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Surprise! Senate hearings rarely make for good TV (or movies).

Surprise! Senate hearings rarely make for good TV (or movies). (photo)

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The problem with the Elena Kagan hearings are that they’re boring as hell. Almost, anyway, as Orrin Hatch discovered yesterday when — during a moment of reproof from Pat Leahy — he responded “We have to have a back and forth every once in a while otherwise this place would be boring as Hell. And by the way, I’ve been informed that Hell is not boring.”

It would have to be more interesting than the perpetual stalemate of the hearings, whose moments of comedy were wan, to say the least, with the inexplicable exception of Senator Amy Klobuchar sharing her thoughts on “Twilight: Eclipse”:

Oh, for the glory days of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, a peril-fraught three-day ordeal begging for a dramatic re-enactment. The complete transcripts combine giggle-inducing sexual testimony with sheer ’30s drama corn from Thomas supporter J.C. Alvarez, who announced “I have seen an innocent man being mugged in broad daylight, and I have not looked the other way. This John Q. Public came here and got involved.”

06302010_ironman2.jpgAnd yet most hearings are — Orrin Hatch or no — “boring as Hell,” which is why they don’t get much screen time. As AV Club commenter emeritus ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER noted in his disappointed appraisal of “Iron Man 2,” “potential ownage” was deferred “WHEN ROBERT DOWNEY JR SHOWS UP FOR SENATE HEARINGS THAT ARE BORING AS FUCK AND GO ON FOREVER.”

And those were some of the more entertaining ones, no less, thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s capacity for inspired riffage out of nowhere.

The best depiction of a senate hearing is in Otto Preminger’s 1962 “Advise and Consent,” with its level-headed, ahead-of-its-time depiction of the mechanics of Washington process. There was also “The Contender,” whose plotline greatly upped the sexual risque-ness factor.

06302010_point.jpgThese, though, are fictional hearings. There’s only one set of real hearings I’m aware of that provided top-notch drama: Emile de Antonio’s 1964 compilation documentary “Point of Order,” a scathing reduction of the Army-McCarthy hearings, that make the Thomas-Hill affair look like a joke.

Is it fair to lambast pro forma hearings for being boring? Assuredly not. But are they dramatically lacking? Absolutely, even when senators are trying to be sparky. Is there a reason there aren’t more confirmation hearings on screen despite their seemingly inherent potential for drama? Apparently so. Onwards and upwards, Ms. Kagan. In the meantime, here’s a clip of de Antonio talking about how a Beat Generation movie led him to make “Point of Order”:

[Photos: “Twilight: Eclipse,” Summit, 2010; “Iron Man 2,” Paramount, 2010; “Point of Order,” Continental Distributing, 1965]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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