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Speaking of “winning” hearts and minds, watch soldiers rip them from Iraqi children here.

NBC’s The Office did a very similar thing with a Staples personal shredder in last week’s episode—Kevin was very excited about using the shredder and showed how it would shred paper, CDs, even his own credit card (oops), and later used it to make salad. CBS’s How I Met Your Mother practically gave an entire ad for Red Lobster when Marshall and Lily went there in one episode. For some reason, these product placements didn’t bother me until the ad breaks, which began with ads for Staples and Red Lobster respectively…then I feel betrayed somehow, even though I recognized the spots as product placements in the show—perhaps it feels condescending for the advertiser to assume that I didn’t get the placement in the show unless they give me an explicit ad right after it?

Avi Santo

While I agree that youtubers offer up an opportunity for reimagining professional labor and challenge who has the right to assert the “meanings” for TV texts, it seems that the Bleak House clip provides a classic example of the need to be wary of blindly celebrating non-sanctioned audience activity as progressive. As you state, John, we don’t get much class critique on TV, but it seems that even when we do, those messages are interpreted through the refracted lens of celebrity worship. If we are all textual poachers, what meanings are we taking away from Bleak House and to what end? More to the point, should we celebrate these new opportunities for creative intervention when they are clearly not accompanied by any critical literacy skills? Or am I just being a snob about this?


I think the think I find interesting about Keith’s presentation is the way he doesn’t “dumb down” his analysis. Their is an assumption in the age of sound bite and internet culture that one has to be quick, snippy, and to the point, and that the viewership is not capable of sustained engagement. Olberman proves there is another way. His clips are downloaded frequently on YouTube, the site par excellence of the sound bite. His presentation seems to operate under the assumption that the listener is intelligent and able to make connections, as opposed to what I take to be the O’Reilly and Rush method of “let me explain this to you stupid.” I think one of the reasons he has been so well received as of late is this intellectual factor. Think of him as the news equivalent of the Simpsons (in some sense part of the same ESPN outgrowth you are chronicling here).

Jonathan Gray

Most conservative blogs don’t really give Olbermann too much of a “pass” due to his background in sports — they write of him as rampantly biased. Just as most of the rest of us see O’Reilly. And both figures *are* “biased.” But as this clip shows, bias is having an opinion, and bias is passion, and both opinions and passion can be engaging. When bias comes with the trappings of yelling, falsifying, and the claim to objectivity, as with O’R, there’s reason to be concerned. But perhaps a little more bias, in and of itself, and if plain-stated, rational, and honest with the facts, could engage more Americans in politics and the project of citizenship. So, sign me up for the cult :-)

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.

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.