Saturday, March 24, 2012

MIXED BAG BLOG #1: BILL MAHER'S OP-ED, "THE BIG BANG THEORY" RERUNS' RATINGS, and ABC-FAMILY AND FAMILY-GEARED ENTERTAINMENT

There's a couple different interesting pieces of news and opinions I'd like to share with everyone this week involving the entertainment world, and while I don't particularly think any of these stories are worthy of an entire blog entry at the moment, there's a few things I'd like to say about them and I believe they are worth discussing and/or commenting on, so we're gonna try a little experiment with this blog entry and talk about all of them, separately, but we're gonna post them all in this one blog entry. For lack a better and more thought-out title at the moment, we're just call this kind of entry a MIXED BAG, so this is our first ever, "MIXED BAG" blog entry here at "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews", and I hope you enjoy it.

WHY BILL MAHER JUST MIGHT BE WRONG



While Bill Maher has always been outspoken, lately he's been speaking out louder-than-normal, and he's got an intriguing complaint this time; and it's gotten him defending people as wide-ranging from Robert De Niro to Rush Limbaugh, because of the criticism they've been recieving from the media for recent comments that they made that, for lack of a better phrase, some people say they've been offended by. Maher has been making this point about criticizing this so-called media outrage for a couple weeks now, but earlier this wee, he published an op-ed in the New York Times called "Please Stop Apologizing" (the link to the op-ed is below), where he is calling for the public to stop criticizing and insisting that people who say things that some might offensive stop insisting on those public figures to apologize for those statements, and for those public figures who do say things that offend others to stop apologizing for their comments.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/opinion/please-stop-apologizing.html

Now, Bill Maher is one of my comedy heroes, and I typically agree with most everything he says. For the record, some of the comments and references he refers to did in fact offend me, while other didn't, and I think De Niro's joke was funny. Maher goes-so-far to suggest that on Sunday, we have an amnesty, or as he calls is a "National Day of No Outrage" where we go about our day, completely ignoring any statements made by anybody that might offend, and not demand apologies from those insensitive public figures that offend us. While part of me likes the prospect of a day where I get to say anything I want and have nobody be offended by it, (and I am still strongly considering whether I will participate in that or not) I have to say, while I agree with Maher in principle, there is one thing that bothers me about what he's saying. You see, while he and many of us might prefer that we just simply ignore those who speak their mind no matter how much they shouldn't, be doing that, we are in essence condoning the actions of stupid people, and I simply cannot allow that.

Now by "stupid people," I'm not referring to all the public figures who made their offensive remarks, and sometimes I'm not referring to them at all; I'm also referring to many of those who were offended by the remarks. It depends on what's said and who says it, but either way, we're condoning that stupid people can either say sometimes stupid or get offended by something they shouldn't be offended by, because they're stupid. Either way, we can't keep encouraging their behavior.

I am prejudiced; I hate stupid people. And to make myself clear here, I'm not talking people with mental disabilities or learning disorders or any other such condition. (I have a brother with severe autism who I watch every day, so, that I know about.) The reason I hate stupid people is because there's simply, no excuse for it anymore. There is no reason what's-so-ever for people in the civilized world to be that wrong-headed or simple-minded. There's 24 hour news coverage of everything, with multiple points of view everywhere, not-to-mention reletively easy access to the internet for practically everybody, so anything they don't know can easily be looked up and looked up again until whatever piece of information one doesn't have is learned, and even if you ignore every accesible piece of informational technology out there, you're more-than-likely through about a dozen other avenues to find out shit anyway, accidentally even. Doesn't matter whether you watch nothing but NOVA or nothing but TMZ, you'll find out stuff about everything going on in the world in some way, unless you're purposefully going out-of-your-way to achieve blissful ignorance, can you be that stupid, and nobody should ever work that damn hard to be uniformed. It's insulting that their are people who still think the President is a Muslim. It's insulting that there are people who don't believe in Evolution. or the Moon landing. Or the Holocaust. Or gravity, or whatever-the-hell else somebody wants to pretend doesn't exist to the point of delusion. I'm offended by stupid people, and it doesn't matter whether they're on talk radio or whether it's those who claimed they were offended by talk radio. Mr. Maher is right that the behavior of stupid people is inexcusable and an apology of the stupid behavior of stupid people, and the insistence of one, is truly the emptiest of all gestures. Where Maher is wrong though is that we shouldn't be outraged by their remarks, or at those who are offended (or those who pretend to be outraged, as Maher would put it). I am outraged at stupid people walking this earth, as well as whoever keeps putting microphones in front of them, and if nothing else, they should be shunned for their stupidity, until everybody in the world realizes that person/these people(s) is/are stupid. We should be taking all the stupid people and mark them with a giant scarlet red backwards-S on their chest, figuratively speaking of course. (Although if anybody complains that I offended anybody with that last sentence, than we should strongly consider changing figurative to literal)

WHY THE SUCCESS OF "BIG BANG" RERUNS, SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISING

Another article that crossed my path this week, involves an analysis of a show that I've discussed here in depths before, "The Big Bang Theory". The article by Josef Adalian analyzes the striking success the show has had in syndication and reruns, particularly focusing on how it's numerous re-airings on TBS has sharply increased the network's ratings, including those of shows that "The Big Bang Theory" leads into, including most notably, "Conan". (The article link is below.)

http://www.vulture.com/2012/03/big-bang-theory-reruns-tbs.html

I don't presently have cable, but reruns of "The Big Bang Theory," are syndicated on one of the local basic channels over a dozen times a week, and I've made it a point to watch  it, practically every time they air it, myself, and I'm not particularly surprised that the show become increasingly successful in reruns. It's one of those weird TV occurrances where a show will achieve some of it's highest successes in reruns than it does on original airings, and while Adalian does a decent job of interpreting data in his article, he actually completely misses the clear explanations for the show's rerun success. In fact, he misses it in the first phrase of his article, where he states, and I quote, "'The Big Bang Theory,' has been a hit for CBS since it's first season...." Actually, that's not true at all, and that's one of the clues as to why the show's been such a ratings hit in reruns. I discussed in an earlier blog how "The Big Bang Theory," works as a TV show, many of the reasons that the show shouldn't work. (Link to that previous blog entry is below)

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/11/good-on-tv-communitys-hiatus-and-why.html

That's one of the major appeals about "The Big Bang Theory," is that it works as a sitcom, despite the fact that it isn't inherently designed to be a successful sitcom, and the fact is that originally, the show didn't work either as a show, or for that matter in the ratings. It was only a mild ratings hit to begin with. Back then, it aired on Monday nights, a night CBS has traditionally owned for the last decade or so, (Unless "The Voice" is on against it), and even then, it has a lot going against. As I detailed in my earlier blog, the show really shouldn't work, and yet does, and the reason for that is because eventually, continued watching of the show, whether catching it on one of those lazy TV nights where nothing else was on, or through multiple reruns, the show becomes more and more accessible as the show suddenly becomes believable. It's called "Rules of the Universe," in writing terms, and once more people suddenly accept the rules, the show became funnier, and the more viewers the show got. Now it beats out "American Idol," on Thursday nights, and right now is very close to getting the critically-beloved "Community" cancelled. Frankly, many of those viewers who are now watching the show, missed it originally because they didn't get used to the show and it's concept 'til later.  It's the reason why we simply accept that Capt. Kirk can fly the Enterprise through space at Warp Speed and nobody has to ever wear a seat belt, or why an anvil can on Daffy Duck a million times and never get killed. There's a lot of idiosyncracies, particularly ones involving the characters in "The Big Bang Theory," and they took some time before people starting to accept them. In a sense, many of the people watching the reruns are watching the series those early episodes for the very first time. It's not terribly unusual however for a show to have that kind of belated success in reruns. The most famous recent cases have to be "Family Guy," and "Futurama," who's series were both cancelled and then came back after being on heavy rotation on cable in reruns. I think a better case to compare "The Big Bang Theory," too is "Married...With Children", however. "Married...with Children," was the first show on FOX, period. It was a new network, competing with the three biggies and the ratings were lackluster for every program, but the show remained on the air despite that. The show finally picked up popularity and steam after it became the subject of a famous decency complaint by some way-more-organized-than-she-should've-been Michigan housewife, and the show's ratings (and the entire FOX network's ratings) started to rise. When the show started syndication, it became one of the biggest rerun shows ever because the reruns were new to many of the viewers who missed it when it was aired originally. "Married...with Children," also has some rules of the universes that viewers had to accept. Watching the show now, it's striking how different and outrageous it is even today, much less back then. (I'm pretty sure only "Two and a Half Men," even compares to it in terms of amount of half-naked walk-on characters, and blantantly mysogonistic sex jokes now that I think about it.) Everybody now, has just caught up to "The Big Bang Theory," and now it's the biggest sitcom on TV, and in reruns. Most shows, if they're lucky, may only get one distinction out of that. (As much as it should, I doubt "30 Rock," is ever gonna be a major hit in reruns for example) It's a pretty impressive feat, actually, involving talented actors, skillful writing, and mostly a lot of luck. Really, they could've easily been cancelled pretty quickly at one point.

SO THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WATCH ABC-FAMILY?

I happen to be switching channels earlier this week, and started watching "Rachael Ray", which I don't normally do, I can really only take her in small doses, but she had on Shailene Woodley and I was interested in the interview. Shailene Woodley plays George Clooney's oldest daughter in "The Descendants" last year, and she gave a really incredible performance in the film, and she actually won a lot of Awards for it. Saying that, I had actually never heard of her until now, and was shocked to learn that she's on a TV show called "The Secret Life of an American Teenager," with where she apparently plays Molly Ringwald's daughter. Well, while I'm happy I found the answer to the question of where the hell Molly Ringwald's been, it kinda got me wondering. Well that, and I was talking with a friend earlier, and I asked her what TV shows that she watched, and she said a lot of TV shows that I was shocked anybody watched anymore, and then she said she watched "ABC-Family" the channel, apparently. Now, I remember back when the channel was just called "The Family Channel," this was about 20 years ago, and they aired a bunch of bad game shows, including one, I swear to God, based on the game "Jumble", like the ones in the newspaper, and then they'd just air reruns of "The Waltons," or something like that. Now, they've also been through a few other titles, at one point they were the FOX-Family channel, and a few other different titles and networks took up the channel and continues to try rebooting it, and apparently ABC-Family has become the successful version of the channel. I know "Pretty Little Liars," consistently gets ratings that competes with the major channels, and I'm certainly aware of some of their other shows like "Switched at Birth," and the confusingly-titled "Kyle XY". Checking their website however, I'm surprised to find some of their other programming includes reruns of shows like "Full House," and "Gilmore Girls," and while I am a fan of the latter, which may surprise people enough, but those shows fit in their mileau, but they also air reruns of "That '70s Show," which very distinctly doesn't fit in, unless we're including potheads into the family, and not in like the older brother on "Blossom," way. Speaking of "Blossom," Joey Lawrence has a show on the channel, with Melissa Joan Hart apparently. Well, while after taking a closer look, it does seem that the channel itself does seem more promising than I would've believed at first, I still feel the need to ponder a question about, well, why are focusing entire channels on "families"?

Seriously, I've never fully understood this concept of aiming towards the entire family, and by the way, I always thought ABC, was essentially a Family Channel. ABC is owned by Disney, and for most of their existance, while I can list some of the major exceptions like "NYPD Blue," "Roseanne," and "Desperate Housewives," probably most notably, ABC has been the channel of "The Brady Bunch," "The Partridge Family," "Full House," "Family Matters," "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," "Home Improvement,"... just to name a few, the channel has always itself been geared towards families, and Disney has their own cable channel for other programming. They've specifically geared that channel in recent years towards kids though in recent years, specifically to compete with channel like Nickelodeon. Which actually kinda brings me to my questions about "Family-geared programming". That used to be in Disney's Mission statement, "We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere." That can sound, somewhat innocuous, but that is a challenge, create something liked by two-years olds as much as by 80-year olds. Saying that though, when they fail at that mission, it's most often because they too much towards gearing their programming towards the younger members of that family. That's actually the problem I find with most so-called "Family programming", whether that's movies or especially lately, with Television, is that programs and entire channels now, are basically geared more and more towards specific audiences, and frankly, when it's aimed towards the kids and teenagers specifically, it really annoys the hell out of me. I mean, seriously, why would you aim there? Although, I don't get why people aim anywhere. I don't care if you're making a Mickey Mouse cartoon or "The Red Shoe Diaries," whatever happened to just creating the best product you can, and not worrying about what age groups the audience is? That's what the best TV shows did and continue to do. I mean, honestly, what's the audience that "The Big Bang Theory," is aiming for? Not the audience they get, the audience they're aiming for? I really don't think they're just aiming for members of the scientific community and Comic-con audiences, while that might be where the characters will fit in best, they're just trying to make a funny sitcom, and it's working, and it's transcended across audiences, 'cause it's good. The shows that will last, tend to do that. That's why "Arrested Development"'s making a movie, despite no ratings for three seasons. Eventually, people found the show. That's another reason why not to aim for kids, they haven't fully developed their taste yet. I remember as a kid, watching things like "Frasier," and "Full House," unironically, and without any kind of realization of how one show was clearly superior to the other. In fact, with cable, even though I don't have it now, when I did have it, along with regular reruns, it's basically allowed me to grow up with the entirety of television at my disposal, and I watched everything when I was young. "I Dream of Jeannie," may have been more understandable to me when I was 8, but I remember more clearly, being 8 years old and watching the episode of "M*A*S*H" where Col. Blake finds out he's going home, only to be killed on his way home. I'm not even sure I fully knew that there was a Korean War when I saw that, much less understood much of the rest of the series, but that affected me, and the fact that it was somewhat over my head effected me as well.

I haven't seen any of these shows on ABC-Family, so I'm not gonna judge or criticize any of them personally, but I think I just want to say that, the moment I think a show is made specifically to get a appeal and/or get a special group/audience, that's when I begin to tune out, and change the channel. Good show, bad show, you can get the audience young doing almost anything, but if you want me to keep watching years later, you gotta just make something good, and not aim at all, and despite how that sounds, that really is the single thing all memorable and long-lasting films and TV shows have in common. Shows like that, those are shows that are for the entire family.
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