This week’s column from The Review:
Right up front, I must say that I don’t know (bleep) about “(Bleep) My Dad Says,” a new show airing on CBS this fall.
Oh, I know it’s based on a book of the same name, which in turn is a spin-off of a website or a Twitter feed that purports to share blunt wisdom from somebody’s father. Or maybe it collects blunt wisdom from everybody’s fathers, homespun nuggets like “Don’t eat yellow snow” and “If you don’t shut up, I’ll cut out your tongue.”
I have no intention of watching the show, first because it stars William Shatner, a breathy and bombastic actor whose delivery makes me want to puncture my earlobes with roofing nails, and second because despite having a full slate of satellite channels, I watch little television.
But if I were watching, the last thing that would upset me is the word (bleep) or the shift-key stand-in that CBS is using in the actual title. This is why I’m not a member of the Parents Television Council, which last week sent letters to more than 300 companies, asking them not to advertise on the show because of its name.
According to PTC President Tim Winter, quoted in the Huffington Post (the Wikipedia of news), “Parents really do care about profanity when their kids are watching TV.” He then goes on to qualify the statement by noting that only “something like 80 to 90 percent of parents” care. That leaves me in that 10 to 20 percent who don’t give a (bleep).
Suppressing (bleep) has a long tradition, one that is rooted in the Norman Conquest of 1066 (betcha didn’t know you would be getting a history lesson), when those marauding Normans attempted to supplant vibrant Anglo-Saxon vocabulary with more genteel — at least to our modern ears — Norman French. It’s a prejudice that continues to this day.
Take George Carlin’s infamous Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television, which have since morphed into the equally infamous Seven Words You Can’t Say on Network Television, as they are used quite freely on premium cable channels. Not only can these words not be uttered on free TV, they also can’t be written in a family newspaper. However, I can use some of their French-derived equivalents — urinate, defecate and fornicate — with impunity. At least one of the remaining four I can describe more clinically (”breasts,” instead of the one-syllable word Carlin uses), but I can’t even tiptoe around the remaining three for fear of offending Beatrice Bluenose, one of the paper’s oldest and most conservative subscribers.
(The newsroom was very concerned about Ms. Bluenose last month, when on National Rain Day I attempted to warn people to “wear their rubbers,” a dictionary-sanctioned reference to boots that was nonetheless greeted with such disapproval from my colleagues that I excised it from the finished page.)
The point is — what is the difference between urination, defecation and fornication and their blunter equivalents? Why is it OK, hypothetically, for Dr. Oz (speaking of another show I seldom watch) to discuss defecation clinically, but not OK for a primetime show to use a more common term for humorous effect? Can we not recognize the medicinal effects of laughter and agree that (bleep) is as appropriate in comedy as “defecate” is in medicine?
For that matter, why is it OK for the Cleveland Zoo to feature an exhibit called “The Scoop on Poop,” but scandalous if they would advertise “The Skinny on (Bleep)”?
Yes, I know the PTC is concerned that society is becoming coarser, and that little kids (the lowest common denominator of all entertainment, apparently) might spew out the actual word — horrors! — instead of saying “bleep” when talking about the show, but only after they’ve finished talking about how many people they killed in their latest videogame venture. Because you know that CBS is targeting the 10-and-under crowd by casting the septuagenarian Shatner in the lead.
Besides, nobody who’s been on a playground has ever confused it with polite society.
I consider references to (bleep) as less an example of society’s coarsening and more of an opportunity for the next generation to reclaim its Anglo-Saxon roots, when men were men, (bleep) was (bleep), and William Shatner’s most important line was “Beam me up, Scotty.”
In the eternal battle for pop-culture geek supremacy (Marvel vs. DC, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Twilight Zone vs. Outer Limits, and so on), two questions reign supreme:
Veronica or Betty? Veronica Lodge (left) is the spoiled, rich heiress and Betty Cooper is the middle class gal with the heart of gold. Both duel perennially over freckle-faced Archie Andrews (center) — and all three seem intent on contracting meningitis by drinking from the same cup.
And … Mary Ann or Ginger? Mary Ann (left) is the down-home country gal, and Ginger, the sophisticated movie star. Neither is particularly interested in Gilligan (center) from the venerable TV show, Gilligan’s Island, and to be fair, he never seems to pursue either of them, leading some to speculate that he’s chasing that cougar, Mrs. Howell, or — more radically — he’s into the Skipper.
My picks, by the way, are Veronica and Mary Ann. What about you?
Holly and I are back from the Sebring fireworks, and they were among the best small-town displays I’ve seen in a long time. Fireworks and the Fourth always remind me of the opening of Love, American Style, which I watched in repeats as a kid back in the ’70s and ’80s. Apparently, it was the show that introduced Happy Days, at least based on the piece above.
Have a happy Independence Day!
The coolness quotient on American Idol quadrupled tonight with the appearance of Alice Cooper along with the top twelve contestants. See it above, as long as the link stays active on YouTube, that is.
Dan Curtis was the maestro behind Dark Shadows, a soap opera remembered fondly for its mix of Gothic horror and standard afternoon fare. In 1973, Curtis teamed with writer Richard Matheson of I Am Legend, Incredible Shrinking Man, and Twilight Zone fame for this version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Although Jack Palance isn’t first actor I would consider for the immortal count, he turns in a fairly good performance here, punctuated by a lot of growling and hissing and the occasional scenery chewing. This is the first version of Stoker’s story to introduce the idea of the Count traveling to London in pursuit of the reincarnation of his lost love, a plot twist picked up later by Francis Ford Coppola in the ’90s and, by extension, a forerunner of today’s sexy teen vampire craze a la Twilight. I can’t blame that on Matheson, who handles the idea fairly well here. Palance is still an irredeemable scumbag, albeit one tragically in love with a dead woman.
Nigel Davenport is a more physical Van Helsing than previous incarnations (Peter Cushing’s turn as the professorial vampire hunter in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula being a notable exception), perhaps foreshadowing Universal’s abortive attempt to launch a series around a more athletic VH a few years back. (Hey, I liked it, even if most everybody else didn’t.)
Because this was a TV movie before it was recut for theatrical release in Europe, the special effects aren’t stellar, although the locations used go a long way toward making up for the deficit. The bare-bones DVD has a decent transfer, the European theatrical trailer, and two really short clips with Palance (who rambles on and makes little sense) and Curtis (much more lucid than his star).
I can’t say I’m in a hurry to pop this one back into my DVD player, but it is a mostly reverential adaptation with a few key twists that have secured it a footnote mention in vampire lore.
Here is this week’s print column, dated March 11, 2010, from The Alliance Review:
Accepting criticism is hard.
Although we hate to hear negatives about ourselves, we love it when it’s directed toward somebody else, which might account for the success of “American Idol.” Season after season, smart-aleck, linguistically challenged judges offer criticism that is equal parts scathing, inane and point-on.
Maybe criticism would be easier to take if everyday situations were evaluated in the styles of Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, and this season’s newbie judge, Ellen DeGeneres.
To wit, I offer the following everyday situations, “American Idol” style.
A bad job evaluation:
Randy: Yo, dawg, you know I’m a fan, but that was not good. Not good. You didn’t get the TPS reports done, dawg. I wasn’t feelin’ it, dawg.
Simon: If your job were an Olympic event, then your handling of customer complaints would be the equivalent of synchronized swimming while wearing concrete shoes. Utterly, fantastically horrendous.
Kara: What do you think Paula (i.e., Paula Abdul, former “Idol” judge who quit before the current season) would think about your job performance? Then imagine the opposite. That’s what I’d say.
Ellen: I like you. I really, really like you. But the way you come back from lunch late every day, that’s bad — that’s really, really not good. Really. But I like you. I do.
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The New York Times had an article this weekend about shock-rocker Alice Cooper’s appearances in a series of commercials for Saturn, a German electronics retailer. The commercial above passes an essential test of TV ads: You can tell what’s going on even if you don’t speak the language.
Television 18 Jan 2010 04:06 pm
Reader’s Digest has a funny and informative article about late-night TV products. Turns out they don’t always work as promised. I know, who’d have guessed it? The magazine’s reviewers did give high marks to ProCaulk, a product I’ve been tempted to buy on more than one occasion. Guess now I have no excuse not to.
When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, I grooved on the original V mini-series (two of ‘em) and weekly series (one season). The original mini-series had pretensions to be real literature, an allegory about orchestrated genocide with sinister Nazi overtones. It was created and produced by Kenneth Johnson, who had taken The Incredible Hulk beyond its campy roots in comics to something that aspired to be more topical and dramatic (even if it was only a rehash of the far-superior Fugitive, something I didn’t know back then). The second mini-series and subsequent TV series were made without Johnson’s input, and they aspired to be nothing more than straight action pieces with ray guns and lizards — which is what the Visitors were, after all.
I liked the show so much that I migrated over to DC’s short-lived comic-book series, where one of my letters was published in the fifth issue. Back in those days, DC published complete addresses (today the company doesn’t even have letters pages), and my few hundred words opened the doors to sci-fi fandom. I even had a few V pen pals as a result, geeky as that sounds.
Cut to 2009, and ABC’s re-imagining of the V concept. It’s … all right. I like that a Catholic priest is one of the
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Television 25 Aug 2009 06:43 pm
Am I the only person who watches Big Brother on CBS and imagines, when the contestants talk about “the power of veto,” some short little Danny DeVito-like character who breaks legs for the Mob? You know, the power of Vito?