Tag Archives: James Poniewozik

The Idea That There Are Sexual Images On MTV Is Shocking… Shocking

Brian Stelter at NYT:

MTV executives have a new hit drama on their hands, featuring the sexual and drug-fueled exploits of misfit teenagers. They also have something else — a fear that coming episodes of the show may break the law.

In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes.

The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content.

They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street. The actor, Jesse Carere, plays Chris, a high school student whose erection — assisted by erectile dysfunction pills — is a punch line throughout the episode.

The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time.

“Skins” is a calculated risk by MTV which is eager to get into the scripted programming business. The channel, a unit of Viacom, has long tested American standards for sexuality and obscenity on television with shows like “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore.”

Those reality shows have generally involved adults, but for “Skins,” the producers purposefully cast actors ages 15 to 19, most of whom had never acted before.

MTV’s president and other executives declined interview requests on Wednesday. An MTV spokeswoman, Jeannie Kedas, insisted that the future episodes of “Skins” were still works in progress. She would not confirm that MTV executives were fearful of running afoul of child pornography laws.

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

According to the article, some MTV executive watched a cut of the show and suddenly freaked out because they were afraid that they had broken child pornography laws. They rushed to have the episode in question edited. And then…just for kicks I suppose…they decided to call up The New York Times to have them report on the whole thing. If you believe that, well, you’re probably pretty naive (no offense!). While I’m sure there’s a possibility that MTV edited a scene from the show after standards and practices got a look at it, I have pretty high doubts anyone was legitimately worried about getting hauled off to jail. No, this seems like nothing but a rumor designed to get a new show some press.

But what does that mean? Basically it means that MTV is now marketing their show with the promise of potential child pornography and the media is helping them. Not only did The New York Times cover this “story” (on the front page!), but a bunch of other media outlets picked it up. Morning Joe did a whole segment this morning that began with Joe Scarborough asking “Why should I be afraid of Skins?” You know there were some good high fives all around the MTV offices when that sentence got uttered.

Shows like Skins have always gotten by on their controversy and the promise of scandalous content. A few years ago, the show Gossip Girl used a brilliant ad campaign that quoted negative and outraged reviews from the likes of the Parents Television Council. However, actually going out and saying the phrase “child pornography” is just so damned cynical. MTV is basically betting that they will get more viewers if people think there are actual naked 15 year olds on this show. They may be right but, God, is it a creepy way to run your business.

So, no, Skins is not child pornography. In fact, it’s a neutered version of the original British show (which, by the way, was actually pretty darn good for two seasons) since MTV isn’t able to feature profanity or nudity.* People are going to say MTV should be ashamed and they certainly should. Not for airing an edgy show, but for trying to profit off the demand for child porn. And anyone who reports this nonsense should feel ashamed for believing it.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Of course, the main reason MTV’s target audience will continue to tune into this lackluster remake of the British version is because of its purported edginess. (Tuesday’s premier boasted solid numbers.) And herein lies the problem: How do you make a super-edgy teen drama while simultaneously reassuring some suit back at Viacom that he won’t be carted off as a kiddie pornographer?

Here’s our suggestion: gratuitous violence. Have one of the kids mow down a bunch of pedestrians in an SUV or something—just make sure she’s fully-clothed while doing it.

Erin Brown at Newsbusters:

“Skins” is hypocritical programming for MTV, which has been praised for its portrayalof the reality of teen pregnancy with the hit show “16 and pregnant” and its follow up series “Teen Mom.” The platform of casual sex and living life without consequences as appears in “Skins” stands in direct contrast to the harsh realities that actual teen mothers face and as Michael Inbar for the “Today” show put it, “the often painful resultsof youthful hookups.”

To further entice indecent behavior among teens, the MTV website for “Skins” has launched a new section called, “Where it went down.” Readers are encouraged to anonymously post on a mapof the world where “every kind of trouble” occurred. The website whereitwentdown.com actually encourages posters to “Browse and share the places where memories were made – and the scattered pieces of nights you can’t really remember. Post the truth about the biggest parties, heartbreak, friends, sex, and every kind of trouble.”

Despite the nasty content, one media critic still found a way to praise the show. “‘Skins’ feels raw and gritty… Only the show’s target audience will know how true its portrayal of adolescence is, but it should make many parents pay closer attention to what’s going on in their teenagers’ lives” wrote Amy Amatangelo of the Boston Herald.

Despite its success, the media need to accurately report the consequence-free filth that this show and this network are promoting. Truthful reviews such as this onefrom James Poniewozik from Time magazine can go a long way in exposing the muck of this program.

“There’s far more flesh, swearing and toking on Skins than on the edgiest CW soap, but what may be most shocking to an American audience is how insouciantly it defies teen TV’s unwritten mandate of consequences. On U.S. teen dramas, you can titillate the audience with bad behavior so long as, at some point, there’s a pregnancy scare or a cautionary drug overdose…Skins, like the movies Superbad and Dazed and Confused, instead admits that teenagers seek out sex and drugs because they feel good.”

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Given MTV’s history of publicity stunts, the network spokeswoman’s claims of Skins’s legality seem convincing. Recall Snooki’s globe-squatting kerfuffle: the Jersey Shore employee was supposedly going to be dropped in a ball over Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At the last minute, though, sphere-ensconced Snooki was relocated to New Jersey, as MTV never received permission to conduct the event in Times Square. The ordeal engendered weeks of press coverage.

For other instances of MTV publicity stunts, look no further than nearly every annual iteration of the Video Music Awards, a broadcast that inevitably includes an unforeseen act of animosity (cf. Bruno and Eminem) or adoration (cf. Britney and Madonna).

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the concerns seem to stem from the fact that many of the actors who play teens on the show (as in the original British version) are under 18. So while there’s not live sex on camera—having seen four episodes in advance, I actually found the series’ depictions of drugs more unusual for American TV than its sex scenes—the definition of pornography is trickier when underage actors are involved.

As Stelter notes, a picture of a naked minor can itself be ruled child porn if it’s sufficiently sexualized. But the one scene the piece describes executives specifically being concerned about—a male character shown running down the street naked—is not, as I recall, a sex-charged scene. (It’s played, like a lot of scenes in Skins, for a combination of drama and slapstick.)

It raises scads of definitional questions: Does the fact that the actor is shown (but not shown naked) in other sexual scenes therefore make this scene more sexualized? Does the presence of other sex scenes involving other characters elsewhere in the episodes make the scene more sexual? Would the scene constitute pornography if it were, say, an underage actor running naked down a street in a war movie? Are depictions of teen characters in sexual situations inherently pornographic, or does the use of teen actors drive it over the line? What’s dirtier: two adult actors playing teens having sex, or a teenage actor shown naked in a scene that doesn’t involve sex?

Again, not a lawyer. (And I haven’t seen every episode shot, so it’s possible there is other, unmentioned material they’re nervous about.) But I have to wonder, if MTV’s executives are suddenly concerned about the legal liability, how could it not have occurred to them earlier in the process—especially since the use of teen actors has been one of the show’s best-publicized aspects, and since the show was very directly adapted from a British show that already exists for comparison?

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He Got His 15 Minutes On An Emergency Exit Slide

Radar Online:

Q10001425
CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
PART APAR, COUNTY OF QUEENS
_____________________________________
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF QUEENS
V.

STEVEN SLATER
DEFENDANT
_____________________________________

POLICE OFFICER THOMAS EDDINGS OF PORT AUTHORITY, TAX REG#: 042792,
BEING DULY SWORN, DEPOSES AND SAYS THAT ON OR ABOUT AUGUST 9 2010
BETWEEN 12:07PM AND 12:18PM, IN BACK OF TERMINAL 5  JFK AIRPORT, COUNTY OF
QUEENS, STATE OF NEW YORK

THE DEFENDANT COMMITTED THE OFFENSES OF:
PL 120.25 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE FIRST DEGREE
PL 145.10 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE SECOND DEGREE
PL 120.20 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE SECOND DEGREE – DNA SAMPLE
REQUIRED UPON CONVICTION
PL 145.00-3 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE FOURTH DEGREE
PL 140.10-A CRIMINAL TRESPASS IN THE THIRD DEGREE

IN THAT THE DEFENDANT DID:  UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES EVINCING A DEPRAVED
INDIFFERENCE TO HUMAN LIFE, RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED
A GRAVE RISK OF DEATH TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO RIGHT TO DO SO NOR
ANY REASONABLE GROUNDS TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH RIGHT, INTENTIONALLY
DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT EXCEEDING ONE THOUSAND
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS;RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED A
SUBSTANTIAL RISK OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO
RIGHT TO DO SO NOR ANY REASONABLE GROUND TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH
RIGHT, RECKLESSLY DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT
EXCEEDING TWO HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS;KNOWINGLY AND UNLAWFULLY ENTER OR
REMAIN IN A BUILDING OR UPON REAL PROPERTY WHICH IS FENCED OR OTHERWISE
ENCLOSED IN A MANNER DESIGNED TO EXCLUDE INTRUDERS

THE SOURCE OF DEPONENT’S INFORMATION AND THE GROUNDS FOR DEPONENT’S
BELIEF ARE AS FOLLOWS:

DEPONENT STATES THAT AT THE ABOVE DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF OCCURRENCE THAT HE IS INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN, JET BLUE PILOT THAT THE DEFENDANT STEVEN SLATER DID ACTIVATE THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE ON DOOR R-2.  DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS WORKING AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT ON JET BLUE FLIGHT 1052 FROM PITTSBURGH.

DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN OF JET BLUE SECURITY THAT THE DEFENDANTS ACTIONS CAUSED DAMAGE TO THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE AND DID CAUSE A DANGEROUS CONDITION TO THE GROUND CREW WORKING BELOW THE AIRCRAFT.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE WAS ADVISED BY JUNE DONAVAN THAT THE COST TO REPLACE THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE IS IN EXCESS OF $25,000.  DEPONENT STATES HE IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN THAT SAID ESCAPE SLIDE IS DEPLOYED AT THREE THOUSAND PSI AND CAN CAUSE SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY OR DEATH IF IT STRIKES THE PEOPLE WORKING UNDER THE AIRCRAFT.

DEPONENT STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT DID ADMIT TO HIM BOTH VERBALLY AND IN WRITTEN FORM THAT HE INTENTIONALLY ACTIVATED THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY SLIDE AND DID EXIT THE AIRCRAFT VIA THE EMERGENCY SLIDE.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT MADE A FURTHER ADMISSION THAT HE WALKED ON THE AERONAUTICAL AREA UNTIL HE WAS ABLE TO FIND AN UNLOCKED DOOR TO EXIT TO THE STREET AREA.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE IS THE LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SAID AREA AND THE DEFENDANT DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION OR AUTHORITY TO ENTER OR REMAIN IN SAID AREA.

Heather Robinson at Huffington Post:

And I gotta say, the guy made my day.

The funny thing is, I was seated on this flight yesterday — JetBlue #1052, Pittsburgh to JFK — next to a lady who was scared to fly. At the outset, she pulled out a rosary and started praying (that’s not unusual, especially on a flight from Pittsburgh, which is a heavily Catholic city).

As we ascended, the turbulence was a bit more intense than typical, but nothing to be alarmed over. She was crossing herself and fidgeting, so I told her, “There’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been flying multiple times a month all my life and this is normal.”

She thanked me, and we got to talking a bit. I told her the same thing — “it’s totally normal”– when we heard the bump of the wheels coming down prior to landing.

It was when we stood up to disembark — in those annoying moments when everyone is waiting to be released from the metal can we’ve been packed in together — that Steven Slater commandeered the PA system and issued his rant. I didn’t take notes so the following is not exact, but a paraphrase: “F— you! F— all of you! I’m f—— through with this! I’VE HAD IT! I’ve been doing this for 28 f—— years and I can’t take it anymore. And for the f—– a—–who told me to f— off: f— you! That’s it! I’m done! F— you all!”

At that point the older Catholic lady looked back at me and crossed herself, and I told her, “No, that is not normal.”

College students sitting nearby were laughing. One of them mentioned that a flight attendant had been bleeding and speculated that that might be “the guy” who’d just engaged in the rant.

I missed Slater’s inflation of the emergency chute, and didn’t know until I woke up this morning about his racing home to Belle Harbor, Queens in his silver Jeep Wrangler and hopping into bed with his boyfriend (leave it to the great New York Post to get those wonderful details).

Overall, it got me to thinking: in a way it’s a shame things like this don’t happen more often. Let me explain: in an age when, for good reason, authorities are constantly on the alert for terrorists and mass shooters, when any highway altercation, we are warned, can escalate into a gunfight, when eighty-year-old women are forced to relinquish their knitting needles and nursing mothers their bottles of milk at airport screening because of dread of vicious acts of brutality, Americans must restrain ourselves and behave obediently at all times in public places. Current mores leave no room, no outlet, for the venting of frustrations, or for freewheeling, spontaneous behavior of any kind.

No one who would engage in deliberate violence against another person is doing so because of petty frustrations; obviously, something deeper is askew in such an individual. But what about the rest of us? The “normal” decent people who feel fed up with the lack of civility, the many little humiliations, of everyday life? People who would never dream of doing anything violent, and who–because of the actions of a few truly evil people–are prevented from expressing normal frustrations, normal anger, out of (often justified) fear that someone might “go crazy,” show up packing a gun, etc.? Sometimes we need to get in someone’s face and tell that jerk to f— off. Likewise, sometimes people just need to get out of a situation, to take an escape, when doing so does not harm anyone else.

Gulliver at The Economist:

The ramifications for Mr Slater are serious, and he faces charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Who knows what damage the slide could have done to somebody on the ground, etc. But only a heart of stone could fail to sympathise. Indeed Mr Slater could well end up lionised by fellow flight attendants for telling a surly, unco-operative passenger exactly what he thought. And he should also be praised for the manner of his departure. If you are going to effectively jack in your flying career, then speeding down the emergency slide, beer in hand, is no bad way to do it.

Joel Achenbach at WaPo:

I think we all want to pull a Slater now and then. We want to activate the escape slide. Maybe at work, maybe at home. We want to shout “It’s been great!” and grab a beer and slater on out of there.

Flight attendant Steven Slater got arrested, of course, because you’re not supposed to deploy the emergency slide on a plane except in an emergency. But you can just picture what might have happened (and the Times story goes into some detail): Some passenger for whom the rules don’t apply, who perceives himself as more important than everyone else, leaps out of his seat before the plane has reached the gate. Slater tells him to sit back down. The passenger refuses and yanks his oversized bag out of the overhead compartment and bonks Slater on the head. Slater, temporarily deranged, uses the public address system to point out that this man is a total and complete arsehat of the first order. Slater at that point surely realizes he has future in the airline industry. What’s he going to do? Emergency slide!

But what makes him an instant legend, of course, is the beer. He grabs the beer on the way out. That’s the “Animal House” meets “Airplane!” note. No wonder he’s an instant Internet icon. His name will become a verb, just watch.

James Poniewozik at Time:

Move over, Sully Sullenberger, there’s a new folk hero in the skies. OK, maybe not a universally acclaimed hero. And not a “hero” in the sense of, like, saving lives, or stopping a terrorist, or really doing anything traditionally considered “heroic.” Still, Steven Slater—the JetBlue flight attendant who reportedly had an altercation with a passenger who injured him in the head, cursed her out over the PA, then deplaned, with a beer, via the emergency slide—is the talk of the country today. (And, I’m guessing, the talk of late-night TV for a while to come.)

There are a lot of reasons Slater’s exit might have struck a chord: general frustrations with work, the economy, or the rudeness of strangers, or specific irritation with the breakdown of airline civility. But above all, the Slater story is fascinating because it provides an irresistible image of screw-you liberation: the put-upon employee telling off some jerk, kissing off his job over a PA system, then taking off. Grabbing a beer. And going down a slide. A freaking slide! Yabba dabba doo!

Obviously, Slater’s was not the most level-headed course of action. He flew off the handle, freaked out in front of a plane full of passengers and caused inconvenience and expense to others by abusing an emergency exit. I don’t endorse that. Don’t try this at home, kids stay in school, &c.

But it may be the impracticality, the ballsiness, or the craziness of Slater’s gesture that makes it so fascinating. Quitting your job dramatically, after all, would seem to be the last thing you want to do in the middle of an economic downturn. Maybe that’s the appeal. Slater may have had his personal reasons for cracking, but there was a kind of ’70s, mad-as-hell-not-going-to-take-it,  Take This Job and Shove It sensibility to his rebellion, and people responded to it: over 11,000 people had joined the Free Steven Slater! page on Facebook by this afternoon

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who lived out the dreams of every worker frustrated with their job (and probably most people frustrated with the state of flying in this country) with his dramatic, expletive-laden exit “not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career,” has landed on the cover of all the major New York City papers.Not surprisingly the New York Post wins for headline, though it fails to pack the full punch one normally hopes for. Meanwhile, the NYT, who put the story below the fold on A-1 sans a picture, wins hands down for their write-up:

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. Then, after declaring that 20 years in the airline industry was enough, he blurted out, “It’s been great!” He activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

Roger Ebert, meanwhile, thinks Slater is a hero fit for our 2010 time: “Predicting JetBlue’s batshit flight attendant becomes a folk hero and guests on cable and talk shows. A Sully for 2010.”

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

When we first read the story of JetBlue steward Steven Slater, who went crazy yesterday after a passenger rudely bonked him on the head with a piece of luggage, our takeaway was simple: This guy’s going to become a folk hero. This morning in the Daily News, columnist Joanna Molloy decided it had already happened, that his status as a populist icon was already sealed. “How many of us have wanted to say Take This Job and Shove It? I’m As Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore?” Molloy asked. “Slater did it, and he did it with flair, cursing back over the plane’s public address system at the obnoxious passenger who conked him on the head with his suitcase, then releasing the emergency exit slide and jumping out and disappearing across the tarmac. He even had the presence of mind to toss his carry-on luggage down the slide first.” She even predicted: “There’ll probably be a song about him online today.” There isn’t quite yet, but of course there will be.

So what has the Internet wrought on this new icon so far?

• This morning he is both the Nos. 1 and 2 topics on Google Trends, and is trending on Twitter.
• There are already the requisite Free Steven Slater T-shirts.
• Unfortunately, they are not yet available on FreeStevenSlater.com.
• There are multiple Steven Slater fan pages on Facebook, the largest one with at least 12,000 fans.
• There is already a PayPal-linked Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund, if you care to chip in.
• There’s a movement to contact JetBlue directly on Slater’s behalf (though, judging by the fact that the airline waited nearly a half-hour after Slater’s escape from the plane to alert authorities in order to allow his full getaway — and enough time to have sex with his boyfriend before getting arrested — we suspect JetBlue is already at least a little on his side).
• Dealbreaker is already pushing to find Slater a new employer.

Of course, as Steven Slater is bound to find out soon, in the Internet era, folk heroes have about the same enduring presence as the feeling of cleanliness you get from a moist airline towelette. So to the man of the day: Sell that TV interview now, get the biggest payout you can for pictures in a celebrity weekly (we wanna see that boyfriend you were doing when the cops showed up!), and nail down at least one endorsement deal for Xanax or something. Because this isn’t going to last.

UPDATE: Byron York and Ann Althouse at Bloggingheads

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Shall I Refudiate Thee To A Summer’s Day?

Max Fisher at The Atlantic:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is neither a mosque (it’s a YMCA-like community center that includes a prayer space) nor is it located at Ground Zero (it’s a couple of blocks away), but that hasn’t stopped it from generating a degree of controversy in New York. Think it couldn’t get crazy enough? Enter Sarah Palin. On Sunday, Palin tweeted:

The former governor quickly deleted the tweet, replacing it with this:

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too realless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®Sarah Palin
SarahPalinUSA


On Twitter and blogs, the criticism against Palin’s original (and even replacement) tweet quickly mounted. Palin gradually responded, first to the criticism of her implicit argument and second to her use of the non-word “refudiate.” Her use of “misunderestimate” and “wee-wee’d up” are references to Presidents Bush and Obama, respectively

Maggie Haberman at Politico:

While a recent poll showed a majority of New Yorkers oppose the plan to build the mosque built near Ground Zero, an aide in Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s City Hall hit back at Palin, first tweeting “@SarahPalinUSA mind your business.”

The aide, policy hand Andrea Batista Schlesinger, followed that up with:

“@SarahPalinUSA whose hearts? Racist hearts?”

Schlesinger deleted both tweets shortly after posting them.

“Andrea was only speaking for herself, and she has the right to her own opinions,” said Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser.

Schlesinger posted threee new tweets Sunday evening, explaining why she wrote, and took down, her Palin response:

“Deleted post bc I regretted curt response. But fact is, I believe this city belongs to everyone – and no one more than another”

“Unlike @SarahPalinUSA, I was born here grew up here. Was showing off to a visitor today – look at how beautiful and diverse my city is.”

“I felt pain of 9/11, the trauma. I got through it by believing in my city. Not through fear and hate.”

Bloomberg has defended the plan for the mosque, arguing that blocking it would impinge on religious freedom, and he’s denounced calls to look into the group’s funding – led by Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio in a bid to engage his rival, Democrat Andrew Cuomo — as “un-American.”

Mark Liberman at Language Log:

The unimportant one is that the original example wasn’t a slip of the tongue, but a symptom of the fact that Ms. Palin had a blend of repudiate and refute as a well-established entry in her mental lexicon.  This is unimportant because politics is not a vocabulary contest. What’s more serious, in my opinion, is that she didn’t get set straight about the words in question by any of her advisors and friends, or for that matter by anyone at Fox. She was widely ridiculed for the error, at least in the blogosphere, and so you’d think that a functional staff would intervene to prevent future embarrassment.

The use of refudiate in today’s tweet was also noted by bloggers, and was then removed within half an hour or so, showing that someone in her entourage is on the ball. But why didn’t the first mistake get brought to her attention? This suggests that either her staff is not very efficient, or they’re afraid to bring certain kinds of problems to her attention, or both.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Heh. Looks like someone caught Sarah’s little oopsie; the tweet has now been deleted. (That’s why I grabbed a screenshot.) She replaced it with this one, using the word “refute” this time and replacing “peaceful Muslims” with “peaceful New Yorkers:”

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real

I almost hate to point it out, but “refute,” although it has the advantage of being an actual word, is still the wrong word to use in this context. But the posting and subsequent deletion of the “refudiation” tweet does establish one thing — it’s probably really Sarah Palin writing these tweets, since she used the same non-word last week on Fox News.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I think “refudiate” is actually a fantastic word. I propose we all start using it immediately. Palin soon thereafter replaced that message with one consisting entirely of words invented by people other than her:

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real

That ain’t right, either –I think the word she’s looking for is “repudiate,” not “refute” — but it’s close enough.

The Bush administration understood that defining its foreign policy vision as a battle between the West and Islam was a disastrous choice and a victory for the extremists. But conservatives now are falling into the precise trap the extremists have set, which is to define all Islam as radical Islam. If you are capable of distinguishing between moderate Islam and extremist Islam, the notion of a mosque and Muslim cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero ought to be totally uncontroversial. Indeed, it is a celebration of American diversity and a symbol of what makes this country superior to its enemies.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

After Sarah Palin “coined” the word “refudiate” yesterday and compared herself to William Shakespeare, the Twitter tag “#ShakesPalin” has been offering many more noble contributions to the Humanities, Refudiate.com is up-and-running with ads and T-shirt sales, and so on.

Andrew Sullivan:

It’s getting good out there. My faves:

To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals, or to quit halfterm, and by opposing, rake in speaking fees

Neither a thinker nor a reader be / for thought oft loses both itself and friend / and reading dulls the edge of Fox TV

“How’s all that bein’ and not bein’ workin’ out for ya?”

She’s used the word “refudiate” before – on Fox. But for some strange reason, no one noticed at the time.

James Poniewozik at Time:

Today the Washington Post published a sprawling, two-year investigation into America’s huge, complex and hard-to-fathom system of national security and intelligence. What, as of this afternoon, was the most-read article at the Post’s website? “Palin invents word ‘refudiate,’ compares self to Shakespeare.” (Thanks to Post web editor  Garance Franke-Ruta and my former colleague  Karen Tumulty for pointing this out.)

Since the election of 2008, there’s been a cottage industry of Sarah Palin media criticism. (That is, media criticism of coverage of Sarah Palin, as distinct from her own criticism of the “lamestream media.”) First, there’s the question of whether the media covers her fairly—whether coverage is biased, sexist, dismissive, credulous, &c. And then there’s simply the question of whether the media covers her too much.

Sure it does, in the sense that the press overcovers almost anything it gets excited about. But Palin’s “refudiate” comment—a controversy, almost too picayune to recap, over whether she misspoke [for “refute”? “repudiate”? both?] or whether she was engaging in Shakespearean coinage—is a perfect example of how heavily the press covers her, and how well they are rewarded for doing it.

Of course, it’s also an example of how well Palin cultivates the media’s obsession with her. Her response to most controversies—don’t steer away from a storm when you can tack into it instead—plays them for maximum heat and exposure. If her response had simply been, “So I said it—what’s the big deal?” it would have been an opportunity missed. When she instead responded that her usage was an example of the living language going back to Shakespeare, it was guaranteed both to enflame her critics (She thinks she’s Shakespeare!) and delight her fans (she beat those know-it-alls at their own game!).

[Update: Oh, and it doesn’t hurt, at a time of shrinking margins in the media, that a quickie story on the latest Palintroversy costs a hell of a lot less than a two-year national-security investigation.]

Illiterate glory slob Sarah Palin mangles English so that her brain-damaged followers can write “peoms” praising her greatness, so why can’t you liberal elitists realize her Twitter-Facebooks are better than what’s his name, Shakespeare, who wrote a pretty good Claire Danes/Leo DiCaprio movie despite being even dumber than Sarah Palin and George W. Bush combined?

[…]

And then she proved her illiterary genius by quickly thumb-typing two sonnets (?) on her Blackberry about how Othello shouldn’t get busy in Manhattan because it “stabs the heart.” O happy dagger!

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Quote Of The Day: “I Have Already Canceled This CNN Show In My Mind.”

Steve Krakauer at Mediaite:

As has been speculated for about a week now, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker will be paired up as co-hosts of a new 8pmET “spirited, nightly roundtable discussion program” on CNN.

The Crossfire-like show replaces Campbell Brown’s program – which she announced she was leaving last month.

Let’s take a look at the key players. Spitzer was a surprise regular guest on Dylan Ratigan’s new MSNBC show starting almost one year ago today. Over this past year he’s risen through the ranks at MSNBC and began anchoring occasionally a couple months ago during news hours. He also, of course, is the former Democratic Governor of New York…and Client 9.

Parker is a conservative columnist and regular pundit on a variety of networks. She memorably called on Sarah Palin to drop out as VP candidate during the 2008 election – a column that to this day has some conservatives calling her “Republican In Name Only.”

In a fairly exhaustive Google search to find anything Parker has written about Spitzer, this was all I could come up with.

It’s fun to joke about Spitzer’s journey from being Client No. 9 to CNN Rising Star No. 1, but really I’m not concerned with TV shows, news or otherwise, rewarding or punishing people’s moral behavior in their hiring practices. This is, after all, the business that employs Charlie Sheen. So if CNN decides that the route to primetime goes through the doors of the Emperor’s Club, I won’t criticize. There are too many other things to criticize.

The first is not that Spitzer has been chosen despite his sex scandal. It’s that he seemingly was chosen, at least in part, because of the scandal: that is, because of the short-term blast of notoriety and buzz that he will bring with him. Now, for all I know, CNN genuinely sees special and distinctive broadcasting talent in Spitzer, but if they do, it’s eluded me in his long recent history as commentator and guest-host on CNN and MSNBC, where—to my ears, anyway—he comes off grating and supercilious. If he didn’t come with the name and the headlines, I have a hard time believing he’d been chosen on the basis of ability alone.

(As for Parker, I’m not familiar enough to say whether she’s a good choice or not, though her résumé is strong enough. But I do have to guess that—call me cynical—given Spitzer’s history it would have been hard for CNN to even consider pairing him with a man. Not that the underrepresentation of men in cable news is exactly a problem, but the idea that pairing Spitzer with a woman makes his choice any better is just icky.)

Further, it seems like CNN is trying to answer a problem cable news doesn’t have, and fill a need viewers aren’t looking to fill. CNN hasn’t named the fall program, but it sounds as if, in some sense, it is essentially reviving Crossfire. I suppose that will be counterprogramming in a sense to Fox and MSNBC’s commentary shows headed by individual hosts, but it’s not exactly as if cable is starved for opinion.

Bill Carter at New York Times:

Eliot Spitzer described himself as “extremely thankful” to be getting an opportunity to revive his reputation as a television news host after the tawdry circumstances of his forced resignation as governor of New York.

In a telephone interview discussing his appointment Tuesday to the co-host role in a new prime-time hour on CNN, Mr. Spitzer acknowledged that he would have to deal with the continuing fallout from his admission of patronizing call girls as he tried to rehabilitate his image on the news program.

If the subject of the night’s news discussion touches in some way on behavior of public officials or sexual peccadilloes, Mr. Spitzer said simply, “We’ll deal with it.”

He acknowledged that  guests might try to turn the discussion back on him when he pressed them on questions of behavior or judgment. “So be it,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

I like Parker, but Spitzer, yeesh.

Reason.tv’s interview with Spitzer’s former madam, who did time for supplying the “well respected political mind” with hookers even as he pushed for prosecution of prostitution rings. Kristin Davis is running for NY governor on a platform focused on legalizing sex work, pot and gay marriage and pointing out the inequities of a criminal justice system that, er, put her in jail and let Gov. Spitzer go on to CNN.

Allah Pundit:

Now, riddle me this. If the new show is all about creating an unpredictable alternative to the predictable ideological fare on Olbermann and O’Reilly at that hour — and for the record, O’Reilly ain’t always so predictable — what’s Spitzer doing here? Parker may be, ahem, “unconventional,” but apart from defending Israel from Glenn Greenwald’s broadsides, Client Number Nine’s a pretty doctrinaire Democrat as far as I know. They could have went and gotten our favorite liberal to co-host if they were really that bent on some sort of RINO/DINO centrist news show. As it is, James Poniewozik’s right — it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Spitzer was chosen because of his hooker problem, not in spite of it.

Exit question one: Aren’t they really just aiming for “Morning Joe” in primetime here, albeit with the partisan roles reversed? Exit question two: Worth tuning in to watch the debate whenever there’s a sex scandal in the news, just for the awkward pauses

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic:

Why can’t CNN President Jonathan Klein have the guts just to admit he was wrong and call his new show “Crossfire”? Or at least to apologize to all the hard-working CNN employees working on Crossfire whom he insulted as he kicked them out the door? (Not me. By the time Klein killed Crossfire, I was long gone, out in Seattle starting Slate.) Crossfire, if you never saw it, was a CNN interview show with two “hosts,” a conservative and a liberal, and two or three “guests,” from the usual pool of camera-ready politicians. When I was involved (though not necessarily for that reason) it was the top show on the network many evenings, with an audience larger than Larry King himself and far larger than anything CNN attracts today.

But then, one fateful evening, Jon Stewart came on to push a humor book, and blindsided the hosts (at that time Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson) by going all gooey and high-minded, and declaring that Crossfire was “hurting America” with its strident argumentation. Klein, opining that audiences wanted information, not opinion, not only took Crossfire and several other CNN discussion shows off the air, but declared that he “wholeheartedly agreed” with Jon Stewart that his own subordinates were hurting their country.

Klein’s principled opposition to opinion lasted just a few months. Soon enough, Anderson Cooper was sobbing all over his black t-shirt in New Orleans and Lou Dobbs had completed his remarkable transition from corporate shill to snarling, pitchfork-bearing populist. And now this. Two hosts, one liberal and one conservative, newsmaker guests, a “spirited” discussion of the issues of the day. But oh no, not Crossfire. Heaven forfend!

And the difference? This show will be “organic,” not “artificial,” explained conservative host Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post columnist, to the Huffington Post. The liberal host, Eliot Spitzer, last seen hiking the Appalachian trail with fellow governor Mark Sanford, amplified: “Big issues, little issues, coming at it from different perspective, same perspective, agree, disagree…. Thoughtful, smart, funny, not boring, not predictable.” On Crossfire, of course, it never occurred to us to try to be thoughtful or smart or any of that pansy stuff. We were just a “simple left vs. right partisan shouting match.” But in the Huffington Post piece, Parker contradicted Spitzer on the partisanship point, saying that she and Spitzer “bring completely different perspectives…which is what this country is all about.” Maybe they can make this their first topic of discussion.

Wonkette:

Do you worry every time you leave your house about encountering Eliot Spitzer, who will attempt to pay you for sex, or Kathleen Parker, who will attempt to determine if you are a “full-blooded American,” and then bludgeon you with her Pulitzer Prize if you aren’t? Well, now at least the period from 8 to 9 p.m. every night will be safe, because these two will be busy making eyes at each other on CNN during that time period. Quick, scurry out and purchase supplies!

Spitzer and Parker’s Olde Time Politics Variety Hour will replace Campbell Brown, who was too good and pure for this world. Remember how CNN used to have shouty shows where political enemies would shout at each other, loudly, before Jon Stewart shamed them out of it? Well, that’s not what this show is about! Instead, it will offer “a lively roundup of all the best ideas.” ALL THE BEST IDEAS, ON ANY TOPIC. If your idea isn’t rounded up by this show, it is not the best, or even very good.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

Starting in September, love guv Eliot Spitzer is now your TV chitchat host on the CNN at 8 p.m. every night (that hour when you don’t watch TV). He’s been partnered with a lady. That lady is Kathleen Parker. She is not bright, basically, though she has a Pulitzer, just like Jennifer Jason Leigh did in the Hudsucker Proxy. CAREER WOMEN, what can you do, etc. I have already canceled this CNN show in my mind.

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And Then There Was One

Popeater:

Rue McClanahan, one of the last surviving stars of the seminal sitcom ‘The Golden Girls,’ has died after suffering a massive stroke, her manager has confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 76 years old at the time of her death. “She passed away at 1 AM this morning. She had a massive stroke,” Barbara Lawrence told the magazine, adding that the actress “had her family with her. She went in peace.”

The comedic star was best known for her role as saucy Blanche Devereaux on the hit 1980s series, about four retired ladies living it up in Miami. Her death now leaves Betty White as the only living ‘Girl.’

James Poniewozik at Time:

The Golden Girls was a popular and long-lived sitcom in its time, of course, but one of the most striking phenomena of vintage TV today is how popular the show has stayed among TV fans, including those well below retirement age.

Part of it, of course, is simply that the show was well-executed and the performances, McClanahan’s among them, were consistently sharp and well-timed. But the show also seems to strike a chord, both because of how its characters represented their age and transcended it. On the one hand, it was and is refreshing to see a group of senior women—second-class citizens on much of TV then and now—bickering, living and refusing to be invisible. And on the other hand, there’s also something universally appealing about the characters’ insistence on owning their lives, their voices and their sexuality.

Like Sex and the City’s characters later, their appeal was in their power to say whatever, do whatever—and in Blanche’s case, do whomever—they wanted. And its hard to imagine the show without the way McClanahan embodied Blanche’s life force; it spoke not just to senior ladies but to young women, gay men and, for that matter, fans of strong characters whatever their own gender, sexuality or age. McClanahan’s performance transcended her demographic niche, and it will surely outlive her death. RIP.

Michael Musto at Village Voice

Brian Moylan at Gawker:

It was the role that she was always meant to play, brash, slutty, and not afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Rue was much like this in real life. I only met her once a few years ago. I interviewed her to talk about her last role in the Logo television show Sordid Lives where she played the tough matriarch of a trashy Texas clan. Aside from talking about how thrilling it was to be acting so late in life, she also told stories about her Golden Girls castmates and off-color tales of her many husbands (some of which are in her autobiography My First Five Husbands). Sorry, most of them were off the record, but I can tell you that talking to her was an absolute blast. She was lively and engaging. Rue had that spark that marks a true entertainer, someone who loved having every eye in the place on her and knew how to keep it there.

Now Betty White, who is enjoying a career resurgence late, is the only member of The Golden Girls cast still alive. Estelle Getty died in 2008 and Bea Arthur passed last year. These deaths seem harder than when most actors of celebrities pass away. Maybe it’s because the characters they played were close to the actresses’ personalities, that we feel like we were so close to them. Their infamous theme song wasn’t so much about the women’s relationship to each other, but thanking us for being their friends and sharing in their adventures.

For younger people who grew up watching the sitcom—or discovering it in syndication, where it still lives today—these were like our surrogate grandmothers. Funny ladies who were at turns gentle, kind, funny, and daffy. Ones that lived a full life of friendship, dating, multicolored caftans, and lots and lots of cheesecake. Yeah, it was a TV show, but thanks to the wonderful actresses who inhabited the roles, it always felt like the real thing.

Megan Carpentier at Spencer Ackerman’s place:

And although Blanche’s coquettishness and high post-menopausal sex drive were often played for laughs, she represented a grandmotherly type you didn’t (and still don’t often see) in popular culture: not a MILF or a GILF, but a woman who found herself attractive, felt herself sexy and pursued her interests and pleasures (and conquests) unabashedly. She might try out a new beauty cream, or extol the virtues of a girdle, but she wasn’t headed to a plastic surgeon for an eyelift here, a tummy tuck there or (God forbid) a vaginoplasty — unlike, say, Margaret Chenowith on Six Feet Under. Blanche was the woman we wanted to be (at least, until we were old enough to be Sophia): she wasn’t sarcastic (and constantly getting back with her unworthy ex) like Dorothy or dotty like Rose, she was there to show us that there was life, love and great sex for the taking, even as a widow, even as a senior citizen. She was a woman of her time, in the sense that she saw the strict differentiation of the genders, and ahead of her time, as she defied conventions about how older women are supposed to feel, what they are supposed to want and how they are supposed to act.

Blanche wasn’t the character most like my grandmother, and Rue might not have had the biting wit of Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty or (as we’ve all come to realize) Betty White, but she stood for something that is as important to women as intelligence and humor (both of which she had in spades)  — the idea that we don’t stop being women (and sexual beings) when our hair turns white, our breasts head south and our periods (finally!) stop. And for that, though Rue might be gone, neither she nor the character she created will be forgotten.

Andrew Scott at TV Squad

Lea Lane at Huffington Post:

I spent a few days with Rue McClanahan, who died this morning of a stroke at 76.

About 15 years ago I was invited as a travel writer on a “Love Boat” Valentine excursion where everyone on board was getting their marriage vows renewed. Our little solo group included Gavin McCloud, who went on most of the trips in the Captain Stubing persona from The Love Boat. He had grown up in Pleasantville, NY, north of New York City, near where I lived. I interviewed him for the local papers and he told many tales of life on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He loved the opportunity he had to meet people and travel.

Another in the invited group was Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche on The Golden Girls. She was sweet and soft-spoken, and single at the time. She commented that she had met a man on board who had given her a teddy bear, and she figured that if he was on this cruise that he was married.

She had been married a few times and seemed interested in finding love again, and I remember reading that she did a couple of years later. The bunch of us invited guests hung out together for the long weekend, talking of men and life. I remember thinking that she reminded me a lot of her character on The Golden Girls. Lots of giggles. Soft voice. Full of life.

She talked often of working with Bea Arthur, both on The Golden Girls and on Maude, where Rue portrayed Vivian, Maude’s best friend.

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Little Person, Big Catchphrase

Radar:

Gary Coleman has died at 42, RadarOnline.com is first to report.

Coleman had been hospitalized in Provo, Utah since Wednesday, May 26, after suffering what his family called “a serious medical problem.”

As RadarOnline.com previously reported, Coleman had slipped into a coma and was on life support after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage.

He was pulled of life support Friday morning and later passed away. His wife Shannon Price and her father were at the hospital Friday.

Josh Green:

As someone who grew up loving “Diff’rent Strokes” (yeah, I admit it) and also took guilty pleasure in the vaguely sad antics of the more recent, post-ironic Gary Coleman, his death today of a brain hemorrhage at age 42 came as more of a shock than I would have guessed. Coleman obviously was never a picture of good health, but still…

Victorino Matus at The Weekly Standard:

I actually wrote about Coleman on this site in 2003 when I gave the actor my official endorsement during his run for governor of California. (Somehow that endorsement had little effect.) But more recently I had mentioned him in my review of the Todd Bridges memoir (partly a how-to for crack-dealers), Killing Willis. I admit I got my cheap shots in there, including my reference to the Dana Plato erotic film Different Strokes. And yes, this latest turn of events gives “Different Strokes” yet another whole new meaning. (Sorry.) But the week the review was published, Plato’s son committed suicide. And now Coleman is dead. One reader called me the Angel of Death today.

I’m not overly superstitious but I do admit the timing is uncanny. In fact, this hasn’t happened to me since I profiled the cast of Poltergeist.

James Poniewozik at Time:

Coleman, who suffered from congenital kidney disease that limited his growth, was also figuratively preserved in his fans’ minds as that pudgy-faced kid. But he’ll also be remembered for his well-publicized life as a former child actor, with everything that “former child actor” signifies in pop culture and on E! specials—in his case including run-ins with the law, numerous health problems, a stint working as a security guard and a lawsuit against his own parents and manager over their use and handling of his fortune.Just as we saw when Corey Haim died (or for that matter, Coleman’s Strokes co-star Dana Plato in 1999), there’s a kind of ritual fascination with the stories of troubled former child stars. Part of it is garden-variety voyeurism. But another part is what they, and the contrast with their idealized characters, tell us about our lives.

Mourning celebrities is always to some extent about mourning yourself. That’s how celebrity nostalgia works. When you mourn the passing of a celebrity who died at an advanced age, you’re remembering them, but you’re also remembering your own mortality. When a child star like Coleman or Haim dies, though, it’s also about how the hopes of childhood turn into the realities of adulthood.

Troy Patterson at Slate:

Here was a pair of fantasies about class and money. A critic with an eye for ’80s sitcoms more dispassionate than mine ought out to write about their complicated relationships with Hollywood Reaganomics. The Diff’rent Strokes half of the essay should begin by finding a more elegant way to state the following: Eight-year-old Arnold and older brother Willis, two black kids from Harlem, move into a fancy Park Avenue apartment formerly cleaned by their late mother. Even before their mother’s untimely death, the boys were struggling, sociologically speaking, as evidenced by Willis’ surly attitude and their inability to buy another E for the word “diff’rent.” Paternal and paternalistically liberal, Mr. Drummond interceded and raised the kids as his own and bought the kids some fancy new bootstraps. Dana Plato was pretty cute. To be perfectly frank, Mrs. Garrett was a richer and more complex character as portrayed on The Facts of Life.

Coleman sold the show and owned his scenes, as no one has described better than the critic Donald Bogle in Blacks in American Films and Television, calling him “a hip, modern, savvy, sepia Little Lord Fauntleroy—brazenly independent and aggressive, a born survivor.” Bogle comes to praise Coleman and to cast a glance at the show’s problematic racial subtexts and, finally, to venture what went wrong with the career: “As Coleman grew older on the series, it was sometimes painful to watch him. Because of his health problems … his growth had been stunted and his face often looked puffy and worn. The scripts tried maturing him. But it never worked.” This is a short-person joke that isn’t funny.

Alan Sepinwall:

The show’s premise (noble white millionaire takes in the black orphaned sons of his deceased employees) hasn’t aged well, but Coleman’s performance still holds up as one of the best Cute Sitcom Kids ever. It wasn’t that he seemed natural, because you were always aware that this was a (little) actor who was very aware of how the audience was responding to him, but he was so confident that the calculated nature of what he did only made him seem more likable.

But as Coleman aged but did not grow, there was nothing but sadness and humiliation for him and his co-stars. The show’s ratings decline in its later years (including a one-season move from to ABC after NBC canceled it) were blamed on the notion that Coleman wasn’t cute enough to be funny anymore. His managers and parents ripped off most of the money he’d earned on the show. Because of his size, the audience’s intense identification with him in this one role, and his erratic personal behavior, he became unemployable as an actor. Meanwhile, his on-screen siblings Todd Bridges and Dana Plato fell in and out of trouble with drugs and other crime, and Plato died a decade ago from a prescription overdose.

Coleman ultimately spent more of his life as the butt of jokes then as the actor who delivered them And that makes me sad. A lot of people younger than me know him only as a cautionary tale and tabloid punchline, and I suspect even a lot of my contemporaries immediately think of his post-show misfortune and missteps before they remember how quick he was to deliver a comeback to Willis or Mr. D.

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

While many wonder what the actor’s legacy will be (in this nice article, TV critic Alan Sepinwall hopes that he will be remembered for his amazing talent and not his off-camera struggles), part of him will live on tonight in performances of the hit musical Avenue Q. The show, which features a parodic version of Coleman as a character, has vowed not to change the show following his death. The question now is, how will audiences respond?The popular show, which has run on and off Broadway and all over the world since 2003, has a fictional version of Gary Coleman (traditionally played by a woman) as a supporting character, the landlord for the rest of the cast. Coleman himself has gone on record as saying he’s not a fan of the show or the depiction. In fact, in this video, he says that he “wishes there was a lawyer on earth who would sue them” for him. While he didn’t like it, the show and the character were beloved by both critics and fans.

Many wondered, following Coleman’s death, whether or not the show would keep the Coleman character. There are versions of the script without him in it for the West End production, so there is precedent. However, the questions were answered with this tweet from the producers:

So “Gary Coleman” will live on even though Gary Coleman has left us. But will audiences still be able to laugh?

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In The Television Industry, There Are Two Types Of Criminal Justice Shows: Law And Order And Its Spin-Offs And Everything Else. These Are Their Stories. Doink Doink.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Nikki Finke and Nellie Andreeva at Deadline, on May 13th, withe the scoop:

BREAKING NEWS! KEEP REFRESHING! 3:30 PM UPDATE!

Here’s the latest news on this fast-moving story. A deal was in place if NBC picked up the Law & Order flagship for a 21st season consisting of 16 episodes. But insiders say Dick Wolf is now accusing the network of going back (some use the word “reneging”) on that arrangement made in March: “He’s so fucking angry, you have no idea.”

As recently as the start of this week, even NBCU chief Jeff Zucker was privately telling people that L&O would get one more season. That’s certainly what Wolf and his longtime reps (UTA and Ziffren Brittenham legal eagle Cliff Gilbert) were led to believe from NBC suits Marc Graboff and Jeff Gaspin. That is, until last night.

Wolf simply wanted NBC to live up to the deal that both sides had agreed to back in March. According to that arrangement already in place, NBC/Universal Media Studios was supposed to go to TNT and negotiate a new deal (the old one was up) whereby the cable channel would finance some original episodes of Law & Order in order to continue getting runs of the show. “And, for whatever reason, NBC was unwilling to engage in a serious way with TNT. They didn’t do it. At the last minute, they said, ‘We’ll pick the show up and this is how we’re going to do it’. Which was ludicrous.” That’s when NBC threw its agreement with Wolf out the window and demanded Wolf kick in to help “finance the pickup of Law & Order out of all the money he’s made. And his reps said, ‘Never going to happen’,” according to an insider. Another source explained the situation: “Graboff broke off the negotiations last night when they fell apart based on Team Dick’s unwillingness to make certain deal concessions deemed unreasonable.”

But that’s not all. According to NBC insiders, immediately, Team Dick contacted Gaspin. And that email exchange revealed that Gaspin didn’t realize the show had been cancelled. Network sources say there was a lack of communication between Graboff and Gaspin, who didn’t know the negotiations had broken off. But then Gaspin confirmed it. This morning and afternoon, the producers began calling reps for the show’s stars and telling them about the cancellation.

Andrew Scott at TV Squad:

UPDATE: NBC has officially canceled its cornerstone legal series ‘Law & Order,’ the network confirmed today in a press release.

“The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his ‘Law & Order’ franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated. The legacy of his original ‘Law & Order’ series will continue to make an impact like no other series before,” Jeff Gaspin, Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment said in a statement.

Executive producer Dick Wolf had only this to say: “Never complain. Never explain.”

Deadline
first reported the story yesterday.

‘Law & Order’ will have its series finale on Mon., May 24 at 10PM ET.

The show ends after 20 seasons on the air, which ties ‘Gunsmoke”s record as the longest-running drama in television history.

Frankie Stone at The Wrap:

It was the worst possible coincidence. On the very day that NBC announced a snazzy social media marketing initiative aimed at building viewer loyalty, it pissed off those same people – along with its own talent and the creative community – by fumbling the “Law & Order” cancellation.

When news broke the afternoon of May 13 that the 20-year series was canceled, it was a seismic jolt. For starters, there had been mounting on-background affirmations, seemingly from the camps of both NBC and producer Dick Wolf, that renewal was a near-certainty.

Also, with the final May 24 episode in the can, there was no chance to tie up loose ends and see the characters off – courtesies commonly extended to series with 1/10 the longevity.

The significant 21st season, when “L&O” would become the longest-running scripted series on US primetime television, was something viewers wanted to experience. None as much as Wolf himself, a linchpin creative talent at NBC whose “L&O” franchise is embedded in the network’s schedule. Just five months earlier, no less than NBC’s president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad publicly referred to herself as “a ‘Law & Order’ junkie” who didn’t want to be responsible for pulling the plug before the record-breaking year.

Knowing that it was squaring off against a warhorse, one of its most valuable producers and a famously passionate fan base … coming off a season more embarrassing than even the 1983 “Manimal” low point … knowing it had fed into (and certainly didn’t deflect) speculation of renewal … needing to put its best face forward to advertisers in four days at its upfront … and with weeks, possibly months, to plan for this potential outcome … what was NBC’s strategy to buffer and position this?

PR 101 would be to get ahead of the rumors and make this decision public with a gracious standalone announcement and have media talking points, social websites’ comments and Audience Services e-mail responses at the ready. Ideally with Wolf and the show on board.

NBC chose to handle it their old-fashioned way: by doing pretty much nothing. It was Conan, Leno and the “Tonight” show all over again.

After the news leaked Thursday afternoon, NBC officially no-commented to the media for nearly 18 hours. Even stranger for a company that boasts about its digital and social media talents, it appears to have posted nothing – not even a polite vague acknowledgement – on the numerous fansites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Not even its own.

The information gap was filled by sources from both camps with various levels of actual knowledge and media relations skills. Half claimed the cancellation was done and irreversible while others said it remained undecided and the sides were talking. We eventually learned the truth was somewhere in the middle but in the meantime, these conflicting sides resonated across an increasingly angry digital community.

Finally, the next morning, NBC issued an announcement. It attempted a flimsy end run, announcing renewal of “SVU” and pick-up of a new LA “L&O” before acknowledging the cancellation. The requisite effusive language was there. Wolf’s comment wasn’t; he chose to issue a terse rejoinder.

With the bad news finally out, NBC’s still hiding. As of this writing, there’s nothing posted by a network representative on Twitter, Facebook or fansites including its own – a routine part of crisis PR. They have no dedicated response (another PR basic) to viewer e-mail coming in through the “Contact Us” system on NBC.com.

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic:

The secrets of this show’s success are manifold. To begin with, both the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders are, shall we say, easy on the eye. They play against a colorful cast of witnesses and defendants. (How many successful young actresses got their start by playing teen psycho killers on the show?) And there’s the dependable formula—discovery of body, wisecrack, false start, arrest, interrogation, release, arrest of the correct perp, indictment, suppression motion, shocking new evidence, impassioned argument by Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), verdict—usually, thank heaven, guilty. W.H. Auden once described mystery stories as progressing from innocence to common guilt and back to innocence again: “The law becomes a reality and for a time all must live in its shadow, till the fallen one is identified. With his arrest, innocence is restored, and the law retires forever.”

But the true secret of the show’s appeal is that it’s not a crime show at all. It’s a fable about the field called tort law—the branch of civil justice in which people hurt by others’ sloppy or vicious conduct can wring some measure of payback from those who hurt them. The idea may seem ridiculous. No figure in American popular culture is more roundly reviled than the ambulance-chasing, injury-faking, fast-talking shyster shakedown artist. Consider the plaintiffs’ lawyer Jan Schlichtman as portrayed by John Travolta in the film of A Civil Action. In Jonathan Harr’s book, Schlichtman is portrayed as a canny lawyer, to be sure, but one with ideals of justice for the poor; by the time writer-direct Steven Zaillian is done with him, the screen Schlichtman is a greedy, amoral shark, who runs about the city making “call me” gestures to the injured even before the ambulance arrives.

Or consider the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts as a paralegal who helps a community find compensation from the soulless corporation that has poisoned its water. Early in the film, one of the victims asks Roberts whether she is a lawyer. “Oh, no,” she says. “I hate lawyers, I just work for them.” (The film has a happy ending—the injured get scads of money—but that victory is won by lawyers, and is not shown onscreen.)

We profoundly believe that the world does not need legal bottom-feeders. But when a powerful figure inflicts injury on the powerless, we need someone to make things right. The need for a tort system aches like a missing limb.

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’ll admit never having been a huge fan of the show. Not that I have anything against it; it’s generally been well-made over the decades, but I just don’t have the need for a regular cop procedural. So I don’t want to dance on its grave. But I will say that, if the only reason to keep it on the air was to set a record for Dick Wolf—and it wouldn’t have been for the ratings—then that’s the wrong reason. You’d be royally and rightfully pissed if you were a fan of the show that got killed so L&O could collect a record.

Still, I’m guessing that L&O is one of those shows that people will mourn out of proportion to the amount that they actually watch it. For one thing, it’s been on so long that there are a lot of people who had an L&O habit once and feel sentimental. And it’s so widely rerun (and spun off, etc.) that plenty of people watch it even if they never watch the original in its timeslot anymore. I suspect, though, that they like to know that it’s somewhere out there, churning out murders and efficient trial starring New York stage actors for them to watch, someday.

I also wonder, once the dust clears, whether it may be that L&O is simply “canceled,” but still has the chance to pick up new life—and go for that record—on cable, where it has a faithful following. A TNT deal had been talked about in the past before, for instance, and really the meat-and-potatoes cop drama is becoming more a staple of basic cable.

Allison Waldman at TV Squad:

‘Law and Order’ is over. It had a great run. Really. It spun-off four other shows, including the drama that’s taking its place on NBC in fall 2010, ‘Law and Order: Los Angeles.’ It made a lot of sense for the original to finally wrap with this May 24th’s season finale, and here’s five reasons why:

1. It’s going out on top. Too many shows overstay their welcome, lingering long after they’re still a viable program on the schedule or have good stories to tell. That’s not the case with ‘L&O.’ In fact, this season has been a good one and the pairing of Linus Roache with Sam Waterson has been dynamic. For all intents and purposes, ‘Law’ is going out while still something special.

2. It had become too formulaic. The ‘ripped from the headlines’ formula that was been ‘Law and Order’s’ bread and butter had become a twisted mess in the past couple of years. Maybe it was the headlines, but the roman a clef storylines were cutting too close to the bone and with every new scandal, you just waited for ‘Law and Order’ to do their spin on it. Elliot Spitzer? Did it. Mel Gibson? Yes. Heidi Fleiss? Check.

3. NBC needs to move on. After the year that NBC has had, this was no time for sentiment to trump practicality. It’s true that Angela Bromstad, NBC Entertainment President, said that she didn’t want to be the executive to pull the plug on ‘Law and Order,’ but I give her credit for making the tough decision. NBC doesn’t need to hold onto the past; it’s time to embrace the future. That means new drama series that might have a run half as long as ‘Law.’

4. Television history has already been made.
Does the record book really matter to anyone? Most people don’t even remember that ‘Gunsmoke’ had the longest run in television history. So ‘Law and Order’ will be tied with that CBS western, big deal. They’re both still way behind ‘Guiding Light’ which had 72 years on the air — radio and television — before ending in September 2009. And if you want to know about history, Fox’s ‘The Simpsons’ currently wrapping year 21 and will be back for a 22nd.

5. It’s not really gone.
While NBC will not be producing new episodes of ‘Law and Order,’ the show will hardly be gone and forgotten. It’s a huge fixture in syndication as well as on USA Network. The program plays all over the world in television markets and the DVDs are available for sale and rent. Also, since there really won’t be an ending to ‘L&O,’ it wouldn’t shock me if two or three years from now creator/executive producer Dick Wolf convinces NBC to do a TV movie, reuniting some of the original cast members. If not a reunion movie, perhaps a series of TV movies. Don’t be shocked … it could happen.

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