As part of a plan to save $3 trillion over the next decade, President Barack Obama last week challenged Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a $447 billion bill designed to give middle-class Americans a tax break and to create new jobs while saving old ones.
But since Obama’s plan called for $1.5 trillion in new taxes – some aimed at millionaires – the Republican response suggested that the President should have carnal relations with himself. The GOP was also saying the same to the American middle class, because tax breaks for anyone but the rich aren’t in the GOP playbook. Worse, creating new jobs for Americans might improve the economy with the bleak prospect of making Obama look good for a change. Fuhgeddaboudit. Republican leaders screamed “class warfare,” as if proletarian masses were going to attack, with torches and pikes, the gated communities guarding hedge fund managers.
Obama’s plan ran on page one of the Sept. 20 issue of the Denver Post in a laudable show of priorities where, the day before, the Broncos and TV’s Emmy awards commanded the first two pages. Which brings us to the cultural bellwether of our time: TV.
Seen some of the new shows? In uncertain times, TV geniuses have decided that what audiences need is a return to a less-troubled, less-complex and happier time. Like the pre-feminist early 1960s, when civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protests, along with campus uprisings and the “counterculture,” were also a few years away.
TV nostalgia for the early 1960s featured advertising men in the more-cerebral-than-most “Mad Men” series. Building on its appeal, what’s being presented now is an alleged golden age when men were men and women were playthings. Women as toys took different forms – as sexy secretaries (“Mad Men”) or – in this season’s throwback dramas – as also-sexy airline hostesses (ABC’s “Pan Am”) or cotton-tailed fantasies in NBC’s “The Playboy Club”.
Television critics have dubbed the genre “jiggle TV,” for the jiggling breasts seen in the 1970s “Charlie’s Angels” series. This season, ABC offers an updated version that critics agree is inferior to the original.
The premise behind “The Playboy Club” seems silly today, when you can see more cleavage while walking across campus in warmer weather than in the most risqué bunny outfits. No matter. That era is safely beyond the recall of the 18-to-39 demographic darlings that TV advertisers aim for.
Some of us can recall that golden age, which wasn’t always golden. As a young man writing for a business magazine in a spiffy office on Manhattan’s East Side, I caught that era’s tail end, so to speak. Everybody smoked their asses off. Advertising salesmen and management types were borderline alcoholics; sometimes not even borderline. The editor-in-chief was sleeping with his secretary who, as I recall, had great legs. Food was barely touched at lunches that sometimes ran till 3 p.m. Guys would stagger back to the office to line up an expense-account lunch for tomorrow before fleeing to catch the 5:15 at Grand Central to Westchester. Compared with today’s age of “productivity” gleaned from unpaid overtime, productivity then, in that firm, was a joke. So was the pay.
I also fled – to businesslike Fairchild News, which later moved me to Denver. Fairchild was akin to playing Triple-A baseball, and the Denver Post, in 1979, meant I’d made it to the media “majors” after a roundabout odyssey.
The world changed. With feminism, rubber girdles – students can ask their mothers or maybe grandmothers about those – were phased out first, followed, for a while, by bras. Today, pantyhose may be following the same route. But in a critique of this fall’s TV lineup that spinmeisters swear are “empowering “ for women, Denver Post TV critic Joanne Ostrow said maybe “America needs a girdle,” and “that’s the message of the flood of retro-programs [with] …pointy bras, skinny ties and vintage cars.”
Is TV trying to take us back to the future? We’ve seen worse – on and off TV. And what could be worse than watching the bad theater, with bad actors, now unfolding in the U.S. Congress?
People: Barack Obama