This Commentator's Media Glass Is Half Full (but Won't Be for Long)

Why Be Optimistic? TimesSelect Is Grounded, HBO Is Soaring and Jim Cramer Is Taking on the Fed

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Hope springs eternal? Not in my line of work. You'd be hard pressed to find any media critic anywhere who isn't filled (more or less appropriately) with despair much of the time. Still, there really are reasons, now and then, to be a cheerful media person. Even in the dog days of August, hope springs occasional(ly). To wit:
'Flight of the Conchords' is funny and lovable.
'Flight of the Conchords' is funny and lovable. Credit: Nicole Rivelli

The end of TimesSelect
The coming demise of The New York Times' boneheaded premium-online-content service, TimesSelect, which locked some of the paper's most interesting writers away from the internet conversation, shows that Times management can actually learn from its mistakes.

Life after Tony
With the 800-pound gorilla of its former flagship series "The Sopranos" no longer sucking all the air out of the room, HBO is showing signs of reaching new creative peaks. Its established franchises are better than ever (the recent "Entourage" episode guest-starring Mary J. Blige was an instant classic, while "Big Love" has been heating up big time in its second season). And the quirky, lovable and very funny "Flight of the Conchords" is my favorite new comedy of the year. Sure, David Milch's "John from Cincinnati" is a dud, but it just wrapped its first (and probably only) season, and HBO's big September -- with the return of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the debut of the explicit, envelope-pushing drama "Tell Me You Love Me," and a concert special that captures the spectacular showmanship of pop savant Justin Timberlake -- will quickly eliminate any memory of that stumble (not to mention the scandalous departure of HBO chief Chris Albrecht earlier this year).

Martha's resurgent mags
Ad pages are (deservedly) up at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia magazines Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, and the excellent new(ish) Blueprint -- and Blueprint will be kicking up its rate base to 450,000 next year. I've harshed on Martha herself in this column in the past, but you can't take away from her the fact that her company puts out brilliantly produced magazines that make passionate connections with their readers.

Homeric wisdom
In my last column, I suggested that Wall Street Journal Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz might be a little, uh, uncomfortable about some of his new News Corp. colleagues. Well, Crovitz begs to differ. He e-mailed to say that he takes specific issue with my assertion that he's "the sort of person who would not be comfortable working alongside Homer Simpson. That's crazy. For many years, I have kept a miniature Homer and son Bart in my desk drawer to call on for management advice and inspiration. Indeed, I must turn to the wisdom of Homer himself to find the right words of response: 'You couldn't fool your own mother on the foolingest day of your life with an electrified fooling machine!'" I stand corrected, Gordon! And now, given that I know that you rely on Homeric wisdom, I'm newly optimistic about the Journal.

Mad Cramer!
The unlikeliest YouTube hit of the summer is a three-minute snippet that shows CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer trashing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for not lowering interest rates to address the subprime-mortgage crisis. Various bloggers have joked about Jim (full disclosure: He's an old friend of mine; I edited his "Bottom Line" column at New York magazine) losing his marbles, but he happens to be exactly right. The YouTube clip of Jim speaking truth to power -- complacent, clueless power -- has racked up a million views so far. More importantly, you can be sure that Jim's loud, angry words are reverberating through Washington.
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