Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Little of the Old In and Out


(image via sg.hu)

In: MySpace. Apparently Rupert Murdoch has plans to make the teen online hangout MySpace the new "It" portal. (The Corsair sips a glass of 1988 Chateau Haut Brion) Growing at "about 1 million people a week," Newscorp is going to offer free video downloads. And with such buzzy Newscorp properties as "24," "The Family Guy," "Prison Break," and "The Simpsons," it should be interesting. Very interesting. According to Paidcontent:

"At the Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecom conference, Rupert Murdoch outlines some plans for MySpace and other Internet ventures. [The archived webcast of his talk is here...]

"He said: -- 'This week, we're starting free video downloads on MySpace [Ed: not sure what he means...I'm assuming he means music video downloads from bands on MySpace. It could also be Fox TV shows], which will be tremendous. We will probably have millions of downloads per day. [Is this the video download page?] -- Very shortly, we'll be launching our own instant messaging service [on MySpace]. It was a technology from IGN...we've refined it for MySpace. And following that we'll add voice to it too. -- Revenues: On a present trajectory, our main sites with MySpace-FoxSports-IGN would rake in about $350-400 million in revenues in 2007 and will take off from there. We're the biggest mass of unsold inventory for now...we have the third-most page views online in U.S. now, only behind Yahoo and MSN. We're building a business on community sites...no one has done that before. It is clearly the way to go.'"

Could you imagine the viral capacity of video download outtakes on MySpace of "American Idol"? There are a thousand neo-William Hung's out there ready to be spitballed by the teens at Myspace.


(image via bbsnews)

Out: The Medicare Drug Benefit Program. Ten days have passed. Perhaps The Corsair is overly cynical in his political prognostications, but doesn't the complexity of the Bush Medicare program lend itself to a major negative in the 2006 midterm elections? It is labyrinthine, to be sure, but add to the mix that it speaks to senior citizens who have, we cannot fail to note, precious little understanding of internet resources. To ask seniors to ask their children -- and granchildren -- to explain it to them does not a popular, seemless policy make.

Doesn't it seem like a no-brainer that the Democrats, employing the mantle of populist, are going to run mightily against the drug benefit program in 2006 Congressional elections, to part the Bushies from the senior vote? According to our favorite Dickensian villain, Robert Novak:

"It is said only in hushed tones and not by anybody of prominence, but a few brave souls in the Bush administration admit it. President Bush's Medicare drug benefit that went into effect Jan. 1 looks like a political blunder of far-reaching consequences. Furthermore, these critics assign major responsibility to Karl Rove.

"The hideous complexity of the scheme, which has the effect of discouraging seniors from signing up, is only the beginning of difficulties it entails for the president and his party. It will further swell the budget deficit without commensurate political benefits. On the contrary, the drug plan may prove a severe liability for Republicans facing an increasingly hazardous midterm election in November."

"This program looks less like a bump in the road than a major pothole on Rove's highway to permanent majority status for the Republican Party. As Bush's principal political adviser, Rove has a brilliant strategic mind and can take credit for crafting the 2000 and 2004 presidential election victories. The drug plan was an audacious effort to co-opt the votes of seniors, reflecting Rove's grand design of building on the electoral majority by adding constituency groups. By failing to win new supporters while alienating old ones, the drug plan betrays a flaw in Rove's strategic overview and points to potentially disastrous consequences.

"This is the winter of Republican discontent, even if it is not openly conceded. GOP members of Congress live in terror of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal touching them. Once House Republicans return from their global junkets in about two weeks, they face increasing pressure to elect a new majority leader to replace Tom DeLay. The Bush Social Security reform concept lies strangled in its crib, while his tax reform did not even get that far. In this atmosphere, the consequences of passing the drug benefit two years ago become unpleasantly clear."


(image via moviecentral)

In: Sleeper Cell. Abigail Azote of MedialifeMagazine duly slams Showtime's "Sleeper Cell" based on it's lackluster ratings. Fair enough. But what about the quality of the show? Doesn't that factor even a smidge on any final judgement?

Having just seen "Sleeper Cell," Episode 01 on Showtime-on-Demand, we can vouch that it is an engaging drama. And we cannot say enough about the cathartic value of a good drama on this subject in this era of global terrorism. Unfortunately:

"In this time of raised terror alerts and airport security screenings, the threat of another terrorist attack has become part of day-to-day life. Except, it seems, when it comes to TV viewing. Shows examining this all-to-real worry have been more misses than hits, and the latest example is Showtime�s 'Sleeper Cell.' The 10-hour miniseries was perhaps more intense than any terror-themed show that�s aired since 9/11.

"It stars a black Muslim FBI agent who goes undercover to stop a terrorist plot and is told from the point of view of terrorists plotting an attack on a major American city. But despite its unique approach, 'Sleeper' failed to find viewers. Sunday�s two-hour finale at 8 p.m. delivered 309,000 viewers, up just 4 percent from its premiere. That brought the miniseries� average to just 207,875 for its limited run. Even considering Showtime�s modest 13 million subscribers, those numbers are disappointing.

"Compared to other Showtime series, 'Sleeper' was a stinker. Last spring�s 'Fat Actress' premiered to 942,000 viewers, compared to 'Sleeper�s' 296,000. 'Actress' fell sharply thereafter and was canceled after one season. Showtime�s 'Huff' averaged nearly double 'Sleeper�s' audience in its debut last season. But perhaps the better comparison is to FX�s 'Over There' which, like 'Sleeper,' dramatized an ongoing and very real problem, the war in Iraq. 'Over There' was canceled after its ratings slid sharply from its debut. FX executives blamed the ratings slide on audiences� reluctance to watch a real-life issue play out on television. They were most likely right.

"With 'Sleeper's' poor showing, it's unlikely it will be extended."

Note to Showtime/Viacom: Stream a few episodes free on the web and let word-of-mouth determine its fate.


She's still hott. (image via latina)

Out: Elizabeth Vargas. No love for World News Tonight co-anchor and hottie Elizabeth Vargas. According to TVNewser:

"I liked the first week of the Woodruff-Vargas version of 'World News Tonight' much more than I expected," the New York Sun's David Blum says. 'You have to give the tag team points for hard work; in a busy news week, they showed their faces in Iran, Israel, and West Virginia, updated the newscast for the West Coast, and did a thorough job with complex stories like the Abramoff bribery scandal and the mining disaster - owing much, in both cases, to ABC's distinguished investigative reporter Brian Ross.

"Still, after a week I wonder whether I'm ever going to turn to Elizabeth Vargas in an hour of need. Her facial expressions remind me of a scenery-chewing stage actor who doesn't quite understand the character she's supposed to play. She smiles like the star of a toothpaste commercial, and wrinkles her brow like she's about to get a flu shot - and neither at quite the right moment. Peter Jennings must be rolling over in his gravitas."

Yum! Total turn on, TVNewsers. Elizabeth Vargas rolling over in her gravitas.


Julian Schnabel, head and shoulders above the Downtown artists. (image via nysocialdiary)

In:The Downtown Show: In which Our favorite social chronicler, David Patrick Columbia, ventures beyond East 59th Street, in NYSocialDiary:

"The Downtown Show is organized in eight sections divided between two NYU venues � the Grey and the Fales Library. At the Grey are: Interventions, which examines how artists took their art to the streets; Broken Stories � a fresh look at the innovative and disjunctive narrative techniques of Downtown writer, visual artists, and filmmakers; The Portrait Gallery displaying likenesses of Key Downtown denizens that create a collective communal 'portrait'; Sublime Time, exploring the period�s search for the sublime in the wake of minimalism�s reductive, formal beauty; Salon de Refuse, works referencing Downtown detritus used to create a 'trash culture'; and The Mock Shop, comprising low-cost artist�s multiples, fashions and accessories featured in 'stores' that sprung up in a number of influential Downtown shows.

"At the Fales (which we did not see) are De-Signs, referencing grafiti and presents artists� use of advertising�s shorthand signs and strategies; and Body Politics which features art works concerned with sexuality and identity.

"The exhibition concludes with Ronald Reagan�s re-election and the rise of the East Village�s storefront art galleries. The show was designed to demonstrate how this crucial decade radically altered American art and culture. Viewing it, having lived during that time, it is curious to see how the wildly new, even radical, has settled into The Past."

Out: "Earmarks." Congressional earmarks are a no-no. Once par for the course, ones record of earmarks all but nixes a candidate for a leadership position in this new climate of anti-lobbying. According to George Will, on the race for House Majority Leader, " "A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations or transportation bill."


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