Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Controversy (41-50 of 305)

The Tea Party/CNN debate: Ganging up on Rick Perry, as Kurt Cobain makes a cameo

The Tea Party Republican debate turned into a brawl pretty fast on Monday night. Well aware of the momentum that Gov. Rick Perry has as the most media-analyzed Republican of the moment, candidates including Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann went after him on issues ranging from Social Security to the HPV vaccine.

Airing on CNN, the debate displayed more fierce competition than its time-period competitor, the season finale of Bachelor Pad on ABC and the Miss Universe pageant on NBC. That comparison is apt: These GOP contestants, so fiercely fixed on appealing to the Tea Party members in the audience who asked them questions, behaved like well-groomed models striving for just the right words, just the right glances and smiles, that would win over their viewers.

Perry pledged to “make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.” He was heckled by Mitt Romney about his characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” Romney adding that this “scares” the American people. Jon Huntsman went pop-culture on the panel by asserting that “Gov. Romney called [Social Security] a fraud in his book No Apology — I don’t know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not — and then you’ve got Gov. Perry calling it a Ponzi scheme… we’re frightening the American people.” Americans including, one presumes, Courtney Love, if she happened to be watching Huntsman misquote the song title “All Apologies.”

Newt Gingrich scored a crowd-pleaser with a verbal bank-shot that managed to ding three targets: “I’m not particularly worried about Gov. Perry or Gov. Perry scaring the American people,” Gingrich said, “when President Obama scares them every day.” Oh, psych! Oh, was there a point he was making there? Oh, right: The President’s new jobs bill is terrible, don’tcha know…

The other subject that set the TV aflame was the HPV vaccine, administered to many school-children to prevent cervical cancer; HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. In Texas, Perry had been in favor of requiring the vaccine to be administered to girls in the sixth grade and up. He is certainly not the only governor to support this, but his opponents this night lit into him as though he was in favor of shooting up puppies with heroin.

Saying “cervical cancer is a terrible way to die,” Perry said he’d erred on the side of trying to prevent such deaths. Bachmann interpreted this as Perry doing a flip-flop, and said, “Little girls don’t get a mulligan; they don’t get a do-over.” While Rick Santorum said the program Perry once favored was “bad policy,” Bachmann went further, digging deeper into melodramatic, tangled syntax, asserting that she was “offended for all the little girls … who didn’t have a choice.” She said the vaccine “violates liberty… [with] 12 year-olds forced to have an injection into their body [sic].”

Even though it was moderated by Wolf “My Voice Is Making You Sleepy, Sleepy” Blitzer, the Tea Party debate made for some of the liveliest TV in this political season. And as I write, every media outlet with a working knowledge of Google is undoubtedly going haywire fact-checking all the dramatic economic, medical, and musical references that were made this night.

Twitter: @kentucker

The grotesque 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' season premiere: Suicide and a very awkward dinner

The last thing one expects from any of the Real Housewives series is sincerity. Thus the four-minute mourning segment tacked onto the start of the second-season premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to address the recent suicide of Russell Armstrong was as hopeless an attempt at good taste as suggesting to Taylor, Camille, Kyle, Kim, and Lisa that they might want to go easier on the surgical enhancement and the ostentatious jewelry. READ FULL STORY

9/11 anniversary programming: Is there too much of it? Can you believe people are actually asking this?

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is an occasion being marked in a wide variety of ways by the TV industry. Between now and the 11th, the three major broadcast networks will devote hours of memorial coverage featuring their morning- and evening-news anchors. There’s a fictional drama starring Melissa Leo, The Space Between, about a young boy (Anthony Keyvan) whose father worked in the World Trade Center, that the USA network will air. And there are literally more than a score of documentaries that will be shown on channels ranging from Fox News and MSNBC to Nickelodeon and the Smithsonian Channel.

The scheduling of these shows and many others have already given rise to a backlash: It’s too much, some say. It trivializes the horrific event. It’s cynical business. READ FULL STORY

Al Sharpton's new MSNBC show 'PoliticsNation' isn't worth watching. Yet.

The Rev. Al Sharpton premiered PoliticsNation on MSNBC Monday evening with an hour of booming bombast and near-obliviousness, as he steam-rolled over his guests, interrupting them to ask long, halting questions. At one point he acted as though he was having an argument with his teleprompter and said with exasperation to a guest, “Well, let me just ask you my way: Is the Tea Party going to destroy the Republican Party?” Please, Al, can’t every question be asked your way? READ FULL STORY

'Downton Abbey II' and the problem(s) with PBS

“A gift from God,” is the way Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton described Downton Abbey, whose sequel will premiere Jan. 8 (ten hours of English country house huggermugger spread over seven weeks). Eaton was addressing TV critics at the Summer TV Press Tour in Los Angeles on Sunday, bubbling with delight that The Series Formerly Known As Masterpiece Theatre had seen a 43% ratings increase in the past year thanks to Downton, Sherlock (three more of those coming up in May 2012), and the updated Upstairs Downstairs (six more episodes will air in 2013). READ FULL STORY

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' review: Did Larry David, 'social assassin,' solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Last night’s episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm found Larry David in moods that are least like him (at least on TV): cheerful and open-minded. Enthused about the chicken served at the Palestinian-owned Al Abbas Chicken restaurant, Larry is busy converting his mostly-Jewish chums to the establishment. One joke among these jokesters is that the restaurant would be an ideal place to conduct an affair, since so few Jews patronize the place. READ FULL STORY

How the deficit reduction negotiations are like 'Big Brother' (hint: think of Michele Bachmann as Jordan)

President Obama is meeting with House Speaker (a.k.a., Head Of Household) John Boehner tonight, at roughly the same time a new episode of Big Brother airs on CBS, to try and negotiate a deal about some revised form of a deficit reduction package and raising the debt ceiling. The details of how this mismatched couple will resolve this are roughly as complicated as trying to figure out the new Big Brother rules about playing in teams of two, not as individuals, and which team to nominate for eviction.  READ FULL STORY

TV news goes bonkers over Casey Anthony verdict: 'I am so angry!' 'The devil is dancing tonight!'

Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera got into a shouting match, and Nancy Grace presided over a lynch mob of lawyers eager to top each other in venting their rage over the Casey Anthony trial verdict on Monday night. The networks tried to act as though they were above it all, while every one of them featured the verdict prominently.  Scott Pelley led off the CBS Evening News by saying the case “became a sensation on cable television,” but that was just spin, in order for Pelley’s broadcast to exploit the Anthony case for its own purposes. Later, CBS preempted the legal fiction The Good Wife to present a legal reality: a “special edition” of 48 Hours Mystery about Casey Anthony. READ FULL STORY

The must-watch TV show of the night: 'Hot Coffee' on HBO

Just a quick heads-up: If you can, watch Hot Coffee on HBO tonight at 9 p.m. EST. Remember the 1994 court case of the woman who was awarded $2.9 million for spilling a cup of McDonald’s coffee on herself? It even became a plot point in an episode of Seinfeld. Well, you don’t know the half of it. READ FULL STORY

Keith Olbermann brought 'Countdown' to Current; Bill O'Reilly brought Lupe Fiasco to Fox: TV news reviews

Keith Olbermann and his Countdown returned to TV on Monday night on Current with an hour  loaded with obviousness and an unfortunate amount of fawning on the part of his guests.

Meanwhile, over on Fox and The O’Reilly Factor, the host and Lupe Fiasco engaged in a ludicrous debate over the musician’s characterization of President Obama as “a terrorist.” READ FULL STORY

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