There's an air of doom at both PBS and NPR this week amid the current PR disaster over comments NPR's fundraising chief made during a video sting by conservative political activists. The result could mean the end of government funding for public broadcasting.
During a lunch meeting with activists posing as wealthy radical Muslims pretending to offer a $5 million grant to the public radio network, the impostors secretly filmed NPR's Ron Schiller making disparaging comments about Republicans and Tea Partiers. But even more damning may have been Ron Schiller's filmed remark that NPR doesn't really need federal funding and might even be better off without it.
NPR brass quickly disavowed Schiller's comments and booted him out the door (NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, no relation, was forced out as well), but the remarks seemed to validate the vote House Republicans made last month to cut funding for NPR and PBS from about $450 million per year to zero. The elimination of all federal funding for public broadcasting may not pass the Senate or President Obama's veto pen, but still, the whole imbroglio raises questions worth asking: Could public broadcasting survive and even thrive without federal money? Should the government be involved at all in funding culture? Can it afford to? In a 500-channel universe, is the programming provided by PBS and NPR not just a redundancy but an irresponsible luxury? Or would public broadcasting stations, along with many beloved shows, wither away without taxpayer dollars?
Some have argued this was because NPR -- with its perceived liberal slant -- wasn't comfortable with Fox News using NPR's brand to advance Fox News's "Fair and Balanced" slogan.
Mara Liasson is another prominent NPR employee who still appears regularly on Fox. On "The O'Reilly Factor," (weekdays, 8 PM ET on Fox News) Bill O'Reilly highlighted her as a left-wing voice on the cable news network.
"Some far-left loons define the Fox News channel as a network in business to promote the Republican party," O'Reilly said. "That of course is nonsense, listen to Fox News analyst Mara Liasson yesterday."
Then O'Reilly played a clip of Liasson, on Fox News, comparing soon-to-be former House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi to sainted British statesman Winston Churchill.
"You know, you hear the propaganda that Fox News is the tank for Republicans and it's GOP all the time, and then you have Liasson, who has a pretty big platform on this network, say that," O'Reilly continued. "We foster that kind of discussion . . . unlike our competition."
The competition being, of course, MSNBC.
No word on whether Roger Ailes gives his anchors a cash bonus when they're able to seamlessly needle NPR and slam MSNBC in the same segment, but we're pretty sure O'Reilly at least got some high-fives backstage.
"This is good for you," O'Reilly said about Williams' firing.
"What?" Williams responded, incredulously.
"You're going to get a big book contract to write about what you can and can't say in America," O'Reilly explained. "Number two, you're going to get to host 'The Factor' tomorrow night . . . number 3, everybody likes you now . . . number four, Congress in going to de-fund NPR and they are going to lose all their public money."
Williams seemed genuinely distraught by the firing, and O'Reilly's words seemed to cheer him up.
And O'Reilly didn't even mention the new three year, $2 million contract Fox News gave Williams in the wake of his dismissal from NPR -- which would put a smile on any man's face.
Appearing on 'Happening Now' (weekdays, 11 AM ET on Fox News) Williams addressed his sudden termination by NPR:
"Wednesday afternoon I got a message on my cell phone from Ellen Weiss, who's the head of news at NPR, asking me to call. When I called back she said, 'What did you say, what did you mean to say?' and I said 'I said what I meant to say.' Which is that it's an honest experience in an airport when I see people who are in Muslim garb who identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I do a double take, I have a moment of anxiety or fear given what happened on 9/11. That's just the reality."
Then, according to Williams, Weiss accused him of making a bigoted statement, which Williams denied. Then Weiss told Williams that the decision to terminate his employment was final. There would be no further review of the matter, or opportunity for Williams, who had worked at NPR for ten years, to meet with management face-to-face.
There is more to this story than Williams' comments alone: NPR has long been uncomfortable with his dual role on NPR and Fox News. In fact, they had previously asked Fox News to stop mentioning Williams' affiliation with NPR when he appeared on the cable channel, because they believed it made it seem like Williams was expressing opinions on NPR's behalf, not just his own.
In 'The Factor' segment in question, O'Reilly had, at one point, mentioned Williams does work for NPR.
If Williams wasn't just fired for what he said, but also because of Fox News' continued mentioning of his NPR affiliation, that's fine. But NPR needs to say this publicly. If they don't, NPR runs the risk of looking callous and overly attuned to political correctness. After all, Williams was only expressing an honest emotion that many Americans would probably admit to feeling in similar circumstances. That alone shouldn't be a firing offense.
Danny has a vested interest in the game, since he grew up in New Orleans and is super excited to see his hometown team, the New Orleans Saints, bring home the Vince Lombardi trophy. After all, it's been 43 years since they've made a Super Bowl appearance. It's time, people. The Indianapolis Colts will just have to try again some other year.
Danny will also be Livetweeting Super Bowl Sunday at Asylum starting at 6PM ET, along with Asylum and NPR contributor Renny MacKay. You can join in that conversation by using the #AsylumSB hashtag. In fact, check it out now, because the conversation has already started. What did we do before live blogging and tweeting? We led such lonely, distant lives. But not anymore!
Go Danny! Go Saints!
(S03E09) As soon as I read the episode info and saw that Kripke was going to be making an appearance, I lost all hope of this episode coming anywhere close to matching the brilliance of last week's. I was not wrong. I don't like Kripke. I don't find a speech impediment to be funny, and with him, it's completely extraneous. Sheldon could just have an enemy (I don't doubt he had many, in fact). You don't need to give the character this extra identifying mark.
So not only was I dismayed by Kripke's appearance, his practical joke was just mean-spirited and again, not something that I found funny. I don't like watching people getting humiliated. Sheldon dressed up for a radio interview. That's adorable, and then to not only be embarrassed for absolutely no reason in front of a national audience, but to have his friends laughing at him as well, just made me sad. Luckily, Wolowitz's uh, love triangle with Bernadette and Katee Sackhoff saved the episode for me.
- I don't really understand this whole Twilight phenomenon, but I'm pretty sure the success of those damn glittery vampires is directly proportional to the huge boner America seems to have for American Idol contestant Adam Lambert. Anyway, if that's the sort of thing you're into, I have one word for you: TwiCon!
- I originally heard this story on NPR (what's up, NPR name-dropping nerd?) and thought it was fascinating. I want the movie to be good, but the trailers haven't exactly been setting my world on fire. Read Cinematical's review of The Soloist and see if it's worth checking out.
- Regardless of how good or bad The Soloist is, I'll still love Robert Downey, Jr. Cinematical Seven takes a look at Underrated Robert Downey, Jr. movies.
- I'm really interested in seeing The Carter, the Lil' Wayne documentary. My interest has only grown since I've heard that Lil Wayne wants to block The Carter's release. Perhaps that was his plan all along? Well played, Master Wayne.
- Jamie Foxx playing Mike Tyson in a biopic? Okay, I'm in.
Though not the most obvious of translations, PBS has nevertheless transformed NPR's hit radio series Car Talk into an animated series. The show, dubbed Click and Clack's As The Wrench Turns, premieres July 9th at 8 p.m. ET and is set to run in two-episode blocks for five weeks thereafter. Click and Clack, the on-air alter egos of Tom and Ray Tappet, are as self-deprecating off-air about the series as they are on air. "I hope that people look at it mercifully," said Ray, "It's lame enough that people will laugh at some of the lame stuff."
The brothers are the heart and soul of the radio show, which has become a huge hit for NPR, but the TV show is looking to spotlight a more expanded roster of characters. And while the two will be playing animated versions of themselves, and those versions will also host an auto talk show, the similarities really end there. You really have a more family-oriented animated show the creators say is more akin to Family Guy or The Simpsons than the radio show.
I heard a short story on NPR this weekend about a band called Previously on Lost. Every week, they release a song that recaps each episode of Lost. The band members are Jeff Curtin and Adam Schatz, and they record their songs on Kiss My Arzt Records (ha!). Curtin says they pick the major theme or event of the week and sing about it. One of the funniest songs I heard was for the Desmond-centric episode a few weeks ago when he almost had an aneurysm. It's called "Be My Constant". Curtin says that song is about "love and electro-magnetism".
(S19E13)"Young man, I'm going to be on you like a numerator on a denominator" -- Principal Skinner to Donny the informant
It's been a looong time since we had an episode of The Simpsons that focused on that young rapscallion Bart and his status of Prankmaster at Springfield Elementary. Frankly, I was starting to get a bit worried that we wouldn't see one at all this season and that all we would get is one episode after another focusing on Homer and his hi-jinks. Luckily, someone at FOX or the offices of The Simpsons realized this and gave us an installment that not only reignited the feud between Bart and Principal Skinner, but parodied the Martin Scorsese film The Departed. Plus, it was actually a good episode.
Popular public radio program Car Talk, hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers (actually Tom and Ray Magliozzi), is coming to television next year, as an animated sitcom on PBS.
Yes, me, really. I assumed it would just be the brothers dispensing advice and offering help to people with car problems, just like on their radio show, but instead, the new program will focus on the brothers' lives outside the radio show as they work in their fix-it garage, and deal with angry customers.
As we've previously reported, This American Life is coming to Showtime, and we were lucky enough to get a look at the first four episodes. It's no secret that I had high hopes for this show, and was all set to have them crushed, trampled, and stomped upon. However, I'm happy to report that that my hopes are still intact, at least after having seen four episodes. There's still room for my hopes to be smashed into a million crystalline fragments down the road.
First off, if you've never heard an episode of This American Life, it's high time that you head to iTunes and subscribe to their podcast. It's one of the best radio shows I've ever heard, and presents stories from Americans that you'll never hear anywhere else. It's pure documentary work where the hosts and interviewers don't overshadow the subjects, and features as much humor as it does touching drama. A real gem on the radio dial, and it's a labor of love on Public Radio International, which is more famous for its content, and not for the fortunes they pay their hosts.
When I read that This American Life was coming to television, I was cautiously optimistic. Ira Glass and crew do such a terrific job telling stories with audio that I admit I was worried about video taking away some of the intimacy. After watching this trailer (it's also embedded after the jump) I was blown away. It looks as beautiful as This American Life sounds. Apparently the producers of the television show found photographers and editors who think the way This American Life is produced. Just like the radio broadcast, the camera shots are from unusual angles. It's pretty much the opposite of anything you'd see on MTV.
This American Life premieres on Showtime on March 22.
I don't watch award shows.
I know that sounds snobby and elitist. It's like people who say they don't watch television, or only watch movies with subtitles, but I'm not that uptight when it comes to popular culture. I can watch and enjoy a lot of trash, but a night dedicated to an entire industry fawning over itself just rubs me the wrong way. My more open-minded friends tell me I should just lighten the hell up, but I can't. Perhaps some day.
Then again, maybe if I were allowed to actually pen some of the speeches myself I would actually tune into the Academy Awards. No one has asked me to do that, but NPR is offering the next best thing: a contest where people write Oscar speeches in a movie character's voice. The winner will have his or her speech recorded in a phone interview and put on NPR.org. I might try my hand at writing a speech in the voice of Alan Arkin's character from Little Miss Sunshine. I wonder if the rules allow one to snort heroin? It would only be to get into the mind of the character, of course.
[via Pop Candy]
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