Five Reasons Downton Abbey’s Third Season Is a Failure

It was while watching the previews for next week’s episode of Downton Abbey that a familiar feeling scratched the back of my head. That estate, with all of the beautiful scheming people, it seemed familiar. And then I realize: Update the show by about 60 years, transplant the abbey to Texas, and change the accents, what you have is a much classier version of Dallas. Read more »

So, Everybody Hated Lance Armstrong’s Apology

The reviews are in, folks. Lance Armstrong apparently pulled off the superhuman feat of making himself look worse than ever last night during the first half of his Oprah rehab.

The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson argued that Lance did not comprehend, much less apologize for, the damage he inflicted on others.

Armstrong failed, despite Oprah’s best efforts, to convey any real understanding of the most troubling complaints against him—the ones involving other people: that he induced, bullied, and required other riders to dope along with him; and that he set out to destroy people who told the truth about him.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Kador was irked that Armstrong didn’t properly say “I’m sorry.”

For the most part, what Armstrong offered Thursday night was a more or less contrite explanation of his difficulties, than a heartfelt public apology. He displayed some self-awareness, expressed considerable regret, and agreed that he acted like a bully, but Armstrong used specific remorse language only once.

Over at Slate, William Saletan maintains that Armstrong flat-out lied, contradicting accusations in the USADA report that he pressured teammates into doping.

That seems to be the game plan Armstrong brought to this interview. Downplay your power over others. Deny issuing explicit orders to dope. Convert any such story into a matter of setting a poor example.  Take responsibility for yourself, but suggest that others—those who claim you pressured them—must do the same. Recast your threats, retributions, and demands for silence as products of a hard life. Reduce your sins of coercion to a sin of deceit.

Across the pond, where people actually follow cycling, the Daily Mirror accused Lance of “boast[ing] about what a great liar he was and justify[ing] doping in sport as being no different to putting air in his tyres.”

And at New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann and Caroline Shin get on Lance’s case for not seeming to mean it.

More troublingly, he seemed somewhat removed from his own story, appeared to have trouble empathizing with those he lied to, and admitted to feeling no moral compunctions when he was still doping.

One question lingers for me after reading all this: Why are we so desperate for him to feel moral compunctions at all? Shouldn’t we make judgments about the guy based on what he did, rather than what he thinks about what he did?


VIDEO: Revolution Fall Finale Brings Battle of Good and Evil to Philadelphia Tonight

If you’ve been watching NBC’s so-bad-it’s-kinda-good-but-mostly-it’s-bad show Revolution, you know that the action is increasingly centered in a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, where tonight’s “fall finale” will bring about the much-hoped-for battle between Good and Evil. The show takes place 15 years after electricity stopped working across the planet, ending civilization as we know it. Philadelphia is the capital of the “Monroe Republic,” which is led by the evil Sebastian Monroe, who doesn’t have a twirly evil mustache, but really should. He makes his headquarters at Independence Hall, and generally gives orders to torture and murder people. Tonight, he’ll face off against his former henchman-turned-reluctant-rebel leader Han Solo Miles Matheson, who spent last week’s episode leading his ragtag team into the city—past the 30-foot-walls that surround Future Philadelphia, lined with machine guns—via the deadly and fear-inspiring Broad Street line apparently. (Some things don’t change, even in the apocalypse.) Presumably, Matheson and Monroe will have a sword fight that will end inconclusively—there’s a second half to the season, after all—but hopefully it will feature other Philadelphia landmarks. Maybe they could have a running battle through the Italian Market that comes to its conclusion on the steps of the Art Museum? Or has that been done before? [Cinema Blend]

MTV Announces Jersey Shore Fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy Relief

MTV, the network that made Snooki a household name, has announced it will air a fundraiser featuring the cast of the Jersey Shore to help with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The November 15th program is a cooperative effort with Architecture for Humanity to help rebuild Seaside Heights. Thankfully, it will feature other guests in addition to The Situation and crew. Surely you’ll be able to thank fathers of teenage daughters everywhere after they text to donate relief and the bills show up on daddy’s Verizon bill. []

VIDEO: Christopher Walken’s Dramatic Reading of Honey Boo Boo

Stop what you’re doing and watch this video of Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell—currently promoting their film Seven Psychopaths—read scenes from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The Internet was created for one reason and one reason only: so that we can hear Christopher Walken say, “All that vajiggle-jaggle is not beautimous.”

PHOTO: Bam Margera Holds a (Fake) Gun to a Puppy’s Head

Bam Margera has issued a public apology after everyone got upset when he tweeted a picture of himself holding a fake gun to a puppy’s head. Margera’s snarling in the picture and someone off-frame is holding up a sign that says “If she poop’s one more time she goes bye bye’s.” Note the random apostrophes. Animal rights groups spoke out against the picture, citing recent incidents of animal abuse in Chester County. This summer, two dogs were lit on fire. The jackass assures everyone he’s an animal lover and would never hurt his puppy or any other pets. [Fox 29]

Photo courtesy of @BAM_MARGERA

Pretty Little Liars Renewed for a Fourth Season

Pretty Little Liars—the ABC Family drama based, in part, on a series of novels by Sara Shepard (what up, Downingtown?) has been renewed for a fourth season. For those of you not hip to the goings-on of the ABC Family channel, Pretty Little Liars follows a group of teen girls growing up on the Main Line who have to deal with a stalker known as “A” after their “queen bee” (Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls turns up dead). [E]

Ladies, Start Preparing for Your Bad Girls Club Tryout

Aww shit. It’s about to off at McFadden’s in Old City. Oxygen recently sent out an email calling for “local feisty females” to prepare themselves for an open casting call for Bad Girls Club. On October 20th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., folks will be interviewing Philly’s aspiring reality stars. *Checks calendar* See you guys there. Who’s bringing the popcorn? If you’re at the office, take heed because some the language in the video is mildly NSFW (they say “bitch” A LOT). [Inquirer]

Danny Bonaduce Survives Zombie Attack

Last week, a crazed fan bit Danny Bonaduce in the face at a meet-and-greet event at a casino in Washington state. The woman supposedly said she was a big fan and asked the DJ for a kiss. When he obliged, she latched onto his face and wouldn’t let go. She was apparently latched on for over a minute before other people were able to pull her off. When asked what he was thinking during the attack, Bonaduce said, “Bath salts.” [The News Tribune]

Leave Snooki’s Baby Alone

What the world needs now is … more hate? Vitriol has become so socially acceptable, so expected, that not only are we more tolerant to it, we expect and celebrate it. Scorn is the norm.

“Hate watching” is the term applied to watching TV shows, often in groups, just to mock them, to revel in just how horrible they are. Emily Nussbaum is often given credit for coining the term in The New Yorker. What is most interesting here is this plot twist:  She wrote the piece on hate watching as an admission of being initially wrong in her positive review of the television show, Smash. She admits to now having a Smash addiction.

I feel compelled to admit something here—maybe Nussbam has given me the courage to be honest, or maybe I am trying to stay in touch with my own true feelings, but, I started watching The Newsroom after the season was over and I like it. I see the schmaltz, I see the sexism, I see the pretension, but…I like it. I have two episodes left and I’m saving them as special treats to myself. I was embarrassed, when clicking around and thinking about this post, to see that The Newsroom is in fact, one of the shows people love to hate, but it’s been renewed for a second season. Sigh.

Hatred toward reality shows might get more complicated. Some people call their love of certain reality shows a guilty pleasure: Rather than watching something due to an empathetic arc with the protagonist(s), viewers watch because they hate the characters. (I am going to use the term “characters” here because, well, um…let’s face it, they are.) A very important aspect of this kind of hating is that we are given full permission, and in fact are encouraged, to hate these characters, no matter how young, sad, drunk , unformed, or old they are.

For example: The week Snooki had her baby, both Talk Soup and Chelsea Lately ran the same joke: Chelsea and Joel McHale said they had procured first video footage of the baby, but then showed the infamous video of the two-year old Indonesian boy blowing smoke rings. Even a two-day old baby is fair game.

All bets are off when it comes to mocking reality television stars, but I have one primary issue (and a gazillion smaller ones): Snark is easy. Snarking on addicts, teenagers, and other people you consider yourself “better than” does not make you smarter than them, it just makes you snarky, which is a skill most of us perfect in middle school. It’s easy.

We all know that these kinds of shows have a primary service—they make us feel better about ourselves. In fact, maybe I shouldn’t think of it as “Hate TV” but as “Superiority TV” or even “Help-Me-Battle-My-Own Insecurities TV” Reality TV shows propagate the same gang mentality that hate crimes do. We are safely tucked into the warm blanket of a crowd, again, a place we learned to like since middle school.

Gang mentality gives us the safety of anonymity as well as the strength of the group—if I call out a derisive term, who’s to say it was me who said it? I cannot even knick the surface of that virtually (pun intended) limitless well of hate on the Internet. The act of bashing online has garnered an entire lexicon of new words:  Trolling, flaming, anonymizer, bash board, happy slapping, and so on. It’s too much and it’s nothing to joke about: We have lost count of teen suicides due to cyberbullying.

I think our tolerance for hate has made a difference in how we treat each other.

I feel like I’m seeing more and more people yelling into their cell phones at other people, more people fighting in the street. On train platforms and walking down the sidewalk, on campus and in Center City, people just seem very, very angry with whoever they’re talking to and, in their passion, also seem to have no sense that everyone around them can hear them too.

A few weeks ago, I was at 33rd and Market and saw a young man arguing with a young woman. At first, I thought maybe they were just being playful with each other. As I got closer I saw that she was louder than him, but he was incessant and was attempting to maneuver her down the steps of the trolley station. I thought of John Quinones’s “What Would You Do” segments, but to be honest, I was afraid to intervene physically, and that’s what it had come to—he was dragging her down the steps, and she was now screaming.

I panicked. I saw a woman in a uniform just a few feet from me and put my hand on her arm as I said, “Could you do something?”

She shook me off and stepped back with nothing but disgust. I noticed now that she was not a police officer but a P.P.A. meter reader. She snarled at me, and said, “You can call the police as easy I can.” The girl was now out of sight but we could still hear her screaming. The meter reader seemed unaffected by the fighting couple, and solely focused on her contempt for me.

I don’t even know how many more seconds I wasted just staring at this PPA agent and wondering why she was just so mean. I called the police, and it took so long to get transferred to the right SEPTA security officials that by the time I got through, I felt like I was making the call more for my sake than for the screaming girl.


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