Archive for May, 2011

A (partial) defense of History Channel


The announcement that History Channel will air a 10-hour scripted series based on the Bible, just a few months after very publicly rejecting a miniseries about the Kennedy family on the grounds of historically inaccuracy, is raising some eyebrows. James Poniewozik of, astute as ever, sums up the case well.


As a committed agnostic, I’m sympathetic to the argument that the Bible shouldn’t be regarded as a work of history in the sense that it accurately relates real world events which occurred in the past. Few but the most devout fundamentalists would argue otherwise.

But it’s absolutely a work of history in another sense. It’s a cultural artifact of rare significance spanning continents and millennia, on par with the Odyssey or Arthurian legend. It’s an ineffable, protean amalgam of historical truths, parables, cultural prisms, and good old-fashioned storytelling flair.


This makes it an altogether different case than that of The Kennedys, which sought to dramatize factual events – recorded, verified, remembered by plenty of people who lived through them first hand. Taking creative liberties with that sort of dictionary-definition history clearly runs afoul of History Channel’s nominal brand identity. I don’t think dramatizing the Bible falls under the same standard, and I similarly don’t think anyone would bat an eye if History announced it was producing a scripted tale of, for instance, Arthur’s exploits in Camelot.

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Categories: Commentary, History, Pop Culture, TV

Place your bets, Windy City

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has gone on the record supporting a casino in Chicago, an idea which has also been previously endorsed by new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Whether this long-discussed, often-thwarted plan ever becomes a reality remains to be seen. But any gambling enterprise that may set up shop in my hometown would be wise to tap into the parochial nature of Second Citizens. Might I suggest a few locally-flavored odds for future Chicago bookies to consider.

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Categories: Humor, Local / Chicago

Ending On A High Note: A Few Great Season Finales

The 2010-2011 network TV season draws to a close this month, sending us out into invigorating, socially well-adjusted, outdoor summer evenings (okay, fine, sending us flipping over to repeats and catch-ups on Netflix). In honor of this bittersweet time, let’s talk favorite season finales.

By no means is this meant to be a best-of-all-time catalog, since I can’t pretend to have seen all sixty years worth of television (careful observers will note that all of these episodes aired in the last two decades). Nor is this even a comprehensive list of my personal favorites. I have no doubt that I’m omitting some wonderful specimens from shows I love – Cheers and Homicide: Life On The Street come to mind – but which I simply haven’t seen recently enough to recall sharply. I’m also excluding series finales, which aren’t fair to compare given their built-in emotional triggers.

So, feel free to jump into the comments and share your own favorite, and tell me exactly why I’m an irredeemable soulless idiot for leaving it off the list.

(Oh, do I even need to add that spoilers follow? Well, this is the Internet, so yes. Yes I do.)

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Categories: Pop Culture, TV

Buffett vs. Scott – The Tale of the Tape

The season finale of The Office, already stuffed to the gills with prayers for view-errr, I mean, guest stars, recently added investment mogul Warren Buffett to the roster of famous people who will jockey for the resume jewel of managing northeastern Pennsylvania’s most famous branch office. The Sage of Omaha is as hallowed a name as there is in American business, but he’s known primarily as a savvy investor rather than a leader of men and women. So how would he stack up against the man he’d be replacing, veteran manager Michael Scott? Let’s go to the tale of the tape:

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Categories: Business, History, TV

Anti-Superman screeds are wrong – but not because Superman’s fictional

The hysterical kerfuffle over the latest issue of Action Comics, in which Superman renounces his American citizenship, has predictably inspired a huge amount of jingoistic blathering. And of course there have been plenty of calm, well-reasoned rebuttals from people who actually understand the point of the story and who aren’t, y’know, morons.

But one counter-argument I’ve heard around the Twittersphere – partly in jest, partly not – basically amounts to, “Calm down, Superman’s not real.” There are many valid reasons to reject the anti-Superman screeds, but this isn’t one of them. If you believe that fiction has a serious role to play in demonstrating and shaping societal values, then it’s perfectly reasonable to be angered by a work of fiction that seems to spit in the face of the values you cherish – or worse, one you once regarded as sharing your values which suddenly seems to upend or reject them.

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