TIME Television

Mad Men’s Final Word on the 1960s … And Today

Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC Jon Hamm as Don Draper in 'Mad Men'

The final season will show if Don Draper is, at heart, Dick Nixon or Ronald Reagan

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

April 5 marks the beginning of the end for Mad Men, and viewers anxiously await a final coda to creator Matthew Weiner’s tale. Will advertising executive Don Draper’s tumultuous peaks and valleys experiences of the 1960s conclude with happiness or tragedy?

The 1960 film, The Apartment, and presidential history during that decade, may hint at an answer.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has cited this Academy Award winning movie as an important inspiration for his serial drama. Since The Apartment ended on a positive note with the main character finding love, viewers might expect a similar conclusion to Weiner’s production. More significantly, The Apartment stands as a cultural symbol of the youthful optimism for social change that many Americans associate with the 1960s. Along with the defeat of Richard Nixon by the youthful, vigorous John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, The Apartment’s director, Billy Wilder, helped create today’s conventional wisdom that the year 1960 represented a break from the staid conformity characteristic of the 1950s.

In The Apartment, Director Wilder presents protagonist C.C. “Bud” Baxter as a young, bored number-cruncher (played by Jack Lemmon) in the accounting division of a corporation known as Consolidated Life Insurance. There are two primary settings where the characters interact—the vast 19th floor of seemingly endless rows of desks in the skyscraper where Baxter works, and Baxter’s small apartment in New York City.

The story’s problem emerges when Consolidated Life’s personnel director Jeffrey Sheldrake asks Baxter if the rumors are true that married senior executives have borrowed Baxter’s apartment to conduct secret extramarital affairs. Sheldrake’s intent, we soon discover, is not to reprimand Baxter, but to borrow his key so that Sheldrake may have exclusive privileges to bring his own mistresses to Baxter’s den of iniquity.

Although Sheldrake rewards the junior executive with a 27th floor private office and a bowler hat to boot, Baxter soon regrets the decision when he finds himself having to choose between his career and his love for Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator (played by Shirley MacLaine) in his company’s building. When Baxter discovers that Kubelik is one of Sheldrake’s conquests, he must either cling to his newfound place on the corporate ladder or fight for this damsel in distress. In witnessing Baxter’s decision to abandon the company in exchange for romantic love, we recognize a rejection of the 1950s culture of conformity which sociologists, novelists, and journalists portrayed in books such as The Power Elite, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and The Organization Man.

The Apartment concludes with Baxter’s rejection of conformist and debased corporate culture, but Mad Men presents Don Draper as still engaged in the struggle to maintain individual autonomy in the complacent, risk-averse, and conformist white-collar world. In order to carry the drama forward through the 1960s, Weiner created a character more complex than Wilder’s Baxter. Viewers balance Don’s misogyny against his elevation of his secretary Peggy Olson to a position of copy editor. His infidelity is placed in the context of his troubled past growing up in a whorehouse. In the Darwinian jungle of corporate America, furthermore, Draper’s ambition and authoritarianism appear somehow necessary for a man who began without inherited wealth or business contacts.

In Season One, Weiner used the Nixon-Kennedy presidential contest as a Hegelian thesis-antithesis recasting of The Apartment’s theme. Nixon hires Draper’s advertising firm, Sterling Cooper, to help publicize his 1960 presidential campaign. The upstart Kennedy’s victory appears as a tragic defeat for the company’s corporate elite that seeks to perpetuate the conformist 1950s. The image of a triumphant Kennedy symbolizes the hope for change in the new decade, and Draper appears to represent this icon of youthful optimism. In one episode, a character describes the youthful, handsome, and decisive Draper as Kennedyesque—distinct from the common corporate type–saying “You’re JFK!”

But Draper identifies more with Nixon. Somewhat surprisingly, Weiner’s protagonist thinks Nixon’s defeat says more about how the candidate’s handlers failed to present his background than about the spirit of the age. When Draper sees Nixon, he says, he sees himself—a self-made man of the people. Draper’s self-image is not as a member of the power elite, but neither as an idealist. He is a working class man pursuing the American Dream. While many of the Mad Men characters—including Draper—appear to admire Kennedy, the president’s tragic assassination in 1963 casts a pall over the ebullient optimism which Draper, his family, and work associates embodied in the first three seasons.

Given that the program is concluding during 1969—Nixon’s first year as president–Washington Post opinion writer Alyssa Rosenberg has posited that Nixon was “the key to understanding Don Draper.” In Rosenberg’s view, Nixon’s ability to come back from multiple political defeats—including the 1960 presidential campaign and a failed 1962 bid for governor of California—appeared as the model for Draper’s similar skill at surviving setbacks by reinventing himself.

The Kennedy-Nixon dialectic certainly serves as one way of understanding the tension between hope and cynicism in Mad Men, but another politician–Ronald Reagan—may provide the model that Weiner has in mind for Draper’s ultimate fate. Draper’s creative genius and macho cool seems more similar to Reagan’s Hollywood confidence and calm than to Nixon’s calculated professionalism. While Nixon and Draper certainly reinvented themselves multiple times, Draper does not seem to share the dark side that Nixon’s closest aides identified in the former president.

Reagan’s sunny optimism wedded to “tough love” conservatism seems to embody the synthesis that Draper will need to embrace in the years following the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. Similar to Reagan, who was elected governor of California in 1967 (and again in 1971), Draper survived by balancing artistic and practical responses to challenges. Hollywood plays an important role in Draper’s professional and personal lives. Reagan’s divorce and remarriage serve as another parallel with Draper (and not with Kennedy or Nixon). Finally, Reagan’s penchant for concealing his inner self appears akin to the mysterious Draper, who hides his true identity as Dick Whitman from even his closest friends, who are few.

If The Apartment served as a Muse for Weiner’s Mad Men, viewers can expect Don Draper to walk off the screen this year facing a sunny future. Just as Billy Wilder’s film portrayed the protagonists as rejecting 1950s corporate conformity, Mad Men began in 1960 with a theme of individual liberation. The Apartment did not require C.C. Baxter and Fran Kubelik to sacrifice the ideal of romantic love, and Mad Men has vindicated that choice by celebrating the 1960s office culture as a space of social revolution.

But as 1969 draws to a close, Draper will need to engage with the rise of corporate power during the Age of Reagan, as historian Sean Wilentz has characterized the 1974-2008 United States. Indeed, one of the subtexts of Mad Men has been the rising importance of work in the lives of Americans. Weiner’s narrative has shown how corporate America’s adoption of the 1960s liberation movements strengthened rather than weakened capitalism’s roots in the United States. In many cases, Don Draper and his colleagues Pete, Ron, Joan, and Peggy formed closer relationships with their colleagues and their firm than with their own wives, husbands, and children. Weiner surely knows that the show’s fans want those bonds to last a lifetime.

Thomas J. Carty, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Springfield College.

TIME movies

David Hasselhoff on Sharknado 3: ‘Worst Movie You Have Ever Seen’

ENT 2015: David Hasselhoff Press Helsinki JAN 15
All Over Press—AP David Hasselhoff attends a press conference in Helsinki on Jan. 16, 2015

In case the fact that Michele Bachmann’s involvement wasn’t proof enough, David Hasselhoff confirmed on Monday that, yes, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! will be “the worst movie you have ever seen.”

In fact, when he talked to HuffPost Live about SyFy’s third installment in the made-for-TV franchise, the Baywatch star said that’s entirely the point.

“The first one was the worst. The second one I think was even worse than the first. I’m so honored to be in Sharknado 3,” he said. “I’ll tell you, I had so much fun making the movie. The people who make the movie have such a great sense of humor. They are the nicest people. Everybody’s in on the joke, and it is so much fun.”

And while nothing’s set in stone yet, Hasselhoff hinted fans should be fully expecting a Sharknado 4. In fact, he thinks “this thing is gonna go on forever.”

Hasselhoff plays the father of Ian Ziering’s Fin Shephard, and he told HuffPo the two would “fall to the ground laughing” after takes – mainly because he has a rule: “Play it real.”

“The straighter you play it and the more you believe it, the funnier it is,” he said.

Sharknado 3 airs on SyFy on July 22.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Addiction

California Launches Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

The new ads are part of a new campaign called "Wake Up"

California rolled out new television and digital ads about the dangers of e-cigarettes on Monday.

The new ads air just two months after the California Department of Health (CDPH) declared e-cigarettes a public health risk, and warned Californians to stay away from them. The new ads are part of the agency’s new campaign called “Wake Up,” which suggests e-cigarettes are just another mass marketed product with serious health consequences.

MORE: California Says E-Cigarettes a Health Risk

Both ads feature songs from the ’50s and ’60s, when traditional cigarette marketing was prevalent. One ad titled “What Could Go Wrong” underlines the fact that Big Tobacco is also involved in the e-cigarette market. The ads call e-cigarettes “a new way to inhale toxic chemicals.”

Another calls out candy-flavored e-cigarette products that California health officials believe market to children.

“California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the CDPH director and state health officer, in a statement. “Our advertising campaign is telling the public to ‘wake up’ to the fact that these are highly addictive products being mass marketed.”

In a health advisory released by the CDPH in January, the state reports that e-cigarette use has spiked among California teenagers and young adults.

TIME Television

Read TIME’s Original Review of Glee

Glee
Fox A scene from Season 2 of 'Glee

As the show comes to an end, look back at TIME's 2009 take on it

When Fox’s long-running musical Glee sings its last note on Friday, it will have been after six seasons of slushies and songs. But back in 2009, when the show premiered after American Idol (before returning for its regular run that fall), it wasn’t clear whether the network’s risk would pay off.

After all, as TIME’s critic James Poniewozik noted back then, the top models for TV-musical success at the time were American Idol and High School Musical. Would something that sometimes took a tongue-in-cheek approach work, or would potential fans be turned off by what they saw?

Poniewozik, for one, was hopeful for the former:

What makes Glee more than sketch comedy, and what may save its commercial appeal, is that it is also an underdog story (not just about the kids but also idealistic music-lover Will) with heart. Like Ugly Betty’s, its spoofing is bright, not dark. And with a well-chosen sound track and arch comedy, the pilot is just a giant basket of happy. If Murphy can flesh out the overly broad characters, this series could be a rare, sophisticated, joyous hybrid that gets to have its pop candy and satirize it too.

Read the rest, here in the TIME Vault: Chorus of Laughter

MONEY Sports

The Staggering Numbers—and Dollars—Behind March Madness

Here's a look at some of the numbers behind the NCAA March Madness men's college basketball tournament, including special deals on pizza, TV packages, concerts, and, curiously, vasectomies.

  • $0

    Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer for Dish Network Corp., speaks at a press conference during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Dish Network Corp. plans to unveil the first major online television service from a cable or satellite company, a $20-a-month set of 12 channels that targets U.S. customers who don't want to pay for larger, more expensive TV packages.
    David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Cost of a seven-day free trial of Sling TV, the streaming service from DirecTV that includes TBS and TNT—the two main pay TV channels airing NCAA March Madness games, along with the broadcast network CBS. In order words, the service allows you to view all games in the tournament without a cable bill; it comes with ESPN too, so you’ll get your fair share of game highlights as well. After the seven-day trial, you can cancel or pay up $20 monthly, which is much cheaper than the typical pay TV package.

  • $0

    Rihanna performs on stage
    Matt Sayles—Invision/AP

    Cost of admission for the three-day March Madness Music Festival featuring Rihanna (pictured), Lady Antebellum, and the Zac Brown Band, among others. The free outdoor event is being held over Final Four weekend (April 3-5) in Indianapolis, which is also hosting the tournament’s final basketball games. In fact, Saturday night’s performers will be competing with the first semifinal game, which will be broadcast live for the music festival crowd.

  • 1.2%

    NBA basketball on court
    Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

    Percentage of men’s college basketball players that are drafted by an NBA team. More than three-quarters of college players, meanwhile, think they will play professionally.

  • $4

    Tickets for the championship game with former Duke Blue Devil player Rasheed Sulaimon ahead of the game betweeen the North Carolina Tar Heels and Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the 2015 ACC Basketball Tournament Championship game at Greensboro Coliseum on March 14, 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
    Grant Halverson—Getty Images

    Cheapest list price of any March Madness ticket—this one for a Thursday afternoon session in Louisville featuring Iowa State vs. UAB, followed by SMU vs. UCLA. Meanwhile, tickets to the evening session in the same location on the same day were starting at around $120, though the night games feature the tournament’s overall #1 seed (and local favorite) Kentucky.

  • $35

    Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with his players after defeating the St. John's Red Storm earning his 1,000th career victory on January 25 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duke defeated St John's 77-68.
    Jim McIsaac—Getty Images Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with his players after defeating the St. John's Red Storm earning his 1,000th career victory on January 25 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duke defeated St John's 77-68.

    Number of college basketball coaches in last year’s tournament who were paid more than $1 million per year before any bonuses, according to data gathered by USA Today. Top earner Mike Krzyzewski’s total pay: more than $9.6 million.

  • 42% vs. 100%

    Davidson guard Brian Sullivan (3) celebrates after their 67-66 win over La Salle in an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in New York, Friday, March 13, 2015.
    Mary Altaffer—AP

    The range of basketball player graduation rate success among NCAA March Madness contenders, with Indiana University on the low end and Davidson College named as the tournament’s overall academic champ. (In fact, several tournament teams boast 100% basketball player graduation rates, including Maryland, Notre Dame, Butler, Dayton, and Villanova.)

  • 50%

    Domino's hand-tossed pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green peppers
    Jeff Padrick—Klug Studio Inc.

    Discount on all regular priced Domino’s pizzas now through Sunday, March 22, which marks the end of the tournament’s first weekend.

  • $595

    businessman with bandage on zipper
    Mark Hooper—Getty Images

    The special price of a “Vas Madness” deal, covering an initial consultation and a vasectomy—yes, a vasectomy—from The Urology Team in Texas. “Get your vasectomy, then sit on the couch for 3 days watching sports– Doctors orders!” the pitch explains. Many vasectomy clinics report a spike in appointments timed to coincide with the NCAA basketball tournament, and in some cases men who get snipped have wound up with free pizza as part of the package deal. A few years back, one Cleveland urologist explained the appeal of getting a vasectomy during March Madness this way: “If they’re going to have a day off, it might as well be on a day when they would want to be watching basketball, as opposed to watching ‘Oprah.'”

     

  • $212,000

    basketball on top of heap of cash
    Dan Thornberg—Shutterstock

    The estimated average value of a college basketball player to his school and program, according to a 2014 study. Meanwhile, another study indicates that the average value a student athlete receives, in terms of scholarships, health care, coaching, and such, is about $125,000 per year. The players, of course, receive $0 in salaries because the NCAA insists they are student athletes and not employees.

  • $1 million

    Pizza Hut restaurant, Torrance, California.
    Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Prize that Pizza Hut will serve up if any of the three randomly selected contestants make a half-court shot backwards at a special event in Indianapolis on Sunday, April 5. To have a chance at being selected, go to StuffedCrustPizza.com and enter by Sunday, March 29. Three winners will get a free trip to Indianapolis and have one chance to nail a half-court shot facing the wrong way. Pizza Hut is also selling Stuffed Crust Pizzas for $9.99, which is the same price listed when the product was introduced 20 years ago.

  • $40.5 million

    Mangok Mathiang #12 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates his winning basket with teammate Chinanu Onuaku #32 after the game against the Virginia Cavaliers at KFC Yum! Center on March 7, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville defeated Virginia 59-57.
    Joe Robbins—Getty Images

    Annual revenues raked in by Louisville’s college basketball team, which is tops in the nation. After factoring in expenses, Louisville’s program makes a profit of $24.2 million, while schools such as West Virginia and Notre Dame reportedly lose about $2 million annually because of their basketball teams.

  • $240 Million vs. $1.15 Billion

    Shaquille O’Neal, Julius “Dr J” Erving, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner in AT&T March Madness "Legends" campaign
    AT&T Shaquille O’Neal, Julius “Dr J” Erving, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner in AT&T March Madness "Legends" campaign

    Estimated total ad revenues for the Super Bowl and March Madness, respectively, from 2013, the most recent year such data is available. Granted, March Madness is a full tournament while the Super Bowl is just a single day.

  • $1.9 Billion

    Office workers watching March Madness on television
    Sarina Finkelstein

    Estimated loss incurred by businesses due to workers being “distracted and unproductive” during the basketball tournament, according to an annual report issued by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

  • $2 Billion+

    Mirage hotel-casino Race and Sports Book, Las Vegas.
    Julie Jacobson—AP

    Amount wagered on some 70 million March Madness brackets filled out for the 2015 tournament, per the American Gaming Association. The total amount expected to be bet on the tournament is $9 billion, only $240 million of which will be wagered with Nevada sports books.

  • $10.8 Billion

    Baylor coach Scott Drew, left, and members of the team including Isaiah Austin, right, peak in on the CBS crew following a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in San Antonio.
    Eric Gay—AP

    Amount paid by CBS and Turner Sports to the NCAA for the rights to broadcast the March Madness tournament for a 14-year period ending in 2024.

  • 1 in 9.2 Quintillion

    Workers add team names to a 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship bracket that is displayed on the side of the JW Marriott, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Indianapolis. The championship game will be played Monday, April 6, in Indianapolis.
    Darron Cummings—AP

    Odds of picking all the correct winners in the tournament, from start to finish, for a perfect bracket. What’s a quintillion? It’s a one followed by 18 zeros. So 9.2 of those. This is all according to Bleacher Report, which points out that you have far, far better odds of being hit by lightning, getting bit by a shark, having identical triplets, winning the lottery, or becoming an NBA player.

MONEY Sports

Another Way to Watch NCAA March Madness for Free

Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) handles the ball during the Big Ten Conference Championship NCAA college basketball game against the Michigan State Spartans Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Chicago. The Badgers won 80-69 in overtime.
David Stluka—AP

Sports-loving cord cutters should take advantage of free streaming trials offered by Sling TV and Playstation Vue.

The NCAA March Madness early round play-in games are over, and the tournament proper tips off around the country on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, the majority of the games are being broadcast on channels that are traditionally available only in pay TV subscription packages. What’s a cord cutter to do?

First off, many of the games are airing on CBS, and anyone can watch CBS and other broadcast networks for free on TV with an HD antenna, which costs as little as $30. If you don’t have such an antenna—heck, even if you don’t have a TV—don’t fret. Once you download the March Madness Live app, you’ll be able to live stream the games being broadcast on CBS at no charge, and without needing proof that you’re a pay TV customer.

The games airing on CBS on Thursday include Texas vs. Butler and Kentucky vs. Hampton, and on Friday there’s Kansas vs. New Mexico State and Duke vs. Robert Morris, among others. But CBS is only broadcasting some of the action. What do you do if you want to see the games airing on TBS or TNT, which can only be live streamed via the March Madness app after you enter your pay TV account information?

Well, for basketball-loving cord cutters, right now is an opportune time to snag a free trial of one or both of the newest streaming services, Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. We spelled out the basics of the former in a previous post, highlighting that the service comes with TBS and TNT and costs $20 per month, though it’s available for free for seven days—enough to view a ton of tournament games. The basic Sling TV package also includes ESPN (great for catching game highlights), but it lacks truTV, which is the other Turner-owned pay TV channel broadcasting some March Madness games.

The base PlayStation Vue package, on the other hand, has 60 channels, including TBS, TNT, truTV, and CBS (but not ABC or ESPN). It costs $50 per month, and like Sling TV, new subscribers can try it out for free for seven days. Unfortunately, for the time being, PlayStation Vue is only available in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia. As you might gather based on the name, the service also only works for those who stream TV through a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 console. So obviously you’ve got to own one of these to subscribe to Vue.

If you live in one of the above markets and you have a PlayStation, cord cutters can watch all of the tournament for a week without a cable bill, and without spending a penny for that matter. Add in Sling TV’s trial offer and that grants you another week with free access to the vast majority of March Madness games. Combine them both and you’re able to take in almost the entirety of the tournament without opening your wallet.

As for what happens when the free trials are over, well, that’s up to you. You can cancel, or course, or you might very well find that one or another of the services is worth the money. For more insight as to how these two streaming services match up, CNET did a terrific side-by-side comparison laying out the pros and cons of each.

TIME Companies

Apple May Launch Web-Based Television Services This Year

Package slated for a September launch

Apple is moving closer to making a foray into web-based television, according to sources familiar with the tech giant’s plans.

The company is in the process of collaborating with programmers to offer an approximate 25-channel package to subscribers this fall, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The paid service would include channels under ABC, CBS and Fox networks and would be available on the company’s streaming device Apple TV, unnamed sources privy to the matter told the Journal. It will also be accessible across Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad.

The company reportedly plans to announce the service in June and launch it in September.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

MONEY Sports

The Simple Free Hack to Watch NCAA March Madness Without a Cable Bill

Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) looks for a way around Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anton Beard (31) during the Arkansas Razorbacks versus the Kentucky Wildcats championship game in the 2015 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN.
Bobby McDuffie—AP Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) looks for a way around Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anton Beard (31) during the Arkansas Razorbacks versus the Kentucky Wildcats championship game in the 2015 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN.

Many of this year's games are being aired only on the pay TV channels TBS and TNT. Here's a simple trick to access these channels not only without a pricey pay TV package—but without paying anything.

Cut to the chase: The “trick” is to simply sign up for a free trial of Sling TV, the new streaming service from Dish TV that gives subscribers access to live online broadcasts of more than a dozen pay TV channels, including AMC, ESPN, CNN, TNT, and TBS. The latter two will be televising roughly half of the games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. CBS—free with a digital antenna—will broadcast most of the remaining games, including the championship on Monday, April 6, while a few games will be shown on the pay TV network truTV.

Normally, a Sling TV subscription costs $20 per month. But the service is available for free during a seven-day trial period. So the idea is to simply sign up just before the tournament tips off, and then stream to your heart’s content during the first weekend of March Madness—again, at no charge, without any traditional cable bill or contract. Alternately, you might want to time your seven-day trial to span over Saturday, April 4, when the two Final Four matchups will be broadcast on TBS.

Sure, this hack only gets you one week’s worth of NCAA March Madness for free. But you could use the trial period as just that—a trial—and keep the service if it’s to your liking. After all, the $20 monthly rate is far cheaper than the average cable bill, estimated at well over $100. Streaming services also aren’t overloaded with the usual fees and hassles associated with standard cable and satellite TV providers.

According to Sling TV’s official terms of use, there is no fee for cancelling the service. In fact, the Sling TV sales pitch goes overboard playing up how simple and fee-free the service is:

No commitment. No set-up fees. No equipment fees. No crazy miscellaneous fees. No step up fees. No any-kind-of fees. Just a clear-cut monthly rate and the live TV and sports you want to watch, available now, instantly. Only $20/mo.

Still, it’s worth noting a few potential hiccups. [CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that Sling TV customers can only cancel the service via phone, not online. A Sling TV representative contacted us to clarify that it is, in fact, possible to cancel online. All members have to do is sign in and click on “My Account.” There you’re given the option to change or completely cancel your account.] One is that, maddeningly, you can’t cancel Sling TV online. Instead, you must call the customer service number (888-909-4087), where you can expect an agent to stridently attempt to talk you out of cancelling. Speaking of which, if you don’t want to be charged for the service after your seven-day free trial, you must proactively call up and cancel; if not, you’re automatically signed up and billed for the first month.

Also, a Sling TV subscription only works on one device at a time. So you can’t simultaneously watch one game on a laptop and another on a tablet or smart TV using the same account. Then again, you could be multi-tasking by streaming one game on Sling TV and using old-fashioned TV to view the game broadcast on CBS. For that matter, the NCAA March Madness Live app will allow anyone—including those with no pay TV package—to live stream the games being broadcast on CBS for free. The rules are different for the games being shown on pay TV channels, however, as the NCAA explains:

Fans will have access to all games airing live on TNT, TBS and truTV by logging in with their TV service provider information, and all games broadcast on CBS with no registration required.

Enjoy the Madness!

MONEY TV

Here’s Everything That’s Wrong With Cable and Satellite TV Bills

150312_EM_CableBills
Getty Images

A new complaint filed by the FTC alleging deceptive advertising by DirecTV is a case study in everything that customers hate about how pay TV providers do business.

This week, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the satellite pay TV provider DirecTV, alleging deceptive advertising. The FTC charges that DirecTV violated the FTC Act in many instances by failing to clearly and prominently disclose various “gotchas” in subscriber contracts, including that customers are locked into services for two years, and that an extra fee for premium channels kicks in automatically unless subscribers proactively cancel the option.

A federal court in San Francisco will decide if DirecTV is guilty as charged, and if so how much the company will owe in fines and payments to customers. Regardless of the outcome, however, the complaint exposes pretty much everything that’s misleading, hated, and just plain wrong with the way pay TV providers—DirecTV as well as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and the rest—reel in subscribers in and then get them on the hook for a lot more money than they’d anticipated.

Specifically, the case calls attention to the following annoying and atrocious practices routinely employed by virtually all pay TV providers.

Loads of fine print. “It’s a bedrock principle that the key terms of an offer to a consumer must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden in fine print,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in the press release announcing the complaint against DirecTV. Yet to this day, details regarding DirecTV’s plans, including a requirement to keep the service for 24 months or face a cancellation fee up to $480, are explained in typeface that’s minuscule compared with the $19.99 monthly rate. It’s also confusing that while it’s necessary to subscribe for 24 months, the $19.99 rate is only valid for half that time. What happens after the first 12 months have ended?

Exploding bills. “DIRECTV does not clearly disclose that the cost of the package will increase by up to $45 more per month in the second year,” the FTC complaint states. This strategy—drawing in subscribers with a cheap rate, then jacking it up as soon as possible—is the consensus business model of all the major pay TV providers. What this commonplace tactic shows is that these companies value new subscribers over older, more loyal ones. It essentially punishes loyal customers who accept the bill hikes without complaint, while giving price breaks to newcomers and people who threaten to jump ship to a competitor. Assuming that’s a possibility, of course.

Difficult to change or cancel. DirecTV hits subscribers with a big fee if they try to drop the service before the allotted two-year introductory period has ended. The widespread use of “retention specialists” whose job is to stop customers from canceling or downsizing plans, as well as various cancellation or change fees, plus the fact that most Americans only have one or two pay TV options where they live all help to conspire to keep subscribers paying whichever provider they currently have.

Surprise fees. The cancellation fee cited by the FTC is only one of many charges that drive pay TV subscribers crazy. The others include a dizzying roster of taxes and fees for things like modems or some vague “Voice/data Equipment.”

Overall deception and opaque pricing. How much will your total monthly bill come to after all taxes and fees? What’s the exact breakdown on fees? When will introductory prices rise, and what rate will they rise to? For that matter, what’s the full price for various package plans in your neck of the woods? Good luck finding answers to any of these spelled out clearly and prominently on a pay TV provider ad or website.

The providers prefer to keep customers in the dark, and you can see why: If people knew how much their bill would actually be, and how quickly and significantly the monthly rate will soar, they’d be a lot less likely to sign up in the first place.

TIME Television

Proof That Joss Whedon Was Ahead of the Pop-Culture Feminism Curve

Cast of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
Fotos International / Getty Images The Season 1 cast of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

The first episode of 'Buffy' aired on Mar. 10, 1997

Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a new character when the TV show of the same name premiered on this day in 1997 — a poorly reviewed movie version had come out five years earlier, and creator Joss Whedon’s desire to do it again and do it right quickly became part of the Buffy creation mythology.

Nearly two decades later, it’s easy to see that doing Buffy right wasn’t just a matter of improving its casting, creative freedom and sense of humor. In addition to all those aces, Whedon — now a bona fide blockbuster builder — was also an early comer to the socially conscious, feminism-friendly attitude that has redefined the pop-culture landscape in more recent years.

Need proof? Just look at a feature about teen-centric television that TIME ran a few months after Buffy took to the airwaves as a mid-season replacement. The piece called Buffy “the most talked-about show to have debuted in the past months” and included an interview with Whedon, who was forthright about his stake (no pun intended) in the show’s feminist cred:

Producers of these shows understand that preachiness lures no one. Says Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy movie and series and a former writer on Roseanne: “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening, it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism.”

The original idea for Buffy came to Whedon after years spent watching horror movies in which “bubblehead blonds wandered into dark alleys and got murdered by some creature.” Thought Whedon: “I would love to see a movie in which a blond wanders into a dark alley, takes care of herself and deploys her powers.”

The series gives the idea more dimension. Buffy, like many of her TV peers, must deal with an absurdly clueless parent (her mom doesn’t know she’s a vampire slayer); the insularity of generic suburbia (Buffy lives in familiar but fictional Sunnydale, Daria in Lawndale); and a dumb but popular nemesis, Cordelia, who sets out to test Buffy‘s coolness quotient on Buffy‘s first day at school. “Vamp nail polish?” Cordelia inquires. “So over,” Buffy confidently answers. “John Tesh?” Cordelia persists. “The devil,” Buffy replies.

Beyond the reference barrage that is Buffy churns a wry, ongoing parable of the modern woman’s greatest conflict: the challenge to balance personal and professional life. Buffy, you see, has been designated as the sole vampire slayer of her generation. When the bloodsuckers emerge, she must be there to make mincemeat out of them. But what to do on a night when a 12th century prophecy has proclaimed that the world could come to an end, and a cute boy named Owen, an Emily Dickinson lover even, has finally asked you out? This is, of course, Buffy‘s unending dilemma.

Read the full 1997 article, here in the TIME Vault: Bewitching Teen Heroines

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