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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Administrators let offenders at one of Iowa’s most dangerous prison units watch violent and sexually explicit movies and TV shows for years, despite repeated complaints from a female officer who said it encouraged inmates to sexually harass her.
Murderers, sexual predators and other men housed at a unit for mentally ill inmates at the maximum-security state prison in Fort Madison were allowed to watch movies such as “Deranged,” a horror film that includes a scene in which a woman is beaten, raped, hung upside down and skinned. Among other movies inmates watched were “Delta of Venus,” an erotic film; “Coffey,” which shows sadism and attempted rape; and “Cruel Intentions,” records show.
Despite correctional officer Kristine Sink’s complaints, administrators told her not to turn off the movies or shows. When she did, they accused her of insubordination, according to department records that Sink provided to The Associated Press. One warden blamed Sink for causing problems by complaining, and another supervisor suggested her outfits — a standard-issue uniform — were enticing inmates.
Sink said she has fought a lonely battle under four wardens against movies that caused inmates to become sexually aggressive — through “10 years of misery.” She filed a lawsuit Nov. 30 against prison officials alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation, seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
“It’s inconceivable. If I had not lived through it myself, I wouldn’t believe this,” she said.
Sink, who started at the prison in 2003 after the factory where she had been working shut down, said the movies played multiple times a day for a week on a television in a common area where 45 inmates could watch. Some inmates would openly masturbate and make sexually harassing comments to her.
Sink said that when prison officials finally acted on her complaints in September 2011 by largely barring movies with sexually explicit content, inmates blamed her and subjected her to a torrent of insults and threats to beat or even kill her. One threw urine on her. Despite the threats, Sink said her supervisors refused to move her to a job where she wouldn’t be in contact with inmates for more than a year. She was finally moved to a desk job last month, after she filed her lawsuit.
Sink’s attorney, Brooke Timmer, said the lawsuit is aimed at forcing changes to allow employees to file complaints without retaliation and be free from sexual harassment by inmates.
“No private employer could get away with this,” she said.
Sink said she began complaining about the practice of allowing inmates to rent or purchase graphic movies to be shown to the unit soon after she went to work there. She filed a formal complaint with in 2007 after the showing of “Deranged.”
“What are we saying to the sex offenders that are already convicted of these crimes and then we provide them visual viewing to fantasize about or to act upon,” Sink wrote to then-Warden John Ault. She told him she has been waiting for management “to fix this wrong and make it right for over four years.”
Sink told Ault, who retired in 2010, that inmates were accusing her of trying to eliminate their movies and suggested a supervisor had let them know she complained.
Ault responded that he took “umbrage” with her claim that management identified her, and said “you, and you alone, have put yourself out there” by turning off movies and complaining. He said it was her who got upset and filed the complaint, even though steps were being taken to select more appropriate movies.
“I question who here has created a ‘more hostile environment to work in’ or an ‘unsecured environment to work in’, as you call it,” Ault wrote. “I cannot disagree with you that some of the scenes in movies have shown sexual violence, especially those involving females, and should not have been shown, and we believe we have tightened up the process to lessen the likelihood of such movies being shown. We must remember, however, that we are an institution of adult males, and much of what we show can be seen on general television broadcasts.”
Sink claims a male supervisor then told her the department had received a complaint from an inmate that her clothes were too tight. Sink says she was humiliated when she was directed to turn around so the supervisor could inspect her uniform.
Weeks later, Ault dismissed Sink’s complaint, saying officials determined the movies didn’t violate the state’s violence-free workplace policy. “As always, we encourage you to continue to report any inappropriate behaviors you may encounter while performing your job duties,” he wrote.
Months later, Sink wrote that she turned off another movie after it showed sexual violence and she found one inmate masturbating in his cell. Another inmate said, “No offense but some women like it that way,” she wrote to superiors. She said such movies jeopardized staff security and hurt the goals of sex offender treatment.
Department spokesman Fred Scaletta said he couldn’t comment on Sink’s allegations. He said the agency prohibits the showing of NC-17 films and requires any R-rated videos to have a “redeeming value.” Unrated shows must be reviewed to ensure they are appropriate, he said.
In 2009, Ault adopted guidelines that allowed movies to be shown in inmates’ cells after 9 p.m., not in the common area. But Sink said Ault’s successor, Nick Ludwick, loosened the restriction at the urging of inmates. Ault and Ludwick declined interview requests.
In 2011, inmates were allowed to watch the Showtime series, “Californication.” Sink said she objected to sex scenes that “whipped up” inmates and turned off the show despite an order not to do so. Sink said she was investigated for insubordination and later learned she received a disciplinary letter, which has since been removed from her file.
"Californication" (seven seasons)
"Entourage" (eight seasons)
Much like “Californication,” this man-centric show started strong and buzzy -- a perpetual nominee at the Golden Globes and Emmys, and a perceived gender-swapped “Sex and the City.” Then it ground on and on, and what might once have been read as a sophisticated satire of Hollywood materialism became a grinding conveyor belt of self-congratulatory guest-star appearances.
"Will & Grace" (eight seasons)
Hey, did someone say “self-congratulatory guest-star appearances?” Look -- it’s Jennifer Lopez, and Cher, and Janet Jackson, and Madonna! The latter seasons of “Will & Grace” effectively ruined the fun of watching the show in syndication now -- will it be a fun and jaunty early episode, or a later episode in which title characters enact an Ibsen play about having a baby together (really) while Jack and Karen meet one pop star or another? The fact that the show hastened a widespread acceptance of gay people that, then, made the show something of a throwback by the time it ended is one thing; the fact that the show itself seemed uninterested in relying on its actors’ sharp comic timing is quite another.
"The King of Queens" (nine seasons)
This CBS stalwart just kind of kept going, exactly as long as was needed to launch Kevin James’ film career. In the show’s final minutes, a formulaic sitcom became a mile-a-minute soap, with the central characters considering divorce and then having two children.
"Frasier" (11 seasons)
Though it ended strong, "Frasier" had something of the opposite problem as “The King of Queens”: While the CBS comedy chucked a whole bunch of plot at viewers toward the end, NBC’s Emmy magnet stayed stuck in familiar ruts, with Frasier questing endlessly for love and Daphne and Niles in fairly unthrilling domestic bliss. The jokes stayed good, but this maybe could have gone one or two years shorter.
"Weeds" (eight seasons)
As “Homeland” viewers may be learning, Showtime isn’t particularly good at keeping its shows coherent over time. (Maybe this is “Californication”’s issue -- we wouldn’t know!) This show changed settings and, effectively, organizing conceits so many times that by the end, it had few earnest defenders.
"Nip/Tuck" (six seasons)
This FX series, too, changed settings midway through, moving from Miami to Los Angeles four seasons in for no compelling reason. The show’s most gripping subplots had a way of petering out (remember the anticlimactic solution to the mystery of the Carver?), and its bizarre tendencies overtook any sense of fun.
"Glee" (five seasons and counting)
The series has, like its sibling show “Nip/Tuck” (Ryan Murphy created them both), switched locations, moving in large part to New York once its core cast graduated high school. But what’s the point of a high school series when the stars graduate? Despite some lovely moments, the show’s heat seems gone, and attempts to get back into the conversation (the school shooting episode, for instance) have been more desperate and tone-deaf than effective.
"Grey's Anatomy" (10 seasons and counting)
Here’s the thing: By all accounts, “Grey’s Anatomy” is not a creative failure. And it’s still widely watched. But when you begin your life as a world-beating hit, anything else seems somewhat marginal. “Grey’s Anatomy” has shed more regular viewers than many shows will ever hope to get in the first place (same’s true of “Survivor” and latter-day “ER,” to name just a few). Those who stopped watching once the Golden Globe nominations petered out may wonder why the show is still on; loyal viewers know better.
"The Simpsons" (25 seasons and counting)
Like the “Grey’s” doctors, the Springfield clan and their neighbors still draw a crowd. But “The Simpsons” is so omnipresent in syndication and in pop culture that the first-run series seems besides the point (not least because, though there are good episodes here and there, the show’s best days are universally agreed to be behind it -- like way behind it, in the 1990s).
"The Office" (nine seasons)
There was a natural break for this show, where it ought to have ended -- with the departure of lead actor Steve Carell in Season 7. The latter years were a creative fugue state, and as NBC’s Thursday night lineup continued to flatline in the ratings, one-time fans could be forgiven at their surprise that the adventures of Jim and Pam kept on unfolding.
"The X-Files" (nine seasons)
Once one of the show’s leads departs and has to be replaced -- as Steve Carell did on “The Office,” or David Duchovny did here -- the show faces a reckoning; if the lead is so central to the show’s plot as to make people wonder how the show could possibly go on, maybe the show shouldn’t. And even “X-Files” superfans might have been happier with fewer seasons of drawing out the conspiracy string toward a famously unsatisfying ending.
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