Category Archives: Theater


I know that I often talk about (and complain about) the liberal skew of Hollywood productions. Which I think is fair, but I should also point out when they do something I would like to see more of. I had an email exchange recently about politics and entertainment which reminded me of a post I’d long wanted to write about The Good Wife. This post assumes that you have not watched the show, and don’t care to, and will have some relatively inconsequential (or predictable) spoilers.

The basic premise behind The Good Wife is Alicia Florek as a protagonists whose husband is caught in a sexy political scandal, forcing her to transition from a Stay-At-Home-Mother back into the workplace, in this case a law firm. For the most part, though, it’s a political and legal drama with Alicia at the center of it, both in court and with her husband on the political stage.

The show takes place in Chicago, which means that almost all of its politics are going to be skewed to the left. Along these lines, it would have been easy and inconspicuous for conservatives to be notably absent and their view either unrepresented or poorly represented and liberal perspectives to be embedded in the show across the board. For the most part, this is how the show ran for the first few seasons. Though even early on, there were exceptions and indications that they weren’t going to stick with that formula.

The show had (basically) three elections over its run, with almost all of the participants being Democrats because Chicago. In all but one race[1], the Floreks found themselves up against somebody running to their left. This served to moderate the Floreks, comparatively speaking, as they pursued white and/or centrist voters[2]. This lead to a decent plot thread wherein a member of the Florek family figured out that they were targeting the white vote specifically against his black opponent. But it introduced a degree of ambiguity that served the show well.

Sometimes shows with politics to go out of their way to make all of the bad guys Republicans[3]. They managed to avoid that by recognizing that when they needed an unexpected racist that it might be better to make him a progressive liberal that everybody in the office looked up to. Little things like that matter, especially given “Family Values Republican actually a sexual deviant” is more a cliche than a twist, at this point.

They also introduced Kurt McVeigh (no relation), a reasonably well-developed rightwing character. He was introduced as a ballistics expert, but became the romantic interest to Diane, the most liberal character on the show. Setting aside political preferences and such, it interwove liberal and conservative characters in a way that I would really like to see more of. It’s not just about having different perspectives represented, but it makes for more entertaining television when everybody in the room doesn’t share the same basic orientation.

Where the show really hit its stride in this regard was in the later seasons, when I think they were running out of ideas to keep the show going. Among other things, they brought in Oliver Platt as a conservative character who hired the firm and used Diane to bounce ideas off of. This lead to a great episode where they talked about RFRA and gay wedding cakes. Platt and company talked about the prospects of a cake baker, and eventually isolated a wedding planner as the best case to find and bring suit. Diane, who fell squarely on the side of gay couples, got the last word. But nonetheless it was well done. And from there, Diane went on to help one of Platt’s intermediaries with a PP Video case that she viewed as a First Amendment issue, much to the chagrin of everybody else at the firm.

Though the above may give a faulty impression, The Good Wife falls squarely to the left, on the whole. But impressive-to-me, they never let that get in the way of telling a good or interesting story. I have multiple motivations for getting on my soapbox on the subject, but the most basic reason I want to see more variety is simply because it can make better stories that way. The legal aspects of The Practice were better than Boston Legal simply by having Helen Gamble (Laura Flynn Boyle) on the show[4]. This doesn’t just apply to legal and political dramas (for those in particular, a skew usually makes narrative sense and there is only one skew they can pull off), but more or less anything where politics is likely to come up.

[1] The exception was the Illinois Governor’s race, wherein Peter was running against Maura Tierney, who was running to his left, and then a general election against Matthew Perry, who played an ideologically nondescript Republican.

[2] Everything in this post is a simplification. They actually spent more time pursuing the black vote, with Peter forming a bond with a black preacher, and so on. But there were two plot threads wherein the Floreks pursued voters that at least some participants were uncomfortable with. Peter’s dogwhistling and later Alicia’s run against a rumored-to-be-gay David Hyde Pierce.

[3] One example, The Event, had a protagonist president and an antagonist vice president, so what were they to do? Why, they decided to make it a unity ticket. That way, the president could be a intimated Democrat and the vice president a Republican. Presto!

[4] Boston Legal did have a couple of conservative characters, but more as foils than anything. Denny Crane was crazy, and Brad Chase was ineffectual. It was – until the end, anyway – better than nothing, but it was what it was.

Category: Theater

One of the few football coaches I follow on Twitter is Mark Mangino, the former head coach of Kansas who was sacked after a moderate scandal but mostly because he was fat and unpleasant. He’s lost a lot of the weight, but as far as being unpleasant goes, well… he takes to mocking the schools that have fired him on Twitter. That’s… something coaches almost never do. He’s been going after Kansas for a while, though last year he was fired by Iowa State (as a coordinator) mid-season. Iowa State lost to FCS Northern Iowa, and he retweeted a potshot. Actually, it might not have been so bad if not for last year.

I suspect he’s not going to be on the radar for any good jobs any time soon. Which is a shame, because he’s a pretty great coach. (And his bitterness is not unjustified, particularly at Kansas, which has won an average of two games a season since he was tossed.)

A few seasons back, Southern Tech had a tremendously bad season opener. Deltona Poly is one of those schools we should never, ever lose to. We had a mostly new coaching staff and a new quarterback. But not only did we lose, we lost badly. It wasn’t even close. While head coach Harvey Fulbright was not a brilliant coach, he was brilliant in doing one thing: before he took over, he purchased The next day, there was a picture of him and the team with the words “Relax. It’s just one game.”

Fulbright did, however, fire his new offensive coordinator. After one game. Offensive coordinator John Breuk spent the rest of the season on a paid vacation, and then the next season got a job at a Division II school as a coordinator. As it happened, a scandal pre-dating his tenure erupted there, and suddenly he was a head coach. He went 11-3 and made the tournament final. The offense did very well.

Flash forward a couple of years and Fulbright needs another offensive coordinator. It became a common joke that there is this Division II coach who is really pretty good and maybe we should hire him! Just one problem…

When Fulbright got canned, we were in the market for a head coach. One coach that was mentioned pretty regularly was the head coach at Cal State. He seemed rather particular about what head coach job he would be willing to take, but he played football as a Southern Tech Packer. So maybe he would reconsider? Oh, yeah, he played for Southern Tech because his father was the head coach, and he was fired in a pretty messy situation. We were invited to a bowl game and he refused to coach it. His tenure at our school had kind of ruined Dad’s head coaching career. So nobody was surprised when he declined to interview.


I thought of these stories this weekend as there were a couple of instances of coaches who were fired getting the last laugh.

The first is Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who was something of a fall guy at Kentucky when the Wildcats had a bad season last year. This year, Southern Miss opened up against Kentucky:

Dawson’s new team Southern Miss just happened to open at Kentucky, and the Wildcats jumped out to a 35-10 second quarter lead.

But Dawson’s Eagles offense moved 84 yards in three plays just before the half to pull within 35-17. Then they marched 84 yards to open the second half, and now the score was 35-24. And then Southern Miss moved 66 yards in eight plays to pull within 35-31.

On its next possession, Southern Miss again found the end zone, marking four straight touchdowns to turn a 35-10 lead into a 38-35 advantage.

Kentucky finally slowed down the Flying Shannon Dawsons on their final two possessions — sort of. Both traveled more than 50 yards, and both ended in field goals.

Overall, Southern Miss moved 409 yards over 55 plays and six possessions, producing 34 points over that span.

A more high-profile example was Lane Kiffin, who was infamously fired on a tarmac at LAX coming home from a game. He’s the offensive coordinator at Alabama, who just handed USC their worst loss in a very long time:

You might think Alabama’s play on the field Saturday night would do all the talking its offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin needed to say.

Fifty-two points, 223 passing yards (most of which came on the arm of true freshman Jalen Hurts), 242 rushing yards and 7.4 yards per play tend to say a lot.

So does your Twitter account, especially when you have 136,000 followers.

So on Sunday, after handing his former employer its worst opening day loss since the 19th century, Kiffin took a direct shot at USC with a hashtag that has surely never been used before, nor will ever be used again.

Kiffen never holstered his gun and ran up the score as much as he could. Which I, of course, have no problem so long as you let your backups play. And as the article mentioned, after the game he got another shot in:

Category: Theater

Category: Espresso, Theater

I kid you not, yesterday I started two posts, one of which that was supposed to go up today.

The first involved Blue Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter, and the intersection between the two. The opening point, which I had actually written, involved an argument about how blue lives actually are more important than black ones and white ones, in a manner of speaking. (The second part, which I haven’t yet written, would go on to explain the limits of this idea and how we have extended beyond them.)

The second involves the sense of glee that some people feel for the Pitchfork Comeuppance. The notion that “they” (a political group on the opposite side of an issue) didn’t listen and now people are taking this up with threats of violence. And sure enough, at least a few people early on made comments about how this, the violence, is why police need to reform. Which is right, in a way, and also wrong. But it’s been deployed by all sides. Last night is a reminder that it’s not a completely abstract argument.

Anyway, I have to decide what to do with those posts. Neither will come up today. In lieu of that, I will simply post the song of the moment.

Category: Theater

Gaby Dunn complains about a common practice in media:

Not too long ago, I was desperate for paid work, so I gave away a lot of my ideas and rights. In 2013 I was a staff writer for the website Thought Catalog and they asked me if they could publish a book of my previously published TC essays. An editor and I put it together while I was a salaried employee for no extra money. I did not receive any bonus or commission on sales of the book. But wow! I had gotten to publish a book! Incredible! Three years later, I no longer work at TC. I am more well-known and have more fans. These fans find the book and excitedly purchase it thinking they’re supporting me. But I don’t see any of that money. The more high-profile I become, the more the book sells for Thought Catalog.

After that, I got hired at Buzzfeed, and it happened again. I was hired first as on-camera talent and then as a scripted series writer. I was excited to have a steady writing gig and thrilled by the $55,000 annual salary. Before being hired there, I had no idea the company had a huge YouTube presence, but I thought I’d stay a couple of months, find another industry gig, and peace out. I ended up staying eight months because the non-compete caused me to turn down other work and meetings that might have led to other work. There was a constant push-and-pull about how much we could do outside of Buzzfeed and how much other projects would take time from our full-time jobs. Even the concept of “time” was up for debate. I stayed because I felt trapped.

I went into it not entirely prepared to be sympathetic, but I thought she actually made some good points and the terms of “employment” really do seem excessive. Perhaps it can be chalked up to “the market at work” but at some point we’re going to miss our on talent if enough people actually start reading and considering the contracts.

Now, let me put on my White Male hat for a moment and say one thing about it… the focus on the demographic triumvirate (women, persons of color, LGBTQ was really something of a distraction, and I suspect lessens rather than expands the impact of the piece. Throughout the article, Dunn talks about how those groups are especially impacted. The contents of the article really are pretty important for anybody to understand, and the problem is a problem for anybody in media. The demographic framing runs the risk of telling others either “This is not something you want to worry about” or generally making them less sympathetic because they are on the “wrong” side of this. People who jump to the latter conclusion are not acting as their ideal selves… but most of the time, most people don’t.

Category: Theater

Here are some actors reading for parts in The Office:

It’s hard to say for sure since there is almost certainly some status quo bias going on, but I think they largely made the right choices.

Seth Rogan is very unimpressive as Dwight, but Judah Friedlander (who played Frank on 30 Rock) could totally have pulled it off in the direction I think he would have taken the part.

Bob Odinkirk is a good Michael Scott, but we knew that because he played a doppleganger in a late episode of the season.

Adam Scott was passable as Jim.

Category: Theater

Monk fight! Monk fight!:

Which reminds me of this great Adam Carroll song, Bubble Gum or Bad Kharma:

Category: Theater

This reminds me of the sweat equity arrangement my friend got in on. Basically he and a bunch of other people all worked together to build their houses. Then they got to move in without a down payment and with a reasonable mortgage.

Source: Tradition and teamwork are awe-inspiring in this Amish barn raising time-lapse | Aeon Videos

Category: Theater

AMC theaters were toying with the notion of allowing texting in theaters. The response was overwhelmingly negative, and so they ditched the idea pretty quickly.

Which I actually think might be a shame.

To be clear, I completely understand why people don’t want other people texting or fiddling with their phones during movies. I can definitely understand the visceral reaction that a lot of people had. Further, I myself have no particular desire to text in theaters. I wouldn’t mind, however, being able to get on IMDB and finding out who that actress is who looks so familiar. Three minutes on the smartphone can get me undistracted from the rest of the movie!

It’s not that, when I first heard the idea, that I had my heart set on it. I can also pretty easily imagine a constant beeping and buzzing being a distraction from the film. So i’m not entirely sure whether it’s an option that I would take advantage of or not. It is something I might want to try.

The original plan was not to roll it out in every theater, so consumers would have the option of going to a texting showing or a non-texting showing. Enforcement may be a problem, but the theater was willing to take that on. So why not give it a try and see what develops?

A lot of bad publicity is why not, apparently.

Category: Theater
Artwork by Zontal

Artwork by Zontal

Over There, have a post about complaints about The Whiteness of Westeros. If Hollywood diversity, or Game of Thrones, is your thing, feel free to check it out. You can comment about it here if you prefer. Over here I wanted to talk about something I glide over in that post.

Ross Douthat has a mini-tweetstorm about some of the less “realistic” aspects of Game of Thrones. The whole thing is below, but this is the one that sets the stage for most of what is to follow:

Ultimately, you just have to ignore the scale. Everything he says about the amazing homogeneity for a place of that scale is true. But that’s only the beginning of the problems that it presents.

Though he goes on to talk about the remarkable political stability of the dynasties on Westeros, that’s only a part of the dynastic problem. The bigger problem is that there is simply no way for one royal family to maintain control over a land more than twice as large as the US (including Alaska) without an army of dragons. As soon as the dragons died off, everything would have crumbled. Since the Targaryens didn’t intermarry much, they wouldn’t have even been able to count on that sort of loyalty. The Barratheons might have had a little more success, but most likely as soon as the Targaryens were gone they’d be looking at a formal confederacy (where the king is trying to stay in the good graces of the regions rather than the other way around) or perpetual war as they tried to hold on to multiple would-be kingdoms breaking off at once.

Many other aspects of the story also wouldn’t have worked, with trips taking days or weeks in Westeros that would have taken years across South America. There are so many things about the story that work with something roughly the size of Great Britain that don’t work with something the size of South America that by far the path of least resistence is to assume that the there was an error in translation.

The size serves next to no purpose story-wise other than feeding into Martin’s sense of gradiosity. The figure itself was derived by calculating the size of The Wall. It’s easier to simply imagine that the size of the wall was a miscalculation.

And here’s Ross’s tweetstorm:

Category: Theater


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