TIME Television

George R.R. Martin Says This Religion Inspired the Game of Thrones Faith Militant

"The Sparrows" are based on a real religion

George R.R. Martin, the author of the books that inspired Game of Thrones, says the medieval Catholic Church “with its own fantasy twist” was his inspiration for the Faith Militant cult, also known as “The Sparrows,” that is now taking center stage in the show.

“If you look at the history of the church in the Middle Ages, you had periods where you had very worldly and corrupt popes and bishops. People who were not spiritual, but were politicians,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly. “They were playing their own version of the game of thrones, and they were in bed with the kings and the lords.”

Read more at Entertainment Weekly

TIME Apple

Why Apple’s New TV Service May Be Delayed

Tim Cook
Eric Risberg—AP Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in San Francisco on March 9, 2015

Another setback in Apple's quest to deliver your TV shows.

Apple’s long quest to get a slice of the television business may have just gotten a bit longer.

According to a report in Re/code, Apple’s rumored TV service–which would bundle TV shows people would normally get through a cable provider–will not be unveiled this fall, “as it had told programmers it would like to do.”

The reason? Apple is hoping to differentiate itself from competitors like Dish’s Sling TV by offering local television content. This however, will be a time-consuming process, as most local television content is owned by local affiliates, rather than parent networks like CBS or ABC. According to Re/code:

Clearing the rights to show local programs and commercials takes some time — ABC, for instance, spent two years getting the rights to show live programming via its Watch ABC app, and its livestreams remain limited to viewers in eight cities. Also, some executives say that providing digital feeds of the programming from dozens of affiliates will also require the broadcasters to build new streaming infrastructure.

MONEY stocks

Carl Icahn Was Way Off on His Apple TV Set Projections

Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg via Getty Images Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn

The activist investor predicted that an Apple-designed TV could bring in $37.5 billion

It’s time to call it. The mythical Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 1.16% TV set is dead. Well, it’s dead to the extent that it was ever alive to begin with. While Apple has never officially acknowledged that it was interested in jumping into the hyper competitive TV market (how often does Apple tell you directly that it’s working on something?), there has been plenty of evidence over the years that the Mac maker seriously considered it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company has abandoned its plans to build a high-definition TV set. To be clear, Apple did think long and hard about making such a product, reportedly researching the idea for almost 10 years. Technically, the project wasn’t killed, but let’s be realistic. Apple isn’t making a TV.

R.I.P. Apple TV set. We hardly knew thee.
When Apple enters a market to disrupt the status quo, it needs a breakthrough innovation that differentiates itself while giving it stronger pricing power than incumbents. These innovations typically come in the form of interface paradigm shifts, like the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen.

However, the TV market is notorious for slim margins and rapid commoditization since TVs are inherently little more than large displays. There’s simply not a lot of room to innovate or differentiate on the platform level. TV user interfaces absolutely have room for improvement, but there are some unavoidable limitations with trying to create a truly revolutionary TV interface.

Apple supposedly researched a wide range of display technologies that could potentially allow it to stand apart, and the company also considered adding FaceTime capabilities to the product. But video calling on a TV isn’t a “killer app.” It’s not like people rush out to buy Microsoft’s Xbox One primarily so they can Skype with friends and family.

Lacking any powerful differentiators and considering the high level of risk, Apple shelved the plans over a year ago, so says the WSJ.

Carl Icahn sees 85% upside
Incidentally, the report came out just hours after activist investor Carl Icahn published his latest open letter to Apple. Every few months, Icahn pens a letter to Tim Cook to applaud Apple’s ongoing aggressive capital returns and to continue to speculate about Apple entering new markets. In February, Icahn believed that Apple could build a $37.5 billion TV business in just 2 years.

Icahn now believes that Apple will enter not one, but two new markets in the coming years: the TV market and the car market. For the latter, Icahn thinks the Apple Car will be launched by 2020, in line with prior rumors. For this reason, he does not include any estimates in his model, which only goes through fiscal 2017. For what it’s worth, Icahn now pegs Apple’s valuation at $240 per share.


Saying “no” is one of Apple’s greatest strengths
Apple has said numerous times that TV remains an “area of intense interest” and that it feels that it can contribute to the space. But the thing is that Apple can accomplish those strategic goals and reap the benefits without getting too deeply into the hardware side. Consumers are now willing to buy set-top boxes beyond the ones that cable operators provide, a stark contrast to how the market was just five years ago as Steve Jobs observed.

That increased propensity opens up the door for opportunities to innovate, and that’s precisely what Apple is doing. The company is expected to release a new Apple TV set-top box next month at WWDC and is reportedly putting together its own slimmed-down subscription TV package. Who needs an Apple TV set?


Top 10 Things That Got Great Free Publicity from David Letterman

Everett Collection

He's done quite a few Top Ten lists. So we've done one in his honor.

With David Letterman’s final show set to air this week, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate an oddball assortment of products, places, businesses, and brands that somehow benefited from their association with Letterman and his program—even when Dave was making fun of them.

10. Alka-Seltzer
In one classic bit from 1984, Dave put on a tank with compressed air and a suit covered in 3,400 Alka-Seltzer tablets. He was then hoisted into the air and dipped head-deep into a glass enclosure filled with water, which bubbled and fizzed excitedly. It was pure stupidity—and made for great, memorable TV. Letterman has also done silly tricks wearing suits covered in sponges and Velcro. He frequently warned the audience, “Don’t try this at home.”

9. Ham, Meats in General
The #1 item on David Letterman’s very first Top Ten List—”Top Ten Words That Almost Rhyme With ‘Peas,'” recorded in 1985—was “Meats.” It’s fitting because Letterman shows seem to have quite the love affair with meat, ham in particular. Dave has worn a meat helmet to entice a hawk into landing on his head, and there were meat-themed Top Ten lists and a running “Know Your Cuts of Meat” segment on the show. Canned hams were often awarded to audience members as prizes of quizzes and other contests.

8. Cabin Boy
Though some insist it’s a cult classic, the 1994 film Cabin Boy received horrible reviews and was a flop at the box office. It would have likely been forgotten entirely were it not for a short cameo by David Letterman, who played the “Old Salt in the Fishing Village” and tried to sell a monkey to the title character, played by longstanding Letterman pal, writer and actor Chris Elliott. Most memorably, Letterman mocked his performance in a funny bit from the 1995 Oscars, which he hosted.

7. Tahlequah, Oklahoma
It was big news in 1992 when the Letterman show relocated its home office way from Lebanon, Pa., to Tahlequah. The town put up a highway billboard and hosted a “Stupid Parade” in celebration. It mattered little that there is no Letterman home office outside of its New York City studio. Every city that’s served as the fictional home office—there have been 11 in total, including Milwaukee; Scottsdale; Oneonta, N.Y.; and current home office site Wahoo, Nebraska—has embraced the totally made-up honor.

6. Hello Deli
Tourists from all over know Manhattan’s Hello Deli and owner Rupert Jee from their regular appearances on the Letterman show, which is taped next door. Customers can also order sandwiches like the “Alan Kalter” (the Late Show’s announcer), the “Late Show Research,” and simply the “Letterman.” Here is Rupert Jee singing “Let It Go” from Frozen, the day after it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song:

5. Delaware
If there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then Delaware should be grateful for all the attention paid to it by David Letterman over the years. The state has served as a go-to punchline, featured in a mocking segment called “Get to Know Delaware” and on multiple Top Ten lists. Sample, from a Top Ten list of questions from the U.S. Citizenship Exam: “If all the good states are full, would you be willing to live in Delaware?”

4. Best Bagger Championship
Year after year, the winner of the National Grocery Association’s Best Bagger Championship won a $10,000 check plus, in all likelihood, the opportunity to compete in a grocery bagging challenge against David Letterman on his show. Here’s the 2015 champ’s appearance:

3. Indianapolis 500
OK, so this is one of the most famous Formula One auto races on the planet. So it isn’t exactly hurting for publicity. Still, the race, and Formula One racing in general, have benefited from an extra image boost thanks to the longstanding association with Indianapolis native Letterman, who was a goofball reporter at the Indy 500 in 1971 when he was just 24 years old and who has been a part owner of a race team for a decade. Countless racecar drivers have been on Letterman’s shows over the years as well.

2. Ball State University
A self-professed slacker as a student, Letterman has periodically plugged his Muncie, Ind., alma mater, Ball State, where a building is now named after the talk show host. Letterman credits one of his professors, Darren Wible, with changing his life and setting him on the path to great success. Letterman even managed to bring Oprah Winfrey to the Ball State campus for an interview/lecture in front an audience that lasted nearly two hours. Here is Letterman praising one of his alma mater’s recent successes:

1. Adidas
David Letterman will never be memorialized as a fashion icon. He may, however, be remembered as a guy who had quite a unique look. “His hair resembled an ill-fitting vintage leather motorcycle helmet. His front teeth had a massive gap that looked almost painted-on as a joke,” Conan O’Brien, another talk show host who doesn’t look the part of the traditional broadcaster, wrote recently for Entertainment Weekly. Perhaps most memorably, “He was wearing the requisite broadcaster’s tie, but khaki pants and Adidas sneakers.”

TIME Television

The Surprisingly Feminist Roots of The Bachelorette

Dating Game
ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images Host Jim Lange with dancers Ellen Friedman and Anita Mann, on the Nov. 19, 1965, premiere of 'The Dating Game'

How a book about being single led to a show about getting married

The season of The Bachelorette that kicks off on Monday night is the show’s 11th—but its precursor is much older. It was 50 years ago, in late 1965, that ABC premiered a show they called, simply, The Dating Game.

The concept was straightforward: a female contestant is presented with a bunch of suitors, and she chooses which one wins. The stakes were far lower than they are on The Bachelorette—the winner got to go on a date on ABC’s dime—but the concept was quite similar. And, at the time, such a premise was strange enough to merit this dismissive review from TIME:

THE DATING GAME proves that when big ideas die, they go on television. Its spirit is borrowed from Sex and the Single Girl, which enjoyed a huge sale at book counters and furnished the title for a moneymaking movie. For TV, the screen has become a gigantic keyhole through which viewers are invited to watch a series of career-type girls snare a date for the night. Out of girl-sight, three bachelors—at least one a celebrity—parry questions from the husband hunters. Samples: “How would you go about telling your date that she had a dress that was maybe too short or too tight?” “They can’t make a dress that’s too short or too tight.” “What’s your most favorite activity with the weaker sex?” “How intimate may I get?” “Well, let’s make it your second most favorite activity with the weaker sex.”

But, while the magazine wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of such televised foolishness, it’s worth noting that it traced the show’s roots to a more substantial cultural moment.

The 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl (which became a 1964 movie and led to a 1965 follow-up, Sex and the Office) by Helen Gurley Brown was a sensation when it was published, and not long before The Dating Game‘s premiere its author had been named editor of Cosmopolitan. Today, aspects of the book’s “big idea” may seem retrograde—its career-girl subject is still focused on men, and her version of leaning in often relies on her feminine wiles—but it was progressive in acknowledging that marriage no longer had to be the first priority for a young woman. She could have jobs, have boyfriends, do what she wanted to do, the way a young man had long been able to—and she could still find a husband later, if she decided that was right for her. “It’s not a study on how to get married,” Brown was quoted saying, “but how to stay single in superlative style.”

So while The Dating Game may have been silly, TIME posited that its format and just-for-fun attitude owed a debt to the groundbreaking book.

A full 50 years later, it’s ironic that the highest-profile descendant of that 1960s lark is the one most focused on marriage. The Bachelorette has been taken to task for its attitude toward women and their sexuality—for example, when a contestant last season was called a slut for sleeping with a candidate whom she later rejected—where The Dating Game was part of a seismic shift in the opposite direction. As Season 11 gets underway, it’s clear that TIME’s 1965 reviewer was more correct than he or she could have known: if the big idea in question went to television and died, it’s now rolling over in its grave.

TIME Television

History as Seen on Mad Men: A Timeline

How the show addressed assassinations, political movements and scientific achievements

Over the course of seven seasons, Mad Men—which came to a close on Sunday night—followed Don, Peggy and the rest of Sterling Cooper through a raucous decade. But, though its meticulous attention to period detail has often been praised, the show has always been more about character than events: Assassinations were met with quiet crying scenes; characters’ politics changed slowly over time; entire years were skipped.

And yet some pivotal historical moments did have an impact. Here’s how the show wove real-world story lines into the lives of its fictional characters.

  • The Birth Control Pill Is Approved (May 1960)

    Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) - Mad Men - Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Doug Hyun/AMC
    Doug Hyun / AMC Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)

    The FDA approved Enovid, the first oral contraceptive for women, in May of 1960. When the series begins in 1960, Joan sends Peggy to a doctor to get a prescription. The condescending doctor tells Peggy he’ll take it away if she is too loose and abuses the drug’s power. Whether Peggy took the pill incorrectly or not, she does end up getting pregnant in the first season.

    Read original 1960 coverage of Enovid, here in the TIME Vault: Pregnancy Control

  • Kennedy Defeats Nixon (Nov. 1960)

    Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images 2nd televised debate between Richard M. Nixon & John F. Kennedy (L)

    Sterling Cooper helps create Nixon’s ads, but cannot measure up to the upbeat spots for Kennedy that helped lead him to a surprise victory. But that doesn’t stop the conservative boys at Sterling Cooper from celebrating: In this episode, Harry Crane cheats on his wife with a secretary and gets himself kicked out of this house.

    Read original 1960 coverage of the election, here in the TIME Vault: Candidate Kennedy

  • The Freedom Riders and Civil Rights (1961)

    Freedom Rider & National Guardsman
    Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett An unidentified Freedom Rider cranes his head out of the window of an interstate bus as a National Guardsman stands watch outside, May 1961.

    Though Sterling Cooper is completely white-washed, racial tensions fizzle in the background of the show’s early years. Paul Kinsey heads south to protest with his black girlfriend Sheila after Don takes his spot on a business trip to L.A. in the first season. By 1966, the ad agency jokingly publishes an ad promising equal employment opportunity. When dozens of people show up to interview, the company relents and hires its first black secretary, Dawn.

    Read original 1961 coverage of the Freedom Rides, here in the TIME Vault: Trouble in Alabama

  • Marilyn Monroe’s Death (Aug. 1962)

    Marilyn Monroe Portrait
    Michael Ochs Archives—Getty Images Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1952.

    The actress overdosed on drugs on Aug. 4, 1962. Roger Sterling is surprised to find Joan Holloway crying over Marilyn’s death in his office. Hollis the elevator operator mourns Marilyn too—or, rather, he muses over how Marilyn’s ex, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, must feel. Peggy is a little colder, pointing out that Playtex’s rejection of their Jackie vs. Marilyn underwear pitch was a blessing in disguise.

    Read original 1962 coverage of Monroe’s death, here in the TIME Vault: The Only Blonde in the World

  • The Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct. 1962)

    Father John Gill (Colin Hanks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) - Mad Men - Season 2, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC
    Carin Baer / AMC Father John Gill (Colin Hanks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) on Mad Men

    The employees at Sterling Cooper worry that any day could be their last during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and the Soviet Union ever came to armed conflict during the Cold War. A priest at Peggy’s church tells worshippers they should prepare to meet God. Pete Campbell’s wife even leaves to stay with her parents, while Pete declares that if he’s going to die he wants it to be in Manhattan.

    Read original 1962 coverage of Monroe’s death, here in the TIME Vault: Showdown on Cuba

  • The Kennedy Assassination (Nov. 1963)

    Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) - Mad Men - Season 3, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC
    Carin Baer / AMC Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) in Mad Men

    Betty stares blankly at the television, and Duck pulls the plug so that the tragic events won’t interrupt his dalliance with Peggy. Roger decides not to postpone the wedding of his daughter, Margaret, but everyone spends the reception glued to the TV. The episode is more about the fallout in the Sterling family than about the political ramifications of the assassination.

    Read original 1963 coverage of Kennedy’s death, here in the TIME Vault: “The Government Still Lives”

  • The Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking (Jan. 1964)

    Don Draper (Jon Hamm) - Mad Men - Season 3, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC
    Carin Baer / AMC Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Mad Men

    In 1957, Readers Digest had reported on the dangers of smoking—and the article was so influential that Sterling Cooper had to create a new strategy for Lucky Strike in the first season. They later lose the account when the Surgeon General confirms that smoking does kill, just as Roger, Don, Bert and Lane are breaking off to start their own firm. Don responds by writing a manifesto, published in the New York Times, about why agencies shouldn’t help sell products that kill people.

    Read original 1964 coverage of the report, here in the TIME Vault: The Government Report

  • Sonny Liston v. Cassius Clay (May 1965)

    Muhammad Ali Knocks Out Liston
    Agence France Presse—Getty Images Sonny Liston lies out for the count after being KO'd in the first round of his return title fight by world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, Lewiston, Maine, May 25, 1965.

    The fight only lasted two minutes and 12 seconds, but formed the backdrop for one of Mad Men’s greatest episodes, “The Suitcase.” Don takes his own swing at Duck Phillips when he calls Peggy a “whore.” Later, a picture of Ali’s victory inspires Don to create a great Samsonite luggage ad.

    Read original 1965 coverage of the fight, here in the TIME Vault: Theater of the Absurd

  • The Beatles at Shea Stadium (Aug. 1965)

    The Beatles
    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images The Beatles perform at Shea Stadium, New York on Aug. 15, 1965.

    Don bribes his daughter Sally, who is none too happy about his and Betty’s divorce, with tickets to perhaps the most famous concert in the history of rock. She appropriately loses her mind.

    Read a 1965 cover story about rock ‘n’ roll, here in the TIME Vault: Sound of the Sixties

  • Richard Speck Murders (July 1966)

    Mad Men (Season 5)
    Michael Yarish—AMC Dawn Chambers (Teyonah Parris) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) in Mad Men

    The workers at Sterling Cooper become fascinated with the then-unsolved Richard Speck murders in Chicago. Sally learns of the murders from the newspaper and becomes so frightened she cannot sleep. Simultaneously, racial violence rages in Harlem, forcing Dawn to spend the night in Peggy’s apartment.

    Read original 1966 coverage of the case, here in the TIME Vault: 24 Years to Page One

  • The Vietnam War (Nov. 1955–April 1975)

    Mad Men (Season 5)
    Michael Yarish—AMC (L-R) Joe Harris (S.E. Perry), Ruth Harris (Alyson Reed), Greg Harris (Samuel Page), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Gail Holloway (Christine Estabrook) in Mad Men

    Joan’s doctor husband, Greg, serves in Vietnam. When he reveals to her that he volunteered to go back for a second tour, she breaks up with him. In a later season, Don uses connections to help the son of Sylvia Rosen, with whom he is having an affair, avoid being placed in a dangerous spot when he’s drafted. In the final season, Glen Bishop announces he’s enlisted.

    Read a 1965 cover story about the war, here in the TIME Vault: The Turning Point in Viet Nam

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination (April 1968)

    Martin Luther King at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church
    The Washington Post/Getty Images Martin Luther King speaks at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church February 1968 in Washington, DC.

    Peggy and Megan are both up for advertising awards at a ceremony that’s interrupted by Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Don encourages his secretary Dawn to go home, assuming that the news has hit her hard because of her race. She tells him she would prefer to stay and work.

    Read original 1965 coverage of King’s death, here in the TIME Vault: An Hour of Need

  • The Moon Landing (July 1969)

    Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper - Mad Men _ Season 7, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC
    Courtesy of AMC Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper in Mad Men

    Despite being a momentous event, the moon landing took backseat to Bert Cooper’s dancing departure. Bert dies on his couch just as man takes his first steps on the moon—but is seen again, in Don’s hallucinations.

    Read a 1969 cover story about the moon landing, here in the TIME Vault: Man on the Moon

  • The Newsweek Sexism Lawsuit (1970)

    Courtesy of AMC Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris in Mad Men

    Forty-six women sued Newsweek Magazine for workplace gender discrimination in 1970 and won. When Joan threatens to take legal action against McCann Ericson for sexism, she references Newsweek and the feminist movement as precedent.

    Read original 1970 coverage of the lawsuit, here in the TIME Vault: Woman-Power

TIME movies

Watch Susan Sarandon Parody Thelma & Louise With Alternative Endings

She recreates the film's iconic final scene with James Corden

The ending to Thelma & Louise is one of the most iconic film climaxes of all time, which means, almost 25 years on, it’s ripe for a parody.

And that’s exactly what James Corden and Susan Sarandon did on The Late Late Show Tuesday night, with Corden taking over Geena Davis’s role in the passenger seat.

“I just kept going,” Sarandon-as-Louise explains to Corden’s Thelma while their Ford Thunderbird is in free fall. “It was a metaphor, Louise,” an exasperated Corden/Thelma explains.

The clip adds to the pile of viral Thelma & Louise content, like Sarandon and Jimmy Kimmel’s recreation of the film’s selfie last July and Sarandon and Geena’s own updated selfie last June.

So when’s Brad Pitt gonna reenact his scene from the film with Jimmy Fallon in a wig? Only time will tell.

This article originally appeared on People.

TIME Television

What Game of Thrones Can Learn From American History

Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan—HBO Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones'

What Khaleesi and Abraham Lincoln have in common

Contains minor spoilers for the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 5

The region once seemed wealthy and relatively peaceful, but that façade of prosperity was built on the backs of slaves. Those who traded in human lives, though vastly outnumbered, held the power and wealth. Though custom and courtliness were valued within the walls of their grand homes, the masters ruled ruthlessly, with sexual and economic exploitation.

Then came an outsider whose mandate they questioned, but whose armies were strong and whose moral code was even stronger. When the fighting stopped, the slaves were free, the economic system was upended, the outsider’s right to rule was no longer up for debate.

And yet it would soon become clear that declaring an end to slavery was only the first step: some of those who had lost power returned as masked vigilantes, determined to put an end to equality, and those who had gained power struggled with how to use it. The well-intentioned leader, bombarded with conflicting advice, searched for the best way forward.

Fans of Game of Thrones will recognize that story as the saga of Slaver’s Bay, where Daenerys, the Khaleesi and Mother of Dragons, rules the unstable former slaving city of Meereen. As it was phrased in the episode that aired May 10, “Though Daenerys maintains her grip on Slaver’s Bay, forces rise against her from within and without. She refuses to leave until the freedom of the former slaves is secure.”

Those more attuned to real history than to fantasy may recognize a very different place: the United States in the years following the Civil War.

The historical period generally referred to as Reconstruction began around 1865 as President Lincoln and his allies confronted the question of what to do with the South after its rebellion ended. Lincoln had said in his second Inaugural address that there would be “malice toward none” when peace arrived, but that would be a difficult pledge to keep. How much revenge would the North exact? What would happen to those who had been slaves? How could the Southern states rejoin the Union, and which part of the government would oversee that process?

The solution that Lincoln devised involved requiring 10% of voters in each of the rebel states to swear an oath of allegiance to the Union, after which the states would be eligible to hold elections and generally not be considered in rebellion anymore. Some people in his own party (the Radical Reconstructionists) wanted more demands placed on the South; some people (like Vice President Andrew Johnson, who became president after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865) wanted fewer.

After Lincoln was dead the Radical Reconstructionists defied Johnson in order to pass the 14th and 15th Amendments, and to establish Republican-controlled governments within the Southern states. African Americans, newly freed, were elected to office, and they worked to improve the educational and social prospects of former slaves.

However, the era now known as Redemption would set back that progress. A financial panic in 1873 and political maneuvering in the 1876 election came to occupy minds in the north, as Southern white Democrats returned to power and began to institute discriminatory laws. Many former slaves became sharecroppers, still bound to the wealthy but through contracts rather than ownership. The Ku Klux Klan was founded during this period, turning fear of change into a violent force for oppression.

The social systems put in place during the Southern Redemption would shape the next century of life in America, with the black codes and Jim Crow laws that were created to get around the law of Reconstruction enduring until the 1960s. The effects of that codified discrimination are still being felt today.

So what does all of this have to do with Game of Thrones?

Daenerys is currently in the Reconstruction phase of her conquest. Like Lincoln, she is only able to bring freedom through military action. Her decision to remain in Meereen and rule, rather than delegating the way she did in Yunkai and Astapor, is like the Radical Reconstructionists’ desire to keep Republican politicians in power in the South; she has seen how those other cities were either destroyed or “redeemed” with the return of the Wise Masters to their old ways.

The Sons of the Harpy, like the KKK, use terror to lash out at those who upset their power structure. Khaleesi’s decision to allow Freedmen to contract their labor—and the argument about reopening the Fighting Pits—calls to mind the economic fate that faced many slaves freed in real life. The arguments among her advisers about how best to deal with a conquered people played out in Congress. She faces the familiar questions of how to balance vengeance via dragon and unity via marriage. (Some Game of Thrones watchers earlier saw a racial parallel as well, in noticing that the oppressed residents of Slaver’s Bay are all darker than Daenerys is).

Game of Thrones is a work of fiction, of course; the cruelty of real slavery cannot be compared to a fantastical depiction. But it believably portrays the dangerous obstacles that exist in the wake of such cruelty. Author George R.R. Martin is conscious of history, and his study of the perils and perks of power is grounded in the way things really work. The show has been praised for its realistic psychology, and here’s proof that such realism isn’t limited to the interpersonal relationships it highlights.

Nobody except the show’s creators knows what Martin, currently working on a sixth volume in the epic series, has planned for Daenerys — and the show is about to get ahead of the books, anyway. But the lessons of history suggest it won’t be an easy road.

TIME Television

Archie Panjabi Says Time Was Right for The Good Wife Exit

Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma of the CBS series The Good Wife.
Justin Stephens—CBS Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma of the CBS series The Good Wife.

"Every bone in my body was like this just right feels right"

Kalinda Sharma left The Good Wife in the season 6 finale Sunday night — and actress Archie Panjabi has no regrets about her character leaving the hit CBS show.

Panjabi spoke to Entertainment Weekly about why the time was right for Kalinda to leave the show behind. “In terms of the character, I think Kalinda’s evolution over the series is kind of culminating to what I believe to be the perfect time for her exit,” Panjabi said. “She was dissatisfied with the job, coupled with troubling issues she’s had with Lemond Bishop and the ever-present kind of friction she’s had with Alicia, kind of tied the bow on Kalinda’s arc. It was the right time.”

There were no tears on her final day on set, she added: “It was just a mixture of feeling sad to leave, but that every bone in my body was like this just right feels right. So I guess I felt very calm.”

Read more at Entertainment Weekly.


Here Are 5 Ways Comcast Could Really Improve Customer Service

comcast van
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Instead of hiring thousands more customer service agents like Comcast just announced it is doing, the pay TV giant could take some truly customer-friendly steps that would eliminate the need to dial up call centers in the first place.

Comcast finally seems to have owned up to a fact that’s been apparent to the rest of the world for years: Its customer service stinks.

“As a company, we haven’t always put the customer first and we need to do a better job,” Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit wrote, with great understatement, in an email sent to Comcast employees this week (HT: Consumerist).

The note details a 10-point action plan that’s part of a new multi-year Customer Experience Transformation freshly introduced to the public. The goal of this plan is to fix the customer service problems that have generated so much hate for the pay TV-Internet provider over the years.

The plan includes the creation of three new customer support centers in the U.S., as well as the hiring of 5,500 more customer service agents, and consumer advocates will applaud many of Comcast’s goals. Among other things, Comcast says it will soon automatically credit a subscriber’s account $20 if one of its technicians fails to show up for a scheduled visit. Comcast also states that it is “reassessing all of our policies and fees and getting rid of ones that customers find particularly frustrating,” and that it will redesign subscriber bills and be more consistent and transparent with pricing.

In fairness, Comcast is hardly the only pay TV provider that’s renowned for appallingly bad service. Time Warner Cable and the pay TV category as a whole routinely get dismal customer satisfaction ratings compared to other industries. In an interview this week with Re/code, Michael Powell, the head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said that America’s pay TV giants are “highly conscious” that the industry is rife with complaints and has a horrible image, and that actions—not mere words—are needed to win over the public. “I’m a firm believer that words and messages don’t work if you’re not liked,” Powell said.

Comcast is taking action to address customer service woes, but when the cornerstone of these efforts is the hiring of thousands more customer service workers, it demonstrates that Comcast isn’t truly committed to having the best customer service possible. After all, instead of hiring more people, wouldn’t it make more sense for Comcast to eliminate many of the frustrations that cause subscribers to have to call up the customer service line in the first place?

Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Netflix don’t achieve their excellent customer satisfaction ratings because they have legions of service reps awaiting customer calls. In fact, one explanation for why customers are so satisfied is that there is usually no reason to have to call these businesses.

With this and a few other ideas in mind, we’d like to offer Comcast a handful of suggestions that would make subscribers genuinely happier with their service.

1) Let people change service—including downgrades—online. “If you’d like to downgrade or change your package, we are not able to do that online yet,” Comcast’s “Help and Support” page states. “However, our customer service agents are happy to assist you.”

Comcast’s planned “Transformation” makes no mention of changing this policy, and in today’s day and age, the inability to update and change one’s account online is completely unacceptable. We know that Comcast is technically able to handle subscribers making some changes online—you can upgrade or add channels, for instance—so the only reason you can’t downgrade is that Comcast wants to give its representatives an opportunity to talk you out of any scenario in which you wind up paying less per month.

This policy serves Comcast well. As for customers, it does them a disservice. Come on, it’s 2015! The only reason people ever dial up a customer service center is because there is no other viable option. The policy also creates situations in which customers must fight with the agents who supposedly exist to serve subscribers. Comcast is heralding an app that allows subscribers to schedule a time for an agent to call, thereby eliminating the need to wait on hold. That’s good. But eliminating the need for subscribers to have to talk to anyone would be much better.

2) Let customers cancel service online too. Cancelling Netflix, or putting the service on hold, can be accomplished online in mere seconds. Heck, even old-fashioned subscription businesses like newspapers and magazines allow customers to use the Web to cancel or put delivery on hiatus. Not so with pay TV operators like Comcast.

What’s the explanation for this? “We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to give you the best experience, price and package.” That’s the line Comcast feeds consumers. In other words, as mentioned above, Comcast wants to give one—or perhaps several—agents the opportunity to try to talk you out of your decision. Again, this policy exists to serve Comcast, not consumers, and it creates uneasy, antagonistic, argumentative relationships with customers. If a customer wants to close an account, let him do it quickly and painlessly online. If the service is good and worth the money, he’ll have little reason to cancel.

3) Make billing consistent, fair, and truly transparent. In most industries, the main job of customer call centers is to answer questions and help customers if there’s a problem with a product. A large chunk of pay TV customer service calls, however, have nothing to do with the product itself but with what it costs. The pay TV business model is one in which new customers are frequently drawn in with low new-subscriber rates, which often turn into exploding bills once the introductory rate expires. The result is that the best, most loyal, and uncomplaining customers face higher and higher bills, while those who dial up, complain regularly, and periodically threaten to cancel are rewarded with rollercoaster pricing that soars and dips. Another result of this billing structure is that customers getting the same exact service may unfairly and seemingly haphazardly be paying very different monthly bills.

One of Comcast’s newly announced goals is “Keeping Bills Simple and Transparent,” but this wording implies that its pricing is simple and transparent right now—and that’s not remotely the case. How could it be when no one knows exactly what a package will cost without a phone call to Comcast, and when the price of your monthly bill may be $20 or $50 more than your neighbor receiving the same service?

Again, pointing back to services like Netflix or Amazon Prime for the sake of contrast, it’s a safe bet that almost no one contacts their customer service centers about exploding monthly bills—because these companies charge the same set amount, month after month after month.

4) Stop gouging customers on fees. Comcast’s new plan promises to get rid of some fees, naming charges for change of service and equipment returns in particular. But this doesn’t go nearly far enough. The fees charged for things like renting modems cost customers far more because they’re added onto each and every monthly bill. Customers essentially pay off the cost of this equipment after a year or so of monthly bills, so afterward the $8 to $10 tacked onto each bill is pure profit for the pay TV provider.

These fees inch up with regularity once every year or so, and when they do, the arrival of new pricier customer bills kicks off—you guessed it!—a fresh round of complaint calls to customer service lines. Without the gouging on a variety of mysterious, ever-rising fees, subscribers would have one less reason to have to deal with customer service.

5) Offer more flexibility and customization. Verizon recently opened the door to the possibility of personalized pay TV packages, in which subscribers would receive a basic bundle of channels and then choose themed “channel packs” focused on genres like sports or kids entertainment. The concept is meant to address a classic cable TV gripe—that the average customer watches only 17 channels, and yet he’s forced to pay for a package with triple, or perhaps five times as many.

If Comcast and other pay TV players truly wanted to increase transparency and improve customer satisfaction, they would figure out a way to de-bundle TV packages and deliver exactly what the individual customer wanted. Instead, the status quo is for consumers to be able to choose among a very limited number of pre-packaged options, with opaque pricing to boot.

Most Americans have only one or perhaps two pay TV options where they live, so there’s little recourse for someone unsatisfied with what’s being offered other than cutting the cord. We guess you could call up your pay TV provider’s customer service line and complain. See where that gets you.

Read next: How to Watch All the TV You Want Without Paying a Cable Bill

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