Pop Culture with Paul Farhi: Wikileaks on Afghanistan; Mad Men,Steve Carell to exit The Office

Jul 27, 2010

Paul Farhi explores the latest in the world of pop culture, trends and daily news.

Thanks for coming 'round and sorry to abandon you these past two weeks. Vacation, you know. I'm tanned, rested and probably not ready, but let's do this thing, anyway.

The big story: Wikileaks (and its media partners) and the docu-dump of almost 92,000 reports, files and errata from military sources. I'll admit up front that I haven't read any of the actual documents, but I have read many of the media accounts about the documents (including Der Spiegel's, and that's the first time I've read anything by Der Spiegel, danke you very much). Anyway, there does not seem to be a "smoking gun" in the big pile, but there do seem to be many, many little smoking guns (about civilian casualties, the sneaky Pakistani intelligence service, and the use of Stinger missiles by the Taliban, among many, many other things). But as we tried to say today, this really isn't the Pentagon Papers II--that is, a series of documents that impeach the credibility of either the Bush or Obama administrations--despite the superficial similarities to that earlier landmark leak.

Anyway, glad to take your thoughts, comments, rants and screeds about all this.

In completely other news: A friend writes: "So I'm watching 'Mad Men' for the first time (sue me!). And....this is supposed to be so great?? It's not blowing me away, not least of which because, for all the hype, it doesn't really seem to get the early-60s ethos right...And the drama is...meh. What am I missing here?"

Well, me, I like "Mad Men," or liked it before I stopped watching it after Season One. But the caller makes an excellent point: "Mad Men" gets ridiculous, promiscuous, absurd hype, way out of proportion with its rather puny audience (the season debut recorded a wispy 2.9 million viewers). I can't think of another show in which the "popularity gap" is so vast. But there are a number of them (books, movies, what-have-you, too) that are like it--critical darlings that are never really accepted by the public. "30 Rock" (and Tina Fey) come to mind. So does "Arrested Development." So, too, I'll admit, do two of my favorites, "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report." By the same token, the cable news network get written-about relentlessly, mainly because a) reporters like to write about TV news; and b) TV news is, in fact, more important than, say, "Burn Notice" or "iCarly."

The popularity gap works in the other direction, too. There are hits that never get any love from the chattering class of critics. "NCIS" comes to mind here. "NCIS" has been one of the highest rated programs on TV for a few years and may well be in its 48th season. So where are the gushing features on it? Where are the fawning tributes to its stars (who are they again)? Where is the big takeout on the meaning of Mark Harmon's sweater-and-undershirt fetish?

Got some over-hyped, under-watched candidates of your own? Bring 'em on.

And speaking of over-rated , Steve Carrell is splitting from "The Office," which is a) most assuredly a good move for Carrell, whose movie career is booming (despite the mostly terrible "Date Night" and the appears-to-be-awful "Dinner for Schmucks"); and b) most assuredly a disaster for "The Office," which will soon die a horrible death no matter how often Carrell assures people that the show will be okay without him (get serious). I'm trying to think of other stars who de-camped from TV series for allegedly bigger things. Let's see: McLean Stevenson disasterously left MASH, for his own series and total obscurity.. Shelly Long left "Cheers," to moderate movie success and then total obscurity. David Caruso left "NYPD Blue," only to recover from total obscurity with "CSI: Miami." Of course, all of the "breakout" stars of "SNL" eventually did this, too, and most fared very well.

Any others come to mind? Bring those on as well.

Paul, could someone please force Renee Montagne into some interview 101 classes? I've been listening to Morning Edition forever, and she just seems to get worse by the week. In her approximately seven-minute interview with David Cameron, I'd estimate that well over half the time was taken up by her meandering, surprisingly long questions. Note to reporters: your audience wants to hear from the people you're interviewing, not from you!

I think NPR folks do a pretty good job overall of asking the question and getting out of the way. My complaint--and this is not specific to any one interviewer--is the way in which the interviewer will stick to his/her prepared questions, and won't follow up on some lame, debateable or simply unclear answer.  An interview isn't really a conversation (it's more formal than that), but it shouldn't be robotic, either.

Maybe if they called him Mr. Opera-tunity that commercial would make more sense.

As a general observation, car commercials are usually around the bottom of the barrel, creatively. But I like those Honda ads. The Mr. Opportunity commercials are simple, direct and surprisingly likeable.

Hi, Paul -- This is coming to you because you wrote the article: why are people shocked that the Pakistanis may be helping the Taliban? After all, the only reason Pakistan exists is because of Muslim separatists.

A number of news organizations seized on that "revelation" as their big headline, but I could have sworn I already knew that when I first heard about it in the documents. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be reported again--and in the detail that the documents offer. It IS shocking. The Pakistanis are supposedly our allies; we're sending X billion dollars a year over there every year. And their secret service is undermining our efforts AND getting Americans killed? That needs to be reported, again and again. By the way, as someone said to me yesterday, the Pakistani connection is about the only thing in the report that differs from what happened in Viet Nam. Yes, there were traitors and collaborators inside South Viet Nam, but we weren't directly subsidizing them!

"The Wire" comes to mind. Critics loved it and declared it the greatest show ever made, but people didn't watch it.

Excellent example. But I would put an asterisk on any HBO show. Only a third of all households actually get HBO, so any show has a much smaller audience than broadcast or basic cable...And while we're on the subject: A few weeks ago, my dear colleague Lisa D. made the very good point in print that cable networks should stop pretending they're at some kind of handicap, relative to the broadcast networks. The math is simple: Basic cable reaches about 90 percent of all American households. The cable networks theoretically SHOULD have about 90 percent of the audience of a broadcast program. But they don't--they do relatively worse.

Paul, why so little coverage of Oliver Stone's comments about Jews to the U.K. newspaper on Sunday? Am I crazy, or is he?

I was shocked by what he had to say, far more than Mel Gibson's crazed anti-Semitic rants (Gibson at least could claim he was drunk) . I knew Stone made preposterous, ahistorical movies. I didn't realize that HE was preposterous and ahistorical AND a bigot.

Disgusted? Yes. Every time I think I'm too cynical, something happens to remind me that maybe I'm not cynical enough.

I'm a knee-jerk cynic. I hate myself for it, until something justifies it. Unfortunately, something always does.

RE: Mad Men When the report said that Don Draper was "married with two kids," for a second I thought Baby Eugene had died.

I have no idea what you're talking about, since I stopped watching Don and Betty when they had only one child. They were miserable then, as I recall.

Hello. I am 50 years old. What the heck is Comic-Con? Where did it come from? Why do so many celebrities appear? Thanks very much.

Ah. Comic-Con. Started as a convention of comic and superhero geeks in San Diego. Then got bigger and bigger and bigger. Now the geeks rule the entertainment world. I am not impressed.

"The Wire"...critically acclaimed but its ratings werent very good....then again, it never won an Emmys either...so maybe not so critically aclaimed.

Never won an Emmy? Really? I'm surprised since it the critics never stopped talking about it. And neither did the people I hang around, unfortunately.

Tuesdays are now worth waking up for again. I'm really feeling bad about Dan Schorr's passing. Just about everything that came out of his mouth (especially lately) infuriated me, but there's something to be said for longevity, and the familiarity of a voice on the radio. I miss him, and while I disagreed with a ton of his opinons and 'analysis', I ultimately thought that he made radio a pleasure to listen to on Saturday mornings (I'm a little too young to remember his time at CBS/CNN).

I stand in complete admiration of Daniel Schorr's long and illustrious career, if not his daily/weekly "analysis" comments on NPR, which never really told me much...But now that you mention Mr. S., I can tell you my Dan Schorr anecdote. Okay, it's 1984, and I'm a young 'un living in San Francisco. The town is buzzing because the Democratic Convention is about to start. I'm walking down Geary Blvd. downtown and I spot Daniel Schorr. Daniel Schorr--journalistic hero! So I walk up to him eagerly and say, "Excuse me, I'm so excited. Are you Daniel Schorr?"


He looks at the kid and says, "I am. So what?"

End of encounter.

Mr. F: I do not understand your comment about how we weren't "directly" aiding the traitors and collaborators in the South Vietnamese government, compared to what's happening with Pakistan. To me, it's the same if you're helping any government in a war, there'll be some in that government who will be playing with the other side. I knew some Vietnames families who made sure they had sons on both sides, so they'd have a "winner" either way, and have no doubt some Pakistanis are doing the same.

Maybe my comment wasn't clear. I wasn't talking about subsidizing the South Vietnamese (which we did to a fare thee well). We're funding the Pakistani secret service, which is apparently quite hostile to us and aiding our enemy. The analogy to Viet Nam would be if we funded the Viet Cong or the NVA, which of course we DIDN' T do.

Oliver Stone is half Jewish. Don't make his comments better or worst I guess, but it's still a neat fact.

Yes. True fact. His dad is Jewish. Makes his comments all the crazier.

He's no doubt a brilliant filmmaker, but it's terrifying to me (who was 21 when JFK was assassinated) to find quite a few people who base their "beliefs" about JFK's death on Stone's movie - they actually think Jim Garrison was a paragon of virtue, undermined by "you know who."

I thought "JFK" was a pretty good movie, facts be damned. And the facts were damned in it. If you viewed it as some kind of historical document, you'd lose your mind. Which, it appears, might actually have happened to Stone.

Isn't Oliver Stone's son, Sean Stone, about to release his directorial feature film debute or am I wrong about this?

According to IMBD.com, which knows everything, yes. His first film is coming out next year.

What makes those Honda commercials so unique is that it features a 'pitchman' who has been on the air for 6 years (I actually thought it was longer), and that there's a cyclical seasonality to it- like back-to-school shopping commercials, only there's the same person.

Good for continuity, no? You get used to a character and you might even like them. I may be wrong here, but it seems like advertisers stuck with their  pitchmen longer back in the day--Madge, Mr. Whipple, Mrs. Olsen, Tony the Tiger, etc.  Or maybe I'm just remembering it that way because those were such longrunning characters.

OK, dumb question, but since we get just about every channel out there, I don't know what constitues 'basic' cable. CNN, ESPN, news outlets only? Comedy Central? Apparently not HBO, which I would have thought was pretty widespread. Enlighten please!

Sure. A channel's a channel, if you get it, but basic cable refers to the tier of channels you get with the lowest level (i.e., least expensive) subscription. You can buy more, of course, but basic generally refers to about 50 or 60 channels that almost every cable system offers. It varies somewhat, but usually includes all of the channels that started back in the late 1970s and early '80s--CNN, MTV, TBS, BET, ESPN, Discovery, USA, etc. , plus Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC. All the channels that cost extra--like HBO or Showtime--are considered "premium" cable.

Glee. The more hyped a show is, the less likely I am to watch it out of principle, and this is #1 on the list.

I have to agree here. I like "Glee" well enough. But I can't stand to read or even see another story on it. "Heroes" was another one, but fortunately, that show has slid into oblivion.

So very few people watch The Daily Show, yet it's given outsized importance as a news outlet. Not saying it's not great, but news related to it seems to pop up very often. The 180 degree difference is Everybody Loves Raymond, which usually did gangbuster ratings and yet received almost no press, positive or negative, whatsoever.

Totally right. Again: I love "The Daily Show," but it IS a darling of people who write for a living (and a lot who don't make a living at it, too)...As for being a "news outlet," I don't really think it has that much influence. The reason is that relatively few people watch it.

If Mad Men gets 2.9MM households at 10:00 on a Sunday, that stacks up fairly well against NBC (not CBS or ABC, though), particularly if demographics are priced effectively. But the stuff on Spike or Travel Channel? Ads should be free.

Well, broadcast ratings have been eroding for years and years, but 2.9 million on a Sunday night (especially during the "season") would get you a cancellation notice pretty fast, even on crummy ol' NBC. Even the woeful "Jay Leno Show" did better than that. I agree that demographics (young, upscale audiences particularly) can help a show enormously with advertisers, but 2.9 million is still 2.9 million. It would never see Episode Two, let alone Season Two on broadcast.

I listen to WTOP a lot when I'm in the car and I can't get over how unprofessional the production seems a lot of the time. The on-air talent are constantly talking over each other or over their sound bites and commercials. At least once a day, it seems like they start playing two sound bites or promos at the same time, or an anchor will start talking just as a promo begins to blare. The result is auditory garbage. I worked briefly on my college radio station and I know the timing can be tricky, but geez, you'd think these longtime professionals would have it down by now! Any insight? I wouldn't ask if it were infrequent, but it seems like it's every day!

I won't make excuses for WTOP, but it DOES have a lot of moving parts--more moving parts than any other radio station on the air, I'd say. So, a "flub" here or there--what's the big deal? I actually thing a little screw up or two makes TOP seem like a "real" news station--that is, the news is a little bit messy, and so is reporting it. It says, "We're not slick, because slick is phony." 

I've never been to Comic-Con, but it seems pretty corporate to me and not really about comic books. Maybe there's a comic book side to it, but that doesn't get much coverage. It seems to focus more on shows like "The Vampire Diaries" (not exactly Comic Book fan friendly vieweing) then real geeky stuff.

Like everything else in America, it has become corporatized as a result of its "success" (and let's concede that this corporatization has probably helped it become more successful by giving it more attention and money). I think there's still a comic-book element there, but, yes, it's buried by all the Hollywood glitz  (i.e., the corporate stuff).

I just LOVE every time a commercial uses operatic music. Remember Quaker Oats "shot from guns" to the cannon-fire finale of the "1812 Overture"? I think that was early 1970s, but I wish they'd bring it back. Another upside is no royalties to have to pay the composer!

I'm not a fan of classical music, but it's remarkable to me how many classical pieces I can identify because of their incorporation into popular culture. In many cases, I never realized a piece was "classical" until I heard it outside the pop-cult context. For years, I thought that guy Rossini wrote a helluva theme for "The Lone Ranger" and Rimsky-Korsakov kicked it bigtime with that theme he did for "The Green Hornet."

I didn't watch The Wire for several reasons. One was that I had never heard of any of the stars of the show. Secondly, it seemed grim. I didn't watch The Shield either, although I had heard of Michael Chiklis. Likewise I have never seen Saving Private Ryan (that said, I get angry when people say that it should have won the Oscar rather than Shakespeare in Love, a movie I absolutely adore and watch whenever it comes on television).

Well, don't let the hype stop you. Yes, "The Wire" is grim, but it is very, very good, too. And "Saving Private Ryan" will stand up far long than "Shakespeare in Love," which was likeable but forgettable.

Just a request that everyone be especially sensitive about labeling Mad Men spoilers today -- many of us haven't been able to watch it yet due to the power outages!

Thank you. We have been warned.

I think you're wrong about The Office. I agree that the Michael Scott charaqcter has run it's course and Carrell is right to run for the exit but I think the writers are savvy enough to shake things up and take the show in totally unheard of new directions. It may not mean the show will last for 20 years but I'm guessing there's still a few more seasons left.

I am guessing not. There are excellent characters still on "The Office" and many situations to explore, I'm sure, but Carrell held the show together. It will not, and cannot, be the same without him.

I'd have asked him if he could get me on Nixon's Enemies List, since RMN was still alive in 1984!

Great anecdote someone wrote upon Schorr's death was Schorr running out of a congressional hearing with the full enemies list, going on the air straight away to read it--and blanching when he hit his own name.

These are big business at libraries when they come out on DVD. The waiting list, even in a 75 library system consortium is huge.

Yes, and that's worth considering. TV audiences aren't just what Nielsen says they are anymore. Viewing goes on for many, many years after a show airs.

What an a_ _. He could have at least allowed you to say how much you admired him, or smiled and kept going, or something. My one celebrity-regret is not saying that to David Halberstam when I was right behind him at the airport.

Well, I personally, will give ample time to anyone who wants to adore me.  I am very generous that way.

You ok today? Lots of grump. FWIW, me too. Grumpy that is.

Grumpy? ME? Whadya mean by that crack, buster??!

(Thanks for asking, but I feel great...).

You have been warned...

When the series began, Don and Betty Draper had two kids, a daughter named Sally and a son named Bobby. The actor who played Bobby got replaced a couple of times. Mad Men Replaces Bobby Draper, Again The comment is referring to the premire episode of Season Four. Don Draper is getting interviewed and a reporter from "Ad Age" has his facts wrong (Don has gotten divorced just after Betty gave birth to a son she named Eugene (after her father, who hated Don and Don hated him). Don doesn't correct the reporter and it causes conflict (conflict being key to TV).

Oh. Okay. Thanks.

[End of spoiler alert].

Remember Joe Isuzu? Hysterical. And I would also add Toyota's Sienna Family to the pantheon.

Joe Isuzu started strong, and was a huge surprise, but became tiresome, I thought. And the character didn't really work for Izusu, did it? He just reminded people, I think, that buying a car can be an unpleasant experience. Not a great basis for an ad campaign.

Loved the first 1/2 season, when it was a soap opera with singing and occasional witty, quotable lines. When they translated that into over-the-top theatrical singing, that we're now going to call a comedy because we script directly for the thuddingly heavy punchlines, while making plot and continuity of character reaction an at-best tertiary concern, well, I had to bow out.

I think the teen-girl audience, and the massive  "American Idol" lead-in audience (which was comprised of a lot of teen girls), may have dictated that change. More singing, less plot. I bailed, too.

30 Rock on NBC. It's won Emmys, critical acclaim, and Tina Fey a paycheck for five seasons. But it's never broken 8 million viewers, a feat even trashtastic "Jon and Kate Plus 8" was able to muster.

Totally. And it tells you how important critical acclaim is to keeping a show alive. Without the rave notices, would "30 Rock" have survived as long? Maybe. Would "Arrested Development" on Fox? No way.

Fifty percent of the Mad Men audience make more than $100K per year--highest income watchers on TV. That's why it's one the air.

Yes, as noted, demographics, rather than raw numbers, keep a number of shows going. CBS has always complained about this; its shows are among the most popular on TV, but popular with people (older, more rural, less affluent) that advertisers won't pay the same prices to reach.

My show that doesn't get enough respect? "Doctor Who," especially in its recent years. It's both funny and dark at the same time.

Cult audience. Plus, it's British. Outside of "Monty Python," I don't do foreign TV.

The Daily Show is hyped because it's good. I wouldn't care if 4 people watched it and one of them was Jon Stewart's mother, it's funny while being insightful. That the source of the hype. If anything, ratings are overhyped. Who cares about "American Idol"? Even the diehard fans don't even remember who won that season a week after the finale. Plus if were are talking ratings with the under 30 crowd, it's got some pull.

The caller makes a perfectly valid point. Critics DO know something about TV, if only because they've watched tons and tons of it. As I said, I love "The Daily Show," and would be disappointed if it was cancelled due to its smallish audience. But ratings are very important (duh!).  TV is a business, and ratings are the business' daily scorecard.

I loved it, but David Simon's other spinoff qualifies - Homicide: Life on the Street. Way more popular with critics than TV viewers.

Good 'un. Yes. True.

I think Mad Men is overhyped, also, but, when you look at the actual ratings, they're comparable to summertime Network numbers. From Media Week, the ratings for the 10 p.m. slot on the major networks for Sunday, July 25, 2010: NBC America's Got Talent (R) 3.76 million CBS The Good Wife (R) 3.58 million ABC The Gates 2.89 million So, it doesn't look like Mad Men's 2.9 million viewers were so bad, after all, does it, Paul?

In a way, they do. Those network numbers are pathetically low, even for summer (granted, they may be all the networks can do these days). But: a) it's summer, which is garbage time in network land; and b) "Mad Men" is a limited (10-12 episodes) original series that c) was having its seasonal debut, meaning d) it will likely fall far below 2.9 million viewers before its season ends.

The top 11 fattest states in the USA: 1. Mississippi 2. and 3. Alabama and Tennessee (tie) 4. West Virginia 5. Louisiana 6. Oklahoma 7. Kentucky 8. Arkansas 9. South Carolina 10. and 11. Michigan and North Carolina (tie) Why isn't there more talk about how much MSG and other junk is pumped into our foods ? It's a crime and yet all the media cares about is that Americans are somehow to be blamed for being too fat or lazy or soft or whatever. Why can't we hold the makers of our food accountable ? Also obvious link between poverty and obesity but not much reporting on that either.

Well, you didn't ask, but on my vacation, I went to a somewhat impoverished Second World country. I did not see obese people there. I saw some stocky and chunky people, sure, but nothing like an average day on any street in America. So, why are people fat here and not there? Could be that the people there eat less, or that they eat fresher stuff that's lower in junk calories. I will stipulate that they don't exercise more; during nearly two weeks, I think I saw exactly three people jogging.

I always groan when Hollywood "remakes" a foreign film and rewrites/contorts a script and casts for American audiences. Can't think of one remake that has ever had the charm of (let alone surpasses) the original. You?

I can, but not offhand. You're over-rating the originals, which may have been charming, but are often made better by Hollywood. Someone help me out here...

Its acclaim made Gwyneth Paltrow think she was important.

Yeah, sorry about that.

I watched the show and I do not believe spoilers are possible because near as I can reckon nothing happened...

Perhaps the person who was worried about spoilers was worried that you would give away this week's angst and anomie. As opposed to last week's angst and anomie (to say nothing of all the new developments in alienation).

That is all.

Hey, much better than my encounter with Daniel Schorr!

When CBS fires you because you're too left-wing? You're no longer a journalist. Where did he end up working after that?

Ted Turner hired him to add prestige to a little start-up outfit called Cable News Network.

Paul sez: it's remarkable to me how many classical pieces I can identify because of their incorporation into popular culture. In many cases, I never realized a piece was "classical" until I heard it outside the pop-cult context." This is my pet theory about why classical music audiences are dwindling. Today's cartoons use pop music, whereas the classic cartoons (Tom and Jerry, Wile E. Coyote, etc.) all used classic and jazz. Music with very complicated rhythms and melodies. But kids got used to hearing it. Even if it's on in the background of a cartoon, the ear is being developed and the genre isn't so unfamiliar. And some of those kids grow up to attend concerts. Now, they probably never even hear classical music because pop music has infiltrated everything. Just my two cents.

But it's self-defeating in some ways, no? Hearing a lively classical snippet in a cartoon or a movie doesn't really train you to appreciate classical music. It just makes you appreciate the snippet. When you hear the whole work, you tend to think, "Man, this is really long and slow. When do we get to the good part?"

I have to disagree with the poster who thought Schorr was being a jerk. I took as a comment that he didn't see himself as a celebrity, but I could be wrong. As for Mad Men, I love the show, but partially because, at 62, I am old enough to remember when kitchens with Harvest Gold appliances were the height of chic. For me, it's like a time machine, thanks to the art direction. For people under 55 or so, I think it's kind of stunning for them to see how commonplace smoking and drinking were--and in the workplace. I had a boss when I first started working, a retired Marine colonel, who smoked cigars in the office and liked a drink or two at lunch. And no one would have dared tell him he couldn't do either.

Yes. As intimidated and put off as I was by Schorr's response at the time, I now realize he was being modest AND was starting a conversation with me. "So what?" was a gauntlet (or gantlet, I can never remember which) thrown down to elicit a reply. I think now I would have answered, "So what? So what?! I'll tell you what--you're one of the greatest and most famous journalists of the 20th Century, that's what!" But I was only 25 or 26 at the time. I've grown up since then.*


*By the way, I never brought up my first encounter with Schorr when I interviewed him for something or other a few years ago.

No literally the cars and trucks didn't work for Isuzu. They were not reliable and didn't sell.

Yes, that, too. Advertising can only kill your business so much. You need bad product, too.

You mean the gang on "Modern Family"? Now that's effective product placement. Oh, and from what I remember, buying the car was the least unpleasant part of owning an Isuzu...

Yep. See previous.

Maybe you covered this but where did you vacation? I seem to recall talk about Italy but not sure if you ever got there. Oh and did you use the William Shatner travel site to book it because hiswcommercials are so appealing ?

Thanks for asking. I was in the former Yugoslavia--Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. Fascinating place(s).

Didn't Carrell get his start (or boost) on The Daily Show? I didn't have access to Comedy Central in the early years of Stewert's show but I seen clips of Carrell with Colbert and some of the other regulars from the early days who have since "made it".

Yes. Seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only a few years back.

Paul Newman was extremely proud when he learned he was on it..i would think the late Mr. Schorr would have been too. I sure would have :)

Sort of a badge of honor, I guess.  But journalists shouldn't want to be part of the story they're covering. But that was Nixon's fault, not Schorr's.

Firefly on Fox. Great show, loyal audience (although I don't know how large it was). But it was canceled anyway.

Great show, SMALL audience. Which is why it was cancelled.

Huge business. It's the chief reason that "True Blood" has become HBO's main brand, and it opens another venue for cable television shows that some people wouldn't otherwise have noticed. It's also revived shows that were cancelled ("Family Guy", "Futurama"), and has introduced younger audiences to shows from the past. For example, I have now seen every season of "The X-Files", which I didn't pay much attention to as I was growing up in the 1990s.

Of course. DVDs are also the cause of that weird little social phenomenon in which a friend or family member suddenly "discovers" a show on DVD, years after you stopped watching it on the air, and it's all they want to talk about.

Not even Top Gear?

Worth watching? Never tried, but will put it on the "sample" list now...

Oliver Stone: 'Jewish-Dominated Media' Prevents Hitler from Being Portrayed 'in Context'

Cable series are always run multiple times during a week, vs. broadcast TV, which generally runs its shows once, during a specified time and date. Yes, cable shows do tend to have smaller audiences, but it's not really an apples-to-apples comparison.

And I'm suggesting it should be. If you're programs reach almost 100 million households (as most basic cable networks now do), that isn't significantly different than reaching 110 million (as the broadcast nets do).

"Three Men and a Baby"? Wasn't the original in French?

Yes. Big hit here, of course. Never saw the original, so I can't say which was better.

I guess I'm a snob, but I have no problem with ignoring the numbers when thinking about the quality of television shows (or any other form of entertainment). I mean, "YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE" was a huge seller, so it is a great song? You have to be able to distinguish between quality and quantity. "THE WIRE" was fantastic, I don't care that more tween girls tune in to AI each week.

Noted. But I'm not making value judgments here--just noting the phenomena...

I actually just saw it for the first time the other night, on a premium cable network. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow were certainly adequate in their roles, but I think the wickedly funny lines between Geoffrey Rush and Tom Wilkinson have always been criminally overlooked.

I can't remember much about it, frankly, though I think I enjoyed it when it came out. Will have to catch it again to recall what I liked...

Was a very good remake of Infernal Affairs (a Hong Kong cop movie). I think I liked Infernal Affairs better but The Departed was better made.

Ah, yes. Again, never saw the original, but the remake sure was good. The Scorcese film won Best Picture, too. The original did not.

I enjoyed it more than Emma.

Bingo! Flashier, funnier, more polished than its source material, yes.

Had Dame Judi Densch as Queen Elizabeth. Enough said! Also it may have been Ben Affleck's best role!

Okay, this is how little I remember of it--didn't remember that Affleck was in it, nor Dench, nor Wilkinson nor Rush. I think I remember that it was a movie. Maybe.

1. He tried out for SNL but was rejected. (I think they chose Will Farrell instead.) But his wife (though I think this was before they were together), Nancy (Walls), was an SNL regular at one time. 2. But Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell did the voices for the "Ambiguously Gay Duo" cartoon that use to run occasionally on SNL.

Excellent factoid-ism! Thanks!

When Steve McQueen found out he made it onto the list, he got the biggest American flag that he could find and flew it outside his house. Ali McGraw was shocked that he made the list, saying "You're the most patriotic person I know!". However, along with being a lifelong Republican, he was a semi-lifelong pot smoker, and was not all that shy about it. Hence, Nixon siccing Elvis on him. Or something.

Steve McQueen on the list? Wow--Nixon really WAS crazy. Didn't he see "The Great Escape" or "Bullitt"?

Folks, would love to stay longer, but I've got to run to something now. Thanks for stopping by, and for all the comments. Let's pick this up next week--there's lots more to talk about. In the meantime, have a good week. And, as always, regards to all!...Paul

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Paul Farhi
Pop Culture With Paul Farhi explores the latest in the world of pop culture, trends and daily news.
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