Television

Mad 21st Century Men

The world of Mad Men still feels familiar despite the show's long hiatus.

(AP Photo/Rex Features)

I’ll have to work this in quickly before it becomes a cliché, but despite the show's title, female characters have eclipsed male characters in audience sympathies on Mad Men. Identity is the show’s primary concern, putting the rapidly changing gender roles of the '60s at the center of its plot developments. And, the face showrunner Matthew Weiner gave post-'60s America is a female one. One thing seems certain to pass, despite the show’s unpredictability: Peggy Olson will eventually eclipse Don Draper, her mentor.

Six Seasons and a Movie!

Community finally comes back on the air tonight to finish up its third season, and it's kind of a big deal for the show's rabid fans.

(Flickr/reway2007)

Community returns tonight after NBC unceremoniously put it on hiatus halfway through its third season, and it's a television event you would have had a hard time not knowing about if you spend any time online. While few expected the low-rated cult hit to see a fourth season, fans at least felt they needed closure, and far more for this show than for other single-camera critical darlings like it, such as 30 Rock or possibly even Arrested Development. Why? Because despite its well-deserved reputation for kooky, abstract humor, Community has some of the best-developed characters on television.

A Homeric D'oh

The Simpsons celebrates a television milestone but where has all the edge gone?

(Flickr/wallyg)

Watching The Simpsons now is like watching the movie version of the Broadway show based on John Waters’ classic Hairspray. The form is the same, but the spirit just isn’t there. When the 500th episode of the show aired Sunday night, I couldn’t be bothered to care. The main problem is that the show jumped the shark more than a decade ago and, while it still manages to pop off plenty of laugh lines, it lacks the satirical heart that made it truly groundbreaking when it made its debut 23 years ago.

The Clinton Experience

A new PBS documentary puts Bill Clinton’s flawed presidency into measured perspective.

(Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

Is Aspirin a Contraceptive?

Nope. He was saying: Ladies, keep your legs shut. 

Honestly, the last couple of weeks, I've started to wonder: Is the Republican Party committed to a full-employment program for pundits focused on gender and sexuality? Every day, my jaw and the floor have had yet another encounter. Yesterday there was Foster Friess, the Santorum backer, saying that "aspirin between the knees" prevented pregnancy. I don't know about you, but I had to check to find out what the heck he was talking about. Was he saying you can use aspirin as a spermicide? As a post-coital douche? 

Comedian In Chief

Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary.

Caliente Comedy

Network television is ramping up diversity this season by headlining comedies with Latinos. 

This year is shaping up to be a breakout one for Latinos on network television. CBS’s launch of Rob, Rob Schneider’s show about a non-Latino who marries a Mexican American woman after knowing her for six weeks and then has to win over her family, is the first Latino family sitcom on network television since George Lopez was canceled in 2007. Rob premiered last month to 13.5 million viewers, giving CBS its best ratings in that time slot since 2010. It’s part of a trend of increasing Latino visibility on television.

A Super Bowl for the People

Led by Madonna’s halftime act, this year’s telecast included something for everyone.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Somehow Madonna pulled off an amazing feat during the Super Bowl: bringing gay culture and aggressive female sexuality into the heart of masculinity’s holiest of days without anyone seeming to care. While the cheerleading segment was embarrassingly silly, I otherwise have to disagree with Tom Carson’s assessment that the Super Bowl’s narrative was Clint Eastwood versus Madonna, with Clint winning. I’m more in the camp of Tom’s friend who said, “It was Clint AND Madonna.”

Sonia Sotomayor's Radical Judicial Activism

(Sesame Street)

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill requiring TV access to Supreme Court arguments. Justice Sonia Sotomayor isn’t waiting: she made her debut on Sesame Street this week. Though she and Maria were just trying to enjoy “un cafecito,” they were interrupted by Baby Bear, who demanded a judgment in his case against Goldie Locks, who had (as the record has long reflected) broken his tiny chair during a most flagrant trespass quare clausum fregit.

... And Still More Marriage Equality

It might be February, but wedding bells sure are in the air this week. Yesterday, Washington's state legislature passed a marriage bill that Governor Chris Gregoire has said she will sign. It will probably be battled at the ballot box, but I told you this week what I think about that—and the marriage-equality forces think that they're ready to hold the victory among voters. 

Stop the Damsel in Distress Act

Parks and Recreation's once-funny and subversive lead character turns into an anti-feminist cliché.

AP Images/Chris Haston

If you’re looking to get into the pants of a feminist, wonkish liberal, make sure to work Parks and Recreation into your sweet nothings. The hit NBC show's main character, Leslie Knope—a hyper-competent assistant parks director played by Saturday Night Live-alumna Amy Poehler—is one of those rare female comic characters who is allowed dignity along with competence. The sitcom is a love letter to the hard-working government bureaucrats who keep our streets clean and our communities safe only to find their work repeatedly bashed by pandering Republicans looking to score points against so-called big government.

Cynthia Nixon Clears It All Up

Poor Cynthia Nixon! I can only imagine what kind of re-education camp she's been sent to since a week and a half ago, when she declared that she chooses to be gay. Yesterday, she issued a clarifying statement saying that:

to the extent that anyone wishes to interpret my words in a strictly legal context I would like to clarify:

While I don't often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have 'chosen' is to be in a gay relationship.

I Fought PBS and PBS Won

Downton Abbey gives the network a bona fide guilty pleasure.

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Maybe I should have heeded Joe Strummer's obscene warning back in 1980. "He who fucks nuns/Will later join the church," the Clash's front man sang biliously on London Calling—and here I am 32 years later, watching Downton Abbey. I guess Joe had my number all along.

The Winner Is...Romney's Debate Coach

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

We learned so many things during Thursday night’s GOP debate in Jacksonville. Callista Gingrich would be a swell first lady because she plays the French horn and loves the arts. If you’re a Palestinian-American, don’t bother asking a Republican candidate in Florida to acknowledge your humanity, or even your existence. Immigration policy is really all about undocumented grandmothers. Rick Santorum used to go to church with the governor of Puerto Rico. And Ron Paul is itching to take on the other candidates in a 25-mile bike ride in the heat of Texas. 

The Inside Track

Luck, HBO’s horse-racing series, is about the other American pastime: gaming the system.

 

Early in the new HBO series Luck, a gangster’s chauffeur-cum-bodyguard, Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina), goes to L.A.’s Santa Anita racetrack with his boss, Chester “Ace” Bern-stein (Dustin Hoffman), and makes a bet on a long shot. When the horse comes in, Gus clutches his winning ticket and says happily: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you this isn’t a great fucking country.” 

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