JK Rowling and the Limits of the Outrage Mob

NY Premiere of HBO's "Finding the Way Home", New York, USA - 11 Dec 2019

There’s a time-tested logic puzzle known as the irresistible force paradox. Perhaps you’ve heard of it (maybe on that boxing episode of The Simpsons): What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

The question itself defies logic (“unstoppable” and “immovable” things cannot coexist), but it’s fun to ponder, and particularly fun to apply to various scenarios. Back in high school, my friends and I enjoyed discussing one version: Could Green Lantern’s power ring (unstoppable force) be used to pick up Thor’s hammer (immovable object)? It was a creative thought exercise, although my own final answer (GL would never get the chance to lift Thor’s hammer, due to copyright conflicts between DC and Marvel) did suck some of the air from the balloon.

But this weekend, we got another display when something perceived as an unstoppable force… actually proved to be somewhat stoppable.

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Not What They Stream: Why Some Beloved TV Shows Aren’t Coming to Netflix

EdTV

We live in an incredible era – one where thousands of television shows are instantly at our fingertips. On top of the hundreds of DVD sets that studios continue to churn out each year, we have a treasure trove of new and classic TV awaiting us on over a dozen (and counting) streaming services. Gone are the days when we needed to wait to catch a rerun – DVD boxsets have allowed long-running TV shows to fit comfortably on our bookshelf, and Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and their ilk have provided us with massive libraries of their own. All in all, we have a seemingly endless world of TV to choose from.

But there’s the question: Is it really endless? While the streaming boom has made it easy for a new generation to become enraptured with shows like Cheers and The Sopranos and Buffy and Battlestar Galactica, not every show is as easy to find on a streaming platform. In fact, there are some TV shows – including some fairly popular ones! – that have never received a proper online release, or even a proper DVD set… and probably never will.

What follows are five such TV shows. We’ll go through each, one by one, and try to learn why they don’t have a shot at a legal release. (Operative word there being legal – most of these shows can probably be found on bootleg DVDs or through low-quality YouTube uploads. But an official, authorized release is virtually impossible.)

We begin with…

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West Wing 6×21: Things Fall Apart

6x21 Things Fall Apart

[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Nelson McCormick | Aired: 3/30/2005]

“No one signs up to come in second.” – Santos

Back in college, I took a class that at one point assigned us to read from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The book, for those unaware, is set in a Nigerian village that is forced to deal with late 19th-century colonialism. I’d be lying if I said I remembered much from the book, but then, I don’t remember much from most of the classes I took during college (apart from the fact that they were constantly distracting me from this website).

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Fifty Years Later: How Green Lantern and Green Arrow Changed Comics Forever

LanternArrow

The year was 1970, and America was chaos.

The country was fractiously polarized along every line – age, race, religion, politics. The world still reeled from the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. A troop of National Guard soldiers opened fire on an unarmed group of college students. “Vietnam” was a hot-button word wherever you went.

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Gargoyles: An Ambitious Animated Series Ahead of Its Time

Gargoyles

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and keep washing those hands.

The early ‘90s were a prosperous time for American animation. The merchandise-driven cartoons of the ‘80s (sorry, He-Man and GI Joe – you wouldn’t be on TV if they didn’t have toys to sell) had given way to a more serious quality of storytelling and production in children’s entertainment. Now studios were investing in better writing and animation to tell stories for the young generation that would someday be known as Millennials.

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Deadwood: HBO’s Greatest Drama

Deadwood

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and remember to wash your hands.

It may seem odd that I’ve waited this long to write about Deadwood, but my resistance can generally be boiled down to two factors: (1) The multitude of writings about this series across the Internet, both on series and episodic bases, meant that a lot of things I could say about the show have probably been said already, and (2) the rather colorful dialogue would make it difficult to write about the series in detail without violating this website’s relatively family-friendly guidelines. (Attention to any kids who, against all odds, follow my work: Don’t watch Deadwood. Yet.)

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Extras: A Showbiz Satire from Across the Pond

Extras

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and remember to wash your hands.

One of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes comes from the show’s final season, a convention-breaking entry called “Lower Decks.” Rather than focusing on Picard, Data, or any of the show’s other colorful leads, the episode turns the camera on a group of side characters, the oft-nameless “Redshirts” who populate the background shots of the Enterprise and rarely if ever get a line. These characters were typically used as cannon fodder in the original Trek, but “Lower Decks” takes an extended (and unexpectedly poignant) look at a few of the Starfleet officers beyond the Bridge, reminding us that even the most inconsequential background extras have lives of their own.

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West Wing 6×20: In God We Trust

WestWing 6x20

[Writer: Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 3/23/2005]

<blockquote. “Counting weddings and funerals?” – Vinick

Across the course of The West Wing‘s sixth season, we’ve borne witness to transition. A series that once centered on those who work in the White House has shifted focus to those who covet it. Bartlet, CJ, Leo, and Toby have become supporting characters in the series they established. New faces, locales, and storylines have taken hold.

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The 10 Best Films of 2019

BestFilms19top

This past April, the Oscars released a new set of rules for film eligibility beginning in 2020. Among those was the stipulation that in order to qualify for nominations, a film must have a theatrical run of at least seven days. A film released straight to Netflix, with no screenings in major theaters, would be ignored.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 1: “Bojack Horseman”

Bojack

Over the past month, I’ve discussed a lot of great television. Shows that made me laugh, made me cry, made me think, and renewed my faith in humanity (if only for an hour each week). It’s been an extraordinary decade for television, both as a form and a medium, and it’s been a thrill to discuss some of the major TV accomplishments of the last ten years.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 2: “Parks and Recreation”

ParksnadRec

TV is a constantly changing medium. Shows that were once considered bold and revolutionary can now seem tame and and antiquated. Hill Street Blues was once seen as a gritty police drama, but its reputation in this regard was overshadowed by Homicide and NYPD Blue, whose reputations were themselves overshadowed by The Shield and The Wire. All the syndicated fantasy dramas of the ’90s, such as Hercules and Xena, don’t hold a production candle to Game of Thrones. And early South Park episodes aren’t nearly as steeped in shock humor as the current lineup on Adult Swim.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 3: “Halt and Catch Fire”

HaltCatchFire

The 2000s were generally a decade of critical TV conformity. Most avid viewers, in tallying up their favorite shows, would likely include at least one of HBO’s Big Three, with perhaps a dash of Six Feet Under or Curb Your Enthusiasm for some flavor. On the drama side, few critics could overlook The Shield, Lost, or Battlestar Galactica; for comedy, they peppered their lists with the likes of Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock. Each list had its differences from the next, of course, but there was a general consensus of which dozen or so shows qualified as the peak of the Aughts.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 4: “Breaking Bad”

Breaking Bad

Throughout this month, I’ve had the pleasure of looking back at a lot of great television. Moody dramas and hilarious comedies (and vice versa). The 2010s offered more TV than ever, and a greater variety than ever, filling every niche demographic you can imagine. No matter your tastes or preferences, there was most certainly something that could resonate with you these last ten years.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 5: “Fargo”

Fargo

The year was 1997, and Fargo fever was riding high. Frances McDormand had just won an Oscar for her performance in the film, while the Coen Brothers picked one up for their screenplay. The film was widely celebrated by Cannes, the SAG Awards, and the WGA. Buzz was already building about the Coens’ next film, a little project called The Big Lebowski.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 6: “Master of None”

Master of None

When historians look back on the 2010s, they will have no shortage of material to document and analyze. This was a decade defined by social media, which (for better and worse) went from popular to ubiquitous. It was a decade defined by an ever-widening generation gap, with “kids today” getting the rebuttal of “ok boomer.” It was a decade of political polarization and celebrity worship, of media bias and #MeToo revelations. It was the decade with the most – the most pop-culture, the most opinions, the most means of communication.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 7: “The Good Wife”

Good Wife

Though much of my current attention is dedicated to this monthlong Best of the Decade project, I’ve also begun drafting up my Best of 2019 as well. As I’m organizing my Top 10, filled as it is with plenty of gems from cable and streaming services, I can’t help but notice that broadcast networks are entirely absent from the list.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 8: “Community”

Community

In a move that will doubtlessly surprise some folks, I’d like to take a moment to discuss The Big Bang Theory. The CBS sitcom ran for 12 seasons from 2007 to 2019, and though ratings in its early seasons were middling (by its network’s sky-high standards), the show slowly grew in popularity and recognition over time, thanks to Jim Parsons’ performance and countless “Bazinga!” T-shirts. Beginning with the 2012-13 season, Big Bang ranked behind only NCIS in TV’s most-watched scripted programs, and finished #1 in each of its final three seasons.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 9: “Better Call Saul”

Better Call Saul

One of the first films I remember seeing advertised as a child was The Phantom Menace, the new Star Wars film that had the world abuzz. Being quite young at the time, I found my interests gravitating more towards Tarzan and The Iron Giant, but it was difficult to escape the new wave of Lucasmania. I watched the original trilogy, and, across the early 2000s, the prequels.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 10: “Review”

Review

When discussing the great networks of the modern era, the discerning TV fan will most certainly bring up a few reliable favorites: HBO, FX, and AMC. Maybe the more esoteric sorts will throw a Showtime or TNT into the mix. Rarely, however, will anyone bring up Comedy Central.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 11: “Fleabag”

Fleabag

There have never been as many TV shows airing as there were this decade, nor has there ever been as much debate as to what constitutes “television.” So when I first sat down to prepare this end-of-the-decade project, I established a few guidelines (some of which were mentioned right at the top): A show had to have premiered at least 18 months ago for consideration. Shows that premiered in the 2000s or earlier would only be judged by the output aired in this decade. Miniseries would not be considered, since they remain a different beast from their longform TV brethren. Twin Peaks: The Return would not be considered because it is technically a movie (or so a handful of film snobs would have you believe).

Oh, and no foreign shows. Sort of.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 13: “Better Things”

BetterTHings

Three years ago, had you asked a TV critic for a sneak peek at their prospective “Best of the Decade” list, odds are they would have included Louie. The dry and sardonic observational comedy from Louis CK was among the most celebrated shows of the early 2010s. An almost exclusively one-man production, the show featured slice-of-life commentary inspired by CK’s standup routine, with episodes that often seemed ostensibly plotless. It was an unusual show in its time, and critics hailed it as a new form of comedy storytelling.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 14: “The Leftovers”

Leftovers2

The first major TV event of the decade occurred on May 23, 2010. That was the day some 13 million viewers tuned in to ABC to watch the movie-length Lost finale. After six years of questions, mysteries, and puzzles, everything about the island and its inhabitants would be revealed!

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 15: “Manhattan”

manhattan

We’ve all known the sting of lost love – in TV, if not real life. It’s always a downer when a show we cherish goes off the air, and it’s especially dispiriting if said show was cut short before it got to live up to its potential. The 2000s were filled with these one-season and two-season wonders, from Freaks and Geeks to Firefly to Wonderfalls to Carnivale. They lived before their time, and died before it as well.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 16: “Atlanta”

Atlanta

Flashback.

It’s May of 2018. Donald Glover has just released his brand-new song, “This Is America.” The song debuts at #1 on the Billboard charts and the music video quickly racks up tens of millions of views. It goes on to win multiple Grammys, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 17: “The Americans”

TAmerican

If you spend enough time watching and analyzing television, you start to notice that, past a certain point, everything is relative. If a TV show is excessively bad, then any aspect of it which betrays even the slightest level of competence can be seen as brilliant. The Newsroom, for example, is among the most obnoxious TV shows of the decade, a preachy, ham-handed, self-righteous mess with more misogynistic dialogue than you can shake a MeToo hashtag at. It gets to the point that you begin valuing Jane Fonda’s recurring role or Will McAvoy’s therapy sessions – not because they’re particularly good, but because – compared to the rest of the show – they’re practically at the level of classic West Wing.

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