Hooked on ‘The Closer’

Kyra Sedgwik is the closerAlthough I enjoy watching TV a great deal, my current life doesn’t leave me with enough time to do so. There are always things to do over the weekends and evenings such that I rarely turn on the TV to see what’s playing.

But Monday night is a special case. Every Monday night this summer I wait patiently for 9:00 PM so I can kick back and watch The Closer, a police investigation show that runs on TNT. What makes the show a viewing pleasure is not the plot or storyline per se. It is the amazing performance by Kyra Sedgwik. Playing the character of Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, Sedgwik is "the closer," — the one who interviews suspects and closes cases by getting them to confess. She is entertaining, witty, sexy and just plain fun to watch.

Before watching the show, I’d never paid much attention to Sedgwik. I always thought of her as that woman who looks like Julia Roberts. I really had no idea she was that talented (nor that she is married to Kevin Bacon for that matter). I highly recommend this show to anyone looking for top-notch TV entertainment. Six more days before the next episode.

Torture on ’24’

One of the most engaging articles that I read last week was one in the New Yorker which examined the repercussions of the myriad of torture scenes in the award-winning Fox drama 24. Entitled "Whatever it takes" — Jack Bauer’s famous line from the show — the article keeps tabs on 24′s torture scenes and details their impact.

24 splash imageSince September 11th, depictions of torture have become much more common on American television. Before the attacks, fewer than four acts of torture appeared on prime-time television each year, according to Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization. Now there are more than a hundred, and, as David Danzig, a project director at Human Rights First, noted, "the torturers have changed. It used to be almost exclusively the villains who tortured. Today, torture is often perpetrated by the heroes." The Parents’ Television Council, a nonpartisan watchdog group, has counted what it says are sixty-seven torture scenes during the first five seasons of 24 — mo4e than one every other show. Melissa Caldwell, the council’s senior director of programs, said, "24 is the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture."

The impact of the show is even being felt within the United States Army.

This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind 24. Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finnegan — wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medals — aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his "call" was. In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise — that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security — was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I’d like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show’s producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."

The Sandmonkey wrote a whimsical entry last month in which he analyzed this most recent season of 24. I laughed out loud when I read his observations. He too pointed out that the show had more than its share of torture. "Ohh, and is it just me, or is this show a little too torture-friendly?" I have watched and enjoyed every season of 24 so far. There is something about the show’s dramatic production that grabs me. However, I agree with the New Yorker article, the show does make torture out as an effective interrogation method. While some might argue that torture is necessary in cases of "ticking time-bombs," I believe torture is barbaric and should never be applied. It is also pointless, as some interrogators have pointed out:

… But Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. "These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out," he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. "They almost welcome torture," he said. "They expect it. They want to be martyred." A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. "They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory — the ticking time-bomb will go off!"

While on the issue of torture, I have to admit that it saddens me tremendously to read news items that link Jordan to torture. The last was one I read was on Rami’s blog, which detailed the story of a Jordanian living in Sweden, who is set to be deported from there, and is expected to face torture when he arrives back home.

Assad and two of his children in their Gothenburg flat The Swedish migration minister for Right-to-Center government, Tobias Billström, came under criticism for agreeing to deport the Jordanian, but he promised that Assad will not be tortured by the Jordanian secret police. Assad was not tried in the regular Swedish court and the whole deliberations are kept secret. Billström said he has enough evidence that proves Assad is a terrorist, but he did not reveal any of them to the local media. [Photo: Assad and two of his children in their Gothenburg flat, © Goteborg Posten]

You can read the entire New Yorker article here.

A young King Abdallah does Star Trek

I had heard about the appearance of His Majesty King Abdallah as a young man on Star Trek in the international press on a number of occasions but I never got the chance to actually see the clip. I had always been curious. Now thanks to YouTube — and the blogosphere I must add — the clip is available to the general public. Here it is! Pretty cool, no? [Image enlarges on click.]

Hat tip: [Euroarabe]

A new trend among Arabic satellite channels

Continuing from the engaging debate on Subzero Blue, I would like to add my voice to that of MMM and salute the recent addition of MBC4 to to the Arabic satellite channel lineup.

Nowadays, it seems competition among Arabic satellite channels is raging for Western programing. It began with Saudi-owned MBC 2 nearly three years ago, as it emerged with a revolutionary English channel featuring American sitcoms, dramas, talk shows and fairly new movies. After enjoying the top position as really the only player for several years, the channel faced fierce competition from Dubai-based One TV, which adopted a similar format but introduced more recent programs.

Now MBC4 is here and looks sharp as can be. In addition to sitcoms and talk shows, the channel features some of the best in American news shows like 20/20, 60 Minutes and others.

We have been flipping through these channels for a while now and they are beginning to dominate our viewing time to the point that we find our paid satellite subscription to Orbit is a useless, really a waste of money. The Orbit package just doesn’t provide anything special and worse, they seem to enjoy showing B-grade movies that few ever heard of.

Paid satellite packages like Orbit, Showtime and others are facing fierce competition now. Unless they really think of something new to offer they will soon bite the dust, at least in this region.

As a media voyeur, I believe the regional trend amid free-to-air satellite channels is English-packaged programming. What is happening now reminds me of the black day when Jordan TV decided to cancel all-English JTV2. Shrewd officials at the channel insisted on mixing Arabic and English programs into one "super channel," as they called it, thinking it would bring more viewers to JTV. They were mistaken.

I was among many who stopped watching the national channel all together after they canceled JTV2. After this influx of successful English-only channels, I bet officials at JTV2 are realizing how flawed their decision was.

The scissors at work

Logo_done Thanks to an earlier post by Subzeroblue, I found Dubai’s new all-English channel "One." The channel is apparently competition for the popular Saudi-owned "Channel 2." I have been following it for a while and I must say they have a good collection of high-caliber Western shows, including CSI, the Sopranos and others.

The channel also provides a good collection of fairly new and "slightly" older Western movies. One thing that is proving an irritant, however, is their excessive use of the editing scissors! It seems the people behind this brand new channel are ultra conservative, as they edit out almost any display of affection including pecks; even cuss words are edited out!

Personally, I think this is too much and extremely, extremely annoying! It is even worse than Jordan TV. Well, I’m glad I’m not paying for this channel.

But to be fair, I must say that last night I enjoyed watching The Insider in spite of being annoyed on a number of occasions by the channel’s editing. I saw this movie years ago when it first came out and watching it a another time was highly enjoyable, particularly because it deals with the field I chosen for a living: Journalism.

One blunder I found in this movie was the choice of an Egyptian to represent a Hizballah fighter. A great director like Michael Mann should have known better. Hizballah fighters are Lebanese, speaking an entirely different dialect. Also the Arabic translator that was supposedly translating for Mike Wallace was speaking gibberish! I couldn’t understand a single word of what he was saying! Again, this shouldn’t be expected from a legend like Mann.

24: The first season

24: Season 1

We just finished watching the first season of 24 and what a treat it was! It’s probably one of the best shows I have seen in a while. What made it unique was the unexpected development of events all during the show and the ‘non-Hollywood’ ending that kept us on the edge of our seats.

Keifer Sutherland’s performance was exceptional. I just can’t agree with anyone criticizing the role as he presented it. He is indeed the star of the show and one of the main reasons behind its success.

We are leaving in a bit to return the six-disc set, which contained all of 24’s first season. We are hoping to get our hands on the second season. It might be hard work to watch all of it before our trip to Jordan, but we’ll manage somehow!