Monday, August 27, 2012

MIXED BAG BLOG #3: "THE NEW NORMAL" BANNED, "THE HUNGER GAMES" AND PRO WRESTLING, and "THE OFFICE"'S FINAL SEASON

Well, it's a little bit early to talk Emmy predictions, Premiere Week is still a ways off (and in case some of you are wondering, I, may, be preparing something special again for Premiere Week, maybe....) and frankly, there's only so much I can write about Snooki's pregnancy; in fact, this sentence is about it. The point being is that there isn't a whole helluva lot going on in the Hollywood world that I think justifies an entire blog entry today, but there's a few minor points I'd like to discuss, so were gonna have a little Mixed Bag blog again.

"THE NEW NORMAL" banned in UTAH!
 


 

I thought seriously about discussing this in greater detail, but I think I was able to let all my true thoughts on this news story in a tweet, believe it or not. (It's true, sometimes 140 characters is all I need.) Anyway, for those who haven't heard NBC has on it's schedule this fall the TV show, "The New Normal". I wasn't planning on particularly looking at it, because I'm not the biggest fan of it's creator Ryan Murphy. His credits include "Glee," and "American Horror Story". (I haven't seen the latter, but it's gonna take awhile for me to trust him after "Glee".) NBC's Utah affiliate, KSL-TV, has chosen to not air "The New Normal" however, because the show is based around an extended family of a gay couple and the surrogate who has their kid. Now, thankfully, a renegade station in Utah, KUCW has already announced that they will air the show, on weekends, I guess this will be some sort-of-a syndication deal. Well, of course, the natural cause for blame, is KSL-TV, for being stupid and homophobic ignorant assholes. (They also didn't air NBC's "The Playboy Club" last year) However, I learned that, that's a little bit repetitive because KSL-TV, who's parent company is Bonneville International, is actually owned, I swear I'm not making this up, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Okay, time to back up a minute, because now we have a new issue: Why the hell does the Mormon Church have a TV station?! Okay, hold on that's not fair, churches are aloud to have TV stations, I shouldn't say things like that. Pat Robertson has had his TV station for years, I'm pro-First Amendment. (I don't understand why I have that channel for FREE on Basic, no less. It should cost about five times as much as HBO, but whatever.) But now, here's the next issue, why does an NBC, allow it's program to be broadcasted on a TV station, that's owned by, a church. Forget that it's the LDS church, NBC is one of the major national channel in America. It's one of the Big 3 (Sorry, Fox), they were one of the first to have a national television channel, and their history dates to the days of radio, where they were pioneers in that field. Now, I can understand, many years ago, if a church owned a local TV affiliate, especially one that was so prominent in the community. I don't think that should give them the right to not air programs that the major channel chooses to air. If you're going to be an NBC affiliate, you should air NBC's programming. However, there's also no reason now, why NBC should keep KSL-TV as it's affiliate? Why would you? Why would you allow a station that's going to be controlled by the major church, in that state, and let's face it, Utah, is controlled by that church, not just in perception, but in history, and in the LDS's church's own structure, it basically runs that state. Pretty much, one of the major TV channels is being bitch-slapped by a church, one that has in the recent years spent a great deal of money in numerous states fighting gay rights ballot questions, especially in California. It's not that hard for NBC to move. Change the affiliate. Ask KUCW if they'd be interested in carrying all NBC programming from here on in? It happens all the time, this is already their second time they've done this to them, what's stopping NBC here? (And I've noticed, as "The New Normal" co-star Ellen Barkin pointed out, KSL-TV seems perfectly okay with all the child rape and murder on "Law and Order: SVU," and they're okay with NBC's "Hannibal," about a serial killer,) This isn't advertising or audience motivating this banning, this is politically-motivated, 'cause KSL-TV is run by people who have an Anti-Gay agenda, and think it's a good thing to show the world how ignorant, stupid and out-of-touch they are in the world, and even if they weren't, it'd still be a stupid and hypocritical thing to do. If I'm NBC, I'm calling every independent station in the Salt Lake City area, and see if they've like to be the new NBC affiliate, starting with KUCW. If KSL-TV wants to show only TV they approve of, they can go make it themselves.

MORE THOUGHT ON "THE HUNGER GAMES" AND PRO WRESTLING PARALLELS

I think I accidentally stumbled onto something when I wrote in my review of "The Hunger Games," how they seem to be using aspects of professional wrestling of all things, in their storytelling. Since the film's real target is the infotainment, reality-show obsessed media culture, maybe it shouldn't be surprising; in many ways, pro wrestling is one of the first reality programs of television, even to the point where it's scripted. It's also over-the-top, filled with outlandish characters from all walks of life, and it all culminates in a competition, to determine a winner, broadcasted on pay-per-view. Actually, now I think there might be something to the notion that much of reality TV and the pop culture landscape is blatantly borrowing from pro wrestling. There's some obvious examples, most notably, the rise in popularity of MMA, which now actually has considerably bigger pay-per-view buy-rates than most pro wrestling pay-per-views. UFC promoter Dana White has been using many of the same tactics one used by pro wrestling to build-up matches. Not in a scripted sense, but many of the promotional tactics, can easily date back to the ones Vince McMahon used(s) to promote events like Wrestlemania. That's an obvious example, but to some extent, this almost all of reality TV uses some of these approaches. Let's take American Idol for instance. We've all seen it, so we can all compare. Now, they don't simply, get a bunch of young singers, put them together and hold a singing contest, do they? No. There's more to it. They show the auditions, many auditions, then they start to make cuts, and challenge the singers more. The further along in the competition, they get, we start to learn a bit about who they are. There's pre-taped segments with their families and interviews, a sense of their personalities. They're all a little bit different from another. Adam Lambert and Cris Allen for instance, two good guys, two very different people. who are challenging each other, in a singing competition. Maybe, you like one, maybe you like the other, but they've survived every challenge up until now, and now, it's one-on-one. What I did with that description, was do, precisely what pro wrestling tries to do, is tell a story. They do it with all of reality TV essentially. They use the same tools. Big audiences, a glitzy stage, high production value, pyrotechnics if they can. They have their own tweaks, but essentially it's the same practice. Come to think of it, on "The Voice," when the get to the battle rounds, the stage looks a little more like a professional ring, doesn't it? They might prefer it resemble a boxing, which is a more real and respectable sport (Well, not lately, but...-hey, who's the heavyweight boxing champ, right now? You don't know, do you? I used to always know if it was Tyson or Lewis or Douglas or Rahman, or Holyfield or Bowe? Tell me they haven't lost their way?) but, it can just as easily be a pro wrestling ring. Actually, let's think back, the reality TV boom, began with, either "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or "Survivor," let's use both, as they both came around the same time, about a year apart. "...Millionaire," pushed the drama-building aspects of a game more than any previous show did since the scandals in the 1950s. It had a glitzy set, different camera angles than previous game shows, it was a limited program originally, (people forget that part, but it was at first only a two-week special originally, something known as "Event TV") it was more about what happens next, as oppose to, is he/she gonna win? Yes, is he gonna win is apart of it, but the whole event itself, was an appeal to the audience (One of the reasons why the modern syndicated version is unable to equal that.) "Survivor" was practically "The Hunger Games," before "The Hunger Games". Get a bunch of people, put 'em on island, one-by-one, they get eliminated. They don't get killed, be we're democratic, we can vote them off, slightly different than a fight to the death, but not that much. (It was also supposed to be a one-time thing as well.) Notice when those shows debuted, '99 and 2000 respectively, Those were the same years that pro wrestling was some of the biggest programs on TV. Especially WWE(F). How big? Now only were there ratings twice, what they are now, but they even showed up at the Primetime Emmys those years. Even the higher-end TV world was acknowledging, backhandedly admittedly, how culturally relevant pro wrestling was at that time. We're still seeing effects from it. One of the wrestlers from that time period, became and still is a major movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and with all due respect, he's a helluva lot better actor and is in better movies than Hulk Hogan was ever in, when he crossed over to the film world. (Even The Rock's bad movies are better than Hogan's lets face it. I'll take "The Toothy Fairy" over any random episode of "Thunder is Paradise".) Now, I think there's some legitimate debate on who exactly is borrowing from who here, or if possibly, all these different aspects would've been used without the prototype of pro wrestling being available. Building up drama is building up drama. These techniques go back to the beginning of literature and art themselves. Also, pro wrestling has a history of borrowing storytelling elements from other sources, in attempts to be a reflection of the times themselves. When Iran-Contra was happening in real-life, in the WWF, The Iron Sheik was battling Sgt. Slaughter. When the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls were in the NBA finals, Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone were fighting each other in the wrestling ring. Now all the wrestlers have twitter accounts. Okay, admittedly, it's been a bit of a downward slope for pro wrestling, and maybe that why other medium like movies, books, reality TV and MMA has had enormous success, and are more culturally-relevant than pro wrestling is, while borrowing their storytelling devices. 

"THE OFFICE"'S FINAL SEASON

NBC announced last week that this will be the final season of "The Office". Well, it's been, arguably the best TV show made on the air in the last ten years of so, one of NBC rare ratings hits, a mild hit granted, but I understand this decision. I don't agree, in fact I still think it's one of the best on TV, and was easily one of the ten best comedy last year, despite it clearly being a difficult and transitional season. James Spader came, and went as his character didn't really go where anybody thought it would, but I like Ed Helms in the lead, not only trying to prove he's capable at the job of manager, but also that the romance with him and Erin. This is gonna be a tough year for NBC, but if they're gonna decide to end "The Office," this is a good time to do it. They are already long into preparations for Dwight's spinoff, currently-titled "The Farm," where he will be permanently running his beat farm. What I don't understand in regards to that show, is that, why isn't Angela Kinsey's character spinning-off to that show too. I think it's pretty clear that the trajectory of her storyline should lead to her and Dwight, getting back together, along with the reveal that her kid isn't with the State Senator, who is clearly gay, but is in fact, with Dwight. They should be running this family farm, which seems a little bit "Fawlty Towers" to me, but so far, there's no plans for that. Well, I guess it could be a Frasier/Lilith-type relationship too, but I don't particularly find think that would necessarily work. Of course, this is presuming that the show is going be fairly successful, and let's face it, that's a little bit of a longshot at this moment. This is one of the reasons why NBC is putting a lot of publicity behind their new series, particularly "Go On," and "Animal Practice", which they've previewed during the Olympics, and a couple other times since. I think they should go back to the drawing board on "Animal Practice", but it does look like they're filling up a schedule that's more sitcom-based in years. They're still relying on two many reality shows, but at least they're relying on a good one, "The Voice," and not as much on "The Biggest Loser." Still, there's a sadness in "The Office," ending. I was the one last year, who discussed how easily the show can evolve and adapt, and how the series had done an incredible job at it by adding new characters that come in and out of the show, seamlessly. Perhaps the test of losing Steve Carell, was going to naturally be a little too big of a hurdle for many casual viewers to accept, but I still applauded the show last year, and had high hopes for this year, as they had plan to begin fazing in new characters and come up with an almost revamped office for the future. I thought that made sense anyway. How often does the same group of people work in the same office together for years in real life? It rarely happens to begin with. Now, the questions become, who will come back for the finale, Carell, most likely, and also, what will they do with all the documentary footage that this cameraman's been shooting for years now? The British version had that stuff make the air, and had the special movie finale be a "Where are they now?" type story that took place a couple years into the future. It was quite special, so I do hope that part of that is adapted, and it can be, somehow. It's gonna be sad, but it will be interesting, and I'll be it'll be pretty good television.


Post a Comment