A Double Shot of Iconoclasm?

Howard Schultz stars in least funny Norman Lear show ever.


(photo: Sundance Channel)

They?re iconoclasts! Tonight! Ten o?clock on the Sundance Channel (for those with cable)! Watch in awe as two rich Jews go about their, um, iconoclasm! Both from humble roots on the east coast, both wildly successful out west, two generations of overachievers united by?what exactly? United by Iconoclasts! That?s the one-hour series of mutual ass kissing and flattery that?s previously paired Mike Myers and Deepak Chopra, Madeleine Albright and Ashley Judd, Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer (okay, those last two we sorta respect). What do we learn in tonight?s episode? I watched an advance copy last night?

Both men are fond of blue shirts and chinos. Both have been in the sun too much. Lear wears a funny little white hat. Schultz favors loafers without socks, he smiles too much, keeps touching Lear as if to reassure himself he?s actually there, and is really, really enthusiastic about everything. Like civil liberties! Health care! And All in the Family! (Also, shareholder value; let?s not forget about that.)

Lear is now 85 and Schultz 55, meaning the latter grew up in the golden age of Lear?s ?70s sitcoms: All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons. ?I love Norman Lear!? Schultz exclaims, and there?s no reason to doubt him. Obviously there?s some sort of surrogate father-son dynamic at work, but the show doesn?t delve into that. Rather, it follows the two men on a backslapping drive around L.A., where Lear pitches a TV show. (NBC?s Ben Silverberg joins the flatter-thon, but makes no promises.) Then it?s up to Seattle, where Schultz stuffs his nose in a coffee bag and says, ?It?s deeply spiritual!? (We told you he was enthusiastic.) They toss fish in the Pike Place Market, and Schultz attempts to link their professions by saying, ?A retail store is like a stage.? See--they?re fellow entertainers!

It appears their friendship began in the Clinton era, perhaps as fellow fundraisers and Friends of Bill. (Though Schultz is shrewd enough to avoid all mention of politics, since they drink coffee in Houston, too.) Sucking up to the powerful, liberal elite--now there?s iconoclasm for you. And while Lear casually mentions how he built landmark shows during the Nixon era dealing with the volatile intrusion of ?hebes and spades and spics and dagos? into the power structure of the day, Schultz is far too modern and polished to even mention race or class. (How diverse are the upper management rungs of Starbucks, I wonder.) And when was the last time you saw Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford quoted on one of those cardboard heat rings around your coffee? (Sample kernel of dialogue, courtesy of Redd Foxx upon being busted for a minor traffic offense: ?There?s enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie!? The point he?s making to the cop, of course, is that white drivers don?t get hauled off to jail for broken tail lights.)

So remember to tune in to Iconoclasts tonight, unless you can find an old episode of Maude. Which is guaranteed to be more iconoclastic than anything else on TV--this evening or this year.

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