Downton Abbey Returns

By on 1.6.14 | 11:18AM

The fourth season of Downton Abbey premiered on PBS last night. It debuted in Great Britain back in September, but was new for most U.S. viewers yesterday. (Warning: Spoilers, as they say, are ahead.)

The season picks up six months after Matthew Crawley’s untimely death by car accident. Dan Steven, who portrayed Matthew, wanted to move on to other projects and was written out of the show. My largest question post-Matthew is whether there is enough story to drive the series now that the central romance is gone.

After the first episode, it seems the answer is a resounding maybe. Tom Branson and the Dowager Countess (the incomparable Maggie Smith) concoct a scheme to help Mary get past her inexorable grief. In short, they want Mary to play an active role in the management of Downton now that she is one-sixth owner and guardian of her son. Unsurprisingly, this puts them at odds with her father, Lord Grantham, who believes he should run everything. It’s a safe bet that creator Julian Fellows is returning to a familiar theme: the clash between modernity and tradition.

Dear Rachel Maddow…

By on 5.16.10 | 4:58PM

Ever since the MSNBC host's denunciation of a Tim James TV ad catapulted James to superstar status in the Alabama GOP gubernatorial primary, the Rachel Maddow Threshold (RMT) has become the new gold standard in conservative campaign advertising.

In one of the delicious ironies of the Obama Age, Republican consultants are conspiring feverishly to produce TV commercials that exceed the RMT and get their candidates condemned on the Liberal Network No One Ever Watches.

All of which is to explain why Dale Peterson is now odds-on favorite to become the nation's most famous candidate for state agriculture commissioner. At the gossip site Gawker, Adrien Chen says: "This spot . . . makes James look like a gay Commie terrorist."

Click here to watch it.

Trump and Celebrities: A Beautiful Moment for the Natural Law

By on 3.30.09 | 3:47PM

Last night I watched the latest episode of The Apprentice:  Celebrity Edition.  I have been pulled into the series this year largely because of the compelling finishes where The Donald lectures celebrities about their work habits and managerial ineptness.  Dennis Rodman has been a draw because of his incredibly bad behavior.

This was Dennis’ week.  His teammates chose him to be the project manager because they hoped he would rise to the challenge if he was running things.  It worked, for a short while, then he drank enough to go past caring.  First, he got angry.  Then, he absented himself from the project he was supposed to direct.

Pretty Reasonable

By on 10.3.08 | 4:10PM

The cuddly Daniel Larison objects to my objection of expecting Palin to know much about foreign policy:

Let's try to remember that this hacktastic spin came from McCain's campaign and their supporters, and Palin willingly went along in making this farcical claim on more than one occasion. It is now supposed to be evidence of journalistic misconduct to make the mistake of taking the campaign's own idiotic statements as though they were serious. Duly noted. Whenever the McCain campaign claims anything about either candidate, we should assume that it is equally nonsensical and give it no credence.