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Thursday, July 6, 2006

Apropos of Summer Insomnia: Question about TV

Posted by on July 6 at 11:16 AM

Early this morning, I watched (on DVD) three ancient episodes of the great American TV Show All in the Family. The three episodes I watched were from 1971!

In the first episode, Archie discovers that Meathead is mailing a letter to President Nixon to discuss pollution, ecology, the war in Vietnam, race relations, water quality and food safety standards. Outraged at Meathead’s insolence, Archie decides to write his own letter to Nixon praising the commander in chief for being a great president. (The episode comes with a great fantasy sequence in which Archie imagines that Nixon reads the letter on national television to thank him.)

In the second episode, Archie suspects that Meathead’s flamboyant friend is a fag. (Great line: Archie accuses the entire country of England of being a “fagdom.” Archie’s homophobia gets a bracing reality check when he discovers that his own drinking buddy, a he-man ex-pro-football player, is the one who’s gay.

In the third episode, Archie tries to turn his minor car accident into a whiplash lawsuit, and he hires a Jewish lawyer because he thinks Jews make shrewder, smarter, and craftier lawyers. In a stunning sequence, he makes Meathead go through the Yellow Pages and read the names of Jewish lawyers until Archie picks the firm that sounds the most Jewish: Rabinowitz, Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz. (He ends up losing his case.)

These episodes were ultra sophisticated and the second two in particular addressed homophobia and racism with a candor that would be shocking today. Lefty morons would probably think the script was politically incorrect (completely missing the point) and everyday TV viewers would probably just find the whole thing too shrill and chaotic and depressing.

There’s certainly some cool shows around these days on HBO, but I love these brilliant time capsules—a mainstream, hit TV show—that prove how angsty and contemplative and engaged America once was.

Question: Are there any shows out there today that are this smart and provocative..that are worth watching? And I don’t want to hear about some ironic, post-p.c. show that throws sexism and racism around just to be flip and “refreshing.”

Oh, I also watched the movie Match Point starring Scarlet Johannson. God damn.

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Dave Chapelle
Family Guy
The Office

Dave Chapelle
Family Guy
The Office

Unfortunately, Six Feet Under is well, six feet under. But it was hands down the best show EVER on tv. Sadly, though, I think I was the only one watching...

Regarding the shows mentioned above: Dave Chapelle definitely fits the bill. Family Guy & The Office are ok too.

Deadwood. Brilliant show that, without trying or winking, proves just how many issues plaguing the country in the late 19th century are still being tackled today. The greatness comes not in the openness to discuss such things, but in the fact that they aren't plot points, there are no 'the writers did that just to show this' moments. It's damn fine storytelling that puts truth and humanity (sometimes in all its ugliness) into its characters and itself.

Battlestar Galatica, for all of its action, is a deftly political show which follows what happens when paranoia, morality, despair, and power (imagined, understated, or abused) clash. The second season is the more charged of the two, as acts of desperation are performed by everyone from military commanders to the heads of state, young radicals to uppity gentlemen. There's a lot of flash and boom of course, but the hopelessness and its manifestations in both humans and cylons is strong commentary on the climate of the world today.

The Wire, The Wire, The Wire.

The Wire.

Nobody watches it, but it kicks everybody's ass.

have you seen "it's always sunny in philadelphia"? it's on F/X. they've had episodes on gay bars, pedophilia, isreal-palistine realation, underage drinking, handicapped people, and other things.

freaking hilarious, and very big on some serious issues.

I'm adding Arrested Development to the list - this is the best writing to appear on television ever. Even The Simpsons in their prime was not this deftly penned ( though they were close). I also second The Office, Chappelle's Show, and Battlestar. Sprinkle in The Daily Show, and Colbert Report if you aren't stuck on "fiction."

There was an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show in which an author was portrayed as an effeminate man. One of the books he wrote was titled "Lavender Lollipops"

It was the early 60's so of course no message of tolerance was included. I can't help thinking that a queer writer put that line on the show.

Big Love on HBO is very good and quite provocative.

I also thought the last 2 seasons of West Wing were damn good. The portrayl of the election was great. Okay, it got a little sappy at times but it was compelling and informative about the election process.

I also love Deadwood, Soprano's, etc. All that HBO shit is just so damn good.

The Soprano's are somewhat of a modern day All in the Family. Their whole treatment of the gay mobster this year pushed the edge in a pretty funny way.

I like "All About Earl". It takes on some interesting issues (like the pilot where Earl tried to set up the gay guy with the girl and ends up going to a gay bar with him) and has a "nice message" (I'm a sucker for nice messages. That's why I love the Simpsons)

And "The Office" Brilliant show.

I'm with you about Match Point.

Agree with many of the posts above: Deadwood is stunning and season 1 of The Wire was the best TV produced in the past 20 years (seasons 2 and 3 dropped off precipitously).

For non-HBO, Arrested Dev and The Office are hilarious.

However, for social commentary ala All in the Family, the only current show that comes anywhere close is South Park.

Amy Jo,
Match Point was quite good. But the "God Damn" was in reference to Scarlet Johannson. She's always been a looker, but she's a bona fide Hollywood starlet in this one.

Weeds (Showtime and I-Tunes). Dog Bites Man (Comedy Central and I-Tunes). Black/White (F/X and I-Tunes).

The Office isn't as blatantly edgy as All in the Family, but I see it as social commentary nonetheless - it repeatedly nails the stultifying boredom and blandness of being a white collar wage slave.

I wondered if you meant the GD for Scarlet. I'm still with you. Scarlet the starlet.

i have to say, i would have enjoyed SJ's remarkable body in MATCH POINT a little more had it not been so, well, there to be remarkable. here is a body in a mild bondage scene! here is a body being slurped upon! etc.

Not a fan of the Wire (I just don't care about the characters at all), but I understand it's probably better than most shows out there.

I think "The Sopranos" is surprisingly dull and at times is too cartoonish to take seriously.

Battlestar Galactica!

It is worth noting that Eric Cartman on South Park was modelled after Archie Bunker.

You should be watching Rescue Me on FX.

I missed seasons one and two, but the first four episodes of season three have been amazing.

The writing is funny, dark, lot like Battlestarand sharp. The characters (NYFD - America's Heros!) are all endearing, but still manage to be horrible to each other and themselves.

This show has pissed off a lot of people this season. Find out why for yourself.

And casting Tatum O'Neal as Dennis Leary's hard-as-rocks sister is inspired.

Gay firemen in denial, racial tension, domestic violence, mean-spirited practical jokes, and interpersonal sabotage.

Its a Galactica, but without the hot robots.

What the shit? Where is the love for Wonder Showzen, goddammit? Has the Sleater-Kinney breakup impaired all y'alls' faculties, or somefuck?

I mean, shit, the "Slaves" video alone deserves at least 19 bagillion Emmies.


ditto on rescue me it is really the only reason i have cablevision.

seasons one & two are out on dvd, get 'em. you will not be disappointed.

"South Park" and "Boondocks" seem to be the only shows these days eager to tackle taboo topics a la "All in the Family."

Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some amazing episodes about race, sexuality, religion. Again, an HBO show; I don't know how much there is on the broadcast networks, but I go along with The Office.

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