Tag Archives: gossip girl

Muppets and Threesomes

Last week, Gossip Girl sparked a national controversy with its highly publicized threesome episode. The ménage a trois between Dan, Vanessa, and Lizzy McGuire wasn’t rated NC-17, but it did prompt the Parents’ Television Council to release the following statement: “The CW Network’s behavior was grossly irresponsible by adding a story line where a sexual threesome was to be celebrated as some sort of ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers.”

The PTC, of course, assumes that TV can compel teens to have grossly irresponsible, drunken threesomes with former Disney stars. (This is the same group that blames violence on cop shows, and homosexuality on the purple Teletubby).  But, if TV can force savvy teenagers into triple sex with Triple Sec, then just imagine what it can do to soft-brained children!  The entire fate of our kids’ future could be determined by remote control roulette: if the channel lands on Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, our kids will end up with 4.0 GPAs and full rides to college… if the channel lands instead on Keeping up with the Kardashians, they’ll end up with huge asses and gold chains.

In my own personal experience, I attribute my Commie ties to hours of watching Sesame Street when growing up (“sharing is caring”).  My adoration for Ernie and Bert, the ambiguously gay duo, also led me to have a soft spot for guys with clashing outfits.  And from watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, I naturally grew trusting of old men in cardigans who wanted to be my neighbor. (“Let’s watch Mr. Rogers slowly take off his cable-knit sweater!  Isn’t this fun?”)

So understandably, I fell victim to the power of television once again — after last week’s Gossip Girl episode, I immediately googled Shia LaBeouf to see if he might be interested in accomplishing a rite of passage.  I found out that the pilot episode of LaBeouf’s Disney hit Even Stevens was called “Swap”…  So, he’s in!  Anyone want to volunteer to be #3?

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When Television Gets Bad, It Gets Ugly

I think TV is like Thai food — it’s either really good, or horrendously bad.  However, unlike pad thai dripped with e.coli, sometimes I can’t tell when a show is bad.  I keep on tuning in, watching week after week, until the evil hits me straight in the face, like Chris Brown.  Afterwards, at least I can see the crap that I’ve put up with for so long. 

gossip girl 5Every bad show has a breaking point, where it turns into an abusive, sick-inducing pile of garbage.  The O.C. went downhill once Marissa became a lesbian.  Grey’s Anatomy kicked the bucket once Izzy started sleeping with the ghost of her dead husband.  And The Hills was always terrible, although it became even more unbearable once Kristin showed up. 

For me, all of these shows died at critical inflection points: lesbianism, ghosts, and annoying skankbags.  And after watching Gossip Girl tonight, I’m beginning to wonder if GG is heading towards the junkyard too.  This week’s episode featured more inbred infighting (yawn), lovechild drama (yawn), and some creepy old people singing (Sonic Youth is an ironic name for a tone-deaf band of geezers).  The teaser for next week’s Gossip Girl featured backroom gambling.  As if Blair Waldorf would ever set foot in a room with bad lighting.  Come on. 

Sometimes I feel like I know the characters better than they know themselves.  Marissa isn’t a lesbian!  Blair wouldn’t gamble!  But the TV writers come up with such creative ways to make us believe that it could work: blame it on the al-a-a-al-a-alcohol, baby.  Or, blame it on a brain tumor.  Or, blame it on the need for a blonde reality star to serve as the center of Prada-loving Satan’s attention.

In either case, I would like to bid farewell to Gossip Girl, the latest member of the bad TV crowd to show its true colors.   And just for the record, I can’t really tell when my pad thai is swimming with e.coli either.  So I suppose the analogy is better than I thought.

And on a completely random, unrelated note: if you want a stomach-turning experience, please see this terrifying Tabasco commercial with pepperoni faces.  For some reason, it really creeps me out.  I will never eat pizza again.

 

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Trying to Find People Who Look Like Me in Network Television

In February, I wrote a post about the lack of diversity on TV: Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Here is my assessment of this fall’s new TV lineup.  It looks like we’ve made some improvements over the winter season (although I slightly altered my methodology as well).

Below is a chart of all the primetime offerings on the five major networks, for every day except for Saturday.  I excluded all news, reality, and variety shows.  A few shows have not aired, so I used the highly scientific approach of racial profiling on their websites.

Here are my findings:

  • brothersfox68% of all primetime network TV programming is scripted.
  • Of the scripted shows, 75% have at least one minority character in the cast.
  • However, only 4 shows had minority leads: Trauma, Ugly Betty, Brothers, and The Cleveland Show (which is a cartoon).   Only one of these four (Trauma) is on during the “prime” week, Monday to Thursday.
  • There were three cop shows with a minority co-lead (all African-American): CSI, Law & Order, and NCIS: Los Angeles.  And there were just two ensemble casts which featured more than 3 minorities as significant supporting characters: Heroes and Grey’s Anatomy.  All of these shows are highlighted in dark orange below.
  • how-i-met-your-motherThere were several shows which featured no minority presence at all, including popular hits like How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, and Brothers and Sisters.
  • Of all the days of the week, Thursday had the most minority characters featured on television (on 91% of all shows).
  • Out of all the networks, NBC had the most diverse casts (100%), followed by CBS (75%), Fox (72%), ABC (71%), and the CW (63%).  (Of course, now that NBC has Jay Leno on at 10, it has fewer hours to fill with original programming.)
  • Just 58% of all shows have a “significant minority presence,” with more than two minority cast members – these shows are highlighted in orange and dark orange below.

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Of course, you don’t need diversity in your cast to have a good show.  Friends, Seinfeld, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Cosby Show are all examples… But, it is interesting how we haven’t seen a successful show featuring only minority characters since Fresh Prince.  And it’s also interesting how it seems that minority lead characters are either paired up in buddy roles, or simply relegated to Friday and Sunday nights.  I’m sure cable has something to do with it… but then, that begs the question: is network TV “too white”, or is it just mirroring its audience?  Are minority audiences going to niche channels (like BET) instead?

Network TV won’t be able to capture every demo… but the implications of a television whiteout could have an impact on how it’s viewed in the years to come.

 

Note: I don’t watch all of the shows, so please let me know if you think I’ve overlooked any characters.  And yes — there are some shows like Glee, which have minority characters, although I don’t consider them “significant” supporting cast members.  But if you beg to differ, please share your thoughts below.

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The Worst White Collar Job in the World

Amongst my fellow college graduates, competition is often fierce in the game of “Who Has the Worst Job?”.  Here is my no-judgment, completely unbiased opinion:

  • Lawyers are slimy, rambling chest-beaters who cover up the misdeeds of their unscrupulous clients with ten-dollar words, and sometimes, poems. (“If the glove does not fit…”)
  • Investment bankers are coked up work fiends who enjoy only two activities: #1) making money, and #2) making it rain at the club.  With TARP bills.
  • Salesmen of any kind (from credit default swaps to lawnmowers) are slick, lying, swindlers who tapdance along the edge of deceit and pure evil.

Of course, these stereotypes (or some might argue, facts) only implicate the employee, rather than the profession itself.  So, if I were to only consider the job, this is what I would deem the Worst White-Collar Job in the World (that last part is to be said in an over-dramatic, Keith Olbermann way):

  • Accountants are mundane, humorless bean counters who wear argyle sweater vests and track how much money John Thain spends on redecorating his bathroom.

accountantSo, here is the rationale behind my distaste for accounting.  Over the past two years, I’ve worked in corporate finance at a large firm, where I’ve had to learn a lot of accounting.  I’ve been enlightened to the wonders of debits and credits, account receivables and payables, controllership, compliance, FASB and GAAP.  It is about as interesting as it sounds.  In general, the accountants that I’ve worked with are very nice, diligent people.  But the actual job is dreadfully boring: balancing the balance sheet, reconciling accounts, and performing audit checks.  By the second week of learning about proper T-accounting, I was ready to wring someone’s neck with an argyle sweater vest.

Another example of the staid accounting life: One day, I was out with a few colleagues at lunch.  A fellow co-worker mentioned that she had been doing SOX testing (which is short for Sarbanes-Oxley, the regulatory legislation that spawned from WorldCom, Enron, and Tyco).  “SOX testing, huh?”  I said, “So what’s better… wool or cotton?”

Silence.

I thought it was funny.

gabrielgossipgirlIn the end, just as lawyers, bankers, or salesmen are necessary, I know that accountants are necessary.  Madoff, Stanford, and other Ponzi schemers (like Gabriel from Gossip Girl) might have been stopped if they’d been scrutinized by some badass accountants. We need accountants to make sure our scummy salesmen aren’t recording fraudulent trades.  We need them to tally up how much TARP money is being thrown at strippers in the club.  We need them to confirm that our financial statements are accurate, so we can determine how to best price our cotton socks.

And hey, having the worst white-collar job in the world is likely preferable to roofing houses, waiting tables, or not having a job at all… Then again, if accounting is going to lead you down a homicidal path (hide the sweater vests!), you might think about selling lawnmowers for a living instead.

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Diversity in TV Shows Today… Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Update 4/7/09: Well, there goes another one.  Goodbye to Kal Penn’s Dr. Kutner.  He’s moving on to another House, one of far greater prominence.

Update 2/18/09: Yesterday’s article in the LA Times reports on the diversity phenomenon in television… While the Times may have a different definition of “lead character” than I do, the message is still the same: Diverse characters just aren’t found in scripted programming these days.

On my way to work on Monday, I told a co-worker that I had seen He’s Just Not That Into You over the weekend. “It looks cute,” my co-worker said, “But I don’t want to see it on principle… it’s too white. Where are all the minorities?”

Let’s see: in the movie, all the primary characters were… white. All the couplings… white. All the love connections… white. There were a few gay men who were minorities, and Justin Long did make out with a black girl, but other than that, the movie was one long, bad, whitewashed chick flick.

Strangely, even as a minority myself, I didn’t notice that the cast was all white before I went to the theater. However, my co-worker’s stand resounded with me (she, by the way, is white). Our country is supposed to be a “melting pot” — our minority populations are growing — and oh, our President is black. So why is Hollywood so white?

Entertainment Weekly ran a story a few months ago about diversity in entetainment: “Why is TV so white?”

There was a time when diversity seemed to come naturally to prime time. The social consciousness of the ’70s spawned successful sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son; the ’80s brought living-in-harmony comedy Diff’rent Strokes and the ultimate breakthrough TV family on The Cosby Show

After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles.

So I decided to take a look at the current TV lineup to see just how white it actually is. I went through all the network shows in primetime, excluding all reality/news programming. For the shows that I didn’t personally watch, the litmus test was whether the show’s website included pictures of diverse characters on their main page.

From there, I color-coded all the shows that featured the following:(1)

minorityreport

Based on thorough scouring of show websites, and operating under the assumption that some cartoon characters were meant to be white, what I found confirmed the EW report and my co-worker’s concerns.(2) (Of course, I don’t have 90 hours a week to carefully watch each show for its contribution to diversity, so feel free to email me with anything I’ve missed or gotten wrong.)

Out of 90 hours of primetime programming per week, there are 32.5 hours dedicated to reality TV, news, or Sunday night movies. Of the remaining 57.5 hours of scripted series:

  • Shows with ANY minority primary characters: 13.5 hours (Heroes, Scrubs, 90210, Law & Order, Lost, 30 Rock, ER, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, My Name is Earl, Friday Night Lights, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game, Desperate Housewives, The Unit, The Simpsons)
  • Shows with MULTIPLE minority primary characters or leads: 6.5 hours (Heroes, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, ER, Private Practice… and this is counting ABC’s double-airing of Lost on Wednesdays)
  • Shows with a LEAD minority character: 3 hours (Ugly Betty, The Unit, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game)

tvmatrix1

So, out of the 57.5 hours of scripted programming, 76% of this programming features all-white leading casts. Only 4 shows have minority lead characters, and two of them air on Friday nights on the CW.

Finally, just some parting thoughts on diversity in entertainment:

  • Derek and Meredith, Jim and Pam, Kate and Jack/Sawyer… We’ve seen interracial couples flow seamlessly through the Grey’s Anatomy plotlines, but how many other shows have done it? Even in the diverse ensemble casts, why does the main love story/central relationship in the show always feature only one race? I’m not talking about flings, I’m talking about the Ross and Rachels… makes me wonder.
  • The lack of diversity isn’t limited to network TV either… some of the hottest shows on cable (Burn Notice, Damages, The Closer) and pay TV (Entourage, Californication, Big Love) are lily white.
  • A show featuring a minority family has not earned broad mass appeal in more than a decade. Has something systemically changed in our audience today? Are we more or less racially polarized? How would the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show do today? How would The George Lopez Show or The Bernie Mac Show have done then?
  • Will we ever see a show with an Asian lead on network TV?

(1) Lead character(s): The main storylines are centered around this/these character(s). They serve as the face of the show, and are featured in every episode. With a show like House, the lead character would obviously be Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House. In Grey’s Anatomy, the lead would be Meredith Grey. Even though it is an ensemble cast, she provides the voice-over and has the sickeningly cute doctor-boyfriend. Similarly, in The Office, it would be Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott… in 30 Rock, Tina Fey… etc.
Primary character(s): Not every show has primary characters who are not leads. Primary characters are mostly part of an ensemble cast where their characters also have a backstory that is shared with the viewer. Examples: Jenny in Gossip Girl, Hurley in Lost, Jim and Pam on The Office… etc.
(2) In this exercise, I did not look for minority secondary characters because I figured that most shows did have diversity in this sense, per the EW quote above.

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Oh, Womanizer, Oh, You’re a Womanizer Baby

Over the years, we’ve always had a soft spot for the bad boys, the jocks, the rebels, and the reformed. There was something about the guys’ guy that whet our appetite for a challenge. The reluctant hero beguiled us, and the tortured soul tugged on our heartstrings. The ultra macho he-men made us want to watch Bowflex commercials on repeat. These are the men who made us laugh, made us cry, and made us want to take them home. They compelled us ladies to demand nothing less than a great sense of humor and an eight-pack of abs.

Of course, even if we didn’t have AC Slater’s pecs, we made up for it with Pacey’s charm. Or Dylan’s earnestness. Or Ryan’s from-the-streets sensibilities. Either way, the heartthrobs from 90210, Saved by the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, and The O.C. refined our collective taste for good men. If guys wanted a lady in the street but a freak in the sheets, then girls wanted chocolate bonbons: hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.

badboys

With all their personality, charisma, and good looks, our favorite bad boys always got the girl in the end. Dylan finally reconciled with Kelly, Slater stuck with pill-poppin’ Jessie, Joey chose Pacey, and Ryan… well, that show crashed and burned after season 3, so it’s fair to say that barring car chases and death, Ryan got Marissa.

greysgeorgeconquestsgreysgeorgeBut nowadays, a new group of men have replaced the earnest anti-heroes of the past. Our enigmatic soul searchers have given way to male characters who, well, just can’t keep it in their pants. There’s George (T.R. Knight) from Grey’s Anatomy, the awkward, bumbly intern at Seattle Grace who has inexplicably slept with more female leads than the character they call McSteamy (Eric Dane). Three to two, Dr. Sloan. Then there’s Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), the feel-bad-for-me rich kid from the Upper East Side, who has slept with all three of the teenage female leads on Gossip Girl… and there are four in total. Don’t feel bad for little J, though — she made out with Nate earlier this season (Jenny’s brother broke it up before they could get too serious). Now that Nate’s 4/4 with the young girls, we’ll see if he moves on to the mothers soon… If you watch the show, you know that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

ggnatesconquestsWith George knocking boots with half the female doctors in Seattle, and Nate batting 1.000 while still in high school, it got me thinking… what happened? Is it a sign of the times that we demand philandering doctors and promiscuous pretty boys? Does the 18-34 demographic really want to see these guys rotating through the female leads like cowboys at the rodeo?

Perhaps our standards have loosened. Or maybe we’re just championing a character that we haven’t quite embraced before. Indeed, nothing deifies a new persona like a Britney Spears song…

It seems womanizers are the champion of the new young and hip generation. But personally, I’m not ready to let go of my chocolate bonbons yet — I’d rather stick to the hardened softie, the one-woman Ryan Atwood, over the womanizing polygamist Nate Archibald.  Because if you trade in a good thing for a mystery box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…  what disease, that is.  XOXO.

Daddy-O / You got the swagger of champion
Too bad for you / Just can’t find the right companion
I guess when you have one too many, makes it hard / It could be easy
Who you are, that’s who you are, baby

Womanizer, Woman-Womanizer / You’re a womanizer
Oh womanizer, Oh / You’re a womanizer, baby
You, you, you are / You, you, you are
Womanizer, womanizer, womanizer

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Best All-Around: Damages (10 pm, Wednesdays, FX)

Now that awards season is upon us, it’s time to reflect on the past fall’s TV lineup and welcome the spring slate of shows (new and returning) that will ease our winter hibernation. While American Idol will likely win its 8th “Most Popular” title in a row, here are some television superlatives, high school-style, for your viewing pleasure:

MOST POPULAR: American Idol (8 pm, Tuesdays, FOX) The crazier Paula Abdul gets, the better ratings the show receives… That’s a good combination for FOX, since that woman is straight up insane, and Simon’s getting a bit boring.

tim-rigginsBEST LOOKING: It’s a toss-up between Simon Baker on The Mentalist (9 pm, Tuesdays, CBS) and Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins of Friday Night Lights (9 pm, Fridays, NBC). Given that Riggs is actually in high school, perhaps he deserves this award. On the other side, I’ll let the guys decide who they prefer on Gossip Girl (8 pm, Mondays, CW): Blair or Serena?

MOST CRAZY (IN A GOOD WAY): Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock (9:30 pm, Thursdays, NBC)… This is why 30 Rock won 5 Golden Globes.

MOST CRAZY (IN A BAD WAY): Mrs. B as a crazy mom on the reality show, Momma’s Boys, which had its season finale on Monday night. Her poor son Jojo (who, by the way, was looking for love at the ripe old age of 21) tried to win over girls after his mother’s racist speech, declaring all but white Catholics suitable for her darling son. Jojo may need to try the priesthood now that this show has aired.

Layout 1BIGGEST TRAIN WRECK: I will nominate the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy (9 pm, Thursdays, ABC) for this award. Let’s see, George has slept with 3 of the female leads, Meredith has had two ridiculous near death experiences (hand in bomb, ferryboat accident), and now Izzie is sleeping with the ghost of her dead ex-fiance (whom she accidentally killed). I used to watch this show religiously… these days, it’s lucky to get DVRed.

SAD FOR HUMANITY: There are a whole host of shows that fall into this category–Tool Academy on VH1, Rock of Love 2 on MTV, Nip/Tuck on FX (how fast it’s fallen)–but the runaway winner is MTV’s A Double Shot at Love, with the Ikki Twins. I think it’s pretty easy to justify how this show is sad for humanity; if you Google “double shot at love,” the first link leads to this proclamation: “OMG! i love a double shot at love even know im 10 years old i stull love you guys you guys are buteyful.” Future of America…

KILL IT NOW: We like watching fictional rich girls live out melodramas on the Upper East Side, but we don’t like watching melodramatic rich girls live out fictional storylines in The City (10 pm, Mondays, MTV). Spare us the misery of watching Whitney attempt to be interesting. I’d almost rather watch Bromance on repeat than sit through another episode of The City… well, almost. In both scenarios, death would be a welcome alternative.

damagesBEST ALL-AROUND: Speaking of death, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Glenn Close as Patty Hewes on Damages (10 pm, Wednesdays, FX). Why is it that Glenn Close always plays crazy so well? With the best cast, the best plotlines, and the best stony looks on television (thanks, Rose Byrnes), Damages is my new favorite show (FNL is a close #2). And you know it’s got to be good when you need to keep a light on while watching.

WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING THIS SPRING: (suggestions, comments, insults, and digs always appreciated)

Monday:

8 PM: Gossip Girl (CW)

9:30 PM: Samantha Who (ABC)

Tuesday:

8 PM: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

Wednesday:

9 PM: Lost (ABC)

10 PM: Damages (FX) / Top Chef (Bravo)

Thursday:

9 PM: The Office (NBC) / 30 Rock (NBC) / Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

Friday:

9 PM: Friday Night Lights (NBC)

And on occasion: Bones (8 pm, Thursdays, FOX), Without a Trace (10 pm, Tuesdays, CBS…and the only CBS show I’m watching), House Hunters and Property Virgins (HGTV), Iron Chef America (Food Network)

They’ve got potential: Some new shows with promise… Kings (8 pm, Sundays, NBC), Lie to Me (9 pm, Wednesdays, FOX)

 

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