Joshua Gamson

Joshua Gamson is a professor of sociology at University of San Fransisco and author of Freaks Talk Back and Claims to Fame.

Recent Articles

Street Life

I n the midst of a bachelor party on FOX's new show The Street (premiering November 1), a fast-talking securities salesman named Freddie pulls out a wad of cash in an attempt to persuade two strippers to provide extra services. Standing in bikinis and stilettos in the noisy club, they demand equities. "Blue chips, small caps, munis, whatever. We're flexible," says the brunette. Freddie, both unethical and horny, tips them off about a company his firm is taking public and suggests that they call their broker. "Broker?" says the blonde, in a thick Russian accent. "Do we look like a suckers? We're on the line. We make our own trade, tenkyouverymuch." On Bull , TNT's first original series, which began airing in August, one of the partners in an upstart investment firm brags to his colleagues that his 10-year-old son asked for shares of AOL as a birthday gift. "Is that not the greatest thing you ever heard?" he beams. Maybe not, but FOX and TNT are certainly banking on the notion that the...

Educational Television

T he Big Moment in the early episodes of the Fox Network's Boston Public comes at a school board meeting called by the superintendent--an enemy of Winslow High School's tough-love overseer, Principal Harper--to address the principal's handling of a teacher who brandished a gun in his classroom, a soccer team that tried to download test answers and then persecuted a potential "rat" by hanging him upside down outside a classroom, a social studies teacher who allowed a discussion of Native-American cannibalism, a bully who broke open another kid's head, and a fed-up teacher who abandoned her class with a blackboard note that read, "Gone to kill myself. Hope you're happy!" Actually, thanks to Boston Public's pile-it-on strategy, you get several Big Moments for the price of one. After the school board chair and the super-intendent attack the principal, the teacher who left the blackboard suicide note, Ms. Hendricks, stands up to confront the "stuck-up intellectual superintendent...

Class Clowns

T he Oblongs, the WB network's new animated series that premiered on April Fools' Day, opens with the sound of a flushing toilet. Chipper voices, who could be singing about the Flintstones or Scooby Doo, sing the show's setup: As cartoon waste flows from a fancy mansion down into a valley filled with decrepit houses and power lines, the voices chirp about how "a chemical spill came from the people living up on the Hill," and we get a glimpse of the show's title family, living, fa-la-la, "by the landfill with hazardous foam, in their happy, glowing home." The Oblongs are the first television family marked by the deformities of waste dumping. Milo, the little boy at the center of the show, is almost physically normal--one eye is much smaller than the other--but he has what the family doctor calls "typical Valley childhood ailments: ADD, OCD, TDD, and of course foaming diarrhea." He used to go to a special school for "the pathologically high-spirited." His mother, Pickles, a downwardly...

The President Has No Pants

T he charge that politics has become indistinguishable from entertainment--and that partly for this reason we now have in office a spoiled frat boy with not much upstairs--is overstated and not especially new. Such notions are not entirely wrong, though, and to see them translated literally into television programming, as they are on Comedy Central's new series That's My Bush! --to date, the network's most expensive venture and most watched premiere--is both shocking and exhilarating. It's one thing to be aware that the emperor has no metaphorical clothes but quite another to see him standing around naked, chugging a beer, and bumbling his way through his very own sitcom. To be fair, I should note that Comedy Central's George W. Bush is never totally naked. But he fornicates and farts--this is, after all, a live-action show created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the duo behind the hilarious, impolite cartoon South Park. And he's heard on tape announcing to his fraternity brothers at a...

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