Monday, February 12, 2007

Short Takes - February 12, 2007

I haven't been writing much lately: I know I haven't written much, and I've got a lot of shows that I should be writing about, including Heroes, Little Mosque On The Prairie,and Studio 60 before it goes on hiatus, and probably a whole bunch of other shows, but I haven't been doing it. I meant to write about the return of Robson Arms but I lay down for a nap and the $500 alarm clock (aka my TV) wasn't loud enough to wake me up (my ears plug up sometimes). There are several reasons but the big one is just how annoying I find it to write blog entries on this old computer. Then too there's been all the drama surrounding my brother moving to British Columbia and my mother and I having to finishing the packing here while he works at his new job in Langley. These things will pass: Greg's stuff has to be out of his old house by the end of the month and I hope to have a new computer by the end of the month as well (at the risk of reviving an old commercial pitch man, "Dudes, I'm probably getting a Dell"). Now if someone could just tell me what the best security set up for Vista is.

Actually there is something else I've been doing lately: And it has been impinging on my writing time. A little over a year ago I started playing on the Hollywood Stock Exchange, and after a year I'm starting to get the hang of it. In fact I've got a spreadsheet and started a second portfolio to test out a couple of ideas. I'm having fun, but it is taking time.

I am not the father of Anna Nicole's daughter: In fact, not only did I not have sex with that woman, there wasn't enough money on earth for me to have been interested in having sex with her.

That said I suppose that it's only fitting that her death played itself out on cable TV and the entertainment "news" shows because so much of her life played out in those venues. Sure, she was in Playboy first but most of the other aspects of her life played out on cable TV and shows like Entertainment Tonight. Her marriage to J. Howard Marshall was a fixture of the tabloids - both the print and TV type - and her court battles over Marshall's estate was a fixture on Court TV, the cable news networks, and the entertainment "news" shows. She starred in her own Osbourne style reality TV show for a time. Her daughter's birth and her son's death just three days later were in the media results of her son's second autopsy - paid for by Smith herself - was announced on CNN's Larry King Show. So it isn't surprising that Anna Nichole's own death was given blanket coverage by cable TV.

There is something disturbing about the way that much of the dealt with Smith's death. The American cable news outlets - CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC - all offered hours of blanket coverage of Smith's death, to the point where Lou Dobbs stated at the beginning of his program on the day of her death that he would not mention Anna Nichole Smith in the hour of his show. Meanwhile, although all of the network news shows aired a mention of Smith's death none of them led with the story. NBC led with NBC broadcaster Tim Russert's testimony at the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, while ABC and CBS both ran stories about a new study on the increased number of children suffering from autism. The nightly network news broadcast - at least according to a lot of people, many of whom are associated with the cable news industry - is supposedly a dying form, but in this case they did a better job of delivering actual news in a half hour package than their competitors in the cable industry did.

It was such a divergence in content that during the NBC newscast anchor Brian Williams stated "This may say a lot about our current culture of celebrity and media these days when all the major cable news networks switched over to nonstop live coverage this afternoon when word arrived that Anna Nicole Smith had died." In MediaBistro's report on the coverage, a viewer stated that "Much TV coverage was extended when Gerald Ford died; I, like many people, was not alive when Ford was president, and sadly, I know Anna Nicole better than Ford. Cable news shouldn't feel guilty for covering something that is news." It is a sad commentary on so many levels that people thought they "knew" Anna Nichole Smith. What they "knew" was an image filtered through the sleazier parts of the media. Anna Nichole Smith didn't have the sort of impact on anyone that a president, or even an actress like Marilyn Monroe had. Anna Nichole Smith was a media creation (because in the end she did little to deserve the attention she received) and her death was deemed to be news - and got far greater attention than it deserved - because the media convinced people that she was more important than the real issues of the day.

Who does the PTC hate this week?: The PTC site was down for a while and I noticed that something was taken off (I believe it was a complaint about an "F"-bomb dropped on Don Imus's MSNBC show). But there is something else. It seems as though there are certain shows that just irritate the PTC. One of these is Las Vegas but another is Two and a Half Men. The latter show is the one that currently has the PTC's "knickers in a twist" as at least some Brits would say. According to the PTC's current "worst of the week", the episode in question is a "careless discussion of promiscuous sex, masturbation, and infidelity in front of a young boy is evidence of the network’s (CBS) complete disregard for family viewers at 9:00 p.m. (8:00 in the Central and Mountain time zones)." The set up for the show was that 12-year-old Jake has overheard his mother and her boyfriend having sex night after night. In the words of the PTC, "Instead of displaying responsible parenting and helping Jake to understand complexities of what he has heard, Jake’s father (Alan), uncle (Charlie), and housekeeper begin a dialogue rich in kinky sexual innuendo that carries on for the entirety of the show." Later in the episode "Charlie discovers repressed memories of watching his mother having sex with several different men and one woman. He agonizes over the trauma the memories have caused him. When he tries to confront his mother about the memories he once again catches his mother in the act of promiscuous sex with a strange man." In summation the PTC states that "The irony of the episode it that it carelessly documents the trauma a young boy experienced and the developmental problems he faces after being exposed to reckless sex, while at the same time broadcasting the content for millions of young viewers to digest."

The PTC didn't just label Two and a Half Men as their worst show of the week though. They also sent out one of their usual press releases in which they demand that "unwitting sponsors" of this filth should demand a refund of their money. Of course if they did know the content the advertisers should "seriously evaluate how their customers will feel when they learn of the sponsor’s decision to underwrite references to bestiality, masturbation with fresh produce, and other graphic sexual dialog. Is this truly the kind of content they want to associate with their hard-earned corporate brands? We certainly intend to inform the public as to which sponsors knew what they were underwriting." And then they throw in this one just to seal the outrage: “Not only was the dialogue inappropriate for children watching during that early prime time hour, but the actor playing Jake who was involved in just about every scene is 13-year-old Angus Jones. It vexing that CBS would pay a child to say such things.” True. When I was that age we'd say such things for free and think we were sophisticated.

Okay, here's a couple my comments on this whole thing. First I would be surprised if anyone doesn't know the sort of content that is seen on Two and a Half Men if for no other reason than the fact that the PTC keeps harping on it. I've never watched the show but I've got a pretty good idea of what's going on. As far as why the show didn't engage in a display of "responsible parenting" by "helping Jake to understand complexities of what he has heard" well let's remember that this is a comedy in the 21st century rather than the 1980s when the "very special episode" was a dominant feature (it seemed like every episode of Blossom was labelled a "very special episode, but maybe it was just me) and what the PTC wanted the show to do was not only not in keeping with the nature of the show but dare I say it not funny - although the prospect of Charlie Sheen helping any kid to "understand complexities of what he has heard" has considerable comedic potential. In the end it comes down to the PTC, in the guise of protecting children, wanting to decide what everyone is allowed to watch rather than giving actual parents credit for knowing what is suitable for their own children.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Poll Results - Which of these series is the best new show so far this season?

Fandom. You gotta love it. Well actually you don't. I can imagine that there are a ton of executives at various networks and studios who dearly wish that fans of a show or a movie would just give them their money and then go docilely home like the little sheep they imagine them to be once the thing - whether it's a TV series or a movie - is over and not bother them about it again. Of course the people who run movie studios and TV networks don't understand Fandom. I once heard a story - which may or may not be true - about the preparations for the original Star Trek movie. It seems that the execs at Paramount were ready to start production when a little movie called Star Wars came out. Paramount immediately shelved the Star Trek movie on the grounds that the science fiction fans had spent all their money on Star Wars (and all the licensed stuff associated with it that made George Lucas wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice). I don't know if it's true but it makes a good story.

I've been a Fan - I was a Dueser (Due South), a Browncoat (Firefly) and enough of a Trekker that I watched all six series, including the animated one from Filmation that made Hanna-Barbera animation look like Disney at its best. Fans can save shows - I doubt that Arrested Development would have lasted as long as it did without a devoted cohort of fans (a cohort, by the way, is a Roman military unit smaller than a legion - if Arrested Development had a legion of fans it might still be on). I sometimes wonder why Fans gravitate to the shows they do. Beauty and the Beast with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman was a Fan Favourite with a lot of the fans being women who found the character of Vincent "romantic". Which was true, but if you looked at the series a bit harder you realized that Vincent was a character who solved his problems (usually a threat to Catherine) by eviscerating his enemies. I'm just saying.

All of which brings me to the most recent poll. I got hit by "Kidnappers" - fans of the series Kidnapped - in a big way. More votes were cast than in any of my previous polls ever! Interestingly enough if you took out the votes for Kidnapped it was still one of the highest number of votes cast in one of these. And most of these were votes by individuals; despite a rather flawed execution on my part I was able to blog multiple voters for most of the polling period. I know because I tested it with a vote of my own.

So anyway, the results. Seventy-six votes were case. Tied for tenth place with no votes were Standoff, The Game, 'Til Death, Men In Trees, Big Day, and Justice. In a tie for seventh place with one vote (1%) each were Jericho, Shark, and The Class. In a tie for fifth place with two votes each (2%) were 30 Rock and Ugly Betty. In fourth place with three votes (3%) was Friday Night Lights while Studio 60 finished third with four votes (5%). The second place finisher was Heroes with eight votes (10%). However the overwhelming winner, with fifty-four votes, 71% of those cast was Kidnapped. As just about everyone should have expected.

For the record, the show I voted for as a test was Friday Night Lights but the reason I cast my vote for that show is because I think that it is a criminally overlooked gem of a show, and I am so glad that the powers that be at NBC are supporting it even while I agree with the "Kidnappers" that the network thoroughly mishandled Kidnapped almost from the moment it was announced in the network's first variation of their schedule. Here's the interesting thing in my opinion anyway: of the nine shows that got votes in this poll, five are on NBC and all of them got more than one vote. Only one other show - ABC's Ugly Betty - managed to do that. That's all of the NBC shows on the list. Of those five only one is secure in terms of ratings and that's Heroes. It seems then that in the opinion of the readers of this blog, NBC has produced the best shows of the season, Nielson ratings be damned. Very interesting stuff indeed.

I have an idea for a new poll which will be up shortly, after I look for a better polling client.