My Dissenting Voice on Betty White

The journalist Dan Rather wrote that Ms. White had been beloved because she “embraced a life well lived.”

“Her smile,” he wrote. “Her sense of humor. Her basic decency. Our world would be better if more followed her example. It is diminished with her passing.”

What is this shit?

First of all, Dan Rather hasn’t been a real “journalist”– someone who actually investigates, researches and reports on a news story– for several decades.  Secondly, “basic decency”?  “Life well-lived”?   Well, that’s what you say, I guess, when you can’t really list any achievements that don’t sound trite.

Betty White died yesterday, at 99.  The New York Times says:

“A cultural icon”: Television stars, comedians, a president and seemingly the whole internet paid tribute to Betty White.

Really?  Will no one speak up for those who have real achievements but will join Betty in the dumpster of useless Hollywood has-beens because even the New York Times thought Betty White was something?  “James Baldwin died– he lived a life well-lived.”  “Richard Nixon died– another life well-lived.”  “Leonard Cohen died.  Yet another life well-lived”.  I could go on.  And on.  And on.

I would say that I racked my brain trying to think of a single distinguished achievement by Betty White but I didn’t even bother.  Even her fans have to admit that she has not a single notable achievement in her resume.  Not a single great movie role.  Not a single great achievement behind the camera.  And a long list of mediocre television appearance.  I’m sure you are baffled: then how did she get to be so famous?

We have all been bombarded with this “Betty White is so great, so funny, so cute” bullshit that it would have been impossible to avoid.  The truth is that Betty White was never anything more than a boring “celebrity” in the most bankrupt definition of the term: someone without any real achievements who is famous for being famous.  That’s why she was added to the cast of  “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (she was also a personal friend of the star of the show) and that’s why she got a role in “Golden Girls”.

Betty White broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country, and pushed us all to laugh.  (Michelle Obama on Twitter).

Broke barriers?  Which barrier was that?  The one that prevents  privileged ambitious attractive young women with connections from getting onto TV in trivial inconsequential roles and than leveraging their exposure into trite game show gigs and then leveraging that into a sitcom gig– because your friend, the star of the sitcom, gave it to you?

Or that tremendous barrier against old people being hilariously interested in sex?

She was famous.  For being famous.  A reassuring porridge of unthreatening pabulum for the American public–mostly women– to consume without fear of the slightest disturbing vibration.  Nobody regarded her as a serious enough talent to give her a substantial role.  TV-land, lady.

What was she famous for?  Take a close look.  Not a single damn thing.  Quick– name the movie that catapulted her to stardom?  Of course you can’t: she didn’t star in a single notable movie.

You have to accept that she got her “big” television roles because she was a celebrity, which counts as nothing.  She didn’t blow people away with an audition.  She didn’t sell people on the part.  She was a comforting, familiar face to tv viewers.  TV Viewers are idiots: they decide what to watch based on which overly familiar celebrity is in the cast.  That’s why Bill Cosby was a success.  That’s why there was never an inter-racial dating on the Bill Cosby show.  That’s why there was Bill Cosby: you get the celebrity you deserve.

So how did she get that “celebrity” status?  By leveraging small, insignificant roles in radio and tv into guest appearances on that stream of sewage we call television game shows.  From her over-exposure on the game shows, celebritydom.  From celebritydom, casting decisions, as well as her personal friendship with Mary Tyler Moore.

Game shows were her specialty: She appeared on “To Tell the Truth,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Match Game,” “What’s My Line?” and, most notably, “Password,” whose host, Allen Ludden, she married in 1963.

That’s it.  That’s the talent reservoir of the “beloved” Betty White, an actress I personally found so annoying I would change the channel the instant I saw her face in whatever it was was on.  Her face there was an iron-clad guarantee that whatever you were watching would be derivative, repetitive, dull, and ugly.  The kind of humor popularized by Carol Burnett and Red Skeleton,

Everyone I know loves her.  They seem to believe she had a long list of real achievements to her career.  Creating a monotonously one-note character of repetitive gesture and catch-phrase in a TV sitcom is not an achievement.  It’s vulgar and boring.  Starring as the most cliche-ridden character in the entire history of popular culture: the feisty old lady– in “The Proposal”– itself an incredibly boring predictable stew of insipidness– counts against you.

And nothing was more boring on television than an aging female star making tiresome jokes about sex.

“Oh my God!  Betty White!  She’s so funny.  I just love her.”

Stunningly, The Screen Actors Guild gave her a lifetime achievement award in 2010.  What the fuck!?  Do you not even have to have a single real achievement to win this award?  Not one?

If you have a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award you might as well toss it in the dumpster: it obviously is not earned by any actual remarkable achievement.

The comedian Bob Saget called Ms. White “a remarkable talent” who was witty, kind, funny and “full of love,” especially for her husband.

Bob Saget is a comedian?

Well, he is the most appropriate person to pay tribute to Ms. White: no other male tv personality matches his degree of vacuous charmlessness.

The shame of it is we already have a veritable river of shallow celebrity worshippers streaming their effuse adulation of this incredibly trite person– why could the New York Times not reserve it’s accolades for people with real achievements?  Leave us one media source that doesn’t by into this shit.



Bob Saget’s Smarmy Ass is in Hell

When my children watched little snippets of Bob and read some quotes, they couldn’t know that Bob Saget didn’t do transgressive comedy to be mean. He didn’t even do it to shock. He did it to make people laugh,   NY Times

He did it to make people laugh?  Penn Jillette cleverly distracts you from the fact that Saget’s humour was tediously reliant on bodily function humour: yes, pure shock value, as if anyone could really be shocked by a poop joke nowadays.  Shit!  Piss!  Fuck!  And the audience roars with laughter: he’s saying stuff that mom always told me was rude!  Out loud!

What Jillette also doesn’t tell you is that the best humour is usually mean to somebody.  “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is caustic, cynical, brutal in it’s satire of U.S. politics and military culture.  It’s mean as hell and it’s brilliant.  And not a single poop joke in the 90 minutes.

But Saget and Jillette know that it’s very, very hard to write “Dr. Strangelove”.  It takes a lot of talent, and a lot of work.  “Poop!”  There.  That was faster, cheaper, and got more laughs from the average audience.

The cheapest joke in the world–and the most adolescent– is the dirty joke.  Jillette would have you believe that there was something transcendently beautiful about Saget’s dirty jokes.  That’s the only way you can make it sound less infantile: it was beautiful in this wonderful mysterious way that you don’t get because you’re offended.  The rest of us are part of this exclusive private club that appreciates the “transcendent” hilarity of the “transgressive” poop joke.

Saget was, allegedly, a very nice person to know as a friend.  What is meant is that he was nice, in this instance, to the eulogist, who counts anyone who was nice to him or her as nice in general even if they weren’t really.  You can’t tell if someone who was nice to Penn Jillette was nice in general.  Maybe.

What Bob Saget practiced was emotional stage diving. He would fall face-first into the audience’s arms. If the audience didn’t trust him enough to catch him with their laughs, it would be worse than smashing onto a concrete floor.

No– what happened was the audience was enormously relieved to “get” the joke and prove they had taste and culture and a sense of humour.  But Jillette thinks there is something Christ-like in a poop joke and Saget is wearing a thorny crown.

Saget was a fucking bore.  His regime at “America’s Funniest Home Videos” was a depressing and disgusting party of leering sneering bourgeois titillation (which I endured at times because I really do like watching the videos, and still do).  His sitcom, “Full House”, was the very essence of why sitcoms are generally garbage: the familiarity of contemptible mediocrity epitomized by the Lucille Ball sequels desperately trying to cling to viewers by offering the reassuring pabulum of excretable formulae leavened with a smothering dose of smarmy moral turpitude.  The idea is to reassure the average smarmy American audience member that he or she really is a good person with good taste even if he or she really does find poop jokes funny and incest hilarious.

The defense of scabrous humour is this:

“Whether we are talking about Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor or George Carlin, the comedian’s role in society has long been to push boundaries and dare to say what people are thinking but are too afraid to say,” Mr. Sammy said.  From Here.

But that does not relieve the comedian from the burden of imagining something new or fresh or original.  Saget simply repeats the same pee and poop jokes you heard when you were 11 and gets his laughs from stupid audience members who still think it’s funny to say “shit” aloud.

But, no one should be so crass as to try put Saget in the category of Carlin, Bruce, and Pryor.

The rest of us got over it a long time ago, before, even George Carlin.  And now we seek something smart or original or creative.




Vanity Fairy

“Do I see myself as a feminist idol? No. I don’t see myself as anything.” Baba Wawa in Wanity Fair. (Barbara Walters in Vanity Fair, 2014-05)

“Dayan’s widow, Raquel, would wear to her husband’s 1981 funeral, a dress that belonged to Walters”.

Now that’s journalism. (Vanity Fair)

“I was one of the first who did political interviews and celebrities… and now everybody does it”.

Yes, all of your celebrity wannabe friends.

Please don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that the media made a bigger thing out of Barbara Walter’s “tree question” than it really deserved. It deserved to be mocked, in spades. Barbara Walters was a pushy, inane, abominable, celebrity hostess who did more damage than you can possibly imagine to journalism in American. She almost single-handedly invented tabloid journalism. She mastered and promoted the mutual masturbation style of interview, wherein the interviewer asks soft questions and the subject calmly answers them with lies and half-truths and the interviewer generously moves on to the next earth-shattering issue: single or queen-sized bed? When was the last time you cried? Would you cry now for me, please? Just a tear or two.

Trust me: we forgive torturers who cry.

It works wonderfully and you will see even the New York Times marvel at the guests she was able to land.

Of course she lands famous guests: she gives them all a glorious opportunity to answer their critics without difficult follow-up questions, like, “(this specific person) claims that your secret police arrested and tortured her for several months. Are you saying it didn’t happen? Is Amnesty International lying?”

She even let at least one of them edit her own interview (Barbara Streisand, having imposed a condition no real journalist would have agreed to), though I cannot imagine why Streisand thought it would even be necessary.

No person is too obscenely trivial or unimportant as to not deserve an interview with Barbara Walters, from the Khardasians to Beyonce (yes, screw it, Beyonce is trivial) to– the ultimate and most telling triviality of all: Donald Sterling’s girlfriend: V. Stiviano. To Barbara Walters, they are all, Kings and Presidents, Dictators and porn stars, Khardasians and Secretaries of State, equally important, equally interesting, and equally glamorous.

Now the revisionists appear but I can’t understand why. Everyone has always known she was a joke. Everyone has always known that by offering to pose her own dim-witted self-serving harmless fuzz ball questions, she allowed controversial figures to pad their own images, pretend to be accountable, without offering up a single wit, not a moment of honesty or authenticity.

Vanity Fair embarrassingly, shamelessly, with the utmost servility, describes her as reading whenever she is sitting on a plane, and arranged a photo to show bookshelves behind her. Vanity Fair neglects to mention that when she made her meteoric rise to “stardom” in the 1970’s at ABC News, she was the very first co-anchor to…. wait for it … no, it’s not that…. to be a non-journalist. She was the first to be chosen for her ability to entertain, not to enlighten, and the other journalists knew it, but, judging from Vanity Fair, you would never know it.

In Barbara Walters’ own delusional universe, the real journalists like Morley Safer and Peter Jennings criticized her because she was a woman, not because she was a hack.

What kind of a reporter was Barbara Walters? How did she manage to score that exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad? Her amazing — I don’t know what people even think she has– whatever? Or the fact that she helped an Assad aide to obtain an internship at CNN and enroll in Columbia University. But whoa nelly! It’s not as if she held back on Assad: are you a mean dictator? No, not at all. Then show me your glamorous palace and your beautiful wife.

Curtis Sittenfeld, in a particularly gruesome and nauseating aside, insists that you know Walters is great because you can’t not watch– you have to see it, to the end. I am very happy to admit that I watched parts of  several Barbara Walters interviews early in her career and never, ever came back. I looked away as quickly as possible.  Not for Monica Lewinsky, or the hugely embarrassing– mortifying– Obama interview, or Castro, or Sadat, or anyone else she trivialized over the past thirty years.

When she asks Bill Gates if his feelings were hurt because he was referred to as a “nerd”, you have to ask yourself if she has the slightest clue of what a nerd is or what a computer is or what Microsoft is or what Bill Gates is, but you just know that Bill Gates will never mind being asked if his feelings were hurt because Barbara Walters thinks people call him a nerd.

Some Trivia

The pope has decided that he will no longer use the pope-mobile. Hallelujah.

How Vanity Fair scores so many lengthy articles on celebrities: read this piece or any other piece they have produced. Fawning, worshipful, admiring, suck-ups.

I have a theory that a college education is not an asset to a comedian. The comedian– in today’s comedy– thrives on the “arrested thought” (my term).

If you make a joke that is subtle or complex, you risk a dud in front of a live audience which may not ever get it.

George Carlin, bless his soul, regularly does take this chance. But he is exceptional. And I am disturbed by the fact that he is now widely honored, even revered. I’ll bet he worries about it too.  When the establishment falls over itself to hand you awards (Kennedy Centre honors), you have obviously become part of … the establishment.

For example, it’s funnier to mock abstract art if you don’t quite process the real thing. If you don’t get into the question of shape or color or visualization or composition, or how hard it is to actually create an abstract painting (try it, if you don’t believe me). If you process it that far, it’s not funny anymore. It’s plausible that there might be something to abstract art–and that the criteria for judging it might be different than, say, for a photograph– and that is the joke’s death. It’s funnier to describe a painting as a bunch of splatters and lines and say, “I’m supposed to be amazed by this?” The young high-school educated working class males in the audience respond enthusiastically because they don’t get it either and they hate feeling stupid.

Louis C. K., a comedian I like very much, recently appeared on David Letterman to mock the Common Core. I’m not sure about Common Core. I haven’t studied it carefully. It may well be a very significant, important, and effective reform. But Louis C. K., with his high school diploma gets to describe Common Core math as “Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London.” London, of course. There is something, to the working-class male, foreign about this Common Core. Elitist. Fucking Common Core. Hilarious. Drink up.

Where is the joke? The joke is half of fourth graders in the U.S. can’t read a thermometer accurately. The joke is that American adults rank in the bottom 20% in math skills among 20 developed nations. The joke is that A&W’s 1/3 pound burger bombed in the U.S. because most customers thought it was smaller than the quarter-pounder at McDonald’s. The joke is that Americans are the worst at math in the entire world and Louis C. K. yuks it up because any attempt to improve math scores involves challenging, intellectually demanding effort, and you can’t seriously expect an American man to give a shit about anything other than beer, football, and large breasts. And if you think otherwise, it’s because you’re an elitist snob who thinks he’s better than us.

The joke should have been, Louis C. K. makes an appointment to see the teacher but can’t find the room for the meeting because it has more than two digits in the number.

Mitch Hedberg died on April Fools Day, 2005. That’s why it took so long for people to realize he was really dead. That’s no joke.

Bob Hope was actually pretty witty and funny and charming. I never liked him because for me, growing up in the 1960’s, he was the quintessential establishment comedian: he used writers and cue cards instead of creating and memorizing his own material; and he was white, safe, homogenized, and a classic Republican Chicken Hawk: a passionate supporter of the Viet Nam War who– of course!– never got within a hundred miles of actually serving in a war, though I’m sure he felt very brave doing comedy at a military base somewhere near the location of actual warfare.

Also like a classic Republican, Hope carried on several affairs while married, including a long-term one with actress Marilyn Maxwell. Why is this so inevitable?

When Hope was honoured by Queen Elizabeth with an honorary knighthood, he quipped, “I’m speechless. 70 years of ad lib material and I’m speechless”. Well, no. Seventy years of cue cards, Mr. Hope. But an interesting line. I’m quite sure he doesn’t mind most of fans believing that he writes his own quips or thinks of them on the fly.

Great comedy really is a mark of genius, and the best comedians around today like Louis C. K., Stephen Wright, Doug Stanhope and others might be among the smartest people in the entertainment business.


The Elusive Appeal of Muppets

I have never, ever understood the alleged charm and appeal of the Muppets or the alleged genius and imagination of Jim Henson. Who the hell thinks “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984) is interesting at any level? Or “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)? It’s not. But great for kids? Only if you also like feeding your kids raw sugar and Twinkies.

Let’s start with the Muppets themselves. They are cloth dolls– sock puppets, really– with a very, very limited range of expression. In fact, the range is one. The designs are not remotely interesting– and I absolutely deny that this is a characteristic of products intended to appeal to children. Like I said, only if you think sugar is nutritious. Or that Barbie dolls encourage the child’s imagination.

I remember being a child. I remember that a lot of TV programming was like junk food: it gratified the immediate desire for entertainment with slap-dash action shorts, but the impression was neither deep nor lasting. But I insist that certain cartoons and short films I saw as a child made a deep impression on me and when I later viewed the same products as an adult, I was not betrayed. These cartoons and short films really were fresh, original, and imaginative, in a way that Hanna-Barbara cartoons were not, most of the time, and the Muppets are not ever. Don’t believe me? Look up the cartoon version of “Justice in the Jungle”. Oh wait– I cannot locate it anywhere. Not a trace. But another great children’s movie, “Skinny and Fatty” is available.

Kermit is a dweeb in the true sense of the word, which is a lot less of an interesting thing to be than you might think. He is bland and not particularly curious about anything. He never expresses insight or a playful imagination. He never does anything really funny or mischievous or daring. In that sense, he is a true reflection of the mind of Jim Henson, his doppelganger. In “The Muppets Take Manhattan”, he helps create a Broadway show about– wait for it– wait for it– wait for it– come on– what do you think a really creative writer or artist would come up with as a theme for a movie about Muppets creating a Broadway show? Right: never, ever the theme of creating a Broadway show. And becoming famous. Becoming a star. Living your dream. In other words, the most exhausted, empty, flavorless clichés left on the bottom shelf of the idea closet in some alcoholic Hollywood producer’s toilet.

There’s nothing artistic in the Muppets. It’s all just material production, including the utterly pedestrian musical numbers in “The Muppets Take Manhattan”. Instantly forgettable. Dull. Lifeless. Lots of puppets mugging and swaying and going up and down and that’s about it. This is what we offer our children instead of real stop-motion animation?

The reason is simple. People saw the Muppets and immediately rose up as one and demanded more Muppets? No. The TV network saw Muppets and realized: cheap production costs! Have you seen what it cost to do hand-drawn animation? Or stop-motion? Even those crappy, repetitive Saturday morning cartoons are not cheap.

Let’s promote them like crazy and see if the suckers will bite. And they did.

The Terrifying Ebullience of Smart Women

I hate when people in a bar or at a party find out I’m majoring in physics. The minute they find out, I can see the guys turn away.” Yet another went on about how even at Yale the men didn’t want to date a physics major, and how she was worried she’d go through four years there without a date.

Why the hell would she care? Why would she want to date a man who felt that intelligence was not an asset for a woman?

I wondered if this woman was unattractive. I know that women generally don’t get what makes them attractive to men. A woman with large breasts sometimes believes she is irresistible and maybe she is to a certain kind of man but never has been to me.

This is from a young woman studying physics at Yale University. She is upset and feels that she is being discriminated against because some young men at Yale appear– to her– to be uninterested in dating a smart woman.

Another complains that she was “underappreciated”. I tried to connect to that. Would I have ever complained that my professors did not “appreciate” me enough when I was at college? Did they owe me appreciation?

“Big Bang Theory” is proffered as an illustration of persisting discriminations and stereotyping (the characters of Amy and Bernadette).

The problem with “Big Bang Theory” isn’t sexism: it’s that it is a cliché-ridden, mediocre show with a horrible laugh-track.


“Breaking Bad” Goes off the Rails

The last few episodes of “Breaking Bad” betray a sense that the show has gone off the rails. They are trying to strong-arm the plot into setting up various confrontations that might prove more visually exciting but drain away plausibility. I am not convinced Jesse would find Hank any less repugnant than Walt, and that he wouldn’t find himself even more repugnant for betraying a man who actually treated him pretty well. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. I’m saying that it is a dramatic challenge to make it believable, and Gilligan completely failed that challenge.

The same goes for Hank’s senseless decision to keep his suspicions of Walt private, including chasing him out to where they think he hid the money without backups, and with Jesse in the car. This is so obviously intended to provide a motivation for Walt to kill Hank and Jesse (what would the point be if Hank’s colleagues had the information) that it would be laughable if it weren’t so lame. It’s just not believable on any level at all.

Nor was it believable that Walt would be so stupid as to fall for Jesse’s trick phone call. But it was the height of ridiculousness to have Walt confess most of his murders to Jesse on the phone while screaming at him on his way to check on his money, not suspecting for one moment that it was being recorded or monitored. This is a huge lapse of sanity on Walt’s part and there is no dramatic groundwork for it. They couldn’t do better than that to set up the confrontation that they wanted? Or that Huell Babineaux would so readily believe Hank about having been betrayed by Saul Goodman. Sure, he’s a fool– but fool’s are just as likely to disbelieve the truth as they are to fall for a lie. Just how many implausible events and coincidences had to occur to get to this scene, in the dessert? The credibility and the tension sap away, which is a shame, because it was so good up to the last season.

“The Wire”, on the other hand, ended without a single false note– gracefully.  “The Wire” ranks among the best TV series ever, and much higher than “Breaking Bad”.

Skyler’s Complaint

Skyler’s Complaint

In a baffling op-ed piece in the New York Times, August 23, 2013, the actress Anna Gunn complains about what she perceives to be a double standard: the main male character of the TV series “Breaking Bad”, Walt White, seems to be regarded as a kind of lovable rogue, who’s just trying to take care of his family while selling methamphetamine to pathetic addicts who have faded further and further into the background of the series. Her character, Skyler White, who, she says, lives a relatively faultless life, is vilified. Why? It’s because, she says, Skyler is a woman. It’s a double standard. Skyler has become “a measure of our attitude towards gender”. And that measure indicates rage and hypocrisy towards women who don’t stand by their man. At least, that’s Anna Gunn’s take on it.

Guilty. I’ll admit it: I found the character of Skyler White repugnant.

Is she arguing that Skyler should be admired? She says Skyler “has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, non-submissive, ill-treated women”. Ill-treated? If, I suppose, you buy one of the fundamental conceits of “Breaking Bad”, which is, that there really is something admirable about Walt White’s desire to support his family, even if it means destroying hundreds of other lives. Then Skyler is ill-treated, I suppose, by Walt’s dishonesty. But Skyler had the opportunity to walk away and didn’t take it. Walt provides for her, desires her, and wants to sustain their marriage. How is that “ill treated”?

But what if you didn’t even buy the first part: that Walt is admirable in some way, because, after all, he is taking care of his family. Americans seem to be complete suckers for family: you can commit any atrocity, as long as it is to protect your family.

Well, in my view, Walt is a psychopathic criminal and a cold-blooded killer. In my view, anyone who would harm another man’s family to protect his own is not admirable: he’s selfish. Just as a mother who brags about her overweening love for her children can be suffering from “overflowing self-infatuation”. I don’t admire either of them. Am I off the hook?

The brains behind the program, Vince Gilligan, claims that “Breaking Bad” is about how far a man will go to take care of his family. If he is a psychopath.

Skyler wants it both ways, and it’s not unusual for audiences to find hypocrisy more repellent than mischief or even murder. Walt is repellent but he really doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t have any morals other than the desire to provide for his family, which isn’t really a moral. It’s a motive. And it doesn’t, in my view, make him admirable. His family really isn’t “other”. It isn’t someone other than himself who benefits from his criminal activity. And his passion for his family, as dramatized in “Breaking Bad”, is fundamentally unbelievable. In real life, that is something put on, a charade. In real life, people like Walt White are fundamentally psychotic and narcissistic.

Why does Vince Gilligan make this a central trope in “Breaking Bad”?  So the viewer can enjoy Walt’s shenanigans without feeling repulsion.  After all, he’s just taking care of his family.

Skyler doesn’t walk away. She doesn’t turn him in. She accepts the money. She cheats on Walt. She helps her employer cheat. Just what does Anna Gunn believe is admirable about her? That she is “strong”? But not strong enough, apparently, to walk away.

Charlton Heston’s Naked Butt

I was watching “Planet of the Apes” on PBS the other night and there was that famous shot of Charlton Heston being presented to the ape officials for disposal, naked, from behind.

I have seen this movie at least three times, on television. I have never before seen Charlton Heston’s naked buttocks blurred out. But here it was, on PBS, the “enlightened” network, blurred out, just like Stewy’s naked butt on “Family Guy”.

What the hell? Has PBS joined the hoards of frigid hysterical puritans who have decided that the moral life of the nation is threatened by the back view of a man’s naked buttocks? In a country that enjoys dismemberment, explosions, bikinis, gratuitous sex and violence, and Fox News? Spare us.

Oscars 2013

Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars: was this a put on?

I think it was. And I think she will get away with it because she is young and bit dorky and funny. But it could not be helped: she has slimmed down, after complaining, last year, about how Hollywood wants everyone to look anorexic. Yes, they do, and you do. Whether she becomes even more successful depends on lot on how she chooses her next films. She could be the next Sally Field. Or she could be the next Sally Field.

Or the next Amy Adams, who must have the worst luck of any actress in Hollywood: she is one of a handful of really interesting actors around, but hasn’t yet found the break-out role that will define her career.

Poor Anne Hathaway: I doubt she’ll ever again, for sheer artistic interest, match the moment in “Brokeback Mountain” where she told Ennis, on the phone, what had happened to Jack, and made it beautifully ambiguous: did she know what was really up or not?

It’s pretty clear she did know– but it was wonderfully done.

No one gave a better performance in any film this year than Amy Adams did in “Junebug”.  I know for a fact you have never seen it: do so, now.