Watch the 7/27 edition of my rant on MSNBC’s The Cycle
Archive for July, 2012
Sherman Hemsley died on Tuesday at 74, but his work as George Jefferson, the star of the sitcom The Jeffersons, will live forever. The show ran from 1975 to 1985 and remains the longest-running network sitcom with a predominantly black cast in TV history. In its first year it was Nielsen’s fourth-best rated show on TV. But more importantly, George was a seminal character, representative of upwardly mobile blacks in the midst of the affirmative action-powered 1970s. He symbolized the post-Civil Rights Movement era nouveau riche black man benefitting from the economic tides, living in a deluxe penthouse apartment on the swanky upper east side of Manhattan with a live-in maid. Jefferson was a millionaire who owned seven dry cleaners — he got his start after his car was rear-ended by a city bus and his civil suit settlement allowed him to open one store, indicative of a world where the system could work for blacks. His social power was derived from his professional success, but we rarely saw George at work — the show took place almost exclusively in his home, as if showing us the king in his castle.
Breaking Bad is on the short list of the greatest dramas in modern TV (alongside The Wire, The Sopranos and Mad Men) not only because it’s well-written, well-acted and well-directed, but also because it’s wrapped up in three major themes that speak to where America is today. The show’s premise — a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White descends into making and selling methamphetamine — comes into view after White discovers he has lung cancer and is unable to pay his exorbitant bills and may die leaving his family broke. This brings us into the long national argument around health care (as well as the criminal underpayment of America’s teachers). When White moves into the meth trade, the show enters the territory of the War on Drugs as he swims in an ocean of sharks — evil dealers, crazy hitmen, kooky junkies, crooked lawyers and the dogged DEA.
Watch my 7/23 rant on MSNBC’s The Cycle.
Watch my 7/20 rant on MSNBC’s The Cycle about the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
Watch the 7/19 edition The Cycle’s segment “Spin Cycle”
Watch the Spin Cycle on the 7/17 episode of MSNBC’s The Cycle
Watch my rant on the War on Drugs on MSNBC’s The Cycle
If you’re wondering why hip-hop has often been angry, sneering, nihilistic and dystopic, you can blame the war on drugs, and how it feels to be on the wrong side of it.
President Nixon announced a war on drugs, but it was President Reagan who started the modern battle in 1982, when hip-hop was in its infancy. This fight would not only shape the black community but also mold hip-hop, a music and culture whose undercurrent remains black male anger at a nation that declared young black men monsters and abandoned them, killing any chance they had at the American Dream.
As Nas rhymed on the recent song “Triple Beam Dreams”: “I would be Ivy League if America played fair.” Instead, he’s trapped in a virtual prison. “New York is like an island, a big Riker’s Island,” he says in another recent song, “The Don.”
Watch me discuss Romney’s NAACP address on MSNBC’s The Last Call with Lawrence O’Donnell