Three More Reasons Why TV’s Gilded Age Is Vulnerable To Tarnish

Exhibit A: the mortality list from the 2016-2017 TV season, which includes PBS’s Mercy Street, ABC’s American Crime and WGN America’s Underground.
For all the good stuff we still have, their passing makes the Platinum Age a little less shiny.
Now let’s stress that the content of the Platinum Age of Television is a subjective call. If you don’t like House of Cards or Game of Thrones, or Billions, it doesn’t matter how many critics drool over them. There’s no platinum there.

In the broader picture, though, the last two decades have given us a whole sheaf of high-quality television, from The West Wing, Deadwood, The Wire and The Sopranos to Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Fargo and The Walking Dead.
To greatly oversimplify, this happened for a couple of reasons. The expansion of the TV universe into cable, pay-cable and Continue reading "Three More Reasons Why TV’s Gilded Age Is Vulnerable To Tarnish"

The Three Keys To Understanding Roger Ailes And TV News. Hint: They’re Really Easy.

The television legacy of Roger Ailes is as impressive as his personal conduct sometimes seemed to be deplorable.
As the architect of Fox News, Ailes didn’t dream up anything new. He simply applied three timeless lessons.
1. Packaged properly, the news can be comfort food.
2. America has a long, rich and successful tradition of a partisan news media.
3. The most important character in any drama is the bad guy. Ailes and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch recognized there is a core of conservative viewers who think America and the world have gone to hell since the 1960s and probably since Franklin Roosevelt.
Nothing could be more comforting to those viewers than to turn on a news channel that consistently reinforces that belief.
This doesn’t make conservative viewers perverse or even unusual, by the way. Left-leaning viewers turn to MSNBC for the same reason, just as adherents of numerous other Continue reading "The Three Keys To Understanding Roger Ailes And TV News. Hint: They’re Really Easy."

‘American Crime’ Is A Fine Show, And We Have Absolutely, Positively No Idea Where It’s Going

Warning: contains spoilers from previously aired episodes.
ABC’s “American Crime” has added another superlative to its resume this spring.
After a couple of years as one of TV’s most ambitious and best series, it has now also become TV’s strangest.

”American Crime” wraps up its third season Sunday at 10 p.m. ET, though creator John Ridley may need divine intervention this time to tie together everything.
Since the two previous seasons made no effort to resolve every drama, which was fine because real life never resolves everything, we don’t expect a full set of neat bows around season three, either.
But this latest “American Crime” has jumped around so much it could have been subtitled “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof II.”
In season three as in the previous two, “American Crime” tackles big, uncomfortable issues in a way that broadcast networks almost always avoid. It’s been a Continue reading "‘American Crime’ Is A Fine Show, And We Have Absolutely, Positively No Idea Where It’s Going"

Hugh Hefner’s Life Story: You Should Watch It For The Articles. Yeah, The Articles.

Whether you think Playboy magazine liberated America from its puritanical shackles or sent America spiraling into a Godless moral hell, you gotta admit it changed the game.
And since all things Playboy stemmed from the vision of its founder, Hugh Hefner, it’s logical that a new docu-drama tells the Playboy story through the story of Hef.
The 10-part American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story becomes available Friday on the streaming service Amazon Prime.
It’s an authorized production, done with the blessing of Playboy Enterprises.
The upside there is that the producers have access to Hefner’s and Playboy’s archival material, which seems to be copious. That suits executive producer Stephen David’s familiar hybrid style, blending documentary footage and interviews with dramatic re-creations.
The flip side of an authorized production is that while we learn a lot about the peaks and valleys of Hefner’s life, the series doesn’t go too deeply Continue reading "Hugh Hefner’s Life Story: You Should Watch It For The Articles. Yeah, The Articles."

Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly Have Both Already Won

When Donald Trump sits down with Megyn Kelly for her May 17 prime-time special on Fox, it will be interesting to see whether he still calls her "sick" and "crazy."


Those are a couple of the many things he's called her on Twitter over the last few months, in the process of creating a mostly one-sided "feud" worthy of the World Wrestling Federation.

But now he's agreed to become the featured guest on a show that Fox News Channel reporter/host Kelly doubtless hopes will elicit insights into the man who by that point could have all but locked up the Republican presidential nomination.

Trouble is, a whole lot of viewers won't be tuning in for insights. They'll be tuning in because they've been led to expect the verbal equivalent of a steel cage death match.

So will Trump give the people what they want? Presumably, he won't reiterate his
Continue reading "Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly Have Both Already Won"

Linda Cohn, Or How the First Guy To Anchor 5,000 ESPN <i>SportsCenter</i> Shows is a Gal

Linda Cohn proved quite a while ago that some girls just wanna talk sports.

Since ESPN launched in 1979, it has aired approximately 60,000 SportsCenter shows. As of 8 a.m. this Sunday, Cohn will have hosted 5,000 of them - or one in every 12.


She's the first ESPN anchor of any gender to reach the 5,000 mark - and at 56, she says she hasn't thought about heading to the bench any time soon.

"I try not to look too far ahead," Cohn says. "I could retire as an anchor, but I see myself as always being busy, and I want that connection to sports."

Making ESPN one of those "I'd be doing this anyway" jobs.

"I was a fan long before I got to ESPN," she says. "I'll always be a fan."

For the record, her teams are the Knicks, Mets, Giants and Rangers. She
Continue reading "Linda Cohn, Or How the First Guy To Anchor 5,000 ESPN <i>SportsCenter</i> Shows is a Gal"

Dan Rather, 84 and Flying Free

A decade after he left CBS News and resurfaced on AXS TV, Dan Rather acknowledges he's playing a smaller room.

The tradeoff, he says, is that "I'm doing some of my best work" - including The Big Interview, his weekly show at 8 p.m. Tuesdays.


What he's missing in reach, the 84-year-old Rather explains, he's getting back in that rarest of all journalistic commodities: freedom.

As the title suggests, The Big Interview has Rather talking to one subject for a full show. His guests, mostly in the entertainment field, have included Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd, Patti LaBelle, Quentin Tarantino, Don Rickles, Loretta Lynn and Connie Britton.

Okay, his Texas country roots may be showing. But Rather, who is best known for anchoring The CBS Evening News from 1981 to 2005, says the guests are chosen because they have a story to tell, and most TV interviews don't allow
Continue reading "Dan Rather, 84 and Flying Free"