Better Off Ted. The Blackisode

So Wow. Tonight. Some episode huh? Wow. It’s title is “Operation White Shadow”. The episode has the Black character, Lem, played by Brooklyn born poet and improv comic from New York University, Malcolm Barrett, not being able to get the machines in the building to acknowledge his presence. I actually have a REAL LIFE case in a video down below. But where do I start? Well, if you don’t have a copy of the show you might want to either get the DVD or do a download from Amazon by clicking on this giant picture, because I don’t think the show is going to be around too long.

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Well, ok, let’s look backwards for a second. So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new show Better Off Ted. The premise of that piece was that the show is pretty much guaranteed being canceled in the first season, probably in the next few weeks (Just so you know that didn’t happen, I talk about Better of Ted Not Canceled in a June article). But why did I think it was on thin ice? Because it’s too weird. Creatively “weird” is good, but for TV? No. No, no, no, no, no! Not anymore. TV networks are NOT playing around anymore. They are NOT experimenting with new ways to loose money. No matter HOW much people like shows, if ENOUGH of them don’t watch a show it’s gone baby.

Early January 2010 update; looks like my original prediction was correct, looks like they ARE going to kill the show. They’re going to run double episodes for the rest of the month and after that it’s anybody’s guess. This IMDB forum is where people are voicing their opinions.

But people have been talking “cancel” talk from the start. Just as an example look at the stats from this article within 24 hours of me writing the piece.

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Networks are dumping good shows so fast now it’s like watching one of those old 3 Stooges shorts where the row boat springs a leak and all they have are teacups to get rid of the water. Dead Like Me, Pushing Daises, My Own Worst Enemy, Kings, Kyle XY, Battlestar Galactica, Scrubs, Cavemen, ER(!), Knight Rider, Reaper, Prison Break. I mean, damn! And those are just shows I either watch or know about, there’s a whole bunch of crap I don’t watch that’s getting the axe. Meanwhile, every single DAY this blog gets traffic with people trying to find out if the awful Kath and Kim is canceled because of a piece I wrote talking about how NBC is being loyal to Molly Shannon DESPITE how gloriously terrible it is. It defies all logic. It’s otherworldly how bad it is.

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Which brings is to ABC and Better Off Ted. The piece I wrote described how I think there are 2 factions at ABC. One group who keeps pushing the envelope, in terms of programming, and another group who has the power to kill shows IF they get either numbers too low or too many complaints. I predicted the show would be killed off because ABC is going to reach that fork in the road and do what they always do-kill the show. So tonight’s episode, clearly indicates that at least one producer of the show is aware they’re not coming back and has decided to just go for broke. (See my piece on Morel Orel on Adult Swim for a show that followed that strategy)

Tackling “Black Issues” is something they don’t really do on TV. Unless it’s a news piece of course. Old school news was all about “the Black people are running wild, so be scared.” They would do it in both overt and subtle ways. Then after Islamic terrorists became the new bogey man (and so much white crime became entirely too noticeable to ignore) the Black thing took a backseat in news. And then news shows switched the coverage of “Black Issues” to “These poor miserable wretches.” On the surface it was all about casting us in a sort of Sally Struthers surrounded by fly-babies sort of light, but the CODE was “They are such a drain on our resources, God, if we could just get rid of them America would literally be a place of milk and honey.” Never mind the fact that we spend such a disproportional amount of money that the country would collapse if we stopped-or the fact that entire industries are built on our work. Ok, ok, I know; you didn’t come here to hear the guilt trip plus you’ve heard it all before, yadda, yadda, yadda…

So the episode! Black guy isn’t picked up by motion sensors in the office; hilarity ensues. Now let’s just talk about how I perceived what was going on; your mileage may vary. I still haven’t posted this EXTREMELY long Obama piece I wrote about what it meant with him getting elected etc., but one of the points was that the BAD news was that “white people” were finally gonna get what they’ve DESPERATELY wanted; the opportunity to say “We’re cool right? The whole slavery thing is a non-issue because, see, we voted Black!” No, you didn’t. You voted for reason and intelligence. In response to Bush. That’s what happened. Now yes, I’m all for peace and harmony but a BUNCH of things needed to happen before we were gonna be “cool.” Nothing crazy like reparations (I know who much that very idea freaks white people out “but I didn’t even do anything, my family didn’t even get here until after WWII”). Trust me I’ve heard it all.

By the way here’s that REAL LIFE version


But ABC clearly felt in the “era of Obama” having one or two Black guys on staff (and  who probably came up with the plot) would give them the free pass. But the SAD fact is, Black people are on the lookout every single day for a slight or offense they can take to their keyboards and spout off about. (Yeah, we finally closed the digital divide. But we’re also too damn lazy to take to the streets unless you actually KILL one of us in an unarmed and blatantly racist-cops scenario). So what elements of the show might get Black people riled up?

*The idea of putting this issue in a comical light. Anybody remember a comedy set in Civil War era with Lincoln and his slave butler having “crazy” times a la Benson? It was The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer

*The idea the of the white shadow in the show where a white guy has the magical powers to “open doors” the Black characters cant (that’s a two-fer by the way; a literal and figurative)

*The idea that it took MULTIPLE white people to get the Black guy motivated enough to stand up for his rights

*The idea that too many Black men in an elevator would cause white flight (again, a two-fer!)

*The episode is called Operation White Shadow which references ANOTHER “white man’s burden” type show from the 70’s. And at some point they assign white guys to follow the Black guys. This of course is like the real life adventures that I and most Black men (and some women) have to go through ALL THE TIME being followed around if we go ANYWHERE that’s not 75% or greater Black people. Neighborhoods, malls, stores, theme parks; basically any Goddamned where. And in the show, they kind of give off a slave vibe when the Black guys compare the white guys they’ve been assigned. AND like in real life; even the most remedial and barely functional of white guys has more access than the most educated Black men

*The fact that even the commercials were pre-planned. A Verizon spot with a Black man being ominously lorded over by a train conductor. Followed by a “chocolate” flavored breakfast cereal.

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Here is the cereal-I think it was “Special K”

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And here are those “spooky” guys in the elevator

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Turned out NONE of that matter, not enough people watch the show (of any color). So we never had a big outcry of any kind.

So to conclude; I like the show, I liked the episode, but for all intents and purposes it was really something that should have been on cable. Network TV, and the people who don’t live in cities with a population over say…2 million can’t really digest a farcical and intelligent look at race-and survive. I mean they can air it, but they’re not going to survive the Black people online assault AND the white viewers who were on the fence falling onto the “not coming back to this show” side of that fence. PLUS they’ve got one of the only 4 or 5 openly gay Hollywood actresses with Portia de Rossi on the show? Come on! They’re asking to get kicked. Obviously time will tell. But TWELVE HOURS after I wrote my thing saying Kyle XY wouldn’t make it-it got killed. I’m giving Better Off Ted…3-5 more weeks. And 5 is being VERY generous. I’ll miss it.

One final unrelated note; I used the word Blackisode in this piece, and it’s not the best example. But I INVENTED this concept of contracting words you wouldn’t normally contract-at least in modern culture. Let me rephrase that. Obviously I didn’t invent the concept of Portmanteau words, but I DID bring it to the forefront of modern American culture. Having spent the last 25 years in LA, NYC, and Chicago and been in showbiz and around advertising execs for all those years I can guarantee you some of those people heard me doing and started throwing it into commercials, sitcoms and movies. Just had to put that into print somewhere-and why not here?

23 Below Zero in Chicago Today but at Least the Obama Spider-Man Comic Book Arrived

So this week in Chicago, today in particular, it’s been cold as a hell. Since last night it’s been getting colder hour by hour and right now at mid-day its nearly 25 below (with the wind-chill, as they say, but whose counting…). At any rate this really isn’t a weather blog so I won’t linger, but please enjoy the image below from a weather site. Last year I kept taking pictures of the Chicago style snow and putting them on the blog, but this year…I dunno, I figure if people want to see those pictures they can check the archives.

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But the big story this week-in terms of fun-is the Spider-Man comic book featuring the President Elect Barack Obama. Oh Marvel Comics first you kill Captain America and now this? You wouldn’t happen to be chasing Press this year are you? I won’t ruin the story for with a recap but I WILL put an image up for you steal. You’re welcome! To be honest I’ve got about 5 or 6 Obama pieces in various states of completion, but again, I dunno…I think I might be suffering from Obama fatigue. And I kind of think a lot of people are. Well let me be more precise people are SICK of Bush, but they’re still a little tired of the elect Obama process. But in terms of the man, not only are not people tired of him they’re finding new and expanding ways to pay tribute. I’ve dubbed this man The First T-Shirt President. Clearly that’s just me, because many people have doctored pictures to show him in a super-hero setting. So this comic book was pretty much inevitable.

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Think about the comic book is just the tip of the iceberg. They’re so much Obama stuff out there it’s crazy. Not since those popular “I Like Ike” buttons about Eisenhower have you seen people actually wearing something about the President that wasn’t a joke; like an “I’m with Stupid” shirt pointing to a Bush picture or something like that. And I’m not going to fault people for a) cashing in with any product they can get people to buy (in these times especially) or b) wanting somebody to believe in. And really that’s what it comes down to; having a guy who was actually elected by the people and the electoral college in no uncertain terms. The very act of saying “yes” to a Black President is a gesture that screams forward and upwards. But people wear Obama shirts like those Che Guevara shirts that became people about 20 years ago. And that my friend says “man of the people.”

Anyway later that night the weather got a little more serious. Actually, it got even COLDER after midnight, but it would have been against the spirit of this piece about “today” if I had shown an image form the next day.

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Thank You George W Bush jr. for Our Black President

No, no really! We couldn’t done it without you. Take a bow my brother-you deserve it. Stand back and observe what you have wrought (I know you’re big on the Bible so I threw that in for you). Now, no gnashing of the teeth! You must move forward. Get started on you Presidential “library.” Lot of people would underestimate designing a 2 foot by 3 foot space but I know, even that, takes planning so don’t let us hold you up on your next exciting adventure.

All kidding aside, many do view you and your presidency as a joke, but let’s be real for a minute. A lot of real live people died because of you. A lot of people died here in the country as a whole, in the Armed Services, in Iraq, in Louisiana! And all the people who did go to work and came back missing limbs, or missing jobs, or missing years of their kids lives, or coming back to NO FAMILY AT ALL. A wife who jut couldn’t’ take the stress. And a lot of people lost their homes. Your REFUSAL to deal with wall street gone wild cost people their retirement with the Enron and all the other companies who played with people’s lives. But turns out that was just the tip of the financial iceberg right? In other words your damage is very real. Very real. And so much carelessness because you surrounding yourself with a callous and greedy body of people. Cheney and his Halliburton money grab, Wolfowitz and his theories and Rumsfeld and his armchair general’s approach to combat. Real people really suffered.

But with Obama’s election the world is proud of America. The signal has been sent. That the ugly Americans have finally been beaten back into submission. Everybody recognizes that they’re still here, but that it will take an enormous effort for them ever to regain power and wreck havoc on the world again. People knew that we black Americans didn’t have the numbers to ever put a black man in office, that it was going to take all types of Americans pulling together to enact a actual “regime change.” But we did it, we ending a stranglehold that went on for too long. It’s over.

The thing that has struck me in life is how unusual are the people who want to be president. Invariably what I see is this desire to go down in history. I only see the desire to serve the people as in afterthought. Except in 2 cases Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, otherwise it’s been one history whore after another. As we’ve just seen with McCain’s use of Sarah Palin. His greed for that office prompted him to insult the American people to such an unbelievable degree that after the initial shock wore off his OWN party realized that guy couldn’t give a flying fuck what happens to us if it meant he would “get to be president.” I have a theory that I’m always telling people; toothpaste does not come out of the tube on its own. I’ve learned that in life almost no movement forward happens without the appropriate pressure. And you Mr. Bush backed the country into such a corner, such a corner, that they would vote a black man into office. That’s a hell of accomplishment. You will go down in history, not just as the worst president ever, but the main who made Obama possible.

So again, being the good Bible man that you are I guess there’s only one way to say goodbye; don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

Here’s an image brought to my attention by HotRod at WFMU. As you know this blog is 1/5 about comics and Alex Ross who went to art school here in Chicago did this one.