It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia                    Make America Apolitical Again

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Make America Apolitical Again


The saddest thing about our era isn’t the contentious state of politics. It’s the upsetting fact that politics has bled over into every other aspect of American life.

The NFL, late night comedy, natural disasters, Kanye West: everything is politicized. Everything is polarized. As a society, we desperately need something that doesn’t make us choose sides; something that brings us all together. That something is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

If the comedians who make “It’s Always Sunny” are passionately pro or anti-Trump, they hide it incredibly well. The characters talk frankly about politics, social issues, and race in every episode, but the show never takes sides. It’s an incredible achievement in inclusiveness and restraint.

They have been making fun of overly political ignoramuses for years. Back in season 9 – in the episode “Gun Control Too: Still Hot” – the gang tackled the extremely polarizing gun control issue without taking sides.

The episode begins with amoral businessman Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) going on local news to tell the story of how his two guns purchased at Gunther’s Gun Shop saved him from a violent robbery. Mac and Charlie are convinced. Dennis and Dee are disgusted.

Mac and Charlie arm themselves and go to an elementary school to try to protect the children. Meanwhile, Dennis and Dee try to prove their point by showing how easy it is to get an assault rifle. Slowly, each pair realizes the flaw in their argument and switch sides in the gun debate.

In the end, Frank admits that he doesn’t care about the issue at all; he just bought a stake in Gunther’s Gun Shop and stoked the city’s fear to make more money. Frank compares himself to Al Gore, who spread panic about Global Warming and got rich in the process. “In America,” Frank concludes, “you are either the duper or the dupee.”

This cynical view of politics is more relevant than ever. If you are fired up about something political, consider who profits from your rage. And, above all, consider laughing at yourself for being duped into caring so much.

In season 13’s amazing premier episode, “Make Paddy’s Great Again,” new cast-member Mindy Kaling gives a heartwarming speech about how the formerly crass and bigoted crew at Paddy’s Pub have become woke. Behind closed doors, the gang laughs at the left-wing customers and counts the money they made selling cheap Cabernet labeled as “Conservative Whine.”

Then, Kaling reveals her grand scheme, which is to switch sides, pretend to be conservative, and steal customers from the Right-Wing bar around the corner. Mac and Charlie begin relabeling the cheap wine as “Liberal Tears.”

The characters on “It’s Always Sunny” are terrible people. But the people who make the show are not. In another episode last season – “The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem” – the show successfully depoliticized another issue that was dividing our country.

I can’t imagine anything less important than the toilet that transgender people use. But every conservative father in America has had an impassioned argument with his liberal daughter about that very issue.

With zero partisanship and zero cultural sensitivity, the “It’s Always Sunny” gang broke down the debate for a half hour. Ultimately, they concluded that the most sane option was for us to toss the Men and Women signs in the trash and label every bathroom in America with a sign that reads “Animal Poop.” Problem solved – and everybody was offended equally.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” used to be the best comedy on television. Now it is something even more valuable: it’s the last inclusive political show left in our fractured culture.

A populist guy and a raging feminist gal can sit on the couch – hand in hand – and enjoy this show as loving equals. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” makes us laugh at the nitwits on the screen, and at ourselves.



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When I was a teenager, I took a bus to New York City by myself. My most vivid memory was being confronted by a mentally ill homeless person. He stated passionately that the government is out to get him and that the President is destroying the country and is personally responsible for his homeless predicament.

Everybody talks about the leaders of our country. But nobody seems to consider their perspective with empathy. Leaders are human beings like us, with jobs much harder than ours.


The breakout international hit drama “Vikings” presents the human side of leadership in an entertaining and intellectually stimulating way.

The main character is Ragnar Lothbrok. Ragnar has an aptitude and a passion for raiding. His innovative attacks on Wessex and Frankia earn him fame and plunder. And, tragically, an unwanted crown.

Ragnar’s arc goes from fun to fascinating when he accidentally becomes king of the Northmen. Ragnar tries earnestly to be a good peace-time ruler, but he isn’t great at it and he hates doing it. At raging drunken Viking festivals, we see the hesitant monarch hanging back, watching and waiting for the next betrayal.

The stress of joyless leadership robs Ragnar Lothbrok of his family, his friends, and his noble nature. When we meet him, Ragnar is a lovable father and husband. By the midway point of Season 4, he is an angry, lonely, drug-addled monster.


When the dreaded Northmen landed on the shores of southern England, what was King Eckbert of Wessex to do? The logical move was to curse the pagan barbarians and assemble an army of holy warriors to repel them.

King Eckbert did nothing of the sort. Instead, the ruler invited Ragnar into his palace, befriended him, and learned what he wanted. Then Eckbert hatched a far-sighted plan to use the Viking army to fight his battles and solidify his own authority. Oh, and he found time to sleep with the sexiest Viking woman to boot.

King Eckbert is sophisticated and pragmatic. He is smart enough to devise his own political schemes, and wise enough not to share them with anyone. He uses everyone around him as pawns in a chess game. And he knows that no one on earth is as good at chess as he is.

As a ruler, Eckbert has no weakness. But, as “Vikings” demonstrates, power is its own punishment. At the end of the day, Eckbert believes sincerely that he will pay the price of eternal damnation for his earthly achievements.


Have you ever wondered why most countries throughout history were ruled by hereditary monarchs? It’s because that system works most of the time.

Case in point is the character of Emperor Charles II of Frankia. Charles doesn’t have any of the remarkable attributes of Ragnar or Eckbert. Charles isn’t manly or brave or inspiring, and he isn’t particularly smart.

What the Emperor does have is the blissful belief that he alone should be ruling. He is the grandson of Charlemagne. No American leader can ever feel the total confidence of a man who was born and raised to be emperor and knows nothing else.

While the restless ambitions of Ragnar and Eckbert end up needlessly costing the lives of hundreds of their countrymen, Emperor Charles only wants to sit on his throne and make wise, sober decisions. And he usually succeeds.

Emperor Charles is nobody’s favorite character. But he’s a darn fine ruler.


In the 20th Century, blaming national leaders for everything was the act of a mentally ill person. Now, that mental illness has spread across the land.

I don’t think it is wise to love our rulers or even trust them. However, it important to remember that they are just people like us doing their best in a tough situation. And they obviously aren’t destroying the country.


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Television Mini-Series:




“I feel like we’ve gotta call 911. But who do you call when it’s your own government attacking?”

-David Thibodeau, from inside the Branch Davidian compound


One of the most troubling political developments of the past few years is that I’ve heard people – from the Right and the Left – defend the FBI.

Like I always say, if Republicans and Democrats agree on something, it must be a terrible idea.

The scary thing is: I didn’t think that the FBI was even trying to behave in a defensible way. I thought that they were working hard to be cool fascist villains in nice suits.

The FBI systematically gathered dirt on politicians and told them about the secrets. In this way, the FBI politely blackmailed elected officials into silence and ensured that they’d stand back and let the Agency do what it pleased.

And what the FBI has always done is flout the rule of law and due process to harass and destroy its perceived enemies. The FBI’s enemies were anti-war activists, feminists, and civil rights workers.

The FBI tried to destroy Martin Luther King. The Bureau sent Dr. King an anonymous letter detailing his extra-marital affairs and urging him to commit suicide.

There has never been anything defensible about the FBI. It is the enemy of freedom, democracy, and our Republic. Any leader who tries to disband the FBI is a great American hero. Sadly, he will probably be sabotaged and assassinated before he succeeds.


The TV mini-series “Waco” chronicles the darkest hour of Federal Law Enforcement: the completely unprovoked murder of 76 Texans in the spring of 1993.

The Branch Davidians were a peaceful little Christian cult that centered around prophet David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch).

The oddest thing about the group was that Koresh made a rule that he must be the only man among them to have sex. He began marrying his friends’ wives and he even married the teenage sister of his first wife. Obviously this was selfish, disgusting, inexcusable behavior. But it was no danger to the general public or to our society. The Branch Davidians just wanted to be left alone.

On the morning of Feb 28, the ATF raided their isolated church compound with dozens of heavily armed men and three helicopters. The Branch Davidians fought back. In the firefight, 4 federal agents and 5 Branch Davidians were killed.

This is the point where the story goes from unfortunate to upsetting. The Feds could have admitted their error, sent a letter of apology to the church, and left Waco forever. Instead they lied about the facts of the raid, demonized Koresh and his followers, and began an insane and cruel siege.

The sole voice of reason in “Waco” is real-life FBI negotiator Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon). He is constantly calling for restraint and transparency and all it gets him is confused looks and active hostility from his fellow agents.

Some viewers are going to be turned off by “Waco” because creators John and Drew Dowdle are unambiguously sympathetic to the Branch Davidians. FBI leaders are portrayed as dishonest and blood-thirsty.

But, really, is there any other way to look at it? As Agent Noesner cautions to his supervisor: an organization that arms itself with machine guns and tanks is destined to become a murderous war-machine.


I doubt that the FBI will ever do anything to make my community safer. There is a decent chance, however, that the FBI will bug my phone and put me on an Enemies List because I wrote this column.

Game of Thrones

Why I Love Game of Thrones

You know those people who ask a lot of questions while you’re watching television with them?
Questions like: “what just happened?” “who is that again?” “how are those two related?” “who just got killed?”
If you know somebody like this – somebody who needs to understand exactly what is going on 100% of the time – do NOT watch “Game of Thrones” with him.
“Game of Thrones” is the most imaginative and intellectually challenging program on television.
I just finished watching the third season on DVD. I still don’t claim to understand the show completely. But that doesn’t change the fact that I find it completely engrossing. I’m addicted and obsessed.
The premise of “Game of Thrones” is simple: a handful of royal contenders are fighting to the death. The winner will sit on the Iron Throne and rule the fictional land of Westeros (which looks and sounds a lot like medieval England).
The reason why the show is so complicated is the same reason why the show is uniquely great: there are dozens of interesting main characters. And none of them is simply heroic or villainous. Every single one can be loved or hated depending on your point of view.
Many viewers root for Jon Snow. Female viewers, anyway. I’m guess that it is mostly due to his good looks but perhaps they also appreciate his earnest desire to the right thing.
I loathe Jon Snow. He’s the kind of joyless jerk who will break a vow, reluctantly do something he thinks is wrong, take no pleasure in the illicit act, and then feel guilty about it. A good man either sticks to his vows or breaks a vow with confidence and pride. Jon Snow is always indecisive and in between.
The actor who plays him – Kit Harrington – was clearly hired for his hair rather than his talent. In the books, Jon Snow is a perfectly admirable and likable kid. Harrington transformed him into a loathsome chump.
Most viewers root against Jamie Lannister. There are darn good reasons to hate him. He’s a cocky pretty boy from a rich family. In the very first episode, he slept with his twin sister and tried to kill a kid who accidentally caught them in the act.
Jamie isn’t a saint, obviously. But I’ve come to appreciate his virtues: stoicism, bravery, and a true loyalty that Jon Snow can never match. I’ve also come to understand the burden that comes with being the golden child of a powerful family. Jamie handles the heavy responsibility with quiet grace and selfless family pride.
I concede that it is possible to dislike the beautiful Mother of Dragons: Daenerys Targaryen (Dany). One can argue that she is irresponsibly single-minded and that her ambition for power borders on mental illness.
But the heck with that. I’ll always root for Dany to become queen. Her decision-making is unilateral and reckless; but it is confident and usually correct. She expects a lot from her subjects but she genuinely loves them in return. Not only is she best suited to sit on the Iron Throne in the show, I wish there was a politician in real life who possesses Dany’s level of motivational leadership and decisiveness.
Don’t just watch “Game of Thrones” because it’s the best show on television. Watch it because a generation of smart young people are watching it, too. Watch it to stay entertained and stay hip. Just don’t ask a bunch of questions to the person sitting next to you while you watch it.

House Of Cards


Why I Love House of Cards

“Congressman Max Abrams: hopelessly conservative. Abrams voted to increase Medicare copays for people most in need. And Abrams co-sponsored a bill that would have raised the minimum age for Social Security recipients. Max Abrams: Bad for seniors. Bad for Vermont. (Paid for by Ted Wilkins for Congress 2014).”
If I were a politician, I’d have to watch nasty television ads like this during campaign season. And I’d have to read nastier editorials and social media posts about me every day.
I’d be pressured by rich, influential people to vote for laws that I know are flawed, corrupt, or just plain wrong.
These are just a few of the reasons why being a Washington politician is a pressure-filled nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
So, why on earth does a smart person choose to run for Congress, anyway? The addictive Netflix original series “House of Cards” makes the answer clear: POWER.
Kevin Spacey is mesmerizing as Rep. Frank Underwood (D, South Carolina). When we meet him, he is already Majority Whip of the House and he’s moving up in the world.
Frank worked to get the new President elected. And, in return, newly inaugurated President Walker has promised Frank an important cabinet position. But the President breaks his promise to Frank.
Frank Underwood doesn’t get mad, he gets even. The Congressman hatches an outlandish, complex, and diabolical scheme to destroy his new enemies and enrich himself in the process.
For the lead character of a serious TV drama, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood is surprisingly simple. He’s like a shark, always swimming forward toward the next kill.
While Frank isn’t very complex, he is always interesting; interesting to the extent that he might be the most evil lead character in television history. You can count the decent things he does on one hand. But acts of dishonesty and betrayal just keep piling up.
Frank views everyone in his life as pawns to be manipulated, used, and then discarded. Everyone except his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Frank neither loves his spouse nor is he attracted to her. But in Claire, Frank has found a life partner who shares the same goals. The Underwoods are like two snakes in the Garden of Eden, working together to seduce Eve to eat the apple.
The creator of “House of Cards” – Beau Willimon – faced a serious challenge: How do you get the audience to watch a villainous, murderous, soulless protagonist without hating him? Willimon’s splendid solution was to have Kevin Spacey turn to the camera sometimes and explain his feelings and motivations directly to us.
That technique somehow makes us the audience feel like we are in on Frank’s schemes; it somehow makes us root for him. Watching “House of Cards” from Frank’s perspective is like watching “Star Wars” from the point of view of the Emperor.
Though “House of Cards” makes us root for Frank, it definitely doesn’t glorify him. The awful thing about power is that achieving it never makes you happy; it only makes you want more. Ted Wilkins can have that Congressional seat. I truly don’t want it.

Survivor and Feminism

Feminism and CBS’s Survivor

I am a feminist.
I am a feminist because:
A. I believe that women and men are intellectual equals. And that everyone should be allowed to choose the career that they want, even if the job is traditionally done by the other sex.
B. I think about women’s issues and women’s points of view more than the average guy.

This season of “Survivor” (Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty) has introduced me to some fascinating, flawed women.
First there’s Kass McQuillen. Kass had all the tools to win the game: she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s level-headed.
Kass is a trial lawyer. And, unsurprisingly, she is exceptionally good at coming up with reasonable arguments about strategy and presenting them to her tribemates.
About halfway through the season, Kass had put herself in a perfect position. She was one of the most influential people in a majority alliance that was in control of the game.
But then she was undone by her (and many women’s) fatal flaw: her primal hated of other women.
Reason, strategy, and self-preservation went out the window when Kass developed a grudge against one her tribemates, Sarah. As so often happens in real life, a minor spark of disagreement exploded into an unstoppable wildfire of anger. And before long, Kass had voted this poor girl out and torpedoed her own game in the process.
I have absolutely no idea why women are so quick to turn on each other and become enemies. But the phenomenon is real. And frightening.

This season of “Survivor” also introduced me to Morgan McCloud and the plight of attractive young women.
I know that looks are subjective, but Morgan from the Beauty Tribe is unarguably the best looking girl on television. And beauty is taking its toll on her.
Morgan got voted off a few weeks ago because she wasn’t playing the game very hard and because she was lounging around and letting other people do all the work around camp.
But this isn’t really her fault. As she explained as she was leaving, the guys on her tribe started serving her and doing her work from day one. And this has been happening since she went through puberty. Morgan’s great looks have made it so men are eager to do her work for her.
As for her decision not to participate too much in the intellectual strategy aspect of the game; her beauty dictated that, too. Morgan, like most hot teenage girls, probably had a busier social life than average. And less time to study.
Also, sadly, if Morgan was naturally smart, she would have learned rather quickly that there is a disturbing tendency for people to resent smart girls. A smart, pretty girl who wants to be well-liked has to learn to act less smart or risk being hated by her classmates.
Morgan’s beauty is making her life easier now. But it the long run, she’ll discover that it is a curse. When she loses her looks, she’ll find that life is very difficult for a woman with below-average intelligence, unimpressive character, and a lousy work-ethic.

If you’re interested in Sociology, “Survivor” (CBS, Wednesday nights at 8pm) is the most intellectually stimulating show on television. There certainly aren’t any other shows on network TV that inspire me to write a column about feminism.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Why You Should Watch

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey


Most people are content to remain almost completely ignorant about history, geography, and science.

And even though I find history and geography super interesting, I can’t argue that they are important to learn.

Is my life richer and fuller because I know more about the 30 Years War than you? No. Are you a better person because you can find Indonesia on a globe and the average person on the street can’t? No.

But science really is valuable. Because if you don’t possess a basic knowledge about how the world works, you can easily get duped.

There are dozens of companies selling weight loss pills, supplements, and cleanses. They are banking on the fact that many people don’t understand even the most basic concept of caloric intake vs. output. These poor people will harbor hope that a cleanse will make them skinny even if they continue to eat the same amount.

There are millions who have been duped into believing that evolution isn’t happening. And that’s simply because they never learned how natural selection works so they are willing to believe that species do not change over time.

But don’t get too smug, liberals. There are plenty of left-wing groups that prey on our lack of scientific knowledge, too.

There are alarmists who urge you to save endangered species because, supposedly, their fragile ecosystems will be irrevocably destroyed if species disappear. They are banking on the fact that you don’t know that the vast majority of species that existed in world history have already gone extinct. And then their niche was simply taken over by new species. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

There are alarmists who urge you to combat global warming at the cost of capitalism and human progress. They are banking on the fact that you don’t know that the earth has, at times, been much warmer in the past. And much cooler. If global warming raises the earth’s temperature by five degrees, it won’t be unprecedented. And it might not even be bad.

I hope I can convince you that science is important. I can’t convince you that it is interesting. But Neil deGrasse Tyson can. He’s the charismatic host of the 13 episode mini-series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.”

It’s an incredibly ambitious show. Tyson is trying nothing less than to tell the entire history of the universe: from the big bang, to the creation of the first galaxies, to the formation of our solar system from the remnants of stars that died billions of years ago.

“Cosmos” is also a history of science itself. Tyson is proud and passionate about his profession. He spends a lot of time telling the stories of history’s greatest scientific pioneers (Isaac Newton, Giordano Bruno, Edmund Halley) and how they toiled and sacrificed so that we could all understand our world a little bit better.

The goal of the program isn’t just to entertain and educate older viewers like us; it is to inspire young people to join Tyson and become scientists themselves.

Since science is so important, it is fortunate that there is a TV show that makes learning about it so fun. I hope you check it out.


“Cosmos” is on Fox, Sunday nights at 9pm.


South Park Is Still Great

South Park is Still Great


After more than ten years on the air, “South Park” is better than ever. It consistently delivers intelligent satire and sophisticated analysis of our culture.

What makes the show different from other cartoon comedies is the outsider attitude of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They’re from rural Colorado. “South Park” reflects their spirit of freedom, personal responsibility and mountain-west libertarianism.

Parker and Stone never tire of attacking liberal Hollywood celebrities for arrogantly assuming that they know better than common folks about the way we should live our lives.

“South Park” has the best musical numbers this side of “Family Guy.” Sometimes there are Weird Al-style parodies of popular songs, like the brilliantly silly Kanye West send-up called “Gay Fish” (look it up on if you have a free minute).

Sometimes the show features songs just because Parker and Stone love music, like last season when Eric Cartman performed a no-frills cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” There wasn’t anything satiric or even funny about it. It was just a terrific, sincere karaoke cover of a great pop song sung by an 8 year old boy. It made me smile.

That brings me to third key element of the show’s greatness: Eric Cartman. Cartman is the ultimate anti-hero. He is selfish, manipulative, crass, and completely bigoted.

But he’s also smart, ambitious, and single-minded in his pursuit of what he wants. And when he does achieve what he wants, he takes a pure joy in success that is enviable. I can’t help but root for the little monster.


Here are a few classic episodes that illustrate what makes “South Park” unique:


“The China Problem,” (2008) – Based on their superb pro-war film “Team America: World Police,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a reasonable, nuanced view of American foreign policy.

They argue that we are safer due to the actions of the military and they definitely have no tolerance for people who argue that the United States is the bad guy in the war on terror. However, Parker and Stone do not turn a blind eye to American mistakes and abuses of power.

In this episode, Cartman is convinced that the Chinese are plotting to take over the United States. He and his friend Butters decide that the best chance they have to stop the nefarious plot is to hold up the local PF Chang’s restaurant.

During the stand-off with police, Butters shoots a number of cops in the groin. Cartman scolds his friend, angrily proclaiming that there isn’t anything funny about pointing a gun at a man’s groin.

Cartman eventually loses his motivation to fight the terrorists if those methods are going to be used.

Without ever even mentioning the words Abu Ghraib, Parker and Stone make a powerful argument that the United States military needs to be careful about the way it behaves abroad or it risks losing popular support and the moral upper hand.


“Manbearpig,” (2006) – People on the right foolishly combat environmental extremists by arguing with them over the facts. The truth is that no one knows how much climate change is taking place, how much of it is caused by man, or how destructive it is.

In this inventive episode, Parker and Stone manage to ruthlessly lampoon Al Gore without making any argument about global warming.

Al Gore comes to South Park on the hunt for the deadliest threat humanity has ever faced: Manbearpig. It’s half man, half bear, half pig, and only the former Vice President stands in its way.

In his ridiculous quest to save us all from Manbearpig and become a hero, he puts the lives of children at risk.

Throughout Western history, there have always been men who are kooky enough to think that the end of the world is coming, and arrogant enough to think they are the only ones who know how and when. Al Gore is such a man. “South Park” is the only show that is clever enough to call him out for it.


There are new episodes of “South Park” every Wednesday night at 10pm on Comedy Central.