- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Prime-time patterns
"Anyone who has watched too much television in the last couple of decades knows that May is National Unresolved Issues Month. As series frantically tug at loose threads in an attempt to lure us back in the fall, we dutifully sit through births, deaths, shocking reversals, surprising verdicts, sudden elopements, unforeseen riots and bizarre outbreaks of diseases long ago eradicated. Between the season-ending cliffhangers the mawkish series-changing events (babies, weddings, babies and weddings) and the obsessive-compulsive retreads of old ratings glory days that have recently plagued prime time the networks seemed especially entrenched in old patterns this year.
"May is when the major networks feverishly compete for ratings as advertising rates are set for the fall.
"It's a cardinal rule of sitcoms that unresolved-sexual-tension issues remain unresolved for the health of the series. On longer-running shows, the temptation ultimately proves too great. After the Daphne-Niles hook-up on 'Frasier,' it was inevitable that Frasier and Roz would one day have their day in the hay. Well, that day has finally come."
Carina Chocano, writing on "Out With the Old," Saturday in Salon at www.salon.com

Scandalous bias
"The standard rap on the media is that we are hopeless ideologues, our work corrupted by blatant bias. Problem is, no one can agree what kind of bias. The Right sees a liberal tilt on the networks and in the big newspapers. The Left sees a conservative tilt among the pundits and all over talk radio.
"This noisy argument overlooks the most deeply held media bias of all, the one that knows no ideology and colors what we do every day: our bias for political scandal. This bias has been around for as long as there have been journalists, but it's been rampant in the 30 years since Watergate, the Ur-story that gave the modern media a professional paradigm and a reason to get up in the morning. The ultimate success in our business is to get the story that brings down an American president. Everything else takes a back seat.
"The bias has been on florid display for the last few weeks. The what-did-Bush-know story, with its stunning news about intelligence failures before [September 11], gave us a taste of the old scandal hooch. We were lurching around wasted on the stuff for several lovely days, until polls came in showing the public wasn't exactly sharing our enthusiasm for this emerging scandal."
William Powers, writing on "Some Like It Hot," in the May 24 issue of National Journal

Teen-age wasteland
"Despite their obvious advantages, all is far from well in suburban schools. In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education cautioned that, across the country, SAT scores were flat, and students were falling behind their peers in other nations. College professors began to gripe about incoming students who had never heard of the Renaissance, or thought Winston Churchill was a Civil War general.
"Compounding these pedagogic worries have been concerns about the often poisonous social and moral environment of the high schools in more prosperous communities. After two teen-agers turned Columbine High School in Colorado into a killing field in 1999, just about every suburban district in the country began fretting about potential violence. More recently, cheating has become an issue, especially with the temptations posed by the Internet. In one much-publicized scandal, a biology teacher at a high school in suburban Kansas City discovered that 28 of her students had downloaded whole sections of their term papers. But when the teacher tried to fail the offenders, the superintendent and parents refused to back her up, apparently seeing nothing remarkable in the transgression. As one student told the chastened teacher, 'We won.'"
Kay S. Hymowitz, writing on "Tales of Suburban High," in the June issue of Commentary


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