PhillyTalk: Ask the Writers and Experts

This is your forum for posing questions to our staff and certain professionals. As with all information on our sites, questions and answers are published for information and discussion purposes only. Such information is not a substitute for professional advice from an adviser familiar with your particular situation. We do not guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any information provided in our forum.
Ask Jonathan Storm

Jonathan Storm has watched television since he was 5 years old. He would wake up early, turn on the TV and watch the test patterns as he waited for The Modern Farmer to begin. Five years later, he began his news career as editor-in-chief of the mimeographed newspaper in Mr. Merrill's fifth-grade class.

He spent six years as a true journalist at the Rutland Herald (Vt.) and six more at the Detroit Free Press. He joined The Inquirer in 1982, working as an editor in various departments. In 1987, he edited the newspaper's special sections on the Constitution and a companion four-month series. The package won a national award from the Benjamin Franklin Foundation as best special Constitution coverage by a newspaper.

Seeing an opportunity to watch television for a living, he grabbed it and became The Inquirer's television critic in 1990. His reviews appear in the Daily Magazine.

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Most Recent Questions & Answers
Questions:   1 - 10  of  56
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Blocked by Comcast

QI have tried to write to Comcast asking why they do not allow their channel 8 and CSN feed on DirecTV to no avail. I moved to Philly from LA 2 years ago (via Chicago), and am trying to become a Philly sports fan. I have better luck - like tonight, watching the cubs on WGN (even though I'm a Sox fan) than watching the Flyers or Phillies.

Besides the irony of being able to watch my former home teams more often on tv, there is also the irony that, at least during the playoffs, the Sixers games are on TNT/NBA TV/ESPN or ABC. Why?

ChitownStu, Philadelphia, PA  04/21/09

Comcast owns the '76ers and the Flyers. The last thing they would do is give television rights to DirectTV. The lack of local sports availability is the main reason satellite TV has the lowest percentage of penetration in Philadelphia than just about any other market.

The situation with Phillies games on CN-8 and CSN is a little different, but, basically, Comcast paid the Phils a lot of money -- more than the commercial stations were willing to put up -- to get access to their games. 

The whole point is to make sports fans subscribe to Comcast. The strategy has two results:

1) It gets a lot of sports fans to subscribe to Comcast.

2) It really pisses off a lot of fans.

Jonathan Storm

Is there some better link?

QI followed the link from a very recent column to your Q&A section. The most recent Q&A were from July 2008. If you're not doing this anymore, why not get rid of the link (recognizing you don't do the programming, but you could request it?). Or at least label it for what it is -- an archive of a discontinued feature. Or is there actually a link leading to current questions?
Anne , ChesCo, PA  02/12/09

This is a link for current questions. But not very many people seem to have them. I'm always ready to try to answer.

Jonathan Storm

Is this show better than The Wire?

QAmazing that this show that no one has seen is up for 16 Emmy's.
If this show is not better than The Wire then I believe that there's something wrong here.
T, Philadelphia, PA  07/27/08

Is Mad Men *better* than The Wire?

It's different. Both are in a very special league. The Emmy snub of The Wire is egregious and unforgivable.

On the other hand, the Emmys are hardly a definitive measure of TV quality. The Wire suffered in Emmy voting because it was produced in Baltimore, and for many of the aging TV types who vote in the Emmys, Baltimore might as well be the moon.

Are their voting failures any worse than those of the handful of foreign press who vote on the Golden Globes and always choose several hot babes in the hope that they will get especially well-oiled at the big Globes party, with its open bar, and be available for close-up interviews?


Jonathan Storm

Mad Men

QWhile I realize you don't write the script to "Mad Men", are you telling us who watched every show--and the marathon last week--that we aren't to find out what's become of Peggy's baby? Based on what you've said, I hope "Mad Men" doesn't turn into "Lost", where situations are unresolved and many answers aren't provided. I have waited a year to see this story continue.
Anonymous, PA  07/26/08

I am sorry to be so late in responding to these queries. I have been blissfully on an island with only a generator and no Internet, satellite or cable.

I think by now you have seen what's become of Peggy's baby, though you sure didn't in the first episode.

I'm not even 100 percent sure that we knew that Peggy had a baby, though my memory is foggy. We know now.


Jonathan Storm

False Statements by Rev. Pickett

QWhat would you say If I told you that Rev. Pickett, from "At the Death House Door" had been caught in saying one false statement after another?
Dudley Sharp, Houston, PA  05/30/08

I have seen Dudley Sharp's responses to Pickett from an organization called Justice Matters. A lot of his supposed refutations of what Pickett says are merely matters of interpretation. If a man says "he can tell" that so and so could not have done such and such, I think any rational observer would understand that he is making a statement of feeling, rather than of fact.

In some cases, however, the facts he states do seem to be incorrect. That may tarnish his anti-death penalty arguments, but it does not detract from the power of the movie, which is basically the story of a minister who experienced great pain while doing his job to make it easier for 95 people to be executed.


Jonathan Storm


QDid you know that Central PA, near Happy Valley, has a rather huge Amish population? The Nebraska Amish make up much of western Centre County's population, and displaced Lancaster Amish also make up a large percentage of people in other central valleys. Though Colbert's map might be a little higher, they were actually spot on when it came to Amish geography! In fact, being a former Amish neighbor and Penn State alumna myself, I found the map's blatant omission of PSU hilarious...mostly because Penn State culture is shoved down every native's throat here. You can't turn anywhere in State College without seeing PSU merchandise...but you can't beat Amish strawberries every summer! YAY COLBERT!
Alice Teeple, State College, PA  04/16/08

Well, color me one of those snotty Easterners, though I doubt there's "a rather huge" Amish population anywhere....

And I really don't see how you can get angry with college merchandise being shoved down your throat when you live in a town called State College. (And, apparently, work for Enormous State University. They sell more T-shirts, maybe you'll get a raise!)

I, too, enjoy Colbert. So much of his humor is directed at the idocy of the media and a culture that cares more about whether its presidential candidates can bowl or shoot a duck than what they think and stand for.

Jonathan Storm

Cable Non-News and Viewers Indigestion

QIf only the cable talking pundits would stop talking about non-news items, give us the facts and when about to inflate topics, announce the following is going to be their OPINIONS.

Cable has given us the ability to choose when we want to have Indigestion. My husband will scream at some of the pundits.
"Tell the truth. You are an Idiot with a huge paycheck." My solution is no more cable news shows during dinner. I prefer the internet which offers better news coverage and the ability to research what one reads.

We are very interested in the outcome of Pennsylvania's primary. We have heard that HIllary's win is certain. I am not so sure. I lived in Philly many years ago and if you lied to others, you lost their respect. Well as we learned yesterday, Hillary lied to the people of Ohio and won but she was caught telling her lies in Pennsylvania before the primary. I hope her Liar status will in fact change the predicted outcome.

If so, I will turn the cable networks back on and listen to the spins.................

Your article was so right on. I am looking forward to reading more.

Can cable subscribers demand more transparency of the "news" networks to tell us the facts and label "opinions" as such?

Or is it too late?

Midwest Maggie, Highland Park, IL  03/26/08

Well, thanks for the vote of confidence. The cable news networks basically have an impossible job. They have to get ratings to make money so they can continue to exist. But they never get very much in the way of ratings. So they have to do things cheaply, and they have to do them 24-hours-a-day. The most interesting thing for me in the whole story was the fact that Nightline, which usually finishes third behind Leno and Letterman, won the time period when they did a lengthy interview with Obama. I'll bet you see more lengthy interviews there with others in the future, and maybe it will spill over onto cable.


Jonathan Storm

Instead Of Being So Critical, How About Better Writers Instead?

QMr. Storm, While you just might have gotten your wish (no definite answer yet from ABC) with what you'd written about 'Big Shots', instead of being so critical about these shows, is it at all possible for you and others like yourself to offer suggestions such as better writers (as a way to save them?), and perhaps moving the shows to better day and time slots?
This show was literally cut down 'before' it even got started, and I never quite understood that, because there were shows which were much worse than this one but are now being allowed to return to the airways. I just don't get it, because Michael Vartan and Nia Long's characters are the most popular on the whole show.
Bea K., Brooklyn, NY  03/16/08

My job title is "critic," so I have to be critical, I suppose. I suppose they could have hired me to be one of the writers, but then I would have written a completely different show.

ABC ordered a lot of new shows last fall, and it was pretty much impossible for them all to survive. I thought "Big Shots" was just overly simplistic, and it was also sort of degrading to women, even if Michael Vartan is totally beautiful.

By canceling the show, ABC gives Vartan a chance to start in another show, which will probably happen in the next season or two, since he is very popular, and maybe you'll like the new one even more than "Big Shots."


Jonathan Storm


Qhow to become a member of an adult choir in philadelphia? to subsequently be on clash of the choirs
shari, philadelphia, PA  02/07/08

I have no idea. But I don't think that all the people on Clash of the Choirs were in any other choir to begin with. I think they just auditioned during general calls. There are three things making it unlikely that there will ever even be another chioir from Philadelphia: 1) We've already had one. 2) No major celebrities come to mind who could coach it, and I don't think Patti LaBelle is going to do it again. 3) The show had lousy ratings, and it's unlikely there will be any further episodes with any choirs from anywhere.


Jonathan Storm

vaccines & autism

QJonathan, how much research did you do on the vaccine issue before slamming the "Eli Stone" show? The mainstream medical community certainly has decided on the matter, but they have a lot to lose, and the CDC hs absolutely refused to fund any studies looking into the matter. Studies have found that Thimerosol can induce autism-like behaviors in mice, that it affects the immune system, that it activates an enzyme leading to heart disease. Notes from the government meeting on Thimerosol show that the participants were mostly concerned with protecting the drug companies, and one of the participants was going to stop his grandaughter from getting more vaccines.
Also, there is a lot of disturbing research about the MMR vaccine (the CDC calls it an unfortunate coincidence that kids get autism right after receiving the MMR vaccine- hmmm, not too confidence-inspiring, is it?)
David, Redmond, WA  01/31/08

I certainly do not purport to be a medical researcher, and I know that the issue is controversial. I believe the CDC are about as reputable as you can get, and, along with the pediatrics academy, are more credible than a TV show.

I am happy to publish your comments here.

Jonathan Storm
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