50 years of ‘Rolling Stone,’ and the swinging ‘60s on ‘The Crown’

Signs at the New York premiere of the HBO documentary film The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee (photo credit: CINDY ORD / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Signs at the New York premiere of the HBO documentary film The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee
Part One of the documentary Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge will be shown on YES Docu on December 18 at 10 p.m., with the second part following on December 25 at 10 p.m. Both parts will also be available on YES VOD.
This documentary, directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney and Emmywinner Blair Foster, looks back on the 50-year history of the magazine, which was founded by Jann Wenner in San Francisco to cover the rock music scene.
The magazine has had its ups and downs, and in the last decade or so has been far less distinctive than in its earlier incarnation, when it gave fans a real down-and-dirty look at their idols and an intense appraisal of the music. It also featured some of the best of the new journalism, notably long pieces by Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, among others.
Wenner is an executive producer of this documentary, so it’s a bit of a puff piece on the magazine, and how much you enjoy it will depend on how interested you are in rock music and the magazine itself.
It features interviews with Wenner and his co-founders, as well as the magazine’s most famous editors and contributors, including Ralph Gleason, Baron Wolman, Annie Liebovitz, Jon Landau, Ben FongTorres, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Greil Marcus, P.J. O’Rourke and Cameron Crowe. Crowe wrote for the magazine as a teenager, an experience he used as the inspiration for his film Almost Famous.
The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee will be shown on HOT HBO on December 16 at 10 p.m. and on HOT VOD, and it’s already available on YES VOD. It’s an in-depth look at the iconoclastic Washington Post editor who brought down president Nixon with his coverage of the Watergate scandal. He doesn’t come off as a particularly likable figure, as he flits from marriage to marriage, but he was a brilliant and fearless editor.
All 10 episodes of Season 2 of The Crown were released by Netflix last week, and the answer to the question of whether the series would spotlight the Duke of Windsor’s wartime Nazi sympathies is a resounding yes.
One episode finds the Queen (Claire Foy), mulling over a request from her uncle, the former King Edward VIII (Alec Jennings), who abdicated to marry a divorcee in 1936, to return to England and to public life. She hesitates, until she learns of the extent of his involvement with the Nazis before and during the war. Documents that had been sealed until then — the contents of which are finally revealed to her — show that the Nazis promised the duke they would reinstate him to the throne after Britain lost the war and, just as enticing, would make his American wife, Wallis Simpson, the queen. The duke and duchess toured concentration camps with Hitler and smiled as they posed for photos with him. As the Germans bombed England during the war, the Duke of Windsor encouraged the Germans to keep up their bombardment, promising them that the British resolve was weakening. More than 40,000 people were killed in England by these bombings during World War II, about half of them in London. In one of the best scenes of the series, Elizabeth gives her uncle an extraordinary dressing down, and it’s truly her finest hour in the first two seasons of The Crown.
Much of the rest of the second season deals with her feelings of humiliation and anger about her husband’s philandering, which culminates in the final episode about the Profumo scandal in the early 1960s.
Next season, as the characters age, the cast will change, and Olivia Colman (Ellie Miller on Broadchurch) will play the Queen, but there is no word on who will replace Matt Smith as Prince Philip.
Foy and Smith will be missed, but it’s safe to assume that The Crown will continue its winning formula — like The Sopranos, The Americans and so many recent shows — of using an extreme situation to illuminate characters who basically have the same problems that we all do: troubled marriages, difficult workplaces, etc.