Read it on Salon
Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
PARIS (AP) — France is returning seven paintings taken from their Jewish owners during World War II, part of an ongoing effort to give back hundreds of looted artworks that still hang in the Louvre and other museums.
The works were stolen or sold under duress up to seven decades ago as their Jewish owners fled Nazi-occupied Europe. All seven were destined for display in the art gallery Adolf Hitler wanted to build in his birthplace of Linz, Austria, according to a catalog for the planned museum.
At the end of the war, with Hitler dead and European cities rebuilding, artworks were left “unclaimed” and many thousands that were thought to have been French-owned found their ways into the country’s top museums.
The move to return the seven paintings ends years of struggle for the two families, whose claims were validated by the French government last year after years of researching the fates of the works.
“This is incredibly rare. It’s the largest number of paintings we’ve been able to back to Jewish families in over a decade,” said Bruno Saunier of the National Museums Agency.
Many of the 100,000 possessions looted, stolen or appropriated between 1940-44 in France have been returned to Jewish families, but Saunier said the country has increased its efforts in the past five years to locate the rightful owners of what the French government says are some 2,000 artworks still in state institutions.
Archiving errors and the challenge of identifying the paintings have made it slow going.
As anti-Semitism gripped Europe, many Jewish families sold their belongings or simply fled, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of empty homes and valuables up for grabs for individuals or the state.
Six of the paintings — among them works by Alessandro Longhi, Sebastiano Ricci and Gaspare Diziani — were owned by Richard Neumann, an Austrian Jew whose ticket out of France was his art collection, which he sold off at a fraction of its value.
It is not clear to whom Neumann sold them, and the route they took to show up in French museums is unclear. They found places at the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art of Saint-Etienne, the Agen Fine Arts Museum and the Tours Fine Art Museum.
Neumann’s grandson, Tom Selldorff, was a young boy in 1930s Vienna when he last saw his grandfather’s collection. At 82, the U.S. resident is going to get them back and wants to pass a piece of his Austrian grandfather’s heritage down to his children.
“Tom is 82 years old… So time is important; they need to act quickly,” said Muriel de Bastier, Art Chief of the Spoliation Victim’s Compensation Commission, a French government body that helps families all over the world get back their stolen work.
The other painting, “The Halt” by Dutch painter Pieter Jansz Van Asch, was stolen by the Gestapo in Prague in 1939 from a Jewish banker, Josef Wiener, who was later deported and died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
After the war, the painting was confused with a work owned by a Frenchman and erroneously sent to Paris, so Wiener’s widow’s efforts to locate the painting in Germany were fruitless.
For years it hung in the Louvre, until the family finally tracked it down online in the mid-2000s. After problems identifying the painting were cleared up, then-French Prime Minister Francois Fillon gave the family the green light to give it back last year.
Other Jewish owned property was “legally” appropriated by the state itself. Some 100,000 houses were seized and sold to non-Jews between 1940 and 1944, as the Vichy government copied the Nazi’s anti-Semitic policy of “Aryanization” — of displacing Jews from society. The French state then pocketed the money.
A national exhibit at Paris’ Shoah Memorial confronts the issue for the first time, tracing the 1941 creation of a commission that enforced the seizures — often with the help of volunteers, coldly called “administrators.” They exercised full rights over the property of Jewish families.
All around the country, billboards, posters and classified ads in newspapers popped up calling on the public to buy the stolen property.
The exhibit features one which reads “For Sale: Beautiful bourgeois home,” or another in bold writing: “Sale of Jewish property… Belonging to (an) Israelite.”
The exhibit’s curator, Tal Bruttman, said this is the only time in history where the state actually called on the whole nation to take part in anti-Semitism.
“It’s a crucial story that’s not been told before,” Bruttmann said. The exhibit runs until Sept. 21.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
"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.
Read it on Salon