Monday, April 23, 2012
MATT GROENING CONGRATULATES, SEPARATES, AND DISTINGUISHES! Oh, and Happy 25th Anniversary FOX!
First of all, congratulations to FOX. It's there 25th Anniversary, and they should be celebrated for such an accomplishment. There had been many attempts prior to FOX to have a broadcast network compete with the big three, but FOX was the first, and in many ways, the only one to really claim success. I'm actually older than the channel, not by much, but old enough to remember when the channel was small enough to take gambles on such outlandish shows as "Married with Children," "It's Garry Shandling's Show," "The Tracey Ullman Show," and I remember distinctly, the first time "The Simpsons" debuted in primetime. In many ways, that moment is one of the major turning points in the history of television. There were a few previous attempts to create an animated sitcom on primetime before, "The Flintstones," once got an Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series even, and there were a few scattered, less-memorable and more adult satirical-based attempts at it in the past. "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home", which lasted three seasons in the early '70s, probably the most noteworthy of those shows, and I had to look that show up. "The Simpsons" has become the longest continuously-running, entirely-scripted show in primetime history, but more than that, from the place where animation was when it aired, how drastically it's changed the television landscape is immeasurable. It was one of dozens of experiments that FOX tried, as they were willing to throw practically anything on the air to see if it would gain an audience, and now, there's an entire network devoted to airing animation, much of it geared towards adults, an idea, that frankly didn't exist in America at that time. We didn't get the Japanese anime until years later, and soon, every channel began taking shots with animation, and sitcoms that have the freedom that animation has. Few shows have influenced an entire generations of TV viewers the way "The Simpsons," has, and continues to do.
I don't think it's possible to underestimate the importance of "The Simpsons," for FOX. I mean, FOX wasn't a network at this time, it was another channel that had s**t on, really. Eventually, they found a small niche by gearing programming towards the inner-city/African-American community. "In Living Color," is certainly a groundbreaking series in hindsight, along with shows like "Martin," and "Living Single", were some of the first shows that were specifically geared to this new urban youth demographic. (And many FOX stations locally, syndicated "The Arsenio Hall Show," the last time a Talk Show seriously competed, at least ratings-wise against "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", because it got that urban youth demographic that Carson never really had.) If FOX was ever brought up in a discussion about the major networks, it was usually as a joke about how they'd put anything on the air, and they did. I remember "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," and "Herman's Head". (Hell, I still like "Herman's Head") Hell, "Cops"! They were into reality before anybody. They put on the Emmys in '88, and didn't get one nomination, much less a win. But it wasn't until everybody started doing the Bartman, did everybody start to take it somewhat seriously. Now, it's the blueprint for every UPN, CW, WB, wannabe out there, that frankly, are all still wannabes compared to the upstart success of FOX.
Some of you might think I'm just listing highlights from the celebration that aired on the network tonight. Honestly, I didn't watch it. I heard that they were reuniting the casts of "That '70s Show," "In Living Color," and "Married with Children," and a few other news blips in the build-up, but honestly, I've been watching FOX all my life, and I really didn't need to be reminded about how big a mistake cancelling "Action," was or for that matter, how bad an idea keeping "The Tick" in development forever was, this was really all from memory, and other than the curious absences of an "Ally McBeal," reunion (That, and "Arrested Development," are the only comedy series on Fox to ever win Best Comedy Series), I decided not to partake or view the celebrations. So, it was a little blurb on Hollywoodreporter.com that caught my eye, as I searched for some interesting story worth writing about,"'Simpson' Blasts Fox News While Congratulating Fox," suddenly caught my eye. In honor of their anniversary, Fox also aired the first episodes of both "Married with Children," and "The Simpsons," tonight, as part of their Anniversary lineup. (Well, I contend that the first episode of "The Simpsons", was the episode where Bart cheats on an IQ test, and gets transferred to a genius school, but they aired the famous Christmas episode where the family got Santa's Little Helper, the family dog. Since it started as a sketch on "Tracey Ullman" anyway, I guess that doesn't really matter) Anyway, creator/producer Matt Groening, after re-airing the episode, added an extra end card to the episode. You can see the video and the clip on the link below, along with the article. The card said simply "Congratulations Fox on 25 years... we still love you", but included a smaller-printed asterick that says "This does not include Fox News".
After reading this, I laughed pretty hard. Now, as the article notes, this isn't the first time Groening and "The Simpsons," have criticized and/or satirized Fox News. Although, everybody else has as well, and justifiably so. What is interesting though, is that Groening was willing to make this gesture on perhaps, the channel's biggest night in it's brief history. It's interesting that he's powerful enough to actually get away with that. It's interesting that anybody might be able to get away with such a gesture, and make such a distinction of a company. Groening's success and Fox's success are clearly intricately intwined. In one manner, without the success of "The Simpsons," there might not be a Fox News channel to begin with. Now that's not quite true, Rupert Murdoch had the money available to make Fox News for years whether Fox was successful or not, but it's reasonable to assume that had this original experiment of FOX failed, he might have been more reluctant to branch out to Fox News, and let's not forget Fox Sports Net, Fox Business, Fox Reality..., this whole worldwide television empire basically. Yet, there's always been this insinuation that the Fox Entertainment Division is separate than Fox's News Division, so maybe it's not that unusual that such a remark be made. Yet Groening felt the need to further distinguish himself between Fox and Fox News, as though both entities are now ubiquitous with each other, and that he should make such a distinction. Fox is good; the news division, sucks though, that's basically all he said. You know, he's making a more interesting backhand point Groening, actually. I don't think about NBC and immediately think about CNBC or MSNBC or Bravo, or even General Electric or NBC-Universal, and yet, in some ways Fox News has become so synonymous with FOX that many times, it helps to be specific. Admittedly, I've become much more reluctant to tune into FOX since Fox News has been on the air; it makes me sick to even think that in some small way, I might be contributing to such a deplorable network, but it doesn't stop me from watching a new episode of "Family Guy" on Sunday nights. (Honestly, I actually do skip "The Simpsons," most of the time now, sometimes to watch "The Amazing Race," other times, I just don't feel the need to watch every episode anymore.) I myself make the distinction between FOX and Fox News, but sometimes, the two blend together a little too much. I can't for the life of me, understand why during the sporting events that Fox airs that they continually go out of their way to make points about how patriotic they are. Extra time focusing on national anthems, and what I consider an excessive amount of support for the troops, mentioned during every football game. Sure, I support the troops, in much the same way I'm against the war, but God, they beat us over the head with it, when all I am really caring about is whether my Eagles are winning or not. It's one thing to be supportive and charitable, beneficial and helpful, it's another to be such grandstanders about being so supportive. We've been at war for 11 years, who are they trying to convince, and what are they trying to convince us of, and why are they doing it during in the 2nd Quarter of anything? You know, the problem is that it's "Fox News," and not, CNN. I'm not talking that way they interpret and report the news, I'm talking the name! How many of you know what CNN even stands for? It's Cable News Network, it was started by Ted Turner, who also created and runs TNT, TBS, TCM, and few other notable Cable channels, and frankly I don't watch one of those channels and think that it in some way, makes me think that it's funding CNN? I barely make any connection between them at all. However, everything FOX does, has "FOX" in the title. Nothing is more predominant with any FOX programming, other than the fact that the programming is in fact, a part of FOX! That would still be okay, if the News Division wasn't so prominent and polarizing. It really is both too. I walked into a diner the other days and saw that Fox News was blasting on a Big Screen TV. They do it at McDonald's all the time. Somehow, I know as much, if not more, about Fox News programming and I doubt I've ever watched it for more than, 30 minutes at one time, possibly less. I don't think there's ever been a more insistent network of any kind. It's become as apart of our pop culture as "The Simpsons," has become a satirizer of pop culture.
What, if any backlash, comes to Groening, I don't know, I don't particularly expect there to be any, and there shouldn't be. He's right, there's clearly a distinction between Fox Entertainment and Fox News. The two channels in fact, have never shared the same demographics. One has accomplished something quite amazing, the other..., is the other. Not every company that produces a product is going to be a product everybody likes, and just because one thing is good doesn't mean another product can't be bad. We know this, FOX knows this, Groening knows this. The only poor part is that Groening had to make a distinction between FOX and Fox News. I contend, that's partly because he believes that we now, so affiliate the FOX brand with it's news channel, that even the entertainment division's most profitable and successful person, the creator of the most distinguished and the biggest money-making enterprise in the company's history, has to distinguish himself from the company's news division. What does that tell you about a news division that it's become so prominent in the public eye? I say it's a bad sign for the future of FOX. They shouldn't have anything to do with each other. But the fact is, I hear "FOX," and I think, Fox News, and not "Beverly Hills 90210," or "New Girl," or "MadTV", or....
Congratulations FOX on your first 25 years. Truly, nobody thought you'd succeed. Everybody figured that the forever-dominate big three of NBC, CBS and ABC were going to long overpower and minimalize you, like they had all previous competition, and they were wrong. You've succeeded way beyond your, well frankly, modest beginnings. You should take Groening's added card, not as a slight to your news division, I mean it is, but there's thousands of slights to your news division, including about a dozen in this article, and instead, as a warning that your news division is potentially doing great harm to your entertainment brand, way worst than "Joe Millionaire" ever did. I don't know what the answer to that potential problem is, and frankly, I doubt they even consider it a problem, but it is. If they don't redefine FOX, the network, as the primary brand of Fox entertainment, then this may very well be Fox's first and last 25 years. Take Groening's little congratulatory insert card for the warning it is, that your own product my become your downfall.