podcast that resurrected his career. Many of the plots grow out of actual experiences, from tracking down an Internet troll to dating a dominatrix. But the show probably won’t mine what Maron himself would describe as his most painful episode: hosting a liberal political talk radio show.

How the Patriarchy Screwed the Starks

How last night’s shocking deaths reveal Game of Thrones’ biggest theme

flickr/IP Anónima_

Cable News Is a Third of a Century Old

A snapshot from CNN's first hour on the air.

This Saturday marks one-third of a century since CNN debuted as the world's first 24-hour news channel in 1980 (if you're looking to get them a gift, the traditional 33rd anniversary gift is amethyst). Prospect intern/sleuth Eric Garcia came across this video of the network's first hour on the air, which begins with Ted Turner giving a speech about the new era of global understanding they're launching. He makes special note of the fact that he's standing under three flags: the U.S. flag, the Georgia flag (its old confederate version, which was adopted in 1956 as a protest to Brown v. Board of Education or to honor the nobility of the Confederacy, depending on your perspective), and...the flag of the United Nations! Cue conservative spit takes.

Back in those days, of course, the UN was considered a well-intentioned if often ineffectual organization, and not a sinister black helicopter-wielding global conspiracy to take your guns and impose a one-world government with George Soros as Supreme Ruler (and the UN was a particular cause of Turner's; he later gave the organization a billion dollars). But let's take a look at the video; once you get past Turner's speech, it doesn't look much different from what cable news remains today, apart from the fact that the anchors are reading off of actual papers on the desks in front of them and not off teleprompters (go to the 8 minute mark):

"Arrested Development" Gets an "Elvis"

And now the story of four reporters who lost their weekend watching all of Arrested Development season four, and the Gchat conversation they had to put it all together.

AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis

If you're an Arrested Development fan, chances are you spent over seven hours on the couch this weekend binge-watching the 15 new episodes that premiered on Netflix early Sunday morning. Don't worry, we did too. We had two staffers sit down in a "Something" hangout with two Mother Jones reporters to hash out the fourth season and its best moments. Warning: potential spoilers.

Jaime Fuller, associate editor

Ok, so Arrested Development season four! what did everyone think?

Asawin Suebsaeng, reporting fellow at Mother Jones

I give it an "A -". First off, to the haters: Fuck the haters, because who the hell in their right mind would be expecting this to be as good as the original run?

Star Bleck

The second entry in the J.J. Abrams' reboot doesn't have the fun of the first outing, and all that's left is one more humongazoid, cluttered summer blockbuster whose gobbledygook plot just spackles over the interludes between kaboom-happy CGI set pieces.

flickr/skookums 1

Quick quiz: which movie currently in theaters does worst by a beloved national classic, "modernizing" it in ways that violate everything people cherished about the original? If you picked Star Trek Into Darkness, let's have a beer one of these days. At least The Great Gatsby's director, Baz Luhrman, puts his purple heart on his zircon-studded sleeve with a romantic pizzazz F. Scott Fitzgerald might approve of. From my lonesome perch, the cement-mixer racket from Gene Rodenberry's corner of the Great American Cemetery is a lot more deafening.

Veep's Much Improved Trash-Talking Minuet

AP Photo/HBO, Bill Gray

The second season of Veep kicks off on Sunday with a very entertaining montage of Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia-Louis Dreyfus) on the campaign trail. She's delivering a clunker of a stump speech—"Freedom isn't 'Me-dom.' It's 'We-dom'!"—that climaxes with a peachy parody of the Anecdotal American our pols so love to describe encountering when being out on the hustings pokes a hole in their bubble. Yes, it's midterm-elections time.

"Jackass" Goes Geopolitical

Vice's foray into doumentary film may make you shake your head, but you can't deny it's good television.

Vice Productions

Vice Productions

A Season of Swords

Game of Thrones, otherwise known as every origins story trash-compacted into the "ultimate extrapolation of Dallas," returns for its third season this Sunday.

HBO

Once again, it's that splendid time of year when we get to cast aside human decency without a backward look. Let's savor ruthless ambition, revel in permanent war, and realize we don't give two hoots about the huddled masses being ground underfoot like cigarillos for conquest's sake. Kicking off its third season on Easter Sunday, and so much for piety, HBO's Game of Thrones may be the closest that high-minded lefties will ever come to experiencing the buzz Paul Ryan feels at CPAC.  Meanwhile, virtuous conservatives get to gorge guilt-free on rampant carnality and unrepentant paganism, and who says there's no such thing as common ground anymore? Try Westeros.

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