Category Archives: Checks & Balances

In Memoriam: Ed Koch; Cool Old Guy First, NYC Mayor Second

Mayors, and politicians in general, usually possess the stereotype of being buttoned up, polished, careful with their words and actions. They’re not usually schlubby Jews with thick Noo Yawk accents and the kind of appearance that more resembles the Uncle at your Bar Matzvah who drinks too much Kiddush wine, commandeers the microphone and tells hackneyed jokes than the leader of the most influential city in the world. But former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who died early this morning, defied those stereotypes, and many others. Indeed, had you presented a four-year-old me with a photo of our Uncle Morty side-by-side with one of Koch we would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference, and that, perhaps, speaks to his appeal and to his legacy.

There are two real cornerstones that shaped our youth and who we are today: The Mets and the Muppets. And Koch had a history with both of them. Before we every really knew Ed Koch as the outspoken Mayor of New York City, we knew him as a Mets fan, an old guy in a Mets hat who seemed to be of some import but we weren’t really certain what. Our first memory of the late Mayor is probably his brief appearance in the 1986 Mets music video “Let’s Go Mets Go,” popping up next to NYC luminaries such as Robert Klein, Howard Stern, Twisted Sister and Gene Shalit, seeming more like a crazy, die-hard fan than a political heavyweight. But Koch proved you could be both simultaneously, and few reveled in the Mets World Series victory more than Koch. You can accuse some politicians of feigning allegiance to their local teams, especially in times of triumph, but you can’t say that about Koch and the ’86 Mets.

Our other early memory of Koch – and something of a rite of passage for NYC Mayors – was his work with the Muppets, offering a cameo in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Certainly, a Muppet film taking place in the country’s largest city would require an appearance from its leader. But that much, a rote cameo, was somewhat perfunctory. What was special about this particular cameo was that Koch felt right with the Muppets, that his off-kilter brand of governing was somehow complimentary to the bizarre, left-of-center sensibility of the Muppets. They were, in a way, a natural match, with Koch even appearing in “The Great Muppet Look-Alike Contest,” a feature in a 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine, paired up with Gonzo naturally. And he was right at home sparring with Gonzo again in Muppets Take Manhattan. 

Twins.

We’re too young to have really understand Koch’s impact as Mayor of New York City. We think he generally did a good job, but that might be because we like him, because he remained a visible, outspoken presence in NY life. We’re not even familiar with his hosting turn on SNLthe third piece of the triptych that helped define our personality along with Mets and the Muppets. But we know that he was a fan of and a part of two things that we love, that are a part of our very makeup. And he’s also an integral part of another strand of our DNA, New York City. We’ve come to love this city the way that Koch did for so many decades. He was a quintessential New Yorker, a wise-cracking, tough-talking, bald-headed Jew who became Mayor.

Only in New York.

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Filed under Checks & Balances, In Memoriam, Intersection of the venn diagram of things that I love, Local Flavor, Matt Christopher Books

Parting Shot: Electile Dysfunction

Ladies and Gentlemen, we now project me, Brian Williams,  to be the 45th President of the United States. 

 

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Filed under Checks & Balances, Huh?, Parting Shot

America’s #1 Fake Real News Show: On ‘The Newsroom’

Will McAvoyAs promised, we’re going to quickly dip our toes into the somewhat toxic pool of The Newsroom analysis. Like with any review or analysis, anything we say is ultimately futile and inconsequential, because, in the end, it’s not going to change the way you feel about the show, and it’s certainly not going to alter Aaron Sorkin’s vision or persuade him to reconsider his writing style. But in the case of The Newsroom, anything we say, any argument we make, feels especially meaningless in the wake of all the criticism and (less so) praise it’s received. But, hell, let’s be a Greater Fool and try anyway.

Let’s just say out of the gate that we like the show, and while that might put us in the minority we stand by our verdict. But what’s interesting or pertinent to us is not so much that we like it – or if it’s “good,” assuming there’s some kind of objective rubric which can calculate a show’s quality (which there’s not) – it’s the question of whether or not the show is worth watching. And we think the answer is: absolutely. Doesn’t that fact that the show seems to be so reviled (or snickered at) in so many corners yet still watched obsessively indicate there’s something of worth there? Certainly, The Newsroom doesn’t garner the same level of propulsive minute-by-minute Twitter reaction on Sunday evenings as Breaking Bad (nor does it come close to the AMC show’s unanimous, breathless praise), but it’s definitely one of the most talked about shows, even if much of that talk comes with head shaking, finger wagging and head scratching. And if the show was bad, unrelentingly terrible, it wouldn’t have lasted, or at least the discussion would have quieted down. We can’t imagine that if Work It had not been canceled after one week the din about its repugnancy would have continued. We would have had our fun and then watched it fade away, nary giving it another thought. But with The Newsroom the debate continued for ten episodes, and seemed to increase as we approached the season finale. Clearly, people were entertained by the show. Which, we certainly concede, isn’t necessarily the same as enjoying the show.

More as the story develops…

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Filed under Analysis, Checks & Balances, It's Not Television, New Favorite Show, Other people's stuff

WOMP: The Best ‘SNL’ Sketch of the Season

This is that time of the year when blogs across the countryweb sit down and decide on the top five or ten or seventeen sketches from the recently concluded season of Saturday Night Live (and we’ve done this too).  But, for us, there was one sketch from the 2011-2012 season that stood head and shoulders above the rest.*  It was simultaneously the best political satire and pop culture parody and was damn near perfect.  And it made us so happy.

*Obviously any Stefon segment is exempt because he’s already been granted emeritus status.

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Filed under Checks & Balances, Good Humor, Saturday Night Live

Must Flee TV: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes

This week we’re checking in on NBC’s Thursday night comedies as they finish their respective seasons.  Today: ‘Parks and Recreation.’ 

Perhaps the greatest compliment you can offer Parks and Recreation is that it’s no longer referred to as the quasi-Office spin-off (ignore the fact that we just did that in the first sentence).  We’re now multiple seasons into an excellent run where Parks and Recreation has cast off the chains of its origins, found its own voice, become its own show, and surpassed its progenitor by all metrics save for Neislen ratings.  We still maintain that Community is the best show of the night, but Parks and Rec has not been behind by much, outpacing The Office during its second season.

At the end of Parks and Rec‘s brief, unimpressive first season, we laid out a plan for how the show could not only improve but excel, and we revisited this primer just prior to the start of the show’s brilliant third season.  We also presented three more key points as the show moved forward and they were as follows:

More: What do you with a problem like Rashida?

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Filed under Analysis, Checks & Balances, Flashback!, Good Humor, Must Flee TV, Must See TV

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: It IS Easy Being Green

At least Kermit made it look like a breeze when he made a visit to The Colbert Report to analyze the Republican Southern primaries plug The Muppets on DVD, available Tuesday, March 20!

Okay, okay, so that video had nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day.  Let us make it up to you:

HAPPY GERBITZ DAY!

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Filed under Checks & Balances, Lady Holiday, Muppets

We Finally Weigh-in On Hank Williams Jr.’s Controversial Hitler Comments

We dunno, we were kind of always under the impression he was a bit of a loose cannon.

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Filed under Checks & Balances, Saturday Night Live, Weigh-in