Editorial: We do not approve

August 12, 2013

The Editors of “Back at this Table” hereby register their displeasure and dissatisfaction with the new charlierose.com.  We acknowledge that Mr. Rose has every right to monetize his content, and we do not begrudge him the minimal advertising his team has added to the videos on his site.

However, we must express our deep dismay at the ugly, inept Web 1.0 redesign his site has recently undergone.  Furthermore, we deplore the loss of Mr. Rose’s archive, which now only extends as far back as November of 2009 (Neil Young’s July 16, 2008 interview being the one perplexing exception.)

Mr. Rose’s online house is in a sad state of affairs.  We sincerely hope that he will assemble a new web team to completely upgrade his web site, and in the meanwhile we hope that the site will revert to its last iteration.

–Bureau Chiefs

P.S. We most wholeheartedly DO approve of Charlie’s taking Aaron Paul to task for wardrobe at 9:53 below:


February 15, 2012: Fashion Week

February 21, 2012

To call this interview an ‘anomaly’ would be both a misstatement and an understatement.  To say that it is almost too strange to exist would be more to the point.

It’s not that Charlie hasn’t covered fashion on his show before.  In fact, if you look at the Fashion tag on his site, you can see that he has had a wide array of fashion designers and tastemakers on his show and he has hosted a segment devoted to New York Fashion Week about every 2 or 3 years.

However, I don’t think he’s ever had three unfuckably oddball women at the table at the same time and still managed to seem engaged for twenty minutes.  Even more interestingly, he specifically refers to this trio as “friends of mine” at the beginning of the interview.

Here’s the cast of characters:

1. Diane Von Furstenberg

Diane Von Furstenberg is definitely a friend of Charlie’s, having first appeared on the broadcast in 1998, and having been a regular visitor ever since then.  One of the best parts of this interview is her discussion with Charlie about Marlene Dietrich, whom she lists as an inspiration, but might more accurately be described as a previous incarnation.  Diane is the one lady who obstinately defies the “unfuckable” label that I used above.  My guess is that nothing has ever happened between her and Charlie though – as soon as it does, I doubt we’ll see her back on the broadcast.

2. Daphne Guinness

The best I can tell, Daphne Guinness hails from the Capitol city in Panem where the Hunger Games are held.  She was a friend of Alexander McQueen’s, which Charlie tries to delve into, but Daphne seems completely ill-at-ease at the table.  A full time socialite and part time lover of Bernard-Henri Lévy (no wonder Charlie describes her as “a friend”), she is an heiress to the Guinness Beer fortune.

3. Suzy Menkes

All I can say about this is

Charlie’s best reaction shot:

Charlie’s two best lines:

http://backatthistable.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/ysl.mp3

Interestingly, I think it’s Charlie himself who teaches us the most important lesson about fashion through example: find what works for you and stick with it!


September 16, 2011: Lisa Randall

September 20, 2011

Lisa Randall is a stone cold bitch if there ever was one.  She’s condescending, domineering, and intimidating.  She’s also a scientist.  And she’s sort of hot.

Is there any wonder she has made five appearances on the Charlie Rose Show?

In this interview, much like the others, she barely contains her contempt for Charlie’s (let’s admit it) far inferior intellect under a thin veneer of politeness.  She gently congratulates him on each of the questions she considers “good” and redefines all the questions she considers inane.  So we get stuff like this:

Conclusion: Lisa Randall really needs to knock back a cocktail or two before any future appearances on CR.  She’ll enjoy the experience way more.  Charlie will enjoy the experience WAY more.  We the viewers will be privy to television GOLD.


Metatheft

May 15, 2011

It’s worth pointing out that this discussion of acting as an ongoing, live, ever-present support mechanism for our interactions in life was parroted almost word-for-word in James Franco’s recent interview with Charlie:

What makes this particularly interesting is the actorial lineage: James Franco’s style and persona are very much a copy of James Dean’s, which in turn were shamelessly modeled after Brando’s.

Full circle, y’all.


May 6, 2011: James Franco

May 10, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief
Here’s the interview.  Here’s where we unpack it:

1) Charlie in front of an audience.  Charlie is such an easy read.  Any tiny little shift from the comfort zone of his studio is observable in every aspect of the man’s physicality.  He looks older, wrinklier, droopier.  Even though we see nothing of the auditorium space, we know that the scale is off.  We usually see Charlie shrouded by black paneling.  Is he in a cramped studio space, or is he in a cosmic infinity?  Is an auditorium too large or too small for him?

2) Charlie in front of a College Audience.  Maybe that’s why he did “The Colbert Report”.  You know, as a warm-up.  The thing is, he just doesn’t play.  He tries, and he fails.  His questions elicit unintentional laughs left and right from these young people, no doubt unfamiliar with his work, and more importantly, his style.

Charlie is, crucially, an adult.  He knows what Twitter is because he’s interviewed the CEO of Twitter.  And that guy’s hardly even worth his time.  Charlie belongs at an oak table talking with other adults.  It could be the one in his studio, or the one at Michael’s where he’ goes for lunch.  Other than that, he should simply be transported via the ether to the golf course with Mayor Bloomberg and their dogs, and promptly back again.

3) Charlie in front of a College Audience interviewing James Franco.  Charlie asks very few questions in this interview.  James Franco talks A LOT.  Which is fine.  But for Charlie’s very few questions, an inordinately high proportion of them are in the form of “trailing off sentence for you to fill…”  As far as entertaining a college audience with an ironic sense of humor (who probably thinks that Charlie is, in fact, an administrator at their school) is concerned, Charlie is pitching underhand.  Franco barely has to bunt to get a pop-up fly hit.

4) James Franco himself.  I find simultaneously compelling and repelling.  For somebody with all that damned schooling, you’d think he could answer questions a little bit more intelligently.  That being said, it’s hard not to agree with a lot of what he says.  His meta-discussion about how he is, currently, while being interviewed on Charlie Rose, giving a performance, becomes an even more performative performance while he’s doing it.  Enough already.

I admire an artist who is unwilling to be bound by medium and professional boundaries.  I liked it a lot when Franco said that he feels certain material is best served by film, other material or by poetry, etc. and that it’s a mistake to force material into a certain form.  I agree with that big time.  So perhaps that’s actually why he’s pursuing so many different avenues.  But if you want to go do those other things, why not just do them?  Why enroll in several degree-seeking programs simultaneously if not to garner attention.  Guess what, James, if you really want to learn to be a film director, you’re in luck: you have ample access to the greatest practitioners in the field today.  I’m sure that you could do a lot of observing on set.

The same goes for reading Yeats, drawing pictures, and writing books.  Why not apprentice yourself?  You’ve got the resources.  Obviously you’re willing to commit the time.  Something’s just a little off about pursuing your interests and your stardom in this peculiar way.

N.B. The direct appeal to James Franco above is not merely a rhetorical device.  Of all Charlie’s guests that have been written about on this blog, I presume James Franco to be the Most Likely to Actually Read His Post.


May 4, 2011: Reed Hastings

May 5, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix is passionate about a good many things: technology, the internet, streaming video, fiber optic cable, business models, business growth, and his bottom line.

If there’s one thing he’s not passionate about though, it’s movies.

In this interview, there was not one mention of movies, good, bad, or in between.  Except that Mr. Hastings mentioned Netflix’s collection of some 10,000+ titles.  He said that the focus is on increasing the catalogue and that his company offers “the best movies from 1950′s up to last year”.  Which sort of begs the question: does Reed Hastings know when film was invented?  Does he know what his catalogue has to offer?  I personally have movies from the 1910′s and 20′s in my DVD queue and my instant queue, and I’ve watched movies from even earlier via Netflix.

The thing is, Netflix’s web site in many ways reflects this corporate culture in which the product itself comes second.  For one thing, there is no way to contact Netflix with ideas about their web site or content.  [N.B. this is not the way it used to be: there used to be a place where you could recommend movies that they should get.]

Here are some free ideas to improve the Netflix site:

1) Make the categories sortable in the Queue.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say I got to my Netflix instant queue, and I don’t know what I want to watch, but I’m in the mood for a comedy.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could click on the “Genre” button and have all the movies sorted by Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Action, etc.?

I frequently make use of such functionality on iTunes:

And, perhaps more to the point, since it’s also a web site, Wikipedia:

Wouldn’t that be so convenient and nice?

2) Also an idea from iTunes – on iTunes, I can randomize my playlist, affording me an endless set of surprises and delights.  Why not let me randomize my DVD queue?  I’m sure I’m not the only person who would thrill to the surprise of getting an unexpected DVD in the mail.  See, when I add stuff to the queue, I usually do it in batches.  That is, I’ll add everything by a certain director or actor (more on this in a second).  And sometimes, I’d like to watch those movies in a linear fashion.  But most of the time, I’d just like to have a fun, surprising mix show up in my mailbox.

3) Why, oh Why, Netflix, will you not add said information to your database: SCREENWRITER, COMPOSER, CINEMATOGRAPHER??

OK, I know that I’m one of only a few film score geeks out there who would find it useful to collect titles under that rubric.  But screenwriter?  Hello?  Aren’t you guys always trying to “improve viewer recommendations”?  For all those algorithm contests, you’d think someone would have piped up and said, “Hey, you know, the person who writes the movie has something to do with the content/tone/style of it.  Maybe we should take that into account.”

Also, why can’t I click on “Swedish”?

OK, Reed, that’s it.  I just gave you three great ideas for your site that would make movie lovers love it even more.  I’m fully expecting that, even in the unlikely chance you find out about this post, you will take no actions to incorporate my suggestions.  Because you really don’t care about movies.  Too bad.

The only other thing to say about this interview is that Charlie exhibits an astonishingly naïve misunderstanding of every principle of Market Capitalism, ever:

Reed: “What we focus on is the greatest video service.  It’s only 8 bucks a month, so it’s very low price, large scale, and we’re just making it better and better and better.”

Charlie: “And it’s gonna cost more and more and more.  I mean, with all this competition in video, why wouldn’t the price just go sky high, almost making it – just cutting your profit margins way down?”

You don’t need to be Murray Rothbard to figure out that scale and competition drive prices down.  No wonder Charlie hasn’t been able to monetize his online streaming content….

Charlie Rose: dumb, but pretty


April 6, 2011: Is Bob Diamond the world’s most boring CEO?

April 8, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Wednesday night’s Charlie Rose was supposed to feature celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.  I was supposed to write an article about it.  But when your beat is Charlie Rose, you go with the flow, you roll with the punches, you sop up whatever the man has to offer.

Even an interview like this one.

The Chicago Bureau Chief has made no secret of his libertarian leanings in the past, so it won’t come as much of a surprise that he rarely enjoys Charlie’s interviews with high ranking government and banking officials.  But it’s usually because of the content and the slant, the sickening, middle-of-the-road, “bi-partisan building blocks of America” drivel that we hear time and time again.  Whether you’re looking for journalism, conversation, or debate, this is not why we watch the Charlie Rose show.

But the reason that at least SOME of these interviews are palatable is because of the personalities.  Charlie, we know, is never afraid to let his real, honest personality shine.  And because of this, his guests usually let at least some of their guard down and let their true colors show.

But for that to happen, the guest needs to have a personality.  Charlie’s many corporate guests have proven to us that just because you’re a high ranking CEO, it doesn’t mean you have to be the blandest guy (or gal) around.  In fact, it’s because of Charlie that I’ve grown to appreciate the impact that a CEO’s personality can have on a corporate culture.

Which makes you wonder how Bob Diamond’s Barclay’s International has had such stunning successes.

What follows is a series of clips featuring some recent appearances by CEOs on Charlie Rose.  Some are bold, some are bland.  But none – not one – approaches the boring milquetoastosity (if I may coin a phrase) that was on display last night.

Overall Score: -7

Sartorial Analysis

Charlie looks good, he’s wearing his go-to business suit, his go-to blue/purple tie, buttoned button cuffs.  In other words, he comes to the table well aware of how bland his interviewee is going to be, and he knows that he better look plain and professional, and that even a single cuff link would outshine his guest.

P.S. My other option for today’s article was Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo talking about the upcoming Master’s.  For 22 minutes.  I chose the more thrilling of the two interviews (and I’m a golf fan).  Needless to say, Wednesday night’s was not a good episode of the Charlie Rose Show.


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