It's false equivalency time!
On Monday’s episode of MTV could show minors in the kind of flagrante delicto that is usually reserved for mature audiences. Yet most adult Americans still can’t watch Al Jazeera English on television — even now, when the world is transfixed by images of Egypt in revolt.
It seems like a perverse application of free speech. But sex is sexier than foreign affairs and it certainly sells better. Freedom of expression is guaranteed to all Americans, but mostly it follows the money.
Yes, that's right, Alessandra Stanley has decided to link Skins and the Egyptian Revolution, as presented by Al Jazeera!
Can you figure out how to veer from discussing the slanted coverage of a news network to the sleazy business of selling teen sexuality on a scripted British import? Neither can Stanley, though she lurches all over the place, and eventually settles on "ratings" as her basis for cable systems not carrying Al Jazeera but still carrying MTV. That's not "analysis", that's desperation.
And, as if that's not enough, Stanley isn't done throwing in the kitchen sink:
To be fair, Al Jazeera English may be providing the most up-close and personal coverage round-the-clock, but it isn’t necessarily the best. And “Skins” isn’t the worst series for young people on cable, not by far. That would be “Jersey Shore.”
"To be fair"? How about "to try and throw in yet another complete non sequitour"?
And "Jersey Shore"? Seriously?
None of this is necessarily surprising - Stanley's long been the best example of worst criticism the Times has to offer... which is saying something in a pool that includes, still, the blatherings of Ben Brantley. Still, even for Stanley's usual lousy standards, this column was especially, awesomely, bad.
It's a shame, because the Times has actually been putting some effort into recasting its Arts pages, improving the quality of coverage, smoothing out its terrible instincts for flashy trash and simultaneous Upper East Side superiority (Which explains the Music department's apparent schizophrenic love of gangsta rap and opera). The Sunday section is almost readable again, Brantley is balanced with the perceptive analysis of Charles Isherwood, Manohla Dargis seems to be less and less of a presence on the film side. But for all the good... there's still Stanley and her astonishingly lame TV reviews. Does this nightmare ever end?
By the way, just to wrap up how lousy this column is: the problem with Skins is that it's not very good, which is the kind of situation where pushing the envelope on salaciousness is meant to cover weak writing and fairly bad acting (it's hard to find great acting talent under 18, and the market is seriously tapped out). Skins is mostly further proof that British shows rarely transfer well to America (The Office is an exception that actually helps prove the rule). Al Jazeera's inability to increase its presence on American cable systems deserves a full, separate article. And Jersey Shore's popularity, while mind blowing, is not inexplicable, and mostly a reminder that America's television habits are not generally, a reflection of good taste. Which, really, should help Alessandra Stanley, and still, somehow, doesn't.