Exclusionary TV: Whites Only Television? MADMEN, PAN-AM and REVENGE

Provocative title huh?

Well, it’s not quite as provocative as it seems. The premise of this article isn’t that shows such as MADMEN, PAN-AM, and REVENGE are in and of themselves bad or bigoted shows.

They may in and of themselves be good shows. But shows, dramas or scifi or action, that are predominantly White, when not off-set by any shows that are predominantly Black or colored, true to the definition of predominant… create an environment, a medium, that is about the ascendancy, importance, influence, authority of force of one group.

In such an environment it is impossible for me to buy into, relate, follow, view, or otherwise enjoy such shows. Now in an environment where a show such as PAN-AM is counter-pointed with a show on The forming of AIR JAMAICA or the Black Stuntmen’s Union or the Black Coyboys’ Union or any adventure or thrilling show with a predominant cast of color; then PAN-AM rather than being indicative of a color and ethnic bias in every show in tv, can be seen as one voice in a chorus, rather than the same voice, everywhere.

So that’s the problem I have with shows such as MADMEN and REVENGE they paint everything with the same trite and pale brush (take the series REVENGE, based on a book by the son of one of the most famous Black men, and the cast is all white. Explain that to me? Along with that it always rings false that we have yet to see a THREE MUSKETEERS that represents the ethnicity of the author Alexandre Dumas, or the ethnicity of the inspiration for all Dumas’ heroes, namely his father, France’s most famous and most feared soldier, the elder Alexandre Dumas, (inexplicably called Thomas-Alexandre in recent writings), the Black giant, the warrior Moor, Napolean’s most feared and brilliant General. The COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is directly inspired by how his father was betrayed by Napolean, imprisoned, and killed. And rather than anyone ever tell that story, it becomes in REVENGE about a blond woman, mad about something. Forgive me if I have no interest in that retelling.)

So, What’s the solution?

We’ll get to it. First indulge me, with a brief trip to yesteryear.

In the late 50s, into the 60s and 70s television and cinema in the US, and indeed throughout the Western World, made great strides in becoming more representative of the class struggle going on throughout the world.

That’s a fact, it just is. So let’s begin there.

As countries from Congo to Cuba to Korea to the West Indies to Brazil all were dealing, at various stages, with the shattering of traditional Colonial ties. With populations of repressed people, embracing the concept, both with artistry and arms, of “not eating at another man’s table” but creating their own table.

It was a staggering period not just of revolution, but potentially evolution… for the world and the west.

Rather than mass media that explored and showcased only the fantasies and the fears of the white and the male you began getting shows that took place in a world reflective of the movements changing the landscape of our cultures and our time. Civil disobedience, and sit-ins, and Black power, and Native American rights, transcendentalism and free love, sexual and religious experimentation, and of course war and the search for peace and self identification.

And all these growing pains, all of this stew of change, could be seen in the entertainment of the age.

DANGER MAN, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, PROFESSIONALS, GOOD TIMES, SANFORD AND SON, the rise of Soul Cinema, and the rise of Hong Kong Cinema, and Neo-Realism in Italy, and the New Wave in France, and the didactic films out of Russia, and Brazil, and Cuba, and Senegal, all of this making its way to newly born film studies programs in the states that gave birth to a whole generation of entertainment makers excited and influenced and inspired by this time of change and challenge.

So suddenly you had Patrick McGoohan in the DANGER MAN TV show 50 years ago globe-trotting and going to different countries and different people, and exploring issues of colonialism, and civil war, and terrorism, and governmental oppression, and doing this with a changing ethnically diverse cast. Dealing with issues of Middle East tensions and modern slavery. And this kind of informed and humanistic film-making came from the creators down. And all the shows of that period, while not DANGER MAN ground breaking, to greater or lesser degrees were that informed and representative of a culturally diverse and changing world.

Move the clock forward 50 years, and suddenly you have no community owned or locally owned cinema, much less production companies. That’s not an accident, that’s a very pointed, and very considered monopolization and marginalization.

You have the end of virtually any locally or regionally owned newspaper, radio, or television station. So you get the end of people and community created movements, and art and music, and you get instead corporate construction of reality and ‘art’ in things like AMERICAN IDOL and its ilk.

You have cinema and television that is in retreat from ideas… like diversity and the rights of man, and instead seeks a return to the exclusionary, blinders on, cinema of the 50s. Not just in terms of content and cast in front of the camera, but talent and crew behind the camera.

As, in reality, the mad military war machine of billionaires undoes the local determinism of countries like Haiti and Liberia and Libya, so too is our entertainment,no less the tool of billionaires, undoing the strides made toward multiculturalism. A return to “Whites only” television from MADMEN to PAN-AM to REVENGE.

And those shows while they hold no interest for me, would be fine if they were counterpointed by an equal number of US made shows with a majority of Black or Brown or Asian or a combination thereof, of actors in front the camera, and talent behind the camera.

And the talent is there, as screenwriters such as John Ridley discuss in numerous interviews. Even more talent than was available in the 60s and 70s is available now, the difference is, the cinemas are bought up, the advertising is cost prohibitive, and quite frankly the doors are closed.

In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood saw the need for an influx of diversity to save them from the rise of Independent Cinema (an outgrowth of viable and healthy local cinemas, local determinism), and there were a good number of people in the studios who were happy and excited for that diversity. They were part of the changing times, and part of changing it.

Today Independent Cinema has no way into the theaters, because the locally owned theater circuit, and indeed the community controlled mass-media circuit that served America, particularly Black America from the 20s to the 70s, has been bought out, legalized away, and generally dismantled.

For what was gained, more was lost in the compromise of integration.

The problem with the doctrine of separate and equal, was the fact that is was NEVER separate and equal, it was always separate and UNEQUAL. The Black Power movement and Black Panther movement was about making it SEPARATE AND EQUAL. Was to make the lie into the truth. And that is the reason we have integration today. Because the idea of separate and equal, scared the powers to be to their very soul.

They saw in the more moderate integration model of Martin Luther and his ilk, a compromise that could become a massive victory. They retreated from Separate and (Un)equal and embraced Integration of a sort, “you can now use our Bathrooms, you can now to an extent come into our house, but… you have to lose your house. You have to lose your radio stations, your movie theaters, your stores, your farms, your wallstreets, your sports teams, your attempt at self determination”.

Of course it wasn’t presented like that, but a few decades later that’s absolutely what has happened. The thriving economic base of Black America that thrived even under the odiousness of Separate but unequal, wherein they could still provide for themselves and be self sufficient, has been completely gutted under the together but even more UNEQUAL system of integration. And that robbing of local determinism has extended to all America. Has shown itself to be the most significant volley in a class-war that has America trillions of dollars in debt, and slaved, to corporations gross and immoral.

And television and cinema is the clearest example of this wholesale pillaging of a peoples economic potential.

So that’s what I see when I see shows like MADMAN or PANAM or REVENGE or SMALLVILLE (past season 4) I see prejudice and bigotry and class warfare… codified.

So you have a television and a cinema environment that has turned back the clock, and is again solely about showcasing the fantasies and the fears of the white and the rich, to the exclusion of all else.

It bores me to go backwards. To learn from the past is a great thing, to repeat the past is not. And we have a whole generation of studio execs and heads, who think they are doing something new by embracing the old, and all they are doing… is wasting time.

In a multi-cultural society, an increasingly multi-cultural society, these dreams of exclusion cannot stand, they will become unsatisfying, they always do. And in the end we will have to waste years just getting back to the same point of diversity as the 1970s. Getting back to the starting point from which we should be… evolving.

So let’s cut out some of the time wasting. Contact these studios signing off on this exclusionary television, the creators and producers, twitter them, facebook em, call’em, even write em, let them know the show doesn’t represent you, and to create a show that does. And let the advertisers know, say “this show boycotts me and mine. Since you are asking me to support your product, I want you to produce a show that supports me.”

It’s economics people. For all their crushing of competition, ultimately the decision makers and gate-keepers still need to create a product you want to buy. Let them know they are failing at that mandate.

Let them know you want to see more shows, that are both smart and diverse.

Day Break – The Complete Series- Do not buy the 2disk version, get the 4 disk version

55 Degrees North – Series One & Two – 5-DVD Box Set ( Fifty Five Degrees North ) ( 55 Degrees North – Entire Series 1 & 2 ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2.4 Import - United Kingdom ]

Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

Kings – The Complete Series

Blood & Bone

I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition

Let them know you want to see more DAY BREAK with Taye Diggs and Moon Bloodgood, more 55 DEGREES NORTH with Don Gilet, more KINGS with Eamonn Walker more BLOOD AND BONE with Michael Jai White, more James Purefoy and Jesse L. Martin in THE PHILANTHROPIST (the spiritual descendant of McGoohan’s DANGER MAN); more shows that look forward to solutions, rather than backward to evasions.

Challenge the creators, challenge the studios, challenge the advertisers, challenge the performers, and challenge yourself to go not marching backward, but to go forward… into the mystery. And ultimately we will as cities and a nation, have to eschew outside control, and embrace again local production of items and local determinism.

And it starts as simply as recognizing and calling out the prejudiced the exclusionary and the destructive when we see it.

Here endeth the lesson.

GREAT TELEVISION: MIAMI VICE: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

I’ve been catching up on Miami Vice recently, and was surprised to find beyond the glitzy 80s MTV playboy cops trappings that everyone remembers, was a solid, and initially an astonishingly hardboiled and uncompromising, and surprising cop drama. People lived, people died, and only pain was guaranteed.

I mean that first three seasons has some brilliant, wrenching, even jaw dropping shows. It also has a few horrendously 80s clunkers, most of them revolving around the painfully unfunny ‘comedy’ relief of its snitches, Noogie and Izzie, played by walking stereotypes. Any show that features them dominantly is “turn-off” material. In addition there were a few episodes that were just padded, moronic, and poorly written and directed.

But thankfully the weak episodes of MIAMI VICE are definitely in the minority.

Today’s review is for a season 3 episode called WALK ALONE….

I just watched season 3 episode 4 of MIAMI VICE entitled WALK ALONE. Man is that frigging good. While undeniably 80s and of its time (the clothes, the music, some of the groan inducing levity or comedy relief), it manages to transcend or transform its weaknesses into a chorus for its strengths. And its strengths are many, this is just some great, riveting, compelling yet incredibly straight forward television.

I had forgotten, or never knew, just how much crap they put Phillip Michael Thomas’ character of Tubbs through in that show. The trappings of glamour contrasting with stories about people doing their best not to fall apart. Add to that this tale of fragile love, and corrupt prison guards is buoyed by a stellar cast of young actors from Lawrence Fishburne to Ron Perlman. And James Olmos’ taciturn Castillo is the epitome of cool.

Olmos has since gained recognition for another popular show, but Castillo remains his definitive role, THE definitive role. A great episode, that is all the more great, because it shouldn’t work, this throwback to a younger, gentler prison age that seems positively civilized compared to the aberration that is the current American penal system. However, the episode does work, with grittiness rubbing shoulders with a fun, easy charm. And while today everything is about the overarching multi-part storyline, there’s a lot to be said about the brilliant self-contained story. Where you can come in on any episode, and be not lost, and more… be thoroughly entertained and treated to a complete story. A rare thing to pull off today.

The strengths of episodic television at its best. An easy A-.

Miami Vice: The Complete Series: Check Prices Here

Television Reviews: Dan Harmon’s COMMUNITY Season I DvD!


Having just watched all of the first season of COMMUNITY, I thought I would jot off a quick review, that I think would have been very helpful to myself before purchasing this series.

I was swayed by the reviews which unfortunately had this being the best thing in the universe, with little to no moderating reviews. Having watched the series, I have to say while not horrible, I did have some problems, and in the scheme of things find myself far closer to the 2 star grades than the 5.

The show is not horrible. It has its moments, at times it’s brilliant, one of the standout episodes being PAINTBALL.

And the cast has talented character actors, that could be interesting characters. Unfortunately by the time you get halfway through the season writer/creator Dan Harmon, has fallen into the rut of not developing most of the characters beyond stereotypes.

While I think he’s trying to do something interesting with some of the characters, most notably the character of Abed played by Danny Pudi, who I think is great (Though I understand how Arabs may not really dig the idea of an Indian playing an Arab. Not an isolated incident in Hollywood). Unfortunately for every Abed it seems you also have to get a Troy.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Donald Glover, but I think the character of Troy falls back into the happy medium of White writer writing weak or flawed or sexless or emasculated or non-threathening Black Male characters. You see that a lot in television, and hell going back to vaudville, writers working out their issues of fear and race through “humor”/ridicule. But god we’ve seen that same tune sung so often, that it is a glaring, and boring, and uninteresting stereotype. I would rather a writer not have Black characters in the show, rather than drag the characters into the show to do his version of Step and fetchit. To bring characters of color in, only to break them down. Be it Buffy, or Smallville or the first season of the new Dr. Who, etc.

And the craziest thing is these writers think they are being edgy, and cutting edge, and original, and liberal, when what they are being is very predictable, very 1920s, very tired, and very bigoted. Note to Dan Harmon… tokenism… it is just what it sounds like.

The dumb over-compensating funny Black jock was just about passable the first half of the year, because at the very least you had the romantic subplot that gave you a hint there could be more there. But by the end of the season you have the dumb-over compensating funny Black Jock eunuch, which is oddly enough also a reoccurring Hollywood staple.

Nice one, Dan. Didn’t see that coming.

It’s just tired, tired writing.

I mean, and this is not to fault the actors, they do the best in the horrible stereotypes they are given to work in, and it’s a testament to their skill that I like them, despite the limitations. But I’m nagged incessantly by the fact that I would like them a lot more if they were more than their foibles. I would like them a lot more if they had contrasting cool Black characters to play off of. It would be great the day Black characters can be represented by their “Peirce” but also have their “Jeff”. Or have their “Shirley” but also have their “Britta”. Have the same diversity of quirky and cool characters that White actors get.

Unfortunately, that’s what tokenism does, it gives only a narrow view, to a broad people. And usually it’s the worst, most dismissive, most denigrating view possible. Which listening to Dan Harmon in the commentaries he comes across as more than a bit dismissive and denigrating.

All in all, by the end, I felt the show does a disservice to Harmon to write it, and it does a disservice to Glover to perform it. Add to this the character of Shirley (My God, is that a call back to “what’s happening?”!!) the sassy, but matronly, Black woman. My God we haven’t seen that a thousand times. Black women seemingly to White writers in Hollywood, can only be perceived as Hors (ala Halle Berry) or as sassy, bossy matrons, but nothing in between.

Good, one Dan. Way to be original.

Let’s try something new. How about something crazy, Black guy gets the girl. The hot Black, smart girl. Or the Hot White, smart girl. Wow, imagine that. Oh, wait… that would mean moving out of the 1920s.

So yeah by the end of the season, the blatant stereotyping, took away from what I thought was otherwise an interesting show.

I mean at the price it currently is of like $12 for the entire season, it’s worth getting if only to see the paintball episode. Then sell the thing when done. You’ll make out far cheaper than renting. But just realize, you’re going to see something perhaps a little more flawed than Amazon reviews lets on. Grade: C+.

Community: The Complete First Season — Buy it Here

BBC, BBC America, Doctor Who and an outrageous Season 3 DVD Set!!

I have to tell you, I just got the US boxset of Doctor Who SEASON III (the one starring Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones), my favorite season of the new series, and the only one I think enough of to own in its entirety (Don’t get me wrong there are weak moments in this season, and bits from other seasons I like and think are great, it’s just as a whole I feel this season works the best), and while very happy with Season III’s episodes I’m not as happy with the special features, particularly the commentaries.

The BBC season DVDs are extraordinarily expensive, retailing at $80 per season in the US for only 13 episodes, calling that high-way robbery prices wouldn’t be too far off. BBCs pricing is rubbish.

And even though most of us can get it for less than retail, the fact remains if you’re going to justify that exorbitant retail price (you can get multiple seasons of most shows for that price or less) you need to offer more.

Namely you need to offer full cast DVD commentaries. This is David Tennant and Freema Agyeman’s journey, and people who love this season are buying to hear these great actors discuss and reminisce over that journey, so common sense would tell you to at the very least, have these two actors in the commentaries.

I’m always amazed how uncommon, common sense is.

Because these two show up together on the US release in exactly 0 episode commentaries. ZERO!

WTF is that?!!!

We do get commentaries, by various producers, and editors, and writers, but really the people you want to hear from most on these commentaries are absent, and it is a huge, effing glaring omission.

In addition to offering no Tenant/Agyeman commentaries, the special features are very light. Why just snippets of Doctor Who Confidential? Why not full episodes??

Christ, BBC you’re charging an arm and a leg for these boxsets, you can afford not to be cheap bastards.

So I’m very glad, I didn’t pay full price for this boxset, but even still… lacking decent cast commentaries I still feel more than a bit cheated. So I’d recommend (if you have a multi-zome player) avoid the BBC America DVD release and purchasing the UK version instead. At least you get (according to various sites) one Tenant, Agyeman, and Barrow commentary on the UK set, and it’s currently priced at 1/3rd the price of the US boxset. So even when you factor in shipping, it still screams deal to me. Man, US/Region 1 viewers are getting screwed. BBC America is rubbish!

So I guess that single episode 13 commentary (with all three stars) will have to do me until BBC grows some brains and decide to release proper full cast commentaries for this season.

So in closing, just say no to BBC America and their rubbish overpricing and heavy editing of episodes (and according to some, poor mastering of US/Region 1/A Blurays, read this). You’d be better off waiting for the UK DVD releases.

Here endeth my ranting for today.

Favorite New Generation Doctor Who Episodes

Well it looks like the research is in and here’s the list of the favorite New Generation Doctor Who Episodes. Working on a proper article but till that’s ready below is a sneak-peak. The first name is the writer, the second the director. Amazing that this show was able to keep such consistent quality while rarely using the same director. But I guess the consistency in look/feel between episodes is due to the music, cinematography, and editing that was consistent, used the same team, for large chunks of the show. Those stalwart camera/editing/music teams listed at the bottom of this article:

BLINK- Season 3- Grade: A+ Stephen Moffat Hettie Macdonald

THE EMPTY CHILD/THE DOCTOR DANCES- Season 1- Grade: B+ Stephen Moffat James Hawes

THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE- Season 2- Grade: B+/A- Stephen Moffat Euros Lyn

THE ARMY OF GHOSTS/ DOOMSDAY- Season 2- Grade: A- Russel T. Davies Graeme Harper

SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY/FOREST OF THE DEAD- Season 4- by Stephen Moffat ends up on a lot of people’s best of list. But not mine, I like it, but don’t love it. Instead I would recommend the claustrophobic Russell T. Davies MIDNIGHT where the Doctor is in a LIFEBOAT type situation. Pretty intense. Followed by TURN LEFT, also by RTD, which I initially wanted to dismiss as rubbish, but grew on me. Both solid B+.

Season 4, Episode 12: The Stolen Earth
Original Air Date—28 June 2008- Balls That’s what RTD has, huge, humongous balls. He thinks bigger than anybody else, no one but him would write a story this big. You have to admire him for that. Just for the sheer audacity of this episode, despite it perhaps not really achieving the grandeur it’s aping (feeling a bit contrived, which is a problem with most of RTDs’s big stories, for the last couple of seasons) it gets an A- for being crazy enough to make the attempt. Pt 1 of 2.

Season 4, Episode 13: Journey’s End- This episode is not a favorite but it is part 2 of the above, so it’s a package deal and needs to be mentioned. There are some spoilers so beware. Okay, there are a lot of great big ideas in this season finale, I mean making a reality destroying gun out of planets, that’s genius. But ultimately it is perhaps too many ideas, there is a fine line between blowing minds, and blowing the own fantastic rules of your fantastic fiction. The whole defeat of the Daleks, rang more than a bit hollow and anti-climatic, and add to that the whole towing of the planet, and it is “check please” time. But those are just symptoms, the real problem is it all just comes out forced and contrived. I like the places the characters are in by show’s end, it’s just the process of getting them there was… flawed. Contrived and forced, there is no better way to say it. So glad I saw it, but definitely some problematic writing. B. I think it was definitely a good time for RTD to step down as lead writer.

HUMAN NATURE/THE FAMILY OF BLOOD- Season 3- Grade:B+ Paul Cornell Charles Palmer

There is a line at the end of this two parter, about the doctor hiding in the skin of humanity to avoid a family of blood, that is possibly the best line that I’ve come across dealing with the doctor (a character that, let’s be honest started out as a bit of nonsensical kids tv/scifi fluff), and that is saying a lot, as a lot of good writing has gone into this character.

It completely encapsulates, what it really means to be the last Time Lord. The horror of that, and the majesty, and the contradiction of that. This seemingly innocuous and affable temporal vagabond and pacifist, who beneath his trappings of humanity, has that within, to make even stars… dim. Wonderful work by director Charles Palmer as well as writer Paul Cornell.

THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM/THE POISION SKY- Season 4- Grade:A- Helen Raynor Douglas Mackinnon

This 2 part episode does not typically get mentioned, but it is one of my favorite two-parters.
The Return of the ravishing Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones (“God, she’s well fit” as the Brits would say :)). Bill Gates 2.0. An Insidious Alien invasion, and cars as weapons. What’s not to love? This episode just worked for me, one of my favorite ones since BLINK. Well written and excellently directed. Great cliffhanger. And the second half is just as great.

THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER- Season 4- Grade:B+ Stephen Greenhorn Alice Troughton

Cinematography by
Ernest Vincze (director of photography) (as Ernie Vincze)

Film Editing by
Liana Del Giudice

Original Music by
Murray Gold

Cinematography by
Rory Taylor

Film Editing by
Mike Hopkins

More to come, and feel free to suggest your own favorite episodes.

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)