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Thumbnails 8/12/16

Michael Glover Smith on "Cool Apocalypse"; What Trump doesn't get about Khan; Oral history of "Stand By Me"; Even superheroes punch the clock; Mark Pellington on "Blindspot."

Tom Shales At Large

This one's a keeper

(AP photo)

Back in ancient days of rampant ignorance and sexist effrontery, a TV commercial for a product now forgotten depicted a happy married couple whose cheer seemed guaranteed by the woman's subservience to the man. At the end of the ad he uttered a phrase that entered, to the dismay of millions, the iconography of the time: "My wife -- I think I'll keep her."

Tom Shales At Large

Obama's Declaration of Independence

By Tom Shales

There was the tense sensation that actual news might break out at any moment -- but we knew it would be just as well if it didn't. The Second Inaugural of President Barack Obama, which occupied most of Monday on broadcast networks and cable channels, was actually rather compelling for an event which had little reason to exist.

Tom Shales At Large

Early returns: The ascent of the Stephanopoulos

Polls may be open somewhere, results in many races remain inconclusive, but I am willing to make one fearless projection: ABC News is the winner in 2012's Election Night coverage. In fact, ABC's coverage of the entire campaign has generally left competitors red in the face if not green with envy, though that hardly means it was without its own fumbles, stumbles and wretched excesses.

Tom Shales At Large

Presidential mud and oil wrestling

(AP photo)

by Tom Shales

"What I try to do is be consistent," said President Barack Obama. He was talking about energy policy -- not about debating strategies, because as all the world knows by now, Obama projected a far more aggressive and engaged persona at his second debate against Mitt Romney than he did at the first. He managed to do it without being self-conscious, a neat trick since the reviews of his previous performance were so unanimously negative.

Tom Shales At Large

Good Morning, Muppets

And the Emmy for Best Family Comedy Goes to -- "Good Morning, America"? Well, why not? ABC's weekday 7 a.m. "news" program is about as newsy these days as "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." It's also as warm, cuddly and cute as were "Ozzie and Harriet," "The Smurfs," "My Pink Pony" or the Muppets. In fact, the Muppets were busy overrunning the cast and set of "GMA" just the other day, although having them on hand only served to remind viewers that several of those in the "GMA" cast seem to have morphed into Muppets themselves.


Bill Clinton: A sinner redeemed

"Clinton" premieres in two parts: Monday, February 20th and Tuesday, February 21st on PBS's "American Experience" (check local listings for showtimes) and will be available thereafter via PBS on demand. Also on DVD and iTunes.

by Jeff Shannon

I should probably state up front that I was, and always will be, a Clinton supporter. Like our 42nd president, I grew up in a home where John F. Kennedy had been revered as a young, dynamic force of change and hope for the future. When you admire a politician's core conviction, it's at least somewhat easier to overlook, if not forgive, their foibles and shortcomings. As a young quadriplegic in 1991, I saw candidate Clinton as an impressive-enough carrier of JFK's torch, a protector of the disadvantaged who had inherited Jack and Bobby Kennedy's concern for those who found the American dream elusive or entirely out of reach.

That concern was clearly demonstrated by the defining moment of Clinton's presidential campaign. It's one of many pivotal moments captured in the two-part, four-hour documentary "Clinton," the 16th episode of PBS's "American Experience" presidents series. At the second presidential debate in Virginia in 1992, a young African-American woman in the audience asked candidates Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, and incumbent president George H.W. Bush a question that was then on the minds of struggling Americans everywhere:

"How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives, and if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?"

That question could easily be recycled as a present-day jab at Mitt Romney, but let's stick to history: Bush simply didn't understand the question, and Clinton seized the opportunity to ensure his victory. Stepping toward the audience in a characteristic display of the sincerity that had propelled his fast-moving career, Clinton demonstrated a concise, compassionate grasp of the question's meaning, and his answer (a reference to the poverty and middle-class struggle he witnessed while campaigning for Congress and Governor in his native Arkansas) left Bush with a classic expression of election-losing dismay.


Making up stories

File under: Critical Thinking

The [Bush White House] aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'' -- Ron Suskind in the New York Times, recalling an epiphanic conversation that took place in the summer of 2002

Since the latest Bush torture memos were released, the news media has been persistently reporting a myth -- that Barack Obama has publicly changed his position on whether those responsible should be investigated and prosecuted if they broke the law. I have seen this story repeated so many times over the last week or two that it has now became accepted as "fact," despite evidence to the contrary, just about everywhere -- from the New York Times to Fox News. Even The Daily Show, one of the more reliable sources of television news and analysis, got it wrong.

Festivals & Awards

Oscar will finally pay its respects to Spielberg

For years, the word around Hollywood has been that Oscar voters have some kind of a grudge against Steven Spielberg. He makes good movies and he makes popular movies, and sometimes he makes both at the same time, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never awarded its best director award to the most successful director in history.