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This is really a moment in Simpson’s history, as Jonathan notes, and I actually find it stronger without the comment about how Iraq might look. I think Simpsons’ viewers are far more savvy than that comment gives them credit for being. If the censors are what erased that remark, then they did the show a service. But it is also a very interesting turn of events that the censored ending gets immediate play on YouTube. What is “underground” any more?

It’s worth noting that the clip here is the censored version aired by Fox. Previously, toward the end of the sequence when they are surveying the wreckage, one of the aliens says: “This sure is a lot like Iraq will be.” The versions are juxtaposed here.

David Marc is right about the epic quality of the text, of course, but what’s most striking to me is the way it transforms the western for tv, making an incredible virtue of its teeming, confined spaces. The fluid moving camera both inside and out in this series is itself an instrument of art. This is the first TV western — not forgetting Lonesome Dove, either — that fully respects and exploits the small TV screen.

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Jason Mittell

Kudos to Jeff for furthering the Cult of Keith. I blogged about his unusual ascendency here for anyone interested, but I think it can’t be understated that Olbermann’s kudos as a sportscaster (still teaming with Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio) helps insulate him from the common derision from the right toward Air America-style “liberal elites” - his comprehensive knowledge of Mickey Mantle allows him more legitimacy to quote Voltaire & Jefferson liberally.

The pleasure of Deadwood is epic quality. A single episode—sometimes a single shot—can conjure, suggest, restate, and assume many of the themes that make the Western the myth of American etiology: degeneration and regeneration through the return to the garden; genteel aristocracy vs. organic meritocracy; the healing of North-South Civil War wounds in the West; and the mastery of criminal skills necessary for those inclined to establish the rule of law (to name just a few). Deadwood picks up a dialogue that includes Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount,” Owen Wister’s Virginian, Frank Norris’s McTeague (and Eric von Stroheim’s Greed), John Ford’s Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, E.L. Doctorow’s Welcome To Hard Times, Richard Boone’s Have Gun, Will Travel, and the critical meditations of Frederick Jackson Turner, Henry Nash Smith, and most of all, John Cawelti’s Six-Gun Mystique. I’m sorry that the day’s pressing needs prevent me from elaborating.

OK, how about this.

I just did some googling to figure out the bhangra song. It’s a traditional song called “Jatt Ho Gaya Sharabi”, about a Jatt (Punjab male) who goes on a drinking spree, and the mayhem that foolows. This track is a remix by Panjabi MC. Panjabi MC, a British Asian, does remixes of Punjabi folk songs such as this one (ironically, he was sampled by Jay-Z last year, though not this particular song).

So. I think we’re seeing a wonderful example of the layers-upon-layers of sample culture here; Heroes is “sampling” Hiro Protagonist (maybe), Panjabi remixes (associated with Bollywood in the form of the movie theater Hiro stops in, though I’m not sure this particular song is from a Bollywood movie - correct me here), and copyright/property culture itself. Hiro stops to leaf through the comic he’s just “stolen.” That’s even better - given the current hysteria over copyright (including the lawsuit involving the first Heroes episode, which was pulled and then edited over a lawsuit by a manufacturer of garbage disposal units) - the idea that Hiro has “stolen” cultural material is subverted by the fact that he did in fact “pay” for it, with Japanese currency.

Jonathan Gray

I must admit to being at first deeply disappointed by the character. What I saw immediately was a very tired stereotype of an East Asian male: small and physically weak, effeminate, without sex appeal, coded as a geek, and there for comic relief. Given how parochial American TV often is, it seemed a shame that one of its few non-American characters was going to be a William Hung caracature, in other words.

I’m still conflicted by the character. On one hand, he’s easily one of the more likeable figures, and this likeability reduces his “foreignness,” Otherness, and even turns his “geekdom” into something of a strength. In a storyworld where genetic superiority and being a hero seems otherwise limited to Americans, he’s an important exception, especially since all signs point to him leading this Justice League of America and Japan. On the other hand, it’s a sad sign of the poor state of television’s faith in its audience’s ability to embrace foreign characters that the two Japanese characters need to be the comic relief (or that, for instance, for all their similar fleshing out after-the-fact, Lost’s Sayid and Jin need to be introduced as an Iraqi torturer and a Korean gangster respectively).

Avi—I haven’t seen the show, so could you explain what you mean by Fey’s character serving to forestall critical conversation? It seems like Fey’s character, as an insider, would be very well placed to represent a critical voice on the industry logics as represented by Baldwin’s character; who would know better how corporate ownership shapes our media than someone working within that system? So, while the character doesn’t represent external/public influence on media, it doesn’t preclude the articulation of these kinds of critiques, and may make them more persuasive because of the character’s ethos (but it doesn’t mean that this will actually happen, just that it could). It does seem likely that being represented as an ‘over-educated feminist’ may undermine her character’s ethos, at least for certain segments of the audience.

Avi Santo

Great clip and comment, Jason! Building on both your comment and Kathleen’s response, it also seems to me that not only does 30 Rock open up multiple vectors for product pitching, ranging from the blatant to the cynical/ironic, but it also closes down critical conversation about these strategies by constructing the nay-saying voice in the series — Tina Fey’s — as both an industry insider (let the industry take care of these problems without external supervision), and a fumbling “over-educated feminist” (to quote Baldwin) whose critical edge is either used in service of industry logics or is undermined by her own bumblings.

Avi Santo

Great clip and conversation starter, Henry!

I agree that Hiro’s gleeful embrace of this comic book device is rewarding to oft maligned fans, it seems to me that this is largely put forward within the series as A) a marketing strategy for promoting the Heroes commercial intertext as a pleasurable blurring of mediated and lived experiences and B) re-aligns the brand with a particular authorial voice even as it encourages fan engagement with the intertext. In the same way that Morrison’s authorship was key to reviving the Animal Man brand, the 9th Wonders reference calls attention to the roles played by the show’s producers (Dennis Hammer, Bryan Fuller) in setting up a mystery for fans to solve.

I much prefer Alan Moore’s take on the Supreme comic book (itself a rip off of the Superman brand) that investigates the ways that the superhero brand is constantly being rewritten to negotiate shifting cultural and institutional anxieties over the commodification of heroism. In that run, Supreme’s return to earth is interrupted by a visit to the Supremeverse, where he encounters previous incarnations of himself and realizes that his own “history” is merely a tweaking of the formula to meet changing social norms and industry constructions of the superhero audience. Now, if Hiro could recognize the way his identity is socially constructed, I’d be all over that.