From Boing Boing:
The most awesomest scifi show on television just launched a fun online experiment. The team behind Battlestar Galactica is providing fans with a web clipboard of special effects shots, sound effects and music tracks so they can create their own BSG videos. Executive Producer David Eick will pick the best one, and it will air on the network during an upcoming episode.
While riding the stationary bike yesterday I watched the most interesting documentary that I've seen in a while. It was part of PBS' Independent Lens series titled "HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes." The filmmaker Byron Hurt examines the issues of violence, misogyny, and homophobia in hip-hop and rap music. The musicians themselves tended to make the excuse that they were only responding to market demands, giving the people what they want...or at least giving the record executives what they will pay for. Its sort of a chicken or egg question since we know that marketing tends to shape public demand as much as public demand drives what content companies market.
The second episode of The 1/2 Hour News Hour aired last night. I thought it was even less funny than the first episode. On the other hand, there was one segment where the correspondents were discussing various terrorist acts and trying to figure out what was the common thread between them. As the names of the perpetrators were read one after the other, it was obvious that the common thread was that they were all muslim. The joke was that the correspondents had a hard time figuring it out since everyone knows that "Islam is a religion of peace." Lisa thought that segment was quite funny. Me, not so much.
Lisa and I watched the first episode of T1/2HNH last night. I thought it was weak and lame, a pale imitation of TDS. I can't imagine it surviving unless they can find a way to actually make it funny. The weekend-update-style alternating short news items from the anchors was OK for one segment, but I winced when they returned to it again for the next segment. None of the other segments were too impressive either. The faux ACLU PSAs were OK as satire and commentary, but they weren't funny (I was left thinking, "Yes, sometimes while protecting everyone's rights we have to protect the rights of people with despicable views and actions"...ironic, but not exactly a barrel of laughs).. Also, as I've mentioned before, I can't stand laugh tracks. The running Ed Begley, Jr. gag was a dud too. Frankly, until I heard Begley's commitment to environmentalism mentioned twice in one weekend (on Real Time too), I had no idea about him.
Maybe the problem is that comedy isn't Surnow's specialty and that the show really needs to be infused with someone else's comic vision. The connection to reality that TDS has through the in-studio guest (where Stewart is forced to initiate a reasonable discussion with the guest...even if the guest is O'Reilly or McCain or Buchanan) was conspicuously missing too. I was left with the feel that I had just watched a collection of political-sketch rejects from SNL or In Living Color rather than a spunky, funny, yet coherent fake news show. If these first two pilots aren't lame enough to kill it, maybe they'll give it an overall makeover and new comic vision when it becomes an actual series.
There's an interesting article of the same title by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. It discusses in great detail the prevalence of torture in the popular TV show 24 (disclosure: I'm one of the few humans alive who has not watched 24...I assume I will someday on DVD, though I'm not so sure any more after reading this article...a show apparently so obsessed with torture doesn't sound attractive to me). It's a detailed, lengthy article. I'll highlight some of the most interesting passages here, but the whole thing is worth reading.
Bob Cochran, who created the show with Surnow, admitted, "Most terrorism experts will tell you that the â€˜ticking time bomb' situation never occurs in real life, or very rarely. But on our show it happens every week."
Since September 11th, depictions of torture have become much more common on American television. Before the attacks, fewer than four acts of torture appeared on prime-time television each year, according to Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization. Now there are more than a hundred, and, as David Danzig, a project director at Human Rights First, noted, "the torturers have changed. It used to be almost exclusively the villains who tortured. Today, torture is often perpetrated by the heroes." The Parents' Television Council, a nonpartisan watchdog group, has counted what it says are sixty-seven torture scenes during the first five seasons of "24"â€”more than one every other show. Melissa Caldwell, the council's senior director of programs, said, " â€˜24' is the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture."
The show's villains usually inflict the more gruesome tortures: their victims are hung on hooks, like carcasses in a butcher shop; poked with smoking-hot scalpels; or abraded with sanding machines. In many episodes, however, heroic American officials act as tormentors, even though torture is illegal under U.S. law. (The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which took on the force of federal law when it was ratified by the Senate in 1994, specifies that "no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.")
This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind "24." Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finneganâ€”wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medalsâ€”aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his "call" was.
In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premiseâ€”that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's securityâ€”was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show's producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."
Finnegan told the producers that "24," by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country's image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniorsâ€”cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by "24," which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, "The kids see it, and say, â€˜If torture is wrong, what about "24"?' " He continued, "The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do."
Gary Solis, a retired law professor who designed and taught the Law of War for Commanders curriculum at West Point, told me that he had similar arguments with his students. He said that, under both U.S. and international law, "Jack Bauer is a criminal. In real life, he would be prosecuted." Yet the motto of many of his students was identical to Jack Bauer's: "Whatever it takes."
Afterward, Danzig and Finnegan had an on-set exchange with Kiefer Sutherland, who is reportedly paid ten million dollars a year to play Jack Bauer. Sutherland, the grandson of Tommy Douglas, a former socialist leader in Canada, has described his own political views as anti-torture, and "leaning toward the left." According to Danzig, Sutherland was "really upset, really intense" and stressed that he tries to tell people that the show "is just entertainment."
His [Surnow's] favorite bumper sticker, he said, is "Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism & Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything."
Although he is a supporter of President Bushâ€”he told me that "America is in its glory days"â€”Surnow is critical of the way the war in Iraq has been conducted. An "isolationist" with "no faith in nation-building," he thinks that "we could have been out of this thing three years ago." After deposing Saddam Hussein, he argued, America should have "just handed it to the Baathists and . . . put in some other monster who's going to keep these people in line but who's not going to be aggressive to us." In his view, America "is sort of the parent of the world, so we have to be stern but fair to people who are rebellious to us. We don't spoil them. That's not to say you abuse them, either. But you have to know who the adult in the room is."
The 1/2 Hour News Hour, Fox News' answer to The Daily Show will finally see the light of day at 10 PM on Sunday. According to Variety, the second episode will air at the same time on March 4. The Huffington Post and Slate discuss it today.
Here's a clip from YouTube:
Apparently the blogosphere isn't impressed. I thought the BO mag cover was OK.
Its time slot creates a bit of a dilemma. It's on at the same time as Extras and Battlestar Galactica, so the adult's dual-tuner DirecTivo is otherwise occupied. Guess it will have to go on the kids' DirecTivo.