Archive for November, 2006

Lately I’ve been drafted by several friends to sign a petition to “Save Studio 60”. Luckily for them, the show has already been “saved”, NBC has signed it on for the rest of the season instead of canceling two episodes from now. I’ll admit, I have my doubts about Studio 60, even though my friends keep telling me that it is clearly smart, funny, and the best-written show on television. I will give it most of those things, but I’m not sure that makes it the best show on television.

A little background, I am a self-proclaimed West Wing superfan and and Aaron Sorkin devotee. I love The American President and I have even watched some episodes of Sports Night. But The West Wing is my favorite by far, I know the episodes inside and out and I can’t decide who my favorite character is. To be honest, I want to be Amy Gardner when I grow up. Sorkin manages to make public service attractive and uplifting; a feat that the majority of politicians couldn’t ever hope to duplicate. And while I know he does it with the trappings of Hollywood sets and brights lights, the finished product is inspiring. When I heard about Studio 60, I was thrilled, I thought it was great that Sorkin was trying his hand at another tv drama and what’s more, he was using some of my favorites: Bradley Whitford, Timothy Busfield, and John Goodman. So at first I loved it, I thought it was refreshing and witty and much better than other things I was watching.

Enter my overly-analytical self. I began to have my doubts. While I am glad that Aaron Sorkin is back on a major network, I don’t think that Studio 60 nearly approaches WW. I find myself nodding when people say “We don’t want to see the cast of West Wing in a television studio, we want to see The West Wing!” Sorkin shouldn’t try to replace WW with the same font, the same hallway conversations but without the larger purpose. Call me judgemental, but I can’t find a higher calling in a SNL knock-off tv show.

I also take issue with the latest findings that because people in high-income households watch the show, that is why it isn’t doing well, and also a reason why it should be kept on the air. This is disturbing to me because although I don’t exactly think that Temptation Island is good television, I wouldn’t argue it shouldn’t be canceled just because a certain income bracket likes the show. That is a simplistic reading of the situation, but the news story did make me think. I’m not going to fully flesh out an argument about the relationship between income brackets and television shows because it would take a very long time, but I do think that it is symptomatic of a larger bias in the media industry; the fact that if upper-class people like something it usually gets a second chance.

Okay, enough of my blatherings on telelvision and class warfare, I already know I’ll take heat from my Studio 60 friends. To that I say, I love the show too, I enjoy watching it, and I hope it stays on the air. But I do worry about it being heralded as Sorkin’s new era, when the old era was pretty great!

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November Book(s)!

First of all, my apologies for October, it somehow became a busy month. I won’t claim too many excuses but there was a bout of sickness and some traveling. This month I am going to devote this post to one book, partially because I am in the middle of three others that I haven’t finished yet, and also because I found myself wanting to write a little bit more about this one. So to spare you all a lengthy post, I am going to limit myself to just this book for November. But I’ll be back with more in December, I have joined a book club and so hopefully that will give me plenty of good recommendations for the oh, three, people that read this!

Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman

Like many people who have been, are or consider themselves to be students of political science, I have a love/hate relationship with Tom Friedman. He is an excellent writer but sometimes he has the tendency to boil away all the complexities of a political problem in order to fit an overarching message that he is trying to create. He has done wonderful work through his books and his column, because he has made politics more understandable and attainable for people who usually aren’t interested, but this often rubs us poli sci nerds the wrong way.

I had previously read both The World is Flat and The Lexus and the Olive Tree, but I was convinced by a knowledgeable friend that this book was worth a try, and written during Friedman’s days as an on-the-ground reporter rather than a famous syndicated columnist. I was wary, but happily my instincts were wrong and my friend’s recommendation was sound; it is a fascinating read.

For those of us, (well most of us) who haven’t spent any significant time in a war zone, we are strangers to many of the contradictions and surivial mechanisms that arise during conflict. To me, Friedman’s greatest strength in this book was his ability to bring the horrors, the stories and even the quirks of wartime into my life and make it seem accessible and relevant. His stories of Beirut, of the city, the people, and the conflict, gave me a greater understanding of that country’s history and political situation than I learned in my Middle Eastern history class.

I think the most interesting chapter of the book had to do with the American Marines in Lebanon, and the ways in which Friedman observes and writes about the American interactions with Lebanese culture and the city of Beirut. Before reading this book I knew hardly anything about the time the Marines spent in Beirut. The chapter was interesting not only in its historical context but also when thinking about how Friedman might apply his observations to the Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today; it certainly gave me a lot of food for thought. His account is a mixture of hope, cynicism, regret and gratitude and I believe it speaks volumes about the cultural diffences that exist.

Some of my favorite writers are those who humanize the historical facts that they observe, and I think that with this book Tom Friedman gets another tally in the “love” column.

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The Midterms

The news, the blogs, the Democratic glee is enough to tell you that I am a happy happy girl this week. Last night was insane, I couldn’t believe it as those House pickups rolled in, so many surprises that no one predicted(only hoped!) that the Democrats would pick up.

The Senate exceeded everything we could have hoped for. End of story. I am so happy that Claire McCaskill, Jim Webb, Jon Tester, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar and Bob Casey will be Senators!! I am especially thrilled that McCaskill and Klobuchar will be Senators, because that means two new woman Senators plus the first ever female Speaker. Imagine she is 3rd in line to the Presidency, after Cheney!

I don’t want to add needlessly to the chorus of coverage and Dem happiness and all that, but I can say that today was a pretty wonderful day to be a Democrat. It is so good to see the American people recognize the need for real change, after 12 long years of bickering, back-handed tactics, and the turning away from honest debate it is finally time for a change.


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