- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

Laugh drought

“Charlie Sheen has a tough job. Not only must the star of CBS’ ‘Two and a Half Men’ make lines … zing, he also has to carry the future of TV comedy on his back.

“OK, that’s an exaggeration — but only a slight one. Given that the six [broadcast] networks have collectively launched one hit sitcom … in the past five years, the syndication market — which feeds successful five- and six-year-old sitcoms to cable networks and to local stations to use them to fill pre- and post-prime-time time slots — is suffering from a severe case of malnourishment. Without ‘Seinfeld’- or ‘Raymond’-like success to sustain the syndication beast … the prices of proven series have soared to ridiculous levels. ‘Since there are fewer sitcoms coming down the pipeline, there will be fewer hits. That’s why the values of shows like ‘Friends’ are up,’ says Jim Paratore, executive vice president of Warner Bros.”

—Lynette Rice, writing on “No Funny Business,” in the Aug. 26 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Backfire

“It’s not exactly a secret these days that college life isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when learned divines would lecture students on the evils of atheism and free thought.

“But if the old religion has long since been banished from ivied halls, the faith that has taken its place is no less dogmatic. …

“On my first day of college, I received formal instruction in the new religion. The university administrators who managed our freshman orientation thought it would be a good idea to show us a video on the Matthew Shepard murder, followed by a lecture from a supposed expert on ‘hate.’ …

“As if all of this were not enough, we were then sent back to our dorms to break up into focus groups so that we could have a ‘dialogue’ on how to fight ‘hate.’ …

“Of course, once our ‘dialogue’ was finished, the real discussion could begin. — Everyone was glad the ordeal was over, and soon everyone was ranting to each other about how insulting and ridiculous they thought the whole thing was. —

“Thus, in a way, our freshman orientation did end up becoming a bonding experience — but not in the way that the university administration had intended.”

—Kevin Carter, writing on “Brainwashing Backfires in Academe,” Tuesday at www.vdare.com

Brat’ reality

“‘Brat Camp’ documented the hormone-saturated plight of nine worse-than-average teens … as they griped their way through a wilderness self-improvement program called SageWalk. …

“Now that it’s over, we can say definitively that it was awful to the very end: slow, repetitive, full of paint-by-numbers pop-psychology and manufactured epiphanies. ‘Brat Camp’ was also (as all the critics have pointed out) ethically dubious, since it depended entirely on the exploitation of clueless and seriously troubled minors — a sort of ‘When Animals Attack’ of human development. And yet I couldn’t stop watching. …

“The show’s real finale aired off-camera earlier this month, when two ‘Brat Camp’ graduates were arrested for impeccably teenage crimes. Isaiah, an angry punk with two-tone hair, allegedly painted racist slurs and a swastika on a local preschool teacher’s lawn. Not to be outdone, [cast member] Jada almost killed a family of seven with a speedboat. Once again, reality has become almost unwatchably complex: The crimes came just in time to serve as unofficial advertisements for the season’s final episode.”

—Sam Anderson, writing on “Teenage Wasteland,” Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

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