It's like JFK or Princess Diana dying: almost everyone in America old enough remembers where they were the day of the OJ Simpson white Bronco freeway chase. Twenty years later, it remains an iconic TV moment. Some 95 million Americans watched the slow…
All posts tagged "america"
Seven things America could buy with the $181 billion in taxes uncollected because of corporate loopholes
The federal government forgoes billions of dollars in revenue each year due to corporate tax write-offs and loopholes enshrined in America’s tax code. The Government Accountability Office estimates that we lose out on $181 billion as a result. Some…
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ cover story at The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” published last night — and the subject of this week’s Moyers & Company interview — shows how dramatically the legacy of slavery and centuries of legalized and institutionalized…
Hero or traitor? America is still polarized over Edward Snowden and whether the newspapers that exposed the extent of NSA's vast global spying network should be lauded or condemned. Ten months later, the question on journalists' lips is whether America…
The fact that the citizens of “red” and “blue” states live in what are essentially two countries with very different governments has largely flown under the radar, but it may become the defining story of our time. The two major parties are…
America’s aging rail system is woefully out-of-date, but a recent order for 32 of Siemen’s hybrid “Charger” locomotives could bring new life to old railways. With a top speed of 125 MPH, the diesel-hybrid trains are said to be faster, quieter…
We’ve been fans of alicublog writer Roy Edroso for years. Is there anyone who understands the angst of conservatives better than Roy? He’s our man on the ground at CPAC — Ed.
"Does anybody here love Sarah Palin?" asked introducer Chris Cox of the NRA. Response noise level: First encore, Bon Jovi, Foxwoods. "Unapologetic supporter of the right to keep and bear arms" was the first thing he mentioned, which makes sense, because she's got a TV show on the Sportsman Channel coming up that's apparently about that.
After an ad for SarahPAC, the former Governor of Alaska appeared to loud, sassy music. She thanked a lot of people including our armed forces ("If you love your freedom, thank a vet!").
She also thanked the young people -- or as Washington thinks of them, she said, "Obamacare suckahs!" Because "you'll pay the bills in our brave new world." She then made a joke about "change" you first heard in 2008, and said "not a smidgen" in a derpy voice. She called that liberal network MS-LSD, and said "Yes you can" had become "No you can't."
And "there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's also no such thing as free birth control... there's no free ride... someone always pays and if you don't know who that someone is, it's you..."
Oh hell, let's just list the catch-phrases, that's really all she does:
"Social engineering politicos."
"Nothin' to see in Benghazi, move along."
"It's like yuh-all WENT ROGUE!"
"Liberty needs a Congress on Cruz Control."
On Ted Cruz's Congressional shutdown defeat by RINOS: "They joined the laptops of the lame stream to trash the foot soldiers who had fought for America!"
"I do not like this Uncle Sam
I do not like his health care scam
I do not like this dirty crooks
Or how they lie and cook the books.
I do not like when Congress steals
I do not like their crummy deals..." (w/sing-song voice)
"The America beyond the wealthy DC suburbs... that's where you'll find Amazing America."
"Hangin' with the Choom gang." (w/gangsta lean)
"I just feel that we got each other's back and you know that this is the string of a great awakening, I know that america's eyes are open." (Extended metaphor here about people trying to make America go back to sleep.)
"Instead of putting fear of God into our enemies, peace through strength -- brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue -- is only what the UNITED STATES MILITARY CAN DO!" (Big cheers.)
(Something about a boot that would stomp on America.)
"John (Kerry), why the long face?"
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke."
"The only thing rising in [Obama's] la-la-land is the Russian empire. But I'm probably being too hard on the President. I mean, who could have seen this coming?" (Extremely big cheers.)
To Congressional RINOs: "Remember that 2010 election that swept you into power? You didn't build that!"
"There aren't enough low-information voters in the country to save the opposition this year."
"Our buddy from Duck Dynasty..." (Big roar. Also, "in another time, Phil might have stayed fired," but "people all over America understood that Phil's right to express himself was about our right to express ourselves. We pushed back and he won!")
"C'mon, libs, can you really 'I am Woman, Hear me...'? No.... Only Mama Grizzlies can say, 'Hear me roar!'"
"We're the party with the plank that protects even our littlest sisters in the womb."
You know what? I'm going to beat the rush at coat-check.
In the opinion of one transplanted Brit, it's a soap opera as inept as any other - and it doesn't live up to the new U.S. standard
The other night, rather behind the rest of the known planet and probably some parts still unknown – the deepest Amazon, say, where naked tribesmen agonize weekly over poor old Mary and Matthew – I sat down to catch up on my Downton Abbey.
It's mine by birthright, I suppose, as an Englishman in America, land of the free and home of the binge-watch. Beset with a small child, I had lost much of that free time, and thus fallen far behind – further even than the one-season lag the US must still endure. But perhaps I had enough in me to sync up in time for tonight's season-four finale on PBS.
Indeed, House of Cards may be America's weekend-killing addiction of the moment, but Downton, we are told, is worth it.
The Netflix political drama itself derives from a British series, a suave if aging shocker reanimated with American energy, camp and schlock-horror verve. In Downton, we have a living transplant, a stately if seductive fairytale playing out in the years around the first world war - a time of unchecked elite excess featuring frocks and frock coats that are really rather lovely ... or at least that's as far as I got.
This time around, two episodes was quite enough to remind me that America's love for this rotten show is drawn from the same well as that baseless love so many Americans maintain for the British royal family. You know it's not for you – in fact, it's rather silly. And you know it's not even worth an hour's attention on a Sunday evening, what with True Detective and soon, once again, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Given the vigor of your own institutions, you know that, ultimately, it's beneath you.
But you watch it anyway.
America, you can do better than Downton Abbey.
You can do better TV, obviously. Where to start? At the beginning of the revolution, perhaps, with The Sopranos. Or with The Wire or Breaking Bad. Even with House of Cards, if you must. And, oh, how you must: at least half a million of you watched all 13 hours' worth of Frank Underwood's maneuvering last weekend.
I understand the need to binge. Oh, how I do. Before I became a parent, my wife was in New York and I was in London, and so I still had hour upon hour for such things. Back then, my entire social life seemed to revolve around Tony, Paulie, Carmela and Artie Bucco. I'd watch two or three episodes of the Sopranos each night and then call transatlantic to express my exhilaration, fear or both.
Surprisingly, I still got married, and once the resulting small child was safely asleep, we pitched into Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black and all the rest.
In such company, Downton Abbey is all show-off and no substance. It is little more than an enormous confidence trick played by writer Julian Fellowes, ITV and PBS on the world – and especially Americans, those suckers for something to talk about around the water cooler. If it looks good and the write-ups say it's good, it must be good. Right, America? Mustn't it even be ... grand?
Grand with what? Its ludicrous melodrama? With its stultifying lack of ambition beyond flogging the hoary old country-house potboiler of upstairs, downstairs and out over the hah-hah and back? Or with its script? With that insulting, inept, dashed-off, corned-beef hash of a script it force-feeds its hugely talented, entirely wasted cast?
It's a grand waste of time, is what it is, enough to leave David Chase, Matthew Weiner and a dozen other talented show-runners weeping into their martinis. Five seasons and Christmas specials – and counting? Big deal with NBC to rehash it all for the Gilded Age? For this?
America, you can do much better than Downton Abbey.
It thinks it's better than you, too. This is a show about class in the way that Britain is about class, which is the way in which America is supposedly not. And Downton is not just about the British class system. (If you want to read or see something about it, read or see The Shooting Party, quickly.) Downton is a product and expression of the British class system. A highly approving expression, a show of and for the 1%. And 99% of America doesn't need any more of that.
Downton's sickly harmony between nobs and proles is a ludicrous facade erected by an avowedly elitist Conservative life peer who is married to the daughter of a real one and once wrote a supposedly satirical novel called Snobs.
Poke this facade, even lightly, and it falls. The Granthams are top dogs. We are constantly told, by every character from Daisy the sweetly dim kitchen maid to the loveable old lord, that "times are changing". Cosmetic codswallop, I tell you. In Fellowes' world, which is the world of Britain's Conservative-led government, the times are not changing – and have not changed. Let the nobles lead, indeed.
Yet still the numberless hordes allow themselves to be cowed and babied, every Sunday night for five seasons and counting. And all while True Detective is on. It's extraordinary.
It's also extraordinary that I even made it through the season and a half that I did. I suppose it was because Downton, despite itself, kept offering consolations. However many times Fellowes allowed Anna the maid to comfort Cora or had Carson the butler offer lonely-hearts advice to Mary, there was always something to lull – or gull – me right back. A nicely delivered line here; a plausibly nasty edge to Thomas there. Or, tellingly enough for an angry but class-bound Brit, an opportunity to tell anyone and everyone I know that, back when I was in London, I used to work with the girl who became Lady Edith.
But this time, in America, re-engaging, I was brought up short. What did it was this: the realization that in the world of Downton Abbey everyone, but everyone, knows their place. The lords, the servants. Branson the chauffeur, who being both Irish and a bit of a lefty should have known his from the start, despite his wholly unlikely success in marrying in. Even, I suspect, everyone behind the camera, down to whatever is the crew equivalent of the girl who lights the fires. Even the audience.
Obviously, this worldwide love for the Granthams, as much as that for the cursed Windsors, springs from all humanity's love of a good soap opera. That I get. In that case, the best that can be said for the soap that is Downton Abbey is, well, at least the sets don't wobble.
But those sets being the unyielding walls of a genuine stately home, Highclere Castle (which could never be in Yorkshire, let me tell you), built with the blood and sweat of others for the continuing profit of a gang of genuine aristocrats, the whole thing should make anyone remotely normal feel distinctly, queasily ill.
America, you can do so much better.
Or if you really think you can't, there's always Sherlock, I suppose.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014
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