New TV shows on the menu

I’d like to pretend that as a mature 20-something with a full time job, I’d be over all those silly American shows of my childhood. But Dawson’s Creek is currently queued on my Sky Plus box, while I’m in mourning over the end of the Gossip Girl series (recap to come). Clearly, I still care.

But with Life Unexpected and Greek (two of my favourites) canned this year,it’s time to find something new to series-link.

Every May, the US television networks announce their “fall schedules” – translation, the list of the good, bad and often horrendous television series they will be showing from September. I’ve looked through them all and it seems a good list, although there are far, far too many Lost-wannabees and sitcoms hoping to jump on the Two and a Half Men publicity bandwagon, not to mention a healthy dose of supernatural adventures. (Note to Hollywood. Get over Twilight).

The good news (in my view) is that Gossip Girl has been renewed for a fifth year, meaning that it has outlived Josh Schwartz’s previous foray into the dark underbelly of the lives of the rich and glamorous.

But one cannot dine on Gossip Girl alone (seriously, all you’d be eating is waffles), so what else is on the menu?

Hart of Dixie:

Fast-talking New Yorker and brand new doctor Zoe Hart has it all figured out…but when her dreams fall apart, Zoe decides to accept an offer from a stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, to work with him at his small practice in Bluebell, Alabama.   She quickly finds that Southern hospitality isn’t always so hospitable.”

This sounds a lot like something that should be on the Hallmark channel, with characters in flowery dresses going to church all the time. It may well turn out to be, but the interesting thing about this is who is involved.

Rachel  (aka Summer Roberts) will star as the newly graduated doctor who finds a last-chance job in a stuck-up southern town and has to fight her way through inevitable bitchiness and rivalry and romantic drama. So far, so yawn. I bet she meets a gorgeous stranger who looks after, I bet the mean girl isn’t so mean after all. Original. Er, no.

But she’s reuniting with Schwarz and Savage on the show, the team behind both OC and Gossip Girl, so, while it sounds like soppy drivel, it has potential.

Ringer:

“A woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister – only to learn that her sister’s seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she’s trying to leave behind.” 

This is a return to television for Sarah Michelle Geller or, if you were a TV-watching teen in the noughties and spent those years watching a small blonde girl battle (and occasionally romance) the genetically blessed undead, Buffy’s back!

However, judging by the summary, this isn’t Buffy at all. Identical twins? Life on the run? Wealthy? So far, so Sunset Beach.

Not that that’s such a bad thing. Sunset Beach had its charm (no, really, remember the demonic Jesus statue and the sinful shirtless priest? Exactly) But if you’re wanting a return to Joss Whedon’s smart and knowing pop-culture genius, I don’t think Ringer will be where you will find it.

But on the plus side, it also stars Nestor Carbonel (as in, freakish ageless eyeliner man from Lost). Speaking of Lost…

Alcatraz:

“From executive producer JJ Abrams…the chilling new thriller centered on America’s most infamous prison and one-time home to the nation’s most notorious murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves and arsonists. ”

And guess who it stars! Hurley.Well, no, Jorge Garcia, but, but Hurley is back!! Phew, too much excitement.

Basically, the idea is: what if those creepy Alcatraz maniac inmates disappeared, then reemerged in modern life without ageing? Huh? Sounds deep.

It could be very good. After all, everyone was a wee bit sceptical when JJ Abrams said he had a show about a mysterious island, a plane crash, and the survivors’ battle to get home. (Hello, why wouldn’t they just Tweet HELP ME?). And Lost was a runaway success, not to mention the most baffling and mindboggling piece of entertainment around.

But, then there were the polar bears, smoke monsters, bearded evils and French crazies hiding in the trees. For all Lost’s awesomeness, it required a helluva lot of patience and a passion for obscure sites like Lostpedia.

So, note to Alcatraz team. Avoid the temptation to put in every ludicrous idea you have, and just stick with the really, really good ones.

Oh, and don’t kill off anyone called Charlie, either.

2 Broke Girls:

“A comedy about two strikingly different young waitresses who form an unlikely friendship.”

 This show should be crud. The premise (metropolitan waitresses with baking business plan) is ridiculous and you just know that the girls will live ridiculously lavish lives that there’s no way they could ever afford if the title were true. Ref, Carrie in Sex and the City, Rachel in Friends, or anyone in what Hollywood imagines a minimum wage life to be.

Plus, it’s about baking. I bet they’re going to make it look really easy to make beautifully iced cupcakes and perfect pies. But they so won’t show the endless washing up once your cakes are in the oven, or the fight to get flour out of your hair, or the time the icing sugar packet breaks from both ends.

That said, Kat Dennings is awesome – both in the brilliant Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Charlie Bartlett. Great comic timing, realistic looks, hair that you just know goes frizzy when she walks out in the rain. So, definite potential.

Pan Am:

“Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.”

Wednesday Adams (Christina Ricci) as fesity air hostess. Curious. You can imagine the production meetings where they came up with this.

Writer: “So, I have this idea. It’s a bit like Mad Men…” Money guy: “Sold.”

But I do adore Mad Men…


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‘Pinkwashing’: Israeli pride and the peace process

If I asked whether the Obama administration was using its record on healthcare reform to excuse its policy on Syria, what would you think?

You might well have strong opinions on either subject – perhaps that healthcare reform was a brave but costly step, or that the White House should put its money where its mouth isn’t quite on Syria. But looking at the two together? For most people, the one has very little to do with the other.

Now, change the Obama administration to “Israel”, healthcare reform to “gay rights” and Syria to “Palestine”, and ask the question again. Except that you don’t have to: Time magazine has helpfully done it for you in this week’s issue. Writes one David Kaufman:

“Around the world, major Pride events are being used as battle grounds to combat what some pro-Palestinian, progay activists are calling pink washing: Israel’s promotion of its progressive gay-rights record as a way to cover up ongoing human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.”

“The accusations stem from efforts over the past half-decade by the Israeli government to weave the country’s gay-friendly policies – including national hate-crime laws, employment protection for LGBT workers and openly gay military service – into its larger national-rebranding strategy, in the hopes of redirecting its global image away from politics, terrorism and the occupied territories.”

The writer then goes on to look at the debate in more detail, as you can read here, discussing various controversies at gay rights events involving pro or anti-Israel groups.

He adds: “Israel does have some of the world’s most progressive LGBT policies, yet its also mired in an illegal, militarized West Bank occupation.”

The article is not an unbridled attack on Israel. But I’m at a loss to understand its point.

There are certainly some interesting points to be made in the way in which the gay-rights movement interacts with the pro-and anti-Israel causes. I’d love to read an article on the subject.

But why assume that Israel’s support for gay-rights is about something other than improving the rights of gay people?

Yes, Israel does, as Kaufman puts it, promote its “progressive gay-rights record” as one example of its democratic nature, but what country doesn’t promote its achievements?

Every government in the world seeks to make political capital from the things it does well; see Britain with the Royal Wedding, Obama with the bin Laden triumph, Jamaica with its good weather and freely-available rum.

Hell, every job applicant in the world focuses on the good points when trying to make a public persona. It doesn’t mean they are not aware of their faults. And if I write that I have good shorthand on my CV, I’m not trying to “excuse” my rubbish French, I’m just pointing out my strength in a different area. The one does not compensate for the other and I’m not trying to convince anyone it does.

But when it comes to Israel why is it that celebrating one aspect of the country automatically implies that you are consciously ignoring another?

The argument Israel presents to the world isn’t “We’re nice to gay people so we can be super-mean to those darn Palestinians” or “gay pride was great, so stuff the peace process”. It’s that of any country in the world; celebrate what you do well and work harder at the things you don’t.

I’m a regular reader of Time magazine, have been a subscriber for years. But this, and last year’s similarly disingenuous cover story on “why Israel doesn’t care about peace” seem to me be fishing-trips in finding a provocative new angle on an age-old story, however tenuous.

Sometimes, there’s more to what’s going on in the Middle East than land and religion.

That doesn’t mean everything that happens in the region is about land and religion.

Bin Laden’s death shouldn’t be a kodak moment

A couple of months ago I opened an email that I later wished I hadn’t. It contained photographs, grisly, explicit photographs of the victims of the Itamar massacre.

Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Information explained the decision thus: “our goal in sending out the photos was clear: to show that this attack crossed all lines.”

A fair point, surely. Israelis – sadly – are perhaps more desensitized than others around the world to scenes of horror and devastation, yet what happened to the Fogels was incomprehensible.

Fresh from this cold-blooded and brutal massacre – lest we forget, a three-month-old baby was decapitated – the desire to show the world the truth was more than understandable.

But was it right? Releasing those photos (done with the family’s permission) could not change the facts of what happened. More importantly, what signal does it send to greet a nightmare with another.

The same goes for the Kodak moment of Osama bin Laden’s death.

Five days after his death was announced, the chorus of voices demanding pictorial evidence has not subsided. Without a land grave, for many, there cannot be catharsis without a picture of bin Laden’s bullet-ridden body.

The Obama administration has umm and ahhd about releasing the photos and expressed concern they would be used “as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool”.

Good on them. Frankly, why does the world need to see another scene of brutality?

The argument that such evidence would lay rest conspiracy theories about bin Laden’s death is nonsense, or there’d be no crazed whispers about the moon-landing, September 11 or of JFK’s assassination.

For those who want to believe a conspiracy, a picture is worthless. With Photoshop and the best computer geeks in the world at their disposal, the White House could (and I’m not suggesting for one moment they would) easily manipulate an image.

But more importantly, there’s more than enough violent imagery out there – much of it the result of al-Qaida’s handiwork – without adding to it on the front page of every newspaper in the world.