"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Salon.com

Didn't Need No Welfare State

“All in the Family” debuted 40 years ago today. Over at Salon.com, Matt Zoller Seitz writes about why the show still matters:

TV today is inhospitable to series like “All in the Family.” This is only partly due to TV’s splintering from a handful of channels into hundreds. An equal or larger part of the blame can be laid at the feet of broadcast network executives and their marketers, who figured out (sometime in the late ‘80s) that they could make more ad money by junking the “Big Tent” model and appealing to white college graduates with loads of disposable income – a description that rules out anyone who looks or sounds like a character from “All in the Family” (even Mike or Gloria). Except for certain corners of cable – specifically channels that thrive on shows about violent crime and/or revolve around working-class or poor characters – you don’t hear people talking about race, class, religion or politics unless the dialogue is jocular and sarcastic and “just kidding” (like the banter on “Glee” and “Community”) or the earnest centerpiece of a Very Special Episode. And can you remember the last time a broadcast network built a sitcom around fiftysomething, pear-shaped, working-class married people — of any color? Pretty much every modern sitcom lead is under 40 (or trying hard to look it) and fashionably thin or buff.

Since the early ’80s, the networks have done their best to gentrify prime time, banishing demographically déclassé characters and subjects while retaining elements that marketers call “sexy” (code for “flashily empty”). Little remains of Lear’s legacy but cursing, innuendo, and the sound of flushing toilets. The template for most modern network sitcoms is “Friends” — which, contrary to the “Seinfeld” mantra, truly was a Show about Nothing. Modern network sitcoms are mostly about dating, parenthood and office politics; they deal with hot-button issues in a glancing, glib way if they address them at all. Some are lame. Some are amusing. A few are brilliant. None is the equal of “All in the Family.” Those were the days.

Yankee Panky: Paralysis By Analysis?

The past 10 days have seen an immense range of stories leapfrog to the forefront of New York sports fans’ collective consciousness. In no particular order, with some analysis and commentary mixed in…

• The Yankees slashed prices for the primo seats, an altruistic move that still leaves many of us thinking, “You know, you have your own network, and it’s on my cable system. I’ll contribute to your bottom line that way and I won’t feel like I got stabbed in the wallet.”

• Alex Rodriguez did everything necessary in extended spring training and returned to the lineup Friday. He punctuated the return with a home run on the first pitch he saw, thus fulfilling his job as the media-anointed savior of the team’s season. He proceeded to go 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in the remainder of the series, and perhaps fearing aggravating the hip injury, didn’t hustle down the line to run out a ground ball, thus reclaiming his role as the team’s most prominent punching bag.

• The Yankees lost two straight to the Red Sox at home and have lost the first five meetings of the season. (Sound the alarms! Head for the hills! There’s no way the Yankees can win the division without beating the Red Sox! Except that they can, and they have. In 2004, the Yankees went 1-6 in their first seven games against the BoSox, ended up losing the season series 8-11 and still finished 101-61 to win the American League East by three games.)

• Joba Chamberlain 1: His mother was arrested for allegedly selling crystal meth to an undercover officer. Following Chamberlain’s own brushes with the law during the offseason, it stood to reason that the tabloids attacked this story like starving coyotes. It’s remarkable that he was able to pitch at all given the negative attention he received.

• Joba Chamberlain 2: Flash back to Aug. 13, 2007. Chamberlain struck out Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff in a crucial late-inning at-bat to end the inning and in the heat of the moment pumped his fist in exultation. Yesterday, following a three-run home run in the first inning that gave the O’s a 3-1 lead, Huff mocked Chamberlain’s emotional outburst with his own fist pump, first while rounding first base, and again when crossing home plate. Apparently, Mr. Huff holds grudges. Thanks to the New York Daily News’s headline, “MOCKING BIRD” with a photo of the home-plate celebration, this story will have wings when Baltimore comes to the Bronx next week. Even better, as it currently stands, Chamberlain is due to start in the series finale on Thursday the 21st. Get ready for a rash of redux stories leading up to that game.

• Mariano Rivera surrendered back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career last Wednesday night, a clear signal that something is wrong. Maybe.

• The team as a whole. The Yankees are 15-16 through 31 games, and some rabid fans (the “Spoiled Set,” as Michael Kay likes to call them; the group of fans between ages 18-30 that only knows first-place finishes for the Yankees) are calling for Joe Girardi’s head. As in the above note on the Red Sox, some context is required. The Yankees’ records through 31 games this decade:

2000: 22-9 (finished 87-74, won AL East)
2001: 18-13 (finished 95-65, won AL East)
2002: 18-13 (finished 103-58, won AL East)
2003: 23-8 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2004: 18-13 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2005: 12-19 (finished 95-67, won AL East)
2006: 19-12 (finished 97-65, won AL East)
2007: 15-16 (finished 94-68, won AL Wild Card)
2008: 15-16 (finished 89-73, missed playoffs)
2009: 15-16 (finish TBD)

No one is going to make excuses for the team with the billion dollar stadium and the highest payroll, least of all your trusted scribes here at the Banter. Looking at the last three years — including 2009 — it should be noted that similar issues of injury, age, and woes throughout the pitching staff have befallen the Yankees.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver