Boston Legal

12:26 PM Mar 15, 2005by Rob Ritchie

Last night Mrs. Agnostic and I watched the March 13th episode of the ABC law-drama Boston Legal, a show we enjoy. (As a general rule, I don’t watch TV dramas that don’t have at least one spaceship or alien race or xenophobic robotic empire, but BL fits the bill because it features this guy in a starring role.)

Unlike other accomplished bloggers *cough* Powerline *cough*, I have no legal training, but even I can see that the niceties of the law are sacrificed for entertainment purposes; but that is par for the course in TV and movies, as they never get anything right about anything (including details about the making of TV shows and movies), so I don’t let that bother me.

They always argue two topical cases per show, which amazingly seem to start and end on the same day (and whose progression through the courts are accelerated to a ridiculous degree). While if I were to be so unfortunate as to be involved as a plaintiff or defendant in a trial I would expect a speedy trial, I would also like more than 15 minutes to put my case together.

Their first case involved an elderly rich guy (Carl Reiner) who wanted the court’s permission to have himself cryogenically frozen prior to his natural death, in hopes that he could be thawed out in a hundred years or so when medical science would be able to cure his incipient Alzheimers. They framed it as a “right to die” case and it was fairly interesting, though they referenced in passing Terry Schiavo as an argument in favor of right to die thus completely misunderstanding the true nature of this poor woman’s case. (They also insisted on mispronouncing her name [shee-AH-vo], instead of pronouncing it the way people in Florida who actually know her do [SHY-vo]).

Their second case was brought on behalf of a high-school student who protested when his principal installed Fox Blockers to keep his charges from being “incited to intolerance” by Fox News Channel. This particular case was rife with problems, not least of which being the unrealistic way the school system was portrayed – a principal is brought before the judge, not the School Board? It gets to court instead of being brought up at a School Board meeting? Bah!

(Incidentally, there was a rather sly allusion to the fact that ABC decided that the name of the rival news network could not be spoken, so apparently the script had to be rewritten slightly to remove the name “FOX”. One character, discussing the First Amendment (irrelevantly in this context, but then we don’t expect actual Law), comments that “censorship” was everywhere, such that networks were even interfering with “scripted dramas”.)

It is simply taken as given that the principal's outrageous claims about Fox News are true; they even show a few seconds of a highly partisan anti-Fox documentary to bolster their position, without even trying to show another side to the argument. They even mentioned the debunked survey claiming to indicate that Fox News viewers hold inaccurate views about foreign policy, and are more likely to support the government (shudder!)

Instead, the case is presented as a First Amendment / anti-censorship issue, their argument basically being “Sure, Fox News is a horrible, right-wing proto-Fascist brain-washing machine against which no single person can possibly stand, but hey, this is America, and a diversity of views (no matter how disgusting we may personally find them) should be encouraged, and besides, it’s all ‘Infotainment’ now anyway.”

[Interesting side note – as I typed this into Microsoft Word preparatory to posting it, the word “Infotainment” failed to trigger the proofreader’s gag reflex. I assure you, I did not teach this word to the dictionary, so it was in there to begin with.]

Look, I realize that they couldn’t actually show any clips from any Fox newscasts to support their case, but there were several times (such as when the principal repeatedly claimed that Fox “encouraged intolerance”) that I expected the judge to require the defense to actually show some evidence to back up their claims that Fox content was uniquely deserving of being blocked. As I said, this was a given, and I suspect indicates the views of the writers and producers very clearly.

As a matter of fact, the folks who make the Fox-Blocker have their problems with this episode too, chiefly in the presentation that there is a liberal bias in the media, an idea they reject, despite evidence. However, they don’t seem to be too upset about the free publicity their product received, though the item shown on television was about 500% larger than the actual unit. (Didn’t I tell you that they get everything wrong?)

It’s not my purpose to defend Fox News: their problems and virtues are manifest to anyone who watches them with an open mind. I enjoy their broadcasts, and also enjoy their pro-American bias; I’m not ashamed of that. ABCs straw-man conflation of patriotism, jingoism and Republicanism aside, they present the same news as every other network, but lacking the sour tones I hear other networks use when speaking about people I respect.

Basically, this entire case could have been solved by a very simple expedient: principal Foxhater (or whatever his character’s name was) might want to consider turning the TV's off. While it seems unlikely that students would voluntarily choose to watch a news broadcast instead of, say, MTV, classroom time could probably be put to better use.

Though it's really too much to expect a TV show to espouse such a radical position.

TV Family Tree

11:10 AM Feb 27, 2004by Rob Ritchie

I’ve noticed something rather strange over the last few weeks about the sitcoms that I watch. Because of their penchant to use (and re-use) guest stars in various family roles, it is possible to see the characters of many sitcoms as members of a large, dysfunctional, family.

For example, on NBC’s show Will and Grace the boozy character Karen (Megan Mulally) has an equally boozy mother, played by Suzanne Pleshette. This was pretty good casting, since they look as if they could be related.

Ah, but wait. On ABC’s Eight Simple Rules, after the death of John Ritter’s character, Cate’s folks come by to comfort her and the kids. Cate’s father is played by James Garner, while her mother is, you guessed it, Suzanne Pleshette. Thus it is revealed that Karen, from Will & Grace, is Cate’s sister (or, at least, half-sister). James Garner moves in with her daughter (he’s separated from Suzanne Pleshette), and later cousin C.J (David Spade) does as well. Garner doesn’t like his grandson Spade, because he is feckless and disrespectful, but acknowledges their family relationship.

In a previous season of Eight Simple Rules, they introduced Kate’s wild sister, played by Cybill Shepherd. It is implied, though not stated, that C.J. is her son, and considering her irresponsibility, it is not that big a jump. So, Cybill, Cate and Karen are all sisters, the children of James Garner and Suzzane Pleshette.

But this week, another shocker was revealed! On ABC’s hit show I’m With Her Cybill Shepherd was revealed as Alex and Cheri’s mother! That would make Suzanne Pleshette their grandmother, Cate and Karen their aunts, C.J. their brother and the kids from “8 Rules” their cousins!

What is particularly strange about all this is that this large extended TV family acts as if they are completely oblivious to each other! It’s almost as if they were living separate lives!

It’s really sad when families don’t get along. But it can make for some entertaining television.

Angel's Last Season

10:46 AM Feb 18, 2004by Rob Ritchie

A statement from The WB:

We have discussed continuing the Angel legacy with special movie events next year, which is still on the table. In a perfect world, all of these details would be completed before this information went to the press so that we could be definitive about the show's ongoing future. But in any case, we did not want to contemplate this being the last year of Angel without giving the show the option of crafting their own destiny for this character and for this series.

Well, I can't say this is totally unexpected.

Hat tip: Chris via email


3:54 PM Sep 24, 2003by Rob Ritchie

Angel premeres October 1st. Spike is back, as well as Harmony.

Here's the link to WB

11:02 AM Sep 23, 2003

by Rob Ritchie

As you may have guessed, I am not a PBS man.

When I was in collage, of course, I watched it in the evenings in order to catch 'Monty Python', 'Good Neighbors' and shows of that ilk. But as I grew older I drifted away, mostly because their content shifted into another direction as well. Ultimately, I never looked at that column of the TV schedule.

Luckily, my wife pays more attention.

We've been watching Mystery! Inspector Linley and enjoying them quite a bit. I've read a few of these novels, and found them a bit dark for my taste, but Donna loves them.

We have found the presentations true to the spirit of the books, though their choice of actresses for both Helen and Havers differs so wildly from their literary namesakes it makes us wonder if the director was even familiar with the characters. The mysteries are truly mysterious and the atmosphere both sordid and fun.

If they are playing where you are, set your VCR and enjoy them. If you like that sort thing, you should like this sort of thing.

Firefly Movie

5:19 PM Sep 5, 2003by Rob Ritchie

They are going to make a movie of Firefly!

This was a wonderful show from last year that was cancelled (unfairly) after a few episodes.

I am so stoked!

7:12 PM Sep 4, 2003

by Rob Ritchie

OK, this was stuck at the bottom Reynold's post referenced earlier, but it's so great, it gets a promotion.

Why Buffy Kicked Ass

Buffy assumes and enacts the consensus moral understanding of contemporary American culture, the moral understanding that the wise men ignored or forgot. This understanding depends on no particular religious tradition. It’s informed not by revelation but by experience. It is inclusive and humane, without denying distinctions or the tough facts of life. There are lots of jokes in Buffy -- humor itself is a moral imperative -- but no psychobabble and no excuses.
Read. Enjoy.