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Stuff I've been thinking about: Of "Good Girls," Playboy, Hef and Trump

By Rich Heldenfels Published: October 19, 2016

I have been watching "Good Girls Revolt," a drama coming to Amazon on Oct. 28, inspired by the 1970 class-action lawsuit against Newsweek magazine over its discrimination against women employees. (The magazine hired women as "researchers," men as writers, even when the women were far more qualified than the men.)
I'll say more about the series later. But, in tandem with it, I am reading "The Good Girls Revolt," the nonfiction version of the Newsweek uprising, by Lynn Povich, who was one of the participants.
The book, published in 2012, begins with an account of 21st-century sexism at Newsweek and other organizations, and it will all sound far too familiar to far too many women in the business, including my former colleagues. 
As for "Good Girls Revolt," one of the things that struck me about both the TV and print accounts is that the old sexism is alive and well in Trumpworld, where the old Playboy philosophy still reigns. It echoed partly in the book's reference to Susan Braudy's battle with Playboy in 1970 when she wrote a freelance piece on modern feminism, and Hugh Hefner was not pleased. I have linked to Braudy's account below. But before that, consider this excerpt from a memo Hefner wrote about Braudy's story:
"Doing a rather neutral piece on the pros and cons of feminism strikes me as being rather pointless for PLAYBOY. What I’m interested in is the highly irrational, emotional, kookie trend that feminism has taken. These chicks are our natural enemy — and there is, incidentally, nothing that we can say in the pages of PLAYBOY that will convince them that we are not."
Sure reminds me of a high-profile Republican. So do Povich's stories of sexual harassment, sleazy come-ons, "eighth-grade boys' locker room" conversation at a mostly-male story meeting, and a rejected man reacting in such a nasty and vulgar way that woman ended up quitting. 
And all we've gotten of late is men being given license to keep doing it. 
Braudy's story of her battle with Playboy is here. Povich's book also mentions Sheryl Sandberg's thoughts on women and ambition, so I went to read more on that, and decided to add these two quotes:

“Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less." -- Sheryl Sandberg


"What is really going on, as peer reviewed studies continually find, is that high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave. Women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. Thus, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she “should” behave. By violating beliefs about what women are like, successful women elicit pushback from others for being insufficiently feminine and too masculine. As descriptions like “Ice Queen,” and “Ballbuster” can attest, we are deeply uncomfortable with powerful women. In fact, we often don’t really like them." Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for Sandberg's book "Lean In"

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Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize winner!

By Rich Heldenfels Published: October 13, 2016

Dylan ranks among my favorites across the decades, so there's inarguable coolness in his winning the Nobel Prize for literature. (Dare we dream that Smokey Robinson could win later?) While his catalog is massive, I thought here I'd offer some of the great covers of his songs,which show how well he reached across genres and artists, starting with a B.B. King track which is one of the only reasons I have held onto the soundtrack from a forgettable TV movie.

Joan Baez of course had a long history with Dylan, and even put out a two-record set of covers. Some of it was not great, but I really liked what she did with this tune. 

Had to do Hendrix.O'Jays!The Band. This song got me through a lot of bad nights in my youth.

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New TV season: Friday

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 23, 2016

New: The fifth season of "Longmire" is now on Netflix. 

On the networks, you've got two reboots, "MacGyver" on CBS and "The Exorcist" on Fox.

Returning: "Hell's Kitchen," "Last Man Standing," "Dr. Ken," "Hawaii Five-O," "Shark Tank," "Blue Bloods." Also, NBC replays episodes of "Superstore" and "The Good Place." 

Notes: The new "MacGyver," with Lucas Till as the adventurous nerd, is a demonstration of how TV has changed since Richard Dean Anderson was demonstrating the many uses of common household objects. This guy seems younger, cuter and more action-oriented; I don't recall RDA's Mac in so many fights. (And, if you think that's ancient memory, it wasn't that long ago that the House of Heldenfels was deep into the complete-series DVD set.) The new version is also more team-driven, perhaps to get a name actor (in this case, George Eads as a former CIA agent serving as Mac's buddy in the field) into the promos.

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New TV season: Thursday

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 22, 2016

New: “Notorious” (ABC), “Pitch” (Fox)
Returning: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Superstore,” “Rosewood,” “Chicago Med,” “The Blacklist,” “How To Get Away With Murder.”
Also: “The Good Place” moves to its regular time slot. And you should be watching “Better Things” on FX.
Notes: With CBS in the football zone and “Scandal” not on yet, I would be open to some more Thursday TV. Oh, there are some things – the House of Heldenfels does follow “Chicago Med” and “The Blacklist” (Spader!) – but I’m not feeling the must-see vibe just now.

That could change with “Pitch,” the drama starring Kylie Bunbury as the first woman to pitch in the major leagues. She’s long been meant for this role, painstakingly schooled by her father (Michael Beach), but there are still questions about whether she’s the real deal and how she can fit into this mostly male world. That leads to the sort of expected conflicts which are too, well, expected.

However, Bunbury brings a lot of strength and dignity to her performance, and even in the middle of all these machinations, the show has an earnestness that some would call corny but I found appealing. In fact, this may be a season where networks are seeing an audience need for heart, not only in “Pitch” but in “This Is Us” on NBC and even Fox’s “Lethal Weapon.”

It makes me wonder if there is so much bitterness and anger on the national scene, especially politics, that TV is trying to help us believe there is still some good in the world – or at least emotions free of cynicism and irony.
I could use that. I’ll be giving “Pitch” a second try.

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A cool election video from Joss Whedon, with celebs including Yvette Nicole Brown

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 21, 2016

I asked Northeast Ohio's Yvette Nicole Brown about her decision to participate, and she told me this: "I decided to take part in the video for because I am concerned about the state of our union and what could come to pass if we don't all show up and vote. And also because of the Joss Whedon of it all. I am a huge fan and getting to be a part of one of his creative endeavors was a bucket list item. I can check that off now...and for the worthiest of causes: voting."

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New TV season: Wednesday

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 20, 2016

New: “Lethal Weapon” (Fox), “Speechless” (ABC), “Designated Survivor” (ABC).

Returning: “Survivor,” “The Goldbergs,” “Empire,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Modern Family,” “black-ish,” “Chicago P.D.”

Also: The “Big Brother” season finale.

And by the way: If you have not been watching “You’re the Worst” on FXX on Wednesdays, get with it.

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New TV season: Here's Tuesday

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 19, 2016

New: “Bull” (CBS), “This Is Us” (NBC)

Returning: “NCIS,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “New Girl,” “Scream Queens,” “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” “NCIS: New Orleans.”

Also, coming to disc on Tuesday: anniversary editions of “Beauty and the Beast,” still my all-time favorite animated Disney, and “Labyrinth”; “Free State of Jones,” “Neighbors 2” and more.

Notes: “This Is Us” was a pleasant surprise. I had no particular knowledge of it before watching, except that it was an earnest drama, and it for the most part delivered with its overlapping stories of several different characters. The people were well drawn, the directing managed to make even the tiresome Milo Ventimiglia bearable. Beyond that, there’s a strong cast, including new Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (Chris Darden in FX’s OJ Simpson series, but doing fine work before that on “Army Wives”) and a touching turn by Chrissy Metz. And in the pilot is the marvelous Gerald McRaney stealing every scene he was in.
For all that, I am very curious about what will happen in the second episode and beyond. At the end of the premiere, we get a surprise which makes a lovely dramatic moment – but cannot be repeated in later telecasts. Can it keep the quality going without that twist? I hope so.
I have more reservations about “Bull,” the new drama starring Michael Weatherly and hammocked between his old TV home, “NCIS,” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” Weatherly plays a courtroom expert inspired by Dr. Phil, one who is smart, surrounded by a superb team and more than wise about the ways of juries than the lawyer who reluctantly gets Bull’s assistance.
When I was first watching this, I said on Twitter that Weatherly is a master of charming smart-assery, and the parts of the show where he shows that side are the most entertaining. But it’s not enough in broadcast TV to be smart and cocky and very good at your job; you must have Depth. You must have Pain. Think of “House.” Think of “Lie to Me.” And think of the latter parts of the “Bull” pilot, where we get to see yet again the expressions Weatherly employed when Tony was missing Ziva.
It’s not that he’s bad at that. It’s just that the show wheezes more when it goes deep than when it is merely aiming to amuse. I will watch it at least once more (and, unlike the folks who have vowed to abandon “NCIS” now that Weatherly’s gone, I’ll still be checking that out, too). But there’s something to be said for lighthearted TV, and I wish “Bull” said more about it.

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New TV season: what Monday offers

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 18, 2016


New Monday: Kevin Can Wait (CBS), The Good Place (NBC).
Returning: The Voice, Gotham, The Big Bang Theory, Lucifer.
Season finales: The Match Game, Major Crimes.

Notes: If you want a demonstration of how very different even broadcast network comedies can be, tonight provides it.

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Back to the blog ...

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 16, 2016

As you may know, I have retired from fulltime at the Beacon Journal. I am still posting about pop culture on social media (@rheldenfelsabj on Twitter, for example) and with a new TV season upon us, I'll be posting more here. Beginning Monday I plan to post daily rundowns of what's starting on the networks, with notes about the new series premiering on those days. Keep an eye out. 

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New "Dancing with the Stars" cast: Ryan Lochte (ewww), Amber Rose, Marcia Marcia Marcia and more

By Rich Heldenfels Published: August 30, 2016


The latest cast of 'Dancing with the Stars' has been announced. Here's the official word:

The celebrity cast of “Dancing with the Stars” are slipping on their dancing shoes and getting ready for their first dance on the ballroom floor, as the 23rd season kicks off on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. This season’s lineup of celebrity dancers includes two Gold medal-winning U.S. Olympians, a multi Grammy award-winning musician, a star of one of the most iconic television programs ever, one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, and the former governor of Texas, to name just a few.

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