August 29, 2005

Two things I started to watch on HBO but didn't finish.

1. "Rome." (First episode of the series.)

2. "Real Time With Bill Maher." (First episode of the new season.)

"Rome" had a lot of people bustling about in costumes, amidst scenery, declaiming various things in English accents. Violence and nudity don't really stimulate my interest in a story, though I was mildly intrigued by the perfect bikini wax jobs the women had. But — who knows? —maybe all that historical research they were bragging about in the promos actually revealed that the women had their pubic hair plucked into narrow vertical rectangles.

Bill Maher drove me up the wall — and I watched every episode of the show last year, so I am not a Bill Maher hater. His comic style of speech conveys an extremely smug attitude and certainty that he's the smart one who's been right about everything all along. (Jon Stewart uses nearly the opposite tone and is much more watchable.) Among the guests on Maher's show was Chris Rock, who was coasting on a single comic idea: you can connect anything to the subject of the high cost of gasoline. Why am I just getting to the point where I find Maher's speech intolerable? Maybe I've gotten more thin-skinned or maybe it's just the state of the world these days and the way so many people are so eager to point at everything that doesn't go smoothly and to say see I told you all along it was a big mistake.

20 comments:

Jeff said...

"Rome" picked up the pace and by the last quarter hour was quite engrossing. I liked it better than "Empire", which I liked pretty well!

My girlfriend and I noticed the bikini waxes too- another reason for me to stay tuned...

Girl Badger said...

Re: Maher

I was thoroughly annoyed by the first episode of the season, too, but I think it may have been due, in part, to a bad panel. The second episode was much more fun and Bill seemed less annoying. But maybe that is just because I really like Dan Savage (who was on the panel).

Al Maviva said...

Maybe you don’t like Maher because you are a terrible, bad, right wing person, a *law perfesser* of all things, and the RNC talking points told you not to. :-)

Just kidding. I think Maher is eminently dislikable because he isn’t that smart, and the pose of smug irony gets really grating after a while, at least for anybody older than 15 years of age. Moreover, if I wanted condescension from somebody who despises me, I would go to a nice French restaurant, where at least the disrespect would come with a nice filet and an impeccable Bordeaux.

Rome was interesting, with a good degree of attention to historical accuracy in the battle and religious scenes, and in the political scheming and conniving. The acting was reasonably well done too, with a whole pack of RSC/BBC stalwarts. But then I was a medieval studies major and took a stiff dose of the classics before going to law school, so I’m probably a poor bellweather. In fact, I only watched it while waiting for Entourage. I’ll probably watch Rome next week, however.

Robert said...

Upper-class Roman women did pay a lot of attention to their appearance. We don't have any old stelae to back it up ("XX ways to trim that zone") but its much more likely, given cultural values, that they would pluck and shave than that they wouldn't.

It did get more interesting as it went on.

Serenity Now said...

Jon Stewart isn't smug? When doesn't he wear that inexplicably self-satisfied smirk? It's not as bad as Maher's "I'm the smart one who's been right about everything all along" look, but it's still irritating.

Kathy Herrmann said...

I liked the first episode of Rome, although most of the show focused on setting up coming events. I'll have to watch a few more shows before passing any more judgement. With the free-flowing violence and nudity, it's definitely not a show for minors.

Thought is was...uh...interesting how many people floated around chambers whilst the aristocrats made love. Wonder if it...mmmm...made for performance anxiety on anyone's part? God help the slaves if master couldn't perform.

Wade_Garrett said...

Regarding the vertical rectangles - I can't honestly say I don't like looking at them, but boy am I glad I'm not a woman. Then again one of the rowers on the crew team I coached this summer shaved HIS happy trail into just such a rectangle, thus making him the object of ridicule from his teammates for the rest of the summer.

Maher's show is infuriating at times, not so much because its bad, but because with so few changes it could be so much better. Maher makes a real effort to get conservatives to sit not only on his panels, but also in his audience, and that's more than can be said for just about any other political talk show host. His 'new rules' are always funny, as is the part of the show where he translates rap lyrics into english and reads them in the most deadpan tone possible. But his show is pretty inconsistent, and he doesn't do enough to reign in the bad/weird people on his panel. He should have told Chris Rock to grow up, for instance, or at least use some different material.

Ron said...

Roaring Tiger: Think about this; Roman toilets are public. No doors, do dividers, the seats are packed close together. You'll get to know your fellow man really well then! Many Romans spent time angling to get invited to the best parties that evening, and the epigrammist Martial comments on this:


All day he sits,
On every lavatory seat.
It's not because he needs to shit,
It's because he needs to eat!


So performance anxiety? Not so much, I think.

Pat Patterson said...

The problem with Bill Maher seems to be a desperate desire to appear hip and funny, and failing at both. I suspect that he will spend the rest of his career atoning for 'Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle of Death' or 'Ratboy'. I recorded 'Rome' and supressed all I learned as ancient history graduate student so I could watch and neither turn it off or kick in the TV. Opted for the former.

Harkonnendog said...

"maybe it's just the state of the world these days and the way so many people are so eager to point at everything that doesn't go smoothly and to say see I told you all along it was a big mistake."

Nice.

Sigivald said...

I recall in my readings on Roman daily life, that the Roman upper-crust were big on depilation, getting their underarms plucked (eek, I say, and this is as a guy).

So, while I don't know if there's any particular evidence for Roman pubic grooming, it's at least perfectly plausible.

Ann Althouse said...

Sigivald: I seem to remember an Ovid poem about that. Still, I can't believe they'd go for today's rectangular-shaped pubic hair.

Adam said...

My problem with Bill Maher is only half about the smugness. The other half is that I want my comedians to be producing *laughs*, not applause from audience members gratified to hear their own political views repeated back to them. And I generally *share* Maher's.

Cat said...

Maher is often completely inconsistent (how can you agree with X if you just said you were for Y?). Plus, his comedy is just tired Bush jokes. They play one on HBO demand preview pane that starts with "George's parents called him the other day to say..." or somthing along those lines and it's so easy to fill in the punch line. I have yet to hear it (because I mute it - I find him SO unbearably smug), but I am sure it's something like, "You can not start another war/invasion until you have completed the others!" Not funny, been told 1000 times before....

As for Jon Stewart - I have to agree with Michael. Also, when he's interviewing someone who's views differ from his (or any of your typical Manhattanite), he is so agressive and intense. Almost angry. He's not with the libs - a lot more loose, funny. He was downright rude to...oh, what's his name...Gold-something who wrote Bias. He kept asking him, "How come you're not asking why Donald Rumsfeld lies to us? Isn't that more important than Barbara Streisand?" Thunderous applause for Jon's brilliance! Why it would be a brillian question if Gold-something wrote about something other than the media (news, celebrity, sports). It was just rude. He was aggressive with some other guest last week talking about the middle east and how treating terrorism as not a law enforcement issue. Just rude in ways you wouldn't see a Tim Russert or another news interviewer. I thought this was a "fake" news show and a comedy? Why the anger?

Oh...whatever...I just turn it...

ziyahaaq said...

I watched the first episode, at the beginning of each season he has two conservatives versus one (in this case Chris Rock). Normally it's the other way around. I thought Rock wasn't too bright.

It was fun to watch Phylis Schafly not get distracted by sone of Maher's trashy distractive questions.

Overall, Maher is genuinely obnoxious and not particular funny. His christian mocking jocks are particularly distasteful. The bulk of the show is hateful Bush jokes with grand hee-hawing from an audience that is picked to match Maher's intellect (California). He should take his show on the road and try it in any Red State & he'll see how funny his "humor" are there.

Pat Patterson said...

That's not fair, as a California native I don't mind taking the blame for stoner humor but lame humor exsists in its own state.

Cat said...

After I wrote this last night, I clicked onto Jon Stewart interviewing Trent Lott about education. Trent finishes a sentence, and Jon says, "Yeah, but what is Joe Bicycler down in Crawford doing about it?" The audience goes up in whoops of laughter! HOW CLEVER!

I thought two things -

1) you never would have heard him say, "what is Joe Golfer in Martha's Vinyard doing about it," if Clinton were still President and having his oh, so chic vacations with the beautiful people. I just don't think he's as "fair" as people make him out to be because of the occaisional joke about a democrat in the news.

2) He believes his own press and thinks he's brilliant. Now he's a jerk and not so funny.

Karl said...

So, what does it say about me that after watching Rome the first thing I thought was that Althouse was sure to have a discussion on Roman pubic grooming on Monday?

I guess a more interesting question for this crowd is what does it say about you?

-kd

Melon pan said...

I remember from a high school documentary that Julius Caesar plucked everything if that helps.

Jag2u612 said...

My my you righties have run out of liberals to bash so hey why not approach to the two most poignently accurate satirists of our time Bill Maher and Jon Stewart! Stewart went on that lame show with Tucker Carslon and Stephanopolis before the election of 2004 and like Christ turning over the money changers tables outside the temple he chastised them for not doing there job and asking Bush the tough questions.

For letting the whole administration that is falling down like the end of the Roman Empire now! He said to them and I quote "I won't be your monkey...why aren't you challenging this administration to the lie they created this war with!?"

So balls still in your court righties...White House, Senate, Congress and Supreme Court...and its burning just like Rome burned! Look in the mirror and your votes in the past elections have come home to roost. No flag waving BS is going to pull your peanuts out of the fire this time.

Can't wait till 2006 and 2008 when this country finally clenses itself with a political high colonic of this right wing rabble! Hey give Rush a call LOL! Al Franken is beating him in every market they compete in!!!!!!! Oh how does it feel?!

Jag2u612