Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Poll – Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy

For our third Emmy poll of the season I thought we would stick with Comedy, specifically Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series. The task is both simple and self-explanatory. From the choices listed all you need to do is vote for the one that you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. If you've got reasons for picking the actress that you've chosen, please please please feel comment in this thread, the official place - on this blog anyway – to explain why you think a particular person should win this Emmy. You don't have to of course but I am so tired of deleting Comment Spam for Taiwanese porn sites they add nothing to the conversation and I really would like to see people sharing opinions and discussing them.

This poll will be up for a week. I will have the results and the next poll up on July 31st.

Poll Results – Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy?

Well, we have a result in this week's Emmy poll, and after wading through all the Chinese porn site – sorry Taiwanese porn site – content spam content spam, we even have comments on both this poll and the previous poll, from friend of the Blog (and damned fine blogger himself) Toby O'B. Which is good, because with my general antipathy to most of the comedies on TV today, I'm not sure that I can say much about the nominees and winners in this category.

Turning to the results, there were eleven votes cast, which is more than double last year's five votes and a significant improvement (of course). In sixth place, with no votes cast we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus from CBS's cancelled comedy The New Adventures Of Old Christine. In fifth place with one vote (9%) is Toni Collette from the Showtime series The United States Of Tara. In a three way tie for second place we have Lea Michelle from FOX's breakout series Glee, Edie Falco from Showtime's Nurse Jackie, and Tina Fey from NBC's 30 Rock. Each actress has two votes (18%). However the winner of the poll is Amy Poehler from NBC's Parks And Recreation with four votes (36%).

About the winner Toby writes, "I'm going with Amy Poehler. She took what could have been just Michael Scott in a skirt and instead made Leslie a more rounded character - i.e., one that I can actually like!" Having never seen the show (or for that matter any of the shows on thel ist – like I said, I hardly ever watch comedies, to the point where I wonder why Kayley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory and Alyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother aren't nominated for anything, because they're the only comedies that I watch on a regular basis)) I can't comment in an educated manner on Amy Poehler's character or her performance. I do think that Toby has hit on a key aspect for the success of just about any sitcom character and that is to make the character likable and well rounded, in short someone root for or at least feel some emotional connection with. We may not know them or anyone like them but we can at least identify with them a little and may be even feel some sympathy with them.

Identifying with someone is a key point as well, which may be why I think the voters in this category may well vote for Tina Fey again despite what was, I'm reliably assured, a weak season for 30 Rock. I'd suggest that just about every creative person who votes in that category see themselves in Liz Lemon, battling a network executives who haven't got a creative bone in their body (and that may be why they'll vote for Alec Baldwin – they don't identify with Jack Donaghy but they know people like him and enjoy the over-the-top (one hopes) nature of Baldwin's performance, though how over-the-top they think it is might be open to question).

Oh, and by the way, Toby's other comment was on the Outstanding Actress in a Drama category, which he made in the Results post for that category: "I'm the cock-eyed optimist. I'd like to think that the Academy will finally acknowledge the work Connie Britton has done on such a full-realized character." I'd like to see that as well, but I have a suspicion that, for this season at least, the Academy will take the usual "the nomination was their award" attitude towards Britton and Kyle Chandler.

New poll up in a few minutes (after I have my lunch).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Comments on the Indecency Decision – The PTC’s And Mine

As you might expect, the Parents Television Council's reaction to Monday's Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the FCC's current indecency policy is unconstitutional because of its vague nature was hardly supportive of the decision. Far from it of course, they pretty much raked the Court over the coals for daring to try to even consider that the FCC's power in this area should be questioned. I find that the best way for me to express my views on the matter is to take from PTC President Tim Winter's statement on the court decision and then offer my own take on how Mr Winter's statement is at odds with my position (and the actual facts of the situation at least as I understand it).

Mr. Winter began his statement by saying that, "A three-judge panel in New York once again has authorized the broadcast networks unbridled use of the 'f-word' at any time of the day, even in front of children." Setting aside the fact that Mr. Winter uses the mane "Mew York almost as though it was a pejorative – as if being from New York is somehow out of touch with the "real America" – the claim that this decision authorized the "unbridled" use of certain profanities, including but not limited to "the f-word" is most likely inaccurate. This is an issue that I intend to delve into later.

He continued: "The Court substituted its own opinion for that of the Supreme Court, the Congress of the United States, and the overwhelming majority of the American people." This is another example of Mr. Winter's gift for hyperbole, particularly the idea that the Court's opinion is somehow different from that of "an overwhelming majority of the American people." I am not sure what sort of evidence this statement is based upon. Tim Winter offers no statistical proof that the Court is substituting its opinion for that of the "overwhelming majority of the American public," I suspect because such statistical evidence doesn't exist. Mr. Winter simply assumes that he and his group of "over a million members" are representative of the majority of Americans. As for the notion that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is substituting it's opinion for that of the Supreme Court, it is patently absurd. It was the Supreme Court itself which sent the case down to the Circuit Court level – Remanded it to them – to specifically consider the First Amendment implications of the FCC's current Indecency policy. Far from substituting their opinion for that of the Supreme Court in this decision the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is doing exactly what the Supreme Court required them to do when it remanded the case back to them to examine the First Amendment concerns. The Supreme Court did not examine those concerns when the case appeared before them initially because the original decision by the Second Circuit Court concerned itself with the question of whether the FCC 2004 change in policy was done in a "capricious and arbitrary manner." The Supreme Court limited itself exclusively to that aspect of the question.

As to the "opinion of Congress," as the background section of the Second Circuit's decision pointed out Congress's involvement in this matter is limited, at least as far as I can see. Congress passed the initial law that stated, "whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years or both" (Section 1464 of Title 18 US Code). And in 1960 Congress authorized the FCC to impose civil forfeitures for violations. And of course we know that Congress authorized the increase of fines for violations, as defined by the FCC, to the present levels. From my point of view Congress gave the FCC the authority to enforce section 1464 and determined the punishment. They had no part in determining what precisely that policy would consist of, whether it was the 1972 "seven words only" standard effectively set by the Pacifica decision or whether it is the current standard.

Mr. Winter continues: "Today's ruling comes as absolutely no surprise, given the hostile tenor of the judges during oral arguments. Members of the Second Circuit panel entered the courtroom that day wearing their intentions clearly on their sleeves." Not having been in the court I cannot comment on "tenor" of the judges during oral arguments, or whether or not they were "wearing their intentions clearly on their sleeves." I would like to suggest however that if their interrogation of the lawyers for the FCC was rather vigorous or rigorous it might be because they were seeking clarification on various points that they were familiar with, having previously adjudicated on this matter. (This was the same three judge panel – judges Rosemary Pooler, Pierre N. Leval, and Peter W. Hall – that rendered the previous decision in this matter). They had a working knowledge of the matter.

Again from Mr. Winter: "What does come as a surprise is the rationale of the opinion, which is devoid of reality. The Court's illogical analysis would require the overturning of virtually every law on our nation's books for lack of clarity." Three points. First the question under review by the Court is not a law, which is created by passage through a legislative body, it is a policy or set of rules which is set by a government agency. Second, the challenge is not to Section 1464, or indeed to the decision in Pacifica, it is to whether the policy which the FCC has adopted is sufficiently clear that a reasonable person would consistently know what was and was not actionable. Third, it is untrue that "virtually every law on our nation's books" would be overturned for lack of clarity. Most laws are written in such a way that a reasonable person does know what is and is not actionable. The current FCC policy is not.

"The broadcast decency law, which our nation's Highest Court has upheld, is clear: broadcasters must refrain from violating community standards of decency during hours when children are likely to be in the audience. The indecency law doesn't prohibit broadcasters from airing indecent material; it only requires that indecent material air outside the hours when children are likely to be in the audience." Uh not quite. First, there is no specific Broadcast Decency Law. There is, as mentioned Section 1464, but it is the FCC itself that established the rule concerning the time of day in which "indecent" language may be used. From the relevant part of the FCC website: "Consistent with a federal indecency statute and federal court decisions interpreting the statute, the Commission adopted a rule that broadcasts -- both on television and radio – that fit within the indecency definition and that are aired between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. are prohibited and subject to indecency enforcement action." That part is clear, and that is the part that prevents what Tim Winter has called the "unbridled use of the 'f-word' at any time of the day;" the part which means that we will never hear Gordon Ramsay unbleeped unless we're in Britain (or Canada, but only if the show is one of the ones that he did in Britain). What we are dealing with and what the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on was whether the policy which defines indecency is sufficiently clear.

One more statement from Tim Winter: "The FCC ruled that Fox violated the broadcast decency law when it aired the 'f-word" and "s-word' during live broadcasts of the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards shows." True. As we saw in the precious article however, the FCC also ruled that an interview on the Early Show which included the word "bullshitter" violated the broadcast decency law... and then ruled that it didn't because the word was used in the context of a "bona fide news interview." That would seem to indicate that the FCC is not entirely clear of the nature of their own policy, particularly as they stated at the time of the revised decision on the Early Show incident that there was no blanket news exemption from the FCC policy. The FCC, which ruled that the use of the "f-word" and "s-word" during the Billboard Music Awards on three occasions on a live TV show violated the broadcast decency law, also ruled that multiple uses of those same words in a broadcast of the movie Saving Private Ryan which aired before 10:00 p.m. did not violate the broadcast decency law because those words were "demonstrably essential to the nature of the artistic work" while at the same time the stating that the use of those words in the documentary The Blues was not.

The background section of the Second Court of Appeals decision illuminates the progression of the FCC's indecency policy as it progressed from a clear standard – Carlin's seven words – to the present standard. In the period between 1978 and 1987, when the "seven words" standard was adhered to, there was not a single enforcement action taken. The standard was clear. In 1987 the Commission, concerned that under the existing standard "patently offensive material was permissible as long as it avoided certain words," decided to adopt a contextual approach. At the same time however they maintained a policy of restraint. Single, "non-literal" uses of words that might otherwise be considered "indecent" were considered not to rise to the standard set in Pacifica. Repeatedly the FCC ruled following this standard. The Court's judgement cites a number of FCC rulings in which phrases like, "Speech that is indecent must involve more than an isolated use of an offensive word," or "The 'use of a single expletive' did not warrant further review 'in light of the isolated and accidental nature of the broadcast,'" were used. Even the FCC's 2001 "Industry Guidance" statement, which was an attempt to clarify a standard included a statement that "fleeting and isolated" expletives were not actionably indecent. They became "actionably indecent" when the FCC issued its so-called Golden Globes Order, which abandoned both the standard that "fleeting and isolated" expletives were non-actionable and there words such as "fuck" and "shit" could have a non-literal. Restraint had been abandoned.

There is a bitter irony in this abandonment of restraint. The men who wrote the Pacifica Decision were well aware of the need for restraint in applying whatever standard was to be used. Justice John Paul Stevens stated in the original Pacifica decision that "It is appropriate, in conclusion, to emphasize the narrowness of our holding. This case does not involve a two-way radio conversation between a cab driver and a dispatcher, or a telecast of an Elizabethan comedy. We have not decided that an occasional expletive in either setting would justify any sanction or, indeed, that this broadcast would justify a criminal prosecution." In their concurrent decision, Justices Lewis Powell and Harry Blackmun stated that the holding of the court "did not give the FCC 'an unrestricted license to decide what speech, protected in other media, may be banned from the airwaves in order to protect unwilling adults from momentary exposure to it in their homes,'" nor did it "speak to cases involving the isolated use of a potentially offensive word in the course of a radio broadcast, as distinguished from the verbal shock treatment administered by respondent here." It seems that the current FCC policy does seem to have taken the position that the Commission has those rights. They also wrote that, "In addition, since the Commission may be expected to proceed cautiously, as it has in the past, I do not foresee an undue 'chilling' effect on broadcasters' exercise of their rights." The fact is that since the Golden Globes Order the FCC has not proceeded in a manner that these Justices would describe as cautiously, and the result has been a chilling effect on broadcasters.

The notion of "vagueness" is vital in the question of "chill." If there were a total "zero tolerance" policy on every use of "the f-word" and "the s-word" and some of the most explicit words referring to male and female genitalia then that might be sufficiently clear, but we've seen that this is not the case. Those words in Saving Private Ryan (a situation that might rise to the level of "verbal shock treatment" that Justices Powell and Blackmun were talking about) are acceptable; a singular use of one of those words in a live Awards program in the heat of the moment is indecent. A "bona fide" news interview gives one the freedom to use one of these words (but presumably not the use of a number of these words), but the definition of "bona fide news interview" is so amorphous that broadcasters self-censor themselves by not covering events for fear that someone will say a bad word. And we haven't even touched on words that "escape" being censored. "Pissed off" are acceptable despite "piss" being an excretory activity. "Screw you" and "he's full of crap" are fine in spite of the fact that we all know that "screw" in this case stands in for "fuck" and "crap" means "shit." And of course the Second Circuit Court's decision mentions "dick" and "dickhead" as being acceptable. At least for now. Because here's the thing: the current FCC policy is reminiscent of Justice Potter Stewart's famous statement that hard core pornography is hard to define, but "I know it when I see it." Which is fine so long as you have the same person evaluating what is and isn't pornography, or in this case what is and isn't "indecent." The problem arises, as we've seen, when the person or people evaluating things change and bring with them their own standards. "Pissed off" may be acceptable to the current regulators but not to some future regulator. The definition of a "bona fide news interview," which is now so vague that broadcasters refuse to cover some events live for fear of being fined, may change so that virtually any use of the forbidden words is acceptable... or banned.

I am not a lawyer nor do I have any training in law (and I'm not an American so my sensibilities on such matters are shaped by what is legal here in Canada), but it seems to me that the ruling of the Second Court of Appeal makes more sense than the arguments that the PTC and similar groups of "social conservatives" are making against it. In discussing issues of personal rights, as much clarity as is possible is needed. The current FCC policy doesn't meet that standard of clarity and either needs to be scrapped or replaced by a policy that provides a standard of clarity that will not only be understandable for broadcasters but remain clear for years to come, regardless of who is applying that standard. Since I do believe that this case will make its way back to the Supreme Court we shall have to see what the Justices of that body have to say. The current decision is not an attack on the fundamental basis of censorship policy – the Pacifica Decision – because the Court of Appeals felt itself bound by that decision and that it was beyond its scope to overrule that decision. This decision will probably not give Justice Clarence Thomas the opportunity to examine and possibly overturn both the Pacifica and Red Lion decisions – the cases upon which FCC authority in regulating broadcasting rests. Hopefully, when all is said and done it will result in a sensible and comprehensible policy, something which the current FCC policy has long since ceased to be.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Poll – Who SHOULD Win As Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

This is our second Emmy Poll of the year and the task is both simple and self-explanatory. From the choices listed all you need to do is vote for the one that you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. If you've got reasons for picking the actress that you've chosen, please please please feel comment in this thread, the official place - on this blog anyway – to explain why you think a particular person should win this Emmy. You don't have to of course but I am so tired of deleting Comment Spam for Chinese porn sites – at least I think they're porn sites, regardless they add nothing to the conversation – that I really would like to see people sharing opinions and discussing them.

This poll will be up for a week. I will have the results and the next poll up on July 24th.

Poll Results – Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama

We have the results from the Emmy poll for who should win the Emmy for the Outstanding Actress In A Drama, and I have to say that in most respects I'm quite pleased. This poll had a high turn-out, which is unusual for one of these polls, particularly so early – these things usually build up momentum over time – and while we don't have a clear cut winner I think it does reflect what this poll is all about. The thing that I'm less than happy with, and obviously this is me, is that I didn't get any comments explaining votes. All I got was comment spam that was caught in the moderation process. Could we please get some comments next time that actually deal with the subject and don't link me to Chinese women?

Okay, with that out of the way I suppose you want the actual results. There were fourteen votes cast. For purposes of comparison, there were nine votes cast in this category last year. In a tie for fifth place, with no votes, are Juliana Margulies from the CBS drama The Good Wife, and Janurary Jones from the AMC hit Mad Men. In fourth place with two votes (14%) is perennial nominee Kyra Sedgwick from TNT's The Closer. However there is a three-way tie for first place. With four votes each (29%) your preference for who should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama is Glenn Close from FX's Damages...or Mariska Hargitay from NBC's Law & Order: SVU...or Connie Britton from DirecTV and NBC's Friday Night Lights.

I think the winner is going to be Glenn Close. She has won in this category both times that she's been nominated. I can't speak to her performance because I've never seen the series; I've always been unavailable when the show has been on one of the Canadian cable channels. Still it is Glenn Close and I do know the intensity that she puts into every role that she acts in. Mariska Hargitay is a consistent nominee in the category – this is here second nomination – but she's only won once. Last year I wrote that Hargitay, "hasn't changed things up too much in Law & Order: SVU. She's an excellent actress but I'm not sure why she keeps getting nominated." Maybe I was a bit harsh there. It's obvious that she is a first rate actress – she's been nominated every year since 2004 – but I still have to wonder if her performances in each of those year's is worthy of the nomination. Finally there's Connie Britton. I don't vote in these things but if I did, my vote would go to Connie. Her performance as Tami Taylor is a letter perfect portrayal of a harried wife and mother. Tami is at turns loving and supportive, and angry and frustrated. There's a lot of "dimension" in the role that Connie Britton plays and the surprise isn't that she's been nominated in the show's fourth season, but rather that she wasn't nominated in the show's previous three seasons. She's who I think should win...but probably won't.

Finally, I think if there's a dark horse out there who might beat out Glenn Close, it could be Juliana Margulies. Her performance as Alicia Florek in The Good Wife. She progresses from having a "deer in the headlights" look in the early episodes of the show, overwhelmed by everything that has happened to her to a more confident and committed woman who isn't going to take any crap from anyone anymore. An excellent performance...but I still like Connie Britton's work better.

New poll up in a few minutes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FCC Indecency Policy Struck Down

A three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday struck down the current FCC Indecency Policy on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution by being too vague, "creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here." The decision appears to be unanimous (there is no indication in the ruling of any dissent). The text of the decision can be found here (it is a .pdf file).

In the background portion of the decision the Court discusses the origins of the FCC's power to impose fines and otherwise punish broadcasters from presenting "obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communications." Special attention is paid tho the Pacifica case, and the lower court ruling that overturned the initial ruling, which found the FCC's definition to be "vague and overbroad." That ruling noted that "the Commission's definition of indecent speech would prohibit 'the uncensored broadcast of many of the great works of literature including Shakespearian plays and contemporary plays which have won critical acclaim, the works of renowned classical and contemporary poets and writers, and passages from the Bible.' Such a result, the Court concluded, amounted to unconstitutional censorship." The Pacifica Case went to the Supreme Court which upheld the FCC's ability to censor. Writing for the Majority Justice John Paul Stevens explained that Broadcasting received the most restrictive First Amendment protection, "because of its 'uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans.'" Nevertheless the majority in the Pacifica ruling pointed out that their holding was narrow in scope: '"[N]uisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place, – like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard. We simply hold that when the Commission finds that a pig has entered the parlor, the exercise of its regulatory power does not depend on proof that the pig is obscene."' In their separate concurring opinion, Justices Blackmun and Powell wrote that the ruling, "did not give the FCC 'an unrestricted license to decide what speech, protected in other media, may be banned from the airwaves in order to protect unwilling adults from momentary exposure to it in their homes,'" nor did it, '"speak to cases involving the isolated use of a potentially offensive word in the course of a radio broadcast, as distinguished from the verbal shock treatment administered by respondent here." They accepted that the FCC would proceed in a cautious manner which would minimize the chilling effect of the ruling.

Subsequently the Commission did act in such a manner, initially restricting their enforcement to the specific words in the Carlin monologue. In 1987 the policy changed on the grounds that "under the prior standard, patently offensive material was permissible as long as it avoided certain words. This, the Commission concluded, 'made neither legal nor policy sense.'" Instead they adopted a contextual standard. Nevertheless enforcement was still restrained. In various rulings the FCC held that (1) single use of an expletive "should not call for us to act under the holding of Pacifica;" that (2) "Speech that is indecent must involve more than an isolated use of an offensive word;" and that (3) "the single utterance of the F-word not indecent because it was a 'fleeting and isolated utterance which, within the context of live and spontaneous programming, does not warrant a Commission sanction.'" In 2001 the Commission issued a policy statement to put its indecency standard in more detail. In it the FCC stated that "an indecency finding involved the following two determinations: (1) whether the material 'describe[s] or depict[s] sexual or excretory organs or activities'; and (2) whether the broadcast is 'patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. The FCC further explained that it considered the following three factors in determining whether a broadcast is patently offensive: (1) 'the explicitness or graphic nature of the description or depiction'; (2) 'whether the material dwells on or repeats at length' the description or depiction; and (3) 'whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate, or whether the materials appears to have been presented for its shock value.'" One thing that was explicitly stated in the policy was that "fleeting and isolated" expletives were not actionably indecent (emphasis mine).

The policy outlined in 2001 was changed in 2004. Following the 2003 Golden Globes, when Bono of U2 said "this is really, really, fucking brilliant. Really, really, great." The FCC held for the first time ever that "a single, nonliteral use of an expletive (a socalled 'fleeting expletive') could be actionably indecent." They also held that "the F-word" "inherently has a sexual connotation," and "concluded that the fleeting and isolated use of the word was irrelevant and overruled all prior decisions in which fleeting use of an expletive was held per se not indecent." The Commission also held that the broadcast was "profane" abandoning the previous interpretation which defined "profane" in terms of blasphemy. The Commission also abandoned the policy whereby fines would be levied on a per program basis and instead began treating each licensee's broadcast of a program as a separate violation, thereby multiplying the amount the Commission could collect in fines. This occurred at the same time that the maximum fine was increased by a factor of 10, from $32,500 to $325,000.

The next step along the way was the FCC's 2006 Omnibus Order which was a blanket settling of complaints – most of them generated by pressure groups like the Parent's Television Council – between early 2002 and early 2005. Four cases stood out in the Omnibus Order as examples of "fleeting expletives;" the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards, various episodes of NYPD Blue and an interview (with a contestant on Survivor) during The Early Show. The Billboard Music Awards case revolved around two separate speeches in which the words "fuck" and "shit" were used, while both the episodes of NYPD Blue and the Early Show interview dealt with the words "bullshit" and "bullshitter." The FCC claimed that the Omnibus Order would "provide substantial guidance to broadcasters and the public" about what would be considered indecent. The networks and several affiliates appealed these portions of the Omnibus Order to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In response the FCC requested a voluntary remand of the court, and later in 2006 produced the Remand Order which reaffirmed its decision on the Billboard Music Awards, but dismissed its fines on NYPD Blue on procedural grounds and reversed its finding on the Early Show case on the grounds that it took place during a "bona fide news interview." The Commission further stated that they "did 'not take the position that any occurrence of an expletive is indecent or profane under its rules,' allowing that expletives that were 'integral' to an artistic work or occurring during a 'bona fide news interview' might not run afoul of the indecency standard." However they stated that there was no "outright news exemption from our indecency rules."

This decision led to a second appeal of the ruling by the networks, in which the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2004 FCC policy change on the grounds that the change was "arbitrary and capricious" in that the reasons for the change had not been adequately explained, and further that "the FCC's justification for the policy – that children could be harmed by hearing even one fleeting expletive (the so-called 'first blow' theory) – bore 'no rational connection to the Commission's actual policy,' because the FCC had not instituted a blanket ban on expletives." This was the ruling that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2009 in a 5-4 decision. However the Supreme Court did not address the First Amendment concerns in the case and remanded the case back to the Second Circuit Court to examine that aspect of the case.

In the Discussion portion of the decision the Court addressed four major issues. In the first section they examined the idea of the "uniquely pervasive presence in the live of all Americans" that Broadcast media in general and Television in particular had which was the basis for the current restrictions of First Amendment rights when it comes to Television. They pointed out that "The past thirty years has seen an explosion of media sources, and broadcast television has become only one voice in the chorus. Cable television is almost as pervasive as broadcast – almost 87 percent of households subscribe to a cable or satellite service – and most viewers can alternate between broadcast and non-broadcast channels with a click of their remote control.... The internet, too, has become omnipresent, offering access to everything from viral videos to feature films and, yes, even broadcast television programs.... ("The number of suppliers of online video and audio is almost limitless."). As the FCC itself acknowledges, "[c]hildren today live in a media environment that is dramatically different from the one in which their parents and grandparents grew up decades ago." The Court also noted that technology, in the form of the V-Chip and the ability to block unwanted channels. However the Court was bound by the Supreme Court precedent – the Pacifica Decision – "regardless of whether it reflects today's realities." However, even though bound by Pacifica, there was room for interpretation. The FCC claimed that the Pacifica decision permits it to "exercise broad regulatory authority to sanction indecent speech. In its view, the Carlin monologue was only the most extreme example of a large category of indecent speech that the FCC can constitutionally prohibit." The Networks on the other hand hold that the decision established the limits of the FCC's ability to regulate; "In other words, they believe that only when indecent speech rises to the level of 'verbal shock treatment,' exemplified by the Carlin monologue, can the FCC impose a civil forfeiture." Regardless of where the actual limit of the FCC's ability to regulate falls, the Court held that the FCC's indecency policy is unconstitutional because it is impermissibly vague.

The second section of the Discussion examined the vagueness of the policy. The Court cited various precedents on what constitutes vagueness ("A law or regulation is impermissibly vague if it does not 'give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.'") and points out that the US Constitution places a special burden on laws to be clear ("'[A] law or regulation that "threatens to inhibit the exercise of constitutionally protected rights," such as the right of free speech, will generally be subject to a more stringent vagueness test.'"). Rejecting arguments put forward by both the Networks and the FCC related to specific justifications of their position on the vagueness of the FCC ruling (most involved Reno v ACLU which ruled the Communications Decency Act to be unconstitutionally vague) the Court turned to specific cases. In the 2001 Industry Guidance, the FCC "explained that an indecency finding involved the following two determinations: (1) whether the material 'describe[s] or depict[s] sexual or excretory organs or activities'; and (2) whether the broadcast is 'patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.'" This lead in turn to a definition of "patently offensive;" "whether a broadcast is patently offensive depends on the following three factors: (1) 'the explicitness or graphic nature of the description or depiction'; (2) 'whether the material dwells on or repeats at length' the description or depiction; and (3) 'whether the

material appears to pander or is used to titillate, or whether the materials appears to have been presented for its shock value.'" The Court agreed with the Networks, who claimed that the policy was impermissibly vague and that the FCC's subsequent decisions added to the confusion as to what would be considered indecent. The Court cited the NYPD Blue episode in which the word "bullshit" was found to be "patently offensive", but noted that the words "dick" and "dickhead" were not found to be offensive, as were phrases like "pissed off," up yours," "kiss my ass," and "wiping his ass." "[I]n each of these cases, the Commission's reasoning consisted of repetition of one or more of the factors without any discussion of how it applied them. Thus, the word 'bullshit' is indecent because it is 'vulgar, graphic and explicit' while the words 'dickhead' was not indecent because it was 'not sufficiently vulgar, explicit, or graphic.'" According to the Court this did not give sufficient guidance of how the Commission would rule in the future. The Court noted that in the nine years following the Pacifica decision, when the "seven words" included in George Carlin's monologue were the specific definition of what was and was not prohibited, there was not one indecency complain for language. The Court argued that at least in part this was because broadcasters knew exactly what was banned. The FCC has argued that while the "seven words" list was ineffective; broadcasters simply found other ways to depict the banned material without using the specific words that were banned. "In other words, because the FCC cannot anticipate how broadcasters will attempt to circumvent the prohibition on indecent speech, the FCC needs the maximum amount of flexibility to be able to decide what is indecent." This creates the vague indiscernible standard that the Court finds unconstitutional. "If the FCC cannot anticipate what will be considered indecent under its policy, then it can hardly expect broadcasters to do so. And while the FCC characterizes all broadcasters as consciously trying to push the envelope on what is permitted, much like a petulant teenager angling for a later curfew, the Networks have expressed a good faith desire to comply with the FCC's indecency regime. They simply want to know with some degree of certainty what the policy is so that they can comply with it."

The Court also looked at the question of those occasions when use of the prohibited, and also found it to be vague. Those cases are during "bona fide" news, and in the case of "artistic necessity," where "fleeting expletives are permissible if they are 'demonstrably essential to the nature of an artistic or educational work or essential to informing viewers on a matter of public importance.'" In determining this the FCC "considers whether the material has any social, scientific or artistic value." In short, the commission sets itself up as an arbiter of what is and isn't art, and what is and isn't necessary or essential to that being of social, scientific or artistic value. Thus the use of words like "fuck" and "shit" in the movie Saving Private Ryan were "demonstrably essential to the nature of the artistic work," but the use of the same words in the documentary The Blues were not. Similarly it is left to the Commission to decide what is a "bona fide news interview" given the statement that no outright news exemption exists. According to the Court this results in a policy that "even the FCC cannot articulate or apply consistently." This was pointed out in the fine for the word "Bullshitter" used during the interview on the Early Show. In the Omnibus Order the word was considered actionable and fines were levied, but in the Remand Order it was considered to be part of a "bona fide news interview" and thus exempt from the policy. The Court pointed out that "With the FCC's indiscernible standards come the risk that such standards will be enforced in a discriminatory manner. The vagueness doctrine is intended, in part, to avoid that risk. If government officials are permitted to make decisions on an 'ad hoc' basis, there is a risk that those decisions will reflect the officials' subjective biases. Thus, in the licensing context, the Supreme Court has consistently rejected regulations that give government officials too much discretion because 'such discretion has the potential for becoming a means of suppressing a particular point of view.'"

The third section of the discussion looks at the question of whether the current policy has had the effect of chilling free speech. The answer is that there is ample evidence that the current policy has indeed had a chilling effect on free speech. The Court cited several examples both on a local and national level. These included several CBS affiliates who refused to air a repeat of the documentary 9/11 because some of the footage included firefighters using expletives and the affiliates couldn't be sure that, following the Golden Globes Order, they wouldn't be fined for airing it. Another example dealt with live broadcasts. In the 2003 Billboard Awards broadcast, FOX had taken the precaution of prescreening scripted remarks and included a delay system to bleep expletives. However Nicole Ritchie, a scheduled presenter, departed from her script and used three expletives in rapid succession. The person in charge of bleeping the remarks caught the first one, but while he was bleeping the first the other two slipped through. The FCC suggested that the network use "a more effective screening system" (according to FOX, implementing an audio delay system for all live programming would cost the network $16 million per year) but the Court noted that short of giving up live broadcasting no system is 100% effective. There is ample evidence that stations are refusing to air news or public affairs programming for fear that they will incur fines, remembering that there is no blanket news exemption, meaning that it feels that this is a discretionary, case by case judgement. There have been cases of stations refusing to cover political debates because one or more of the participants has had a history of using expletives and at least one station has stated that it will not air direct to air news coverage except in cases that "effect matters of public safety or convenience." TV networks have decided not to air episodes of shows that don't contain expletives but which do contain references to other matters related to sex or sexuality out of fears that this material might be defined as indecent. According to the Court, "By prohibiting all 'patently offensive' references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what 'patently offensive' means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive. To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster's peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment."

For the reasons covered in the discussion sections of the opinion, the three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – the same three judges panel that had previously ruled that the policy change was arbitrary and capricious – struck down the FCC's Indecency Policy. While stating that they did suggest that the FCC could not develop a policy that would meet Constitutional scrutiny, they did state that the existing policy does fail in this respect.

I'll give my views on this case, together with the views of the Parents Television Council – which reacted pretty much exactly as you'd expect them to react – in my next post. Suffice it to say the PTC and I don't agree on anything in this matter...except maybe that the judges are based in New York, and our opinions of the significance of that is entirely different.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Poll – Who SHOULD Win As Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama

Our first Emmy Poll of the year and the task is both simple and self-explanatory. From the choices listed all you need to do is vote for the one that you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. If you've got reasons for picking the actress that you've chosen, please please please feel free to comment in this thread, the official place - on this blog anyway – to explain why you think a particular peson should win this Emmy. (I really want your comments; I get so tired of deleting Comment Spam for Chinese porn sites – at least I think they're porn sites, regardless they add nothing to the conversation).

This poll will be up for a week. I will have the results and the next poll up on July 17th.

The 2010 Emmy Award Nominations

Ah, the Emmy nominations. A high point in what has so far been pretty much a downer of a summer. While many places have been suffering a killer heat wave, around here (Saskatoon) we've been enduring the rainy season. Over the past couple of weeks at least it has been rare to get a stretch of three days when it hasn't rained. Mostly it had rained – at least a little bit – every day, and some of those have been downright torrential downpours. Basements have flooded despite several million dollars spent to build large containment tanks for the storm sewer system – the tanks filled as fast as the rain fell – and I've seen sewer grates in low lying areas blown out by water. The city's main ballpark – which was relocated to the wrong place about 50 years ago because there an existing concrete grandstand and who cares that the place is low lying and has ridiculous drainage that no company is daring enough to try to correct – has repeatedly flooded, and no sooner do they get it pumped out than the rain floods the place again. My garden is overrun with weeds because the soil is too clay– like and when it's wet I can't get the hoe to penetrate it let alone cut out the weeds. And remember, this is Saskatchewan where things are supposed to be DRY!

But enough of general whining. Let's turn to the Emmy nominations where we can hone down our whining to specific people and shows that do and do not deserve to be nominated. Because inevitably the people who nominate shows for the Emmys get it wrong in at least one show or person who should have been nominated and wasn't and/or was nominated and should have been. I mean I don't mean to criticize – wait, yes I do that's the whole purpose of this Blog after all – but let's face it there are some obvious people and shows that are nominated and shouldn't and others that are obvious snubs. But let's get into specifics.

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad – AMC

Dexter – Showtime

The Good Wife – CBS

Lost – ABC

Mad Men – AMC

True Blood – HBO

I figure we might as well start off with the big categories, right? Overall not too bad; mostly cable shows, but according to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner all of these shows were offered to broadcast networks first (I'm not sure I believe that but even – maybe especially if that's true, it's a discussion for another time). I don't believe I can come up with another network series that is particularly deserving of the nomination – Parenthood maybe (I haven't seen it); Friday Night Lights perhaps (or is that just a cable show that appears on Broadcast TV in the summer). However, even though I don't get to see the show, I have been told that Sons Of Anarchy is deserving of an Emmy nod. In terms of the shows that are nominated, I'm going to call it a three way race between last year's winner Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Lost. Lost might get the nod because it was the show's last but the Academy tends to stick with winners – as in last year's winners – so maybe give it to Mad Men.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO

Glee – FOX

Modern Family – ABC

Nurse Jackie – Showtime

The Office – NBC

30 Rock – NBC

Okay, I'm going to state what I think should be the obvious in terms of nominations – where is The Big Bang Theory? Does the Academy regard the show as a one trick pony, that trick being Jim Parsons's character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper? And even though I don't get to see the show, from what I've heard putting Nurse Jackie in the comedy category is stretching the definition of "comedy" to the breaking point. In terms of which show I think will win, despite the recent dominance of The Office and 30 Rock in the past few years I would suggest that the Academy is likely to go with the current critical flavour of the month. In other words Glee.

Reality Competition Series:

The Amazing Race – CBS

American Idol – FOX

Dancing With the Stars – ABC

Project Runway – Lifetime

Top Chef – Bravo

Obvious snub – Survivor, probably Heroes vs Villains. I mean seriously, how could the Academy ignore all of the moments that the show brought us in that season; Boston Rob starting a fire by literally rubbing two sticks together (first time that ever worked on the show), the battle of wits between Boston Rob and Russell (which Rob eventually lost because most of the people he was trying to use to get rid of Russell were terminally stupid and listened to Russell), and the eventual triumph of (relative) good – that would be Sandra, the only person ever to win two seasons of Survivor – over evil – demented Hobbit Russell, who never did get that there was a social side to the game. I've never really been a fan of the Project Runway – Top Chef style competitions (too much of a cookie cutter concept) so one or both of them wouldn't be missed by me. Given the competition I'd say Amazing Race wins again, even with a lacklustre season.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory – CBS – Jim Parsons

Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO – Larry David

Glee – FOX – Matthew Morrison

Monk – USA – Tony Shalhoub

The Office – NBC – Steve Carell

30 Rock – NBC – Alec Baldwin

I have this disturbing image that next year Tony Shaloub will be nominated in this category for Monk despite the fact that he's sitting at home in the La-z-Boy and not actually do any acting at all. Shaloub is a talented guy and all but creatively this show has been over for years and the academy refuses to acknowledge the fact, Meanwhile Ed O'Neill hasn't been nominated for Modern Family – the only adult cast member from that show not to get an Emmy nod. Now I'm not saying that O'Neill should get the nomination in this category – the show is very much an ensemble cast with no real "star" – but O'Neill really does deserve a nomination and why not here. As for the winner, I think Jim Parsons has the funniest character but the Academy will give it to Alec Baldwin again – or maybe Steve Carell because he says he's leaving after the coming season.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

GleeFOX Lea Michele

The New Adventures Of Old Christine CBS Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Nurse JackieShowtime Edie Falco

Parks And RecreationNBC Amy Poehler

30 Rock NBC Tina Fey

United States Of Tara
Showtime Toni Collette

Why is Julia Louis-Dreyfus nominated for a show that was cancelled. I mean I know that she's a talented comedian and all but still it just doesn't seem right. And as I've said, people whose opinions I frequently resect don't see how Nurse Jackie is a comedy. Of course they regard it as a snub that Courtney Cox-Arquette wasn't nominated for her role in Cougar Town. I'm not sure about that. Her character is funny but I wish they'd have stuck with the idea of an older woman involved in a relationship with a younger man that they started out with. Maybe it's too conventional or too controversial a concept and they were worried about lobby groups like the PTC but it was an avenue to explore. Doesn't matter really; he Emmy will go to Tina Fey.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Breaking Bad AMC Bryan Cranston

Dexter Showtime Michael C. Hall

Friday Night Lights DirecTV Kyle Chandler

House FOX Hugh Laurie

Lost ABC Matthew Fox

Mad Men AMC Jon Hamm

Nothing I say about who got snubbed and who shouldn't be in this category is going to matter because Bryan Cranston is going to win for Breaking Bad but it is god to see Kyle Chandler finally nominated for Friday Night Lights. I would like to say that the Academy made a big mistake by not nominating John Noble for his role as Walter Bishop on Fringe. They say that playing someone who is in some way insane is one of the toughest things an actor can do, but look at what Noble has done on Fringe this season. Not only has he played our lovably looney Walter from "our" side of the universe, but in flashbacks he's played the sane and desperate Walter who crossed over to save a version of his sone, and the megalomaniacal "Walternate" from the other side. Surely that says something about his abilities as an actor. As for Hugh Laurie, I've seen people suggest that the Academy must have voted not on his whole season of work but on just the series premiere. This betrays a failure to understand how the Emmys work. An actor nominee is judged not on a full season of work but submits specific episodes. So essentially they are selected based on what they or their agent or director or whoever else advises them regards as their best work of the season. Does Hugh Laurie deserve to be there? I don't know; I haven't seen the whole season yet. All I know is that based on his season of work, John Noble deserves to be nominated.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

The Closer TNT Kyra Sedgwick

Damages – FX Networks Glenn Close

Friday Night Lights – DirecTV Connie Britton

The Good Wife CBS Julianna Margulies

Law & Order: SVU NBC Mariska Hargitay

Mad Men AMC January Jones

Another case where the Academy has finally decided to recognise one of the stars of Friday Night Lights, Connie Britton. Three of last year's nominees are back – Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close and perennial nominee Mariska Hargitay. In terms of snubs, I am told – because I don't see the show – that Katey Sagal should have received a nomination for her part in Sons of Anarchy. I am inclined to believe that Glenn Close will win again for Damages, particularly since the series – which has been on FX – might not be picked up for a fourth season without help from DirecTV.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Glee FOX Chris Colfer

How I Met Your Mother CBS Neil Patrick Harris

Modern Family ABC Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Modern Family ABC Eric Stonestreet

Modern Family ABC Ty Burrell

Two And A Half Men CBS Jon Cryer

Most of the performers in this category are new, which is unusual. Only Neil Patrick Harris and last year's winner Jon Cryer are holdovers from last year. Even more unusual is that three of the actors are from Modern Family. As I think I've said repeatedly in the past, Comedies are not my preferred form. I think the likeliest winner will be Chris Colfer, particularly if, as I expect, the three nominees from Modern Family split the vote.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Glee FOX Jane Lynch

Modern Family ABC Julie Bowen

Modern Family ABC Sofia Vergara

Saturday Night Live NBC Kristen Wiig

30 Rock NBC Jane Krakowski

Two And A Half Men CBS Holland Taylor

The other two adult cast members from Modern Family are in this category but this time around I'm convinced that there is only one likely winner and that is Jane Lynch for her breakout performance as Sue Sylvester in Glee.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Breaking Bad AMC Aaron Paul

Damages FX Networks Martin Short

Lost ABC Terry O'Quinn

Lost ABC Michael Emerson

Mad Men AMC John Slattery

Men Of A Certain Age TNT Andre Braugher

This is one of those categories that could go just about any way. Aaron Paul, Michael Emerson and John Slattery are holdovers from last season's race when Emerson won. I think Emerson is one of the front-runners this season but given Terry O'Quinn's performance in the final season of Lost ( a show that I haven't watched since its third season – I got tired of the long wait between the first six episodes and the rest of that season, and didn't go back) I would expect him to be the other front runner. Who'll win? I'm almost convinced that it's 50/50 you pick'em between the two.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Burn Notice USA Sharon Gless

Damages FX Networks Rose Byrne

The Good Wife CBS Archie Panjabi

The Good Wife CBS Christine Baranski

Mad Men AMC Christina Hendricks

Mad Men AMC Elisabeth Moss

This may be the hardest category of all to pick. Christine Baranski is great in just about anything she does, but the pair from Mad Men, Elizabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks both turned in stand-out performances from the ensemble supporting cast from Mad Men. And then there's perennial emmy nominee (and two-time winner) Sharon Gless. And there's Rose Byrne from Damages, the only nominee in this category from last season to be nominated this year.

Later today I'll post my first Emmy Poll. They will each run for seven days (which I discovered last year is the optimal length of time for a Poll Question). The Primetime Emmys will be awarded in Los Angeles on Sunday August 27, 2010.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Weekend Videos – Top Rated Shows 1960-1964

Based on the schedule I set up for myself, I should have put these videos up last week when I didn't post any videos. The problem had a lot to do with my getting sick the weekend before last, which in turn led me to have certain problems with my right leg: extreme pain tends to keep me from getting stuff done. Feeling a lot better now, and in fact I felt a lot better earlier this week when I wrote my feelings about that atrocious game show Downfall.

Just to reiterate what is going on here, about two months ago I started posting clips from the highest rated shows overall for each year, done in five year increments. The first part of this dealt with the 1950-51 to the 1954-55 season while the second part dealt with the 1955-56 to 1959-60 season. The "rules" that I am forcing onto myself are these: I will list the top three shows for each season along with the percentage of the nation's televisions that were tuned to that show during the season. These figures are drawn from the Complete Directory To Prime Time Network And Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. If the season's top rated show has already been featured either in this post or in the previous post in this series I'll find a clip from the second highest rated show, provided that it also hasn't been featured before, or the third highest rated show if the first and second place shows have been featured, and so on. The same procedure holds true if there are no clips of the show available online. I will be including the overall rating for the show. Previously I've expressed these in percentages however in 1960 the way that A.C. Nielsen calculated ratings changed and I'm not sure that percentages is a precisely accurate manner in which to describe these numbers. Finally as before I will be including my own comments about the shows.


Gunsmoke 37.3, Wagon Train 34.2, Have Gun Will Travel 30.9, The Andy Griffith Show 27.8

This is the first, and maybe the only, time that I have to go to the fourth place show. This was the fourth (and final) season in a row that Gunsmoke was in first place and the third season in a row that Wagon Train and Have Gun Will Travel were in second and third place respectively. But that's fine because it gives us the chance to look at one of the greatest family situation comedies ever made, The Andy Griffith Show. Created as a backdoor pilot out of Make Room For Daddy (aka The Danny Thomas Show) the series combined small-town charm and eccentricity in the form of Mayberry and it's residents (I almost said denizens) with the heartwarming family relationship between Sheriff Andy Taylor, his son Opie, his Aunt Bee, and cousin Barney Fife. A big part of the show in this early period was the relationship between Griffith's Andy Taylor and Don Knotts's Barney Fife. The show reunited Griffith and Knotts who had appeared together on Broadway and in the movie version of No Room For Sergeants. One interesting thing that people interested in trivia like my blogging buddy Ivan G. Shreve Jr. will be aware of is that the show featured Doc Adams and Chester from Gunsmoke... the radio version, Howard McNear and Parley Baer respectively. This Season Three clip features Parley Baer as Mayor Stoner.


Wagon Train 32.1, Bonanza 30.0, Gunsmoke 28.3

Bonanza debuted in 1959 but didn't even crack the top ten – let alone the top three – until the 1961-62 season. This coincided with the show's move from Saturday night to Sunday. The show was an immediate hit in its new time slot, opposite GE Theater and The Jack Benny Show on CBS. The elements of the show success were all in place; the family relationship between Lorne Greene's Ben Cartwright and his three adult sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), "Hoss" (Dan Blocker), and "Little" Joe (Michael Landon), all of them the children of different mothers. What set Bonanza apart from most westerns and probably accounted for its long life was that it was primarily interested in relationships – between the Cartwrights and with other people – rather than focused on the sort of shoot'em up action that was the major aspect of most westerns. The show didn't shy away from comedic episodes either. This clip tends to support that contention


Beverly Hillbillies 36.0, Candid Camera 31.1, The Red Skelton Show 31.1, Bonanza 29.8, The Lucy Show 29.8

The dominance of the Western was finally broken by a silly little comedy that probably inaugurated the era that I like to describe as the "gimmick" sitcom. Instead of being about "happy" but normal middle clase families dealing with each other, the "gimmick" sitcoms all had, well a gimmick. The "gimmick" for The Beverly Hillbillies was a pretty simple one, the classic "fish out of water." No fish were as far out of their own patch of water as the Clampetts from the Ozark country – I don't think it's really established where the Clampetts originated from although Granny frequently mentions Tennessee and there are later indicators that they were living in southern Missouri – suffice it to say that they were from so far back of beyond that the results of many Presidential elections hadn't reached them. The contrasts were obvious, between the sophisticated city people, personified by banker Milburn Drysdale, his highly educated (and therefore grossly overqualified) secretary Jane Hathaway, and the snooty social climbing Mrs. Drysdale, and the backwoods Clampetts. The show maintained its popularity even as the Clampetts became increasingly more sophisticated (relatively – they did learn about large appliances, dial telephones, and many of the other aspects of modern life) by emphasising the caricature characters; Jethro's stupidity all while thinking he's the most sophisticated member of the family, Milburn Dyrsdale's insatiable greed, and Granny's ongoing feud against anything modern and in particular her neighbour Margaret Drysdale. The show was becoming increasingly tired, and was losing audience when it was cancelled in CBS's 1971 "rural purge" (it finished 18th in the 1970-71 season), but would probably have survived until the end of 1973 and the death of Irene Ryan. The clip I have here includes one of my favourite minor characters, Jethro's twin sister Jethrine, as well as Sonny Drysdale, played by Louis Nye. (One final note: the original theme music performed by Flatt and Scruggs is under copyright and none of the clips I've managed to find include the original theme music.)


Beverly Hillbillies 39.1, Bonanza 36.9, The Dick Van Dyke Show 33.3

The total opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies was The Dick Van Dyke Show. The series had no gimmick beyond the split between work and home. The show was based on Carl Reiner's experience while working with Sid Caesar, although the character of Alan Brady is less Caesar and more of a combination of Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason according to Reiner. There are two distinctive sets of characters between the work and home stories, although they often overlapped. At work, Van Dyke's character Rob Petrie was surrounded by his fellow writers Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) and Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), the Alan Brady Show's milquetoast producer Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon) and star Alan Brady (Reiner). At home Rob was dealing with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), son Richie (Larry Matthews), and neighbours Jerry and Millie Helper (Jerry Paris and Anne Morgan Guilbert). The two sides weren't mutually exclusive of course since Rob's friends from work would often come to New Rochelle to visit, and of course Laura would often come to New York and even work on the show. There was a genuine chemistry between the various actors, the biggest being between Rob & Laura/Dick & Mary. The great puzzle today of course is how – and why – a man married to the undeniably sexy Laura Petrie (who wore those Capri Pants to far greater effect on the male libido including the young Rob Reiner – than Lucille Ball ever managed) would have twin beds. One of the great riddles of television to be sure. This office based clip features an appearance by the show's producer, Old Time Radio favourite Sheldon Leonard.


Bonanza 36.3, Bewitched 31.0, Gomer Pyle - USMC 30.7

Bewitched took the idea of the "gimmick" comedy a step further. Samantha Stevens (Elizabeth Montgomery) seemed like an ordinary housewife, but in fact she was a witch whose mortal husband Darrin (Dick York, and later Dick Sargent) wanted to stop using her witchly powers. There are those of us who feel that making this demand showed how big a Dick Darrin really was, and certainly if the show had been created even ten or fifteen years later at the heights of feminism she would have told him where he could stick his demands, but if Samantha had been free to use her witchcraft unfettered we probably wouldn't have had a show. As it was, Samantha tried her best to fit into the normal suburban lifestyle. It wasn't easy. For one thing using witchcraft was as much a part of Samantha's life as writing ad copy was for her husband. For another thing there were Samantha's relatives from her mother Endora to her Uncle Arthur, her look-alike cousin Serena, and her Aunt Clara (the only member of Samantha's family that Darrin actually liked) none of whom really understood why Samantha was going along with this. In this clip (one of the few Black & White Season One clips I can find – most of the season one material that has been posted features colorized episodes of the show), Samantha immerses herself in local political affairs, with a politician who might just have another kind of affair on his mind.