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4 Reasons Why Wired’s Defense of Cable Bundling is Wrong

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1. It doesn’t meet the public’s needs. A lot of the cable cutters are leaving because cable’s programming has become redundant and doesn’t meet their needs. PBS has done a whole ad campaign bouncing off it. Cable is now high end trash, (It’s not porn, it’s HBO) and low end trash (500 imitators of Pawn Stars.)

When individuals have to subsidize a channel, there’s some incentive to give them what they want. Instead cable is now more of a ghetto than free TV used to be aiming square at a mass audience.

2. It advantages connected companies and encourages constant rebranding because bundling fees is a business model. There’s nothing equitable about that. Eliminating bundling would eliminate a lot of spam and low quality channels. It would have prevented things like the Current TV sale which should never have even been a thing. Instead bundling fees plus connections create a market in an otherwise worthless product that no one watches.

3. If channels had to survive on their own, cable would have a brighter future. Cable’s biggest challenge now is its image. It doesn’t speak to younger audiences who would rather go with Netflix or Hulu. Bundling fees maintain inertia. They make it easier to go on pursuing the same bad business model while destroying the industry ecosystem.

4. Bundling has no future. Yes, Hulu and Netflix still have their package deals, but they can get away with it because of overall content quality. Basic cable doesn’t have overall content quality. It’s an old business model and an old broadcast model tethered to prices that people no longer want to pay. The difference is perception, but it’s a big difference.

Sympathy for the Sorkin Devil

Okay so The Newsroom is taking a beating from professional working reporters, not including Dan Rather, who used to be one and is

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Sorkin with his favorite person in the world

now just a sad old man who posts at Gawker. Maybe Sorkin’s formula has worn a bit thin. Maybe reporters feel berated and belittled by The Newsroom. It would be like Jake Tapper showing up at Sorkin’s job and telling him how to write scripts properly. But the biggest story to come out of The Newsroom’s newsroom is Sorkin’s clash with one Sarah Nicole Prickett.

I don’t really like articles where the reporter becomes the story. There’s no doubt that Sorkin is an ass, but Sarah Nicole Prickett’s interview with him is short on interview and long on out of context quotes.

Reading between the mostly left out lines, we can conclude that Sorkin’s ego felt pricked because Prickett brought up the internet displacing traditional news and Aaron Sorkin is really not a fan of the internet. That’s what probably leads him to call her “Internet Girl”.

But Prickett spends a lot of time implying that he’s a sexist pig and maybe even a racist for… not really very much.

Aaron Sorkin knows the weight of last words, and his last words to me, as we walk-and-talk out of the HBO press room, are: “Write something nice.” He says this in the “Smile, honey” tone of much less successful jerks.

Okay so we’re indicting him for his tone of voice? Maybe it was a really offensive tone of voice. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Like the whole piece, it’s out of context.

In between that there’s a whole bunch of stuff like this…

At the short end of a TV season dominated, if not by shows about girls and women, by talk about shows about girls and women, Sorkin’s new drama The Newsroom arrives with a “Hey, remember how great America was when it wasn’t just a man’s world, but a man’s man’s world?”

Is that really the message of The Newsroom?

I’ll concede that Sorkin is probably sexist, but is Hey America, We’re Going Back to the He-Male 50’s Where Women Are in the Kitchen really the message of the show?

Is The Newsroom not allowed to exist because Girls is on? What about Game of Thrones? Or True Blood?

In the bits of the interview that we get, Sorkin starts out being a jerk. Then Sarah Nicole Prickett hits him with, well aren’t you a tool of the patriarchy longing for the days when white men ran the world. That’s perhaps not the exact question she asks him, but it’s close enough.

Sorkin doesn’t see this. He denies being either an ideologue or a modernist, agreeing only that the show is written in his voice, and that said voice is “authorial” (both my word and his). I’d posit that creating an authorial drama in a time of mumbling, precarious, voice-of-a-generation comedy almost absolutely constitutes an ideology, one both modernist and masculinist. But conveniently, at that moment, the interview’s over.

This is college sophomore entrapment. This is, you’re guilty because you’re doing what you’ve always been doing, but it’s running against a social current that I just defined as the norm for you to defy.

This is Oleanna reasoning and I hate that play, but I also hate people who play this game.

Sorkin sees a challenge to his authority and lashes out in a childish way. The way he lashes out plays into Sarah Nicole Prickett’s agenda. And a meme is born.

“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.”

I say also, factually, “I have aNew York Times subscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?”

He looks surprised, then high-fives me. Being not a person who high-fives or generally makes physical contact with interview subjects, I look more surprised.

“I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five,” he says. He makes me try to do it “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.”

Sorkin winds up proving her point, that he’s threatened by women and reacts by confronting them physically. Prickett is wrong in her reasoning, but the confrontation makes it seem like she’s right. That’s also an old trick of sensationalistic reporters.  Sorkin loses because he doesn’t really understand the game, even though he’s done countless interviews and is making a show about the media.

Prickett understands news in the Gawker era and she taught Sorkin a lesson that he probably didn’t learn, but she also showed that there’s no reason to read her or to listen to Sorkin.

Game of Thrones Wrap Up

I hated the first episode of Game of Thrones. I didn’t watch any of the rest of the season, and then finally tuned in to the finale. And my take.

It’s not quite as bad, but most of the badness is still there. The Daenerys storyline has been completely blown. Some of the blame goes to the actress who can’t do emotional depth. Most of it goes to a production that put its priority on making her older and more naked. The same mix can be seen throughout Game of Thrones. Good actors side by side with bad ones. Strong scenes side by side with scenes that exist to show off gratuitous nudity. The objectification factor is off the charts.

Fast forward through everything with Tyrion and Daenerys, and you get passable fantasy. Sometimes. Game of Thrones amps up the camp factor deliberately. Watching it is still like watching two shows. One with Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Michelle Fairley, Iain Glen and Maisie Williams. And one with Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Jason Momoa and Jack Gleeson. But some of these people actually have scenes with each other. It’s as if the Adam West Batman and the Nolan Batman were crossbred into a single production.

But the producers, writers, directors are all to blame for this mess too. Why is the Daenerys reveal at the end handled so clumsily. And why does her accomplishment in gaining their allegiance hardly register. The wallpaper nudity now is ridiculous. We have naked women in scenes where they have almost no dialogue. Their only job is to be naked so the viewer doesn’t get too bored by the dialogue. At least that seems to be the idea.

Game of Thrones isn’t a good show, but it’s an HBO show. And it’s successful. What else is there to really say about it?

Game of Thrones is True Blood in Medieval Drag

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If you want to see a glimpse of George R.R. Martin’s complex and epic fantasy series, it’s nowhere to be found in HBO’s Game of Thrones. But if you want to catch True Blood in medieval drag, it’s there and you’re welcome to it. But where True Blood’s campy soap may be a fair tribute to the original, Game of Thrones isn’t. Instead it maximizes the trashiest elements and wallows in them putting something that’s closer to Guccione’s Caligula than a quality production.

Watching the first 15 minutes that HBO put online, it’s easy to feel good about Game of Thrones. But that 15 minutes gives you about as much of the world building and the fantasy background as you’re going to get. It also gives you some of the better acting in the first episode. From there on in, it gets worse. Much worse.

No one involved with Game of Thrones seems to care much about establishing a plausible world, but they care even less about character background. And that quickly boils Martin’s complex intuitive tales about human vulnerability into a stream of bedhopping instead. Take the scene where Daenerys is told by her brother (one of the worst actors on the series) about her fate. What is a story about an abused young girl who is the heir to a lost kingdom on the page, loses all its context on screen for nothing more than a prolonged nude scene. When Daenerys says that she too wants to go home, the viewer assumes that she shares her brother’s motivation, but the reader knows that she only wants the small house where she lived for a while as refugees. The red door that was a symbol of her childhood is gone, and the 13 year old girl is aged enough that HBO can decontextualize what’s going on for a prolonged nude scene.

The rest of the first episode isn’t as bad, but it’s up there. Sean Bean is the name actor and the central redeeming factor. When he’s on screen the story has weight, but it doesn’t keep that weight for long when he’s off screen. The production tries to invest the northern life of the Stark clan with some authenticity, but it eagerly slips out to the bedhopping royals that it’s sure the audience really wants.

For an HBO series, the bad acting is surprisingly commonplace. But it’s not because so many of the actors are bad, but because the material isn’t being taken seriously. It’s True Blood in medieval drag, and too many of the actors treat it that way. There’s little suspense and unsubtle foreshadowing. The networks may be canceling the soaps, but HBO and Showtime are investing in a new kind of soap.

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