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What year did they invent politics again?

What year did they invent politics again? (photo)

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Yesterday I was mugged. After spending the day waiting at police stations and banks, I finally ended up back at home, dispirited and having been away from you, gentle reader, for far too long. I fired up all the blogs I would’ve normally gone through hours ago, and instantly, there was balm for my weary soul. Big Hollywood gifted me with one last inane faux-controversy to end the year, about one of my least favorite people.

“Will Ben Mankiewicz Be Allowed to Destroy Turner Classic Movies?” the headline screamed. This would be the same Mankiewicz who, til of late, co-hosted the failed post-Ebert “At the Movies” alongside the feckless Ben Lyons. Of the two Bens, it was the obviously overwhelmed Lyons who got most of the hatred; next to his co-host’s proudly know-nothing enthusiasm, Mankiewicz came off as just about okay.

But now that he’s out on his own, there’s no lesser figure to draw all the fire. And so it was that Mankiewicz — TCM’s weekend host when the venerable Robert Osborne is off duty — incurred the wrath of Andrew Breitbart’s corner of the right-wing blogosphere this weekend.

The occasion was Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face In The Crowd,” an ever-timely parable starring Andy Griffith as a folksy radio show host who becomes a powerful mass media figure. Mankiewicz, as a commenter paraphrased it, “openly wondered if the producers had been able to see 50 years into the future and witnessed how people in this country were being manipulated and duped by angry media personalities, some who could cry on cue. He clearly was referring to conservative talk radio.” (Editorial note: no shit.)

That’s an innocuous enough observation. It’s also true, incidentally, to how Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg thought of the movie themselves: as J. Hoberman writes in the Village Voice, “In the ’80s, Kazan began saying that he and Schulberg had made a movie about Ronald Reagan back in the days when Reagan was still shilling for GE.” Schulberg himself compared Mike Huckabee to the Lonesome Rhodes character.

But that’s not how Big Hollywood sees it. Editor John Nolte fulminated over the slight, seeing it as the beginning of TCM’s transformation from apolitical haven for classic film lovers (who apparently all skew right-wing) to MSNBC liberal talking head: “Those of us who just want to sit back and relax and enjoy something without having to be on guard concerning a cheap sucker shot aimed at who we are and what we believe in have seen it start just like this a thousand times,” he moans, his back against the world.

As usual the commenters drive it into the paranoiac stratosphere. “Jeff Perren” asks: “Is Mankiewicz the grungy fellow who yaks from a set that looks like a SOHO loft, complete with bicycle? […] To the Progressives, nothing good from the past can remain clean and untouched. It has to be ‘modernized’, made ‘hip’.” Guestorama waxes conspiratorial: “Look up Ben on Wikepedia and see what you get – former air america host, had a liberal talk show for years by himself, dad was a super hollywood lib that was on Nixon’s ‘enemies list’. This guy is from ground zero of the liberal world, his whole family is a who’s who of liberalism AND HE JUST HAPPENS TO GET THIS GIG and then HE JUST HAPPENS TO SPOUT HIS LIBERAL DRIVEL.”

The comments are even weirder over on the TCM comments page (which eventually got moderator locked). “mikeroykirk” shared the text of his letter to TCM: “There was no need for this comparison only for Mr Mankiewicz’s need to make a point maybe partially out of jealously and his dislike for Beck,Limbaugh and their fans.”

It’s even funner to watch the comparative praise for Alec Baldwin, who apparently keeps his liberal politics to himself while co-hosting “The Essentials” with Osborne. Seeing Baldwin praised by conservatives; seeing Mankiewicz jeered…man, yesterday almost didn’t completely suck.

[Photos: Ben Mankiewicz, TCM; “A Face In The Crowd,” Warner Bros., 1957]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.