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Number of posts: 57
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By Noel Holston:
they deserve each other
On Friday, we Americans will witness the inauguration of our 45th President, Rush Limbaugh. OK, not really Rush. Instead, what Hollywood casting agents would refer to as “a Rush Limbaugh type,” one Donald J. Trump. Limbaugh — the Big Daddy, the Jabba the Hut of right-wing radio talk — is not the inescapable presence he once was. He’s not quoted so much, and his name is not invoked as often. Though his audience is still the envy of the radio industry, he doesn’t have the influence he did at his peak in the 1990s….
Some years ago, when I was living and working in Central Florida, my family and I attended a Sunday service at a congregational church in Winter Park. In his sermon that morning, the minister envisioned Jesus’ long-prophesied return to our midst. In the preacher’s telling, the Prince of Peace so alarms some of the populace with his public denunciations of rampant materialism and his insistence on ideals such as humility, forgiveness, charity and non-violence that he is soon murdered all over again.
finding your roots
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a professor of African-American studies and English at Harvard University, a literary scholar who writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times and other A-list publications and has 14 books on his resume. But most people know him as an enthusiastic, almost evangelical proponent of genealogical research thanks to Finding Your Roots, a popular PBS series in which he and his team have traced the lineage of notables ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Barbara Walters to Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
Almost 40 million people saw at least part of The Civil War when Ken Burns’ multipart documentary premiered in September 1990, making it the most-watched PBS broadcast ever. It’s still the record holder, and it’s coming back Monday, September 7, for a special anniversary encore on PBS.
Two things will be different…
pioneer of trash tv
Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same.
I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called “Evocateur” — when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about…
hide the dang cannon
With fireworks legal in Athens on the recent anniversary of our nation’s independence, I saw more flashes and fiery cascades over the Classic City than I could ever remember. The rise of Old Epps Bridge Road was a perfect vantage point. Every few seconds, the sky lit up in a different direction. It got me thinking about my history with pyrotechnics. The word “fireworks” for me evokes memories of Christmas, not the 4th of July. I have no recollection of lighting firecrackers or shooting off Roman candles in the middle of summer. Maybe it was just too hot in July in south Mississippi. I don’t recall my hometown, Laurel, ever having a big fireworks-in-park event, either.
tuesday, april 21
To begin with, we’re not talking about that super-smart cartoon dog who had a pet boy, though someone named Sherman does figure prominently in the topic at hand. We’re talking about the other Mr. Peabody, George Foster, namesake of the media awards that the University of Georgia has been handing out since 1941.
Submissions to the Peabody competition over the decades have piled up to embody a remarkable collection, some 90,000 kinescopes, 16 mm films, tapes and DVDs, all now stored in a huge, climate controlled grotto beneath the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library on the UGA campus.
sunday, june 1
A cable and online network called Pivot will be televising a condensed, impressionistic version of the May 19 Peabody Awards ceremony on Sunday, June 1, at 9 p.m. Less almost certainly will be more.
The Peabodys, based at UGA’s Grady journalism school, have been on TV before, broadcast by PBS and A&E respectively, most recently in 2003. But in those instances, what viewers saw on their home screens was the full event, a parade of previously announced winners making acceptance speeches.
the peabody decades
The fighting in Vietnam was such an evening-news fixture by the mid-1960s that writer Michael J. Arlen dubbed it the “living room war.” On the entertainment side, the networks were skittish, unsure what stance to take. Even with Korea standing in for Vietnam, M*A*S*H didn’t arrive on CBS until the fall of 1972. The weekly dramas Tour of Duty, about infantry soldiers, and China Beach, focused on Army nurses, didn’t appear until 1987 and 1988, respectively, more than a decade after Saigon had been abandoned.
unrepentant spouse promotion
These are the ornaments I’m hanging on my tree
The stories and the memories are what’s precious to me
It’s a Christmas tradition to give of yourself
It’s the time we spend together now
That’s our greatest wealth
guaranteed legal counsel
The best television drama these days mostly comes in serialized form, with shows such as Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex and Mad Men vying for top industry honors and critical huzzahs. But there was a time – a stretch of 20 years or so, beginning around 1974 – when weekly series were mostly formulaic and unchallenging and the serious money and ideas went into original TV movies. The “made-fors” addressed historical events and social issues considered too complicated or controversial to be plot fodder for a Marcus Welby, M.D. or a Dallas.
Between the commemorative magazines at grocery checkouts evoking “Camelot” and the early-bird TV specials – JFK: The Smoking Gun, Killing Kennedy and Capturing Oswald, to name just three – it’s hard to miss the fact that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is fast approaching. By midnight on November 22, there will have been more than 20 newly produced assassination specials, including a History Channel offering that promises to be “definitive.”
If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.
It’s an oft-quoted line, usually good for a laugh, that has been attributed to comedian-actor Robin Williams. But in reality (What a concept!), whoever coined that aphorism suffered from judgment that is, shall we say, clouded. The joke is supposed to be that real, honest-to-God veterans of the 1960s were so zonked out on one thing or another…
A golden age of television is now blindingly aglitter if you agree with the critics and the fans who gush about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland and a still-expanding list of dark, intelligent, cinematic drama series developed in the wake of The Sopranos’ debut on HBO nearly 15 years ago. But what about the original “golden” age, the live-drama era that extended from the late 1940s to around 1960? Is its reputation truly deserved?
We had nightmares about mushroom clouds, freaked over fallout. We worried about a Red Menace and the Domino Theory. Sputnik spooked us big time. We had plenty more to fear than fear itself. These and other unsettling aspects of the 1950s will be illuminated by the second edition of The Peabody Decades, a series of screenings that mines the vast Peabody Awards Collection of vintage TV and radio programs at the University of Georgia.
Mr. Peabody, the erudite dog in the Bullwinkle cartoons, had his WABAC (“way back”) machine for visiting the past. George Foster Peabody, no relation, has his own version of the WABAC, though it’s more time capsule than time machine. A very large time capsule.
It’s called the Peabody Awards Collection. Just about every radio, TV and web entry in the University of Georgia’s Peabody Awards competition has been filed and preserved in the collection since the awards program was launched some 72 years ago.
most popular art
It won’t do to call retiring Peabody Awards director Horace Newcomb “Mr. Peabody.” Deserved as it would be, that designation already attaches to the award’s namesake, philanthropist George Foster Peabody, not to mention a certain erudite canine who hung out in the same cartoon realm as Bullwinkle J. Moose and Dudley Do-Right.
“Mr. Television” won’t do, either. Milton Berle acquired that nickname around the same time that young Horace Newcomb’s family was getting its first TV set.
What do Lorne Michaels, Lena Dunham, Sarah Palin and Vladimir Putin have in common?
No, not megalomania. Interesting guess, but wrong. Dead wrong. Each was in fact involved with a winner of the University of Georgia’s 72nd annual George Foster Peabody Awards, either as subject or creative force. The list of 2012 programs picked for Peabody recognition on Wednesday, March 27…
The Cry Goes Up
Observe a moment of respectful silence, if you will, for a Georgia boy who made good: William Watts “Buck” Biggers, who passed away Feb. 10 at the age of 85. And let’s follow that moment with a loud, rousing sing-along of the theme from his best-known contribution to our popular culture: Underdog.
When criminals in this world appear
And break the laws that they should fear
And frighten all who see or hear
The cry goes up both far and near
For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Save It For The Judges
There were no high-backed, hide-a-coach swivel chairs in sight at the Atlanta auditions last Sunday for the 4th edition of NBC’s megahit The Voice, due to debut in late March. No fancy set. No Shakira, no Blake Shelton, no Adam Levine, no Usher. Just one anonymous talent scout, a primly fashionable woman tapping notes with long fingernails on her Mac, and a line. A long, long line.
My wife, Marty Winkler – singer, songwriter, would-be national sensation – had been given a 2 p.m. check-in time…
Two quintessentially American musicians named Ray released inspired 33-rpm albums in 1962. Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is a consensus classic, an R&B giant’s “countrypolitan” crossover that smashed racial barriers as surely as Elvis Presley’s Sun sessions. Ray Stevens’ 1,837 Seconds of Humor is remembered mainly for a couple of hit singles it included, but I am here to testify that it has an audacity all its own.
Once, when asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in rock ’n’ roll, John Lennon quipped with characteristic, cruel impudence that his band mate “wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” Which of course is not true, as anyone who’s heard some of Paul McCartney’s clunky solo drum tracks can attest. What is true is that Ringo is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of rock percussionists. He hasn’t always gotten the respect he merits.
Only in Syndication
Andy Griffith played good-hearted, even-tempered men so well and so often that his occasional visits to the dark side were all the more electrifying. He actually started his movie career on the nastiest of notes, starring in Elia Kazan’s 1957 masterpiece A Face in the Crowd as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a drifter-turned-network TV star whose cracker-barrel homilies and jokes belie his caustic cynicism and monstrous ambition.
All the fuss surrounding History Channel’s scripted miniseries Hatfields & McCoys – first the kerfuffle over its accuracy, then the (not so surprising) big ratings — got me thinking about Pass the Biscuits Mirandy! The bloody Hatfield-McCoy has been an enduring inspiration to makers of popular entertainment. Its pop-culture legacy includes everything from an Abbot and Costello feature to a 1975 TV flick with big, bad Jack Palance, from Huckleberry Hound and Scooby Doo episodes to the game show Family Feud. History Channel’s new series may well be the best and most accurate take on the notorious rivalry, but Mirandy is surely the funniest.
Keepin' Us Safe For Ads
Remember Ronny Zamora, the Miami teenager who shot and killed an elderly neighbor in 1977 and then ignited a national debate about television’s influence on behavior when he and his lawyer argued that he had been brainwashed by Kojak and other violent crime series?
That case, a media sensation in its day, came to mind recently as I watched a TV-news update about the release on bail of another Floridian, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch “captain” and police wannabe who was belatedly charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in late February. If I were Zimmerman’s lawyer, I might consider a variation of Zamora’s TV-made-me-do-it defense.
CBS’s 60 Minutes devoted its entire hour last Sunday night to remembering Mike Wallace, the grand inquistor of television news who had died the previous weekend at the age of 93. It was a fond farewell that did not soft-peddle the reality that Wallace could be both a pussycat and a bear.
I have my own little piece of Wallace lore. On my first of what turned out to be many, many summer TV critics’ tours to Los Angeles, CBS flew Wallace out to do meet-and-greets.
Welcome to Burger Kink. May I take your order?
You can have it your way, or one of our hot and juicy sandwiches will have its way with you.
Would you like fries with that? A shake? A condom?
Okay, you got me. I’m faking it. These are slogans I made up, inspired by a current TV commercial for Hardee’s, the fast-food chain that was formerly best known for its hot, moist, mouthwatering biscuits, not its hooooott, mooiist, ooooh, mouthwatering cupcakes.
Bill Clinton famously used Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” for his campaign theme song. Ross Perot, improbably but intentionally, chose Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Barack Obama went with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” the first time around. This year, the President has an entire, touch-all-the-bases Spotify playlist, including Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” the Impressions’ “Keep on Pushing,” Sugarland’s “Everyday America” and Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.”
What either GOP hopeful would choose for himself is anybody’s guess. Perhaps “Money Makes the World Go Round” from Cabaret for Romney and “Onward, Christian Soldiers” for Santorum. But here are some suggestions that actually fit their primary performances.
Ever been in a Facebook free-for-all? It’s what happens when somebody posts an article or political cartoon and one of his or her friends shares it and so on and so on until, all of a sudden, you and people you actually know are trading information and insults with people you’ve never personally met.
I stumbled into one of these fracases the other day. It started with a Facebook “friend” I sort of know posting something supportive of President Obama in his dust-up with Catholic bishops over birth-control coverage. By the fourth or fifth comment, Obama bashers had jumped in …
Two-word review of Jonathan Odell’s new novel The Healing: What audacity.
It takes some nerve for a writer who is white and male to attempt serious historical fiction in which life on a pre-Civil War cotton plantation is experienced and recalled by slave women. This is literary territory associated with African-American writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. But speaking as someone who has read all three of them and more, I believe Odell pulls it off with honesty, modesty and grace.
The Simpsons’ landmark 500th episode is coming up Sunday, February 19, and I’ve been trying to justify writing about the animated comedy on a website devoted to Southern politics and culture. I would like to believe I have found two rationales.
For starters, I would suggest that Homer Simpson, with his abiding fondness for beer, deep-fried everything and lassitude, is only a coon dog and a 12-gauge away from being prototypical of a certain sort of Southern man (and maybe not even a coon dog if you count Santa’s Little Helper).
Second, I would argue that Springfield, the Simpson family’s fictional home town, located in coyly nonspecific “middle” America, is the closest that TV has ever come to a realm of characters and themes as diverse and rich as William Faulkner’s “apocryphal” Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.
Not to confer anything like super-hero status on the GOP frontrunner, but wow, that Mitt Romney, with his square jaw and graying-at-the-temples pompadour, bears a striking resemblance to Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic, whose super power just happens to be a prodigious plasticity, the ability to contort himself into almost any shape a situation requires.
The Georgia Museum of Art on the UGA campus in Athens is presenting a panel discussion this Friday night at 6 about art created during – and in response to — the Depression. And to be perfectly clear, I mean the economic catastrophe that began with the stock market crash of 1929 and sucked at our nation’s lifeblood throughout the 1930s, not the current “Great Recession” from which we appear to be emerging.
It should be a thought-provoking evening. The moderator, Dr. Paul Manoguerra, the museum’s chief curator, is well-schooled in Depression-era art.
'tis the Season
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . a partridge. In a pear tree. Seriously.
This was several years back, when we were still courting. But I’m reminded of her generosity and creativity every year about this time because some newspaper or wire service or blogger invariably runs a feature article about how, if someone really were to give all the presents on that celebrated 12-day checklist now, the tab, price-adjusted for inflation, would be $10,000 or more.
Well, I can tell you from experience that it ain’t necessarily so.
Time for Reruns
If it please the court, I’d like to argue a brief on behalf of The Advocates.
It’s a series whose time has come. Again.
The Advocates was a weekly public-TV presentation from 1969 through 1974 and was revived as a bi-weekly for most of 1978 and ’79. Co-produced by Boston’s WGBH and Los Angeles’ KCET, it came to be known as the “PBS Fight of the Week,” and while the pugilism was all verbal, serious blows were landed. More than one partisan hotshot left the arena with his or her ego bruised.