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.



I’m still not a Blu-Ray convert. I prefer the DVD form-factor, it’s more aesthetically pleasing to me than the cheap dinky Blu-ray Boxes. And often there is a negligible difference in quality, particularly when the source has issues, or the studio just cuts corners.

In short, all things being equal, I’m not paying more for Blu-ray. However in the cases where there is a substantive improvement in quality, and great special features, and the price is competitive with DVD pricing… well then I’ll pull the trigger.

Case in point SPACE 1999: SEASON ONE on Blu-ray. All reports point to this being an effective re-mastering and improvement on the DVD release.

“It has been revealed that A&E Home Entertainment will release Space: 1999 – Season 1 on Blu-ray on November 2. No technical details are available, other than it will be a “complete, uncut and restored in high definition” release, in pillarboxed 1.33:1 video.

The series, originally shot on 35mm film, was restored [by] BBC studios, which posted a detailed description of the work done. The telecine was done from a new interpositive. Even with the new film elements, a great deal of grading was still occasionally required.

Dust and scratches have been removed in two stages. The first process is automatic, but the BBC emphasizes that it is important not to have it “too high”; otherwise, “an unnaturally flat and ‘plastic’ looking smeary image can result.” In the second stage, the Digital clean-up team, armed with pen and tablet, painstakingly removes remaining defects and areas of larger damage.

Also, the opening titles were rebuilt from the best available materials in HD.”

And currently priced at 52% off it’s a no-brainer.

It’s only going to go up in price, just like the BABYLON 5, DEEPSPACE 9, and FARSCAPE sets I notified you of.

A great series, now remastered to look better than it ever did when broadcast. SPACE 1999! Our past and our future— has never looked so good. So get your copy today!

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] – Buy it here!

And for more on SPACE 1999 check out the space1999.org website.

TV Review: DEXTER Season #1

So after much hype about the showtime series DEXTER, I finally get around to watching the first season, and I have to say… I didn’t like it.

First the very premise of the show CSI meets Hanninbal Lecter, not really a fan. I think one reason the west in general, and America specifically is such a hotbed of mass murderers is because we are a repressed, violence and death obsessed culture that romanticizes and glorifies our monsters.

And I see shows like DEXTER as feeding into this romanticism of heinous, heinous acts. I heard a recent podcast bemoaning this very fact, that American television is all CSI, blood splatter, bodily fluids, and black light.

It’s not just lowest common denominator tv, it’s uninspired tv.

Getting beyond the mashup of Hannibal meets CSI, DEXTER features some extremely annoying and tired actors/stereotypes. The most annoying is the belligerent, loud and stupid Black guy. I can’t even care enough to look up his name, but if all you have to do is look constipated and frown and bark at people, don’t even show up.

Seriously, just don’t even show up for the part.

Cause that’s not acting, that’s just being a dick. I get so tired of this horrendously cliched and stereotyped writing, of the angry cock-blocked Black man. It’s just bad, boring, inept writing.

And it’s inept acting to see this script and say, “yes I want to play this token, one-dimensional asshole stereotype for the entire season.”

Beyond this actor, I found the other actors nearly as annoying, and it’s not helped by writing that makes these detectives look as if they are dumb as a rock, for not ferreting out the killer. All in all I just wasn’t really invested in the show. more episodes than not, I just wanted it to get to the darn point.

I mean half way through you can figure out where the season’s going, and you’re just waiting for the tired writing to play out to its tepid conclusion. I came to the end of season 1 thinking what a bloody shame, that an awful series like this, and other CSI derivatives get renewed and inventive, original shows such as DAYBREAK, where the Black guy isn’t a dickhead, gets canceled after one season.

Absolutely no justice. All in all, I have to say I have no interest in seeing anymore seasons of DEXTER.

Grade: D.

A quick addendum to the above: I’m hearing good things about the later seasons of this show, starring Mos Def, but after this rocky beginning I’m really gunshy about investing anymore time in this series. There are so many other great things to discover, to give something less than great, a second chance. But we’ll see.