Sunday, July 6, 2014

THE SHELLEY LONG SYNDROME: KATHERINE HEIGL, AND KNOWING WHERE A CELEBRITY IS ON THE CELEBRITY PECKING ORDER.



There was an article that caught my eye oddly enough about Katherine Heigl of all people lately. I don't remember exactly which one now, you can find a bunch of similar articles if you type in the keywords, but she's promoting her new fall TV show, and the big headline was that she said that "Romantic-Comedies ruined her career." (Shrugs) She also mentioned that, she felt she had disappointed her fans by, not taking say a role in a superhero movie or something like that, and she thinks that that was the cause of her ostracizing from Hollywood, which led inevitably to her brief self-imposed hiatus from acting in general. I'm paraphrasing a bit, I don't really want to look everything about the article, but something struck me as odd.

First of all, exactly how many "fans" did she have? I'm not gonna pretend that I pay the most particular attention to the modern movie star ratings system, but I never particularly ranked Katherine Heigl that predominantly high on it. Yeah, I know there was fans, and people, mostly women, who flocked to her movies, but we're they flocking to see her, of were they going because they were romantic-comedies? I know, a little mean to discuss rom-coms in this manner, but there's been so few, really even decent ones lately, I have a hard time imagining that the audience was just going to see her, especially since, they could easily see her on TV every week. That's the other thing, romantic-comedies didn't make her famous. She was on "Grey's Anatomy", that's what launched her career. And she left the show, to do romantic-comedies, and now we're getting into something I'm gonna call, "The Shelley Long Syndrome". Now, this isn't leaving a TV show, just to do movies, or just leaving a TV show, in general, to do something or whatever. No, no. Shelley Long left "Cheers", because she thought she was a big enough star/name, to star, doing movies. This goes back to the idea that somehow there's a major difference between film stars and television stars, and somehow people who do movies are bigger or more important, and television is a lesser medium essentially. I was discussing this recently arguing that television is just as powerful and artistic a medium as film, but there is actually is this divide in certain aspects, although part of this is perception, more than anything else. It's not that Katherine Heigl was doing a bunch of romantic-comedies, (Although it had something to do with her making a lot of bad ones) but the big issue is that she thought she was a bigger star than she was. Shelley Long, in '82, had a very minor hit film called "Night Shift". It was a decent film; it holds up. It was one of Ron Howard's early directorial works, and it was Henry Winkler as a morgue attendant, Long played a prostitute and Winkler ended up becoming a pimp to her and other hookers, in order to keep them safe from abusive pimps and johns, I think Michael Keaton was in it as well, and it's a light, little quirky comedy.

(Now, before I go on here, I'm gonna warn everyone that for all we know their might be more to this, but, for these purposes, let's say that-, for a good portion of this article we might be discussing stuff that's more along the line of "legends" as oppose to the "facts", to re-paraphrase "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". So, understand some of this, in that context.)

By many accounts I've heard, she felt that suddenly going from that, to doing a television series was a step-down. Everybody else on the cast had 7-years contracts, she only had 5, and sure enough, despite an Emmy and being on, what turned out to be one of the greatest TV shows of all-time, she left the show immediately after her contract was up. I can assure you, she didn't leave the show thinking that her film career resume would then include, "Troop Beverly Hills", "Frozen Assets", "Outrageous Fortune" and "The Money Pit". This isn't even really about television vs. film, or the priorities and preferences of an actor, this is about knowing exactly how big a star you actually are.

Perception versus Reality, and I hate to sound blunt here, especially since I'm directly talking about a person, who frankly I have nothing personal against, and most of what I've seen of her work, I've actually liked, but Katherine Heigl was the,- third lead, at the most, on an ensemble TV drama series, that, frankly wasn't great. It's a good show, that partly rode the "Desperate Housewives" wave and for, a couple years was arguably the show of the moment, or one of them at least (It was never the massive pop culture icon of say, "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" at their heights, or even "Desperate Housewives" when that first started) then she had a hit movie with "Knocked Up", which was very good and showed range, made her an it-girl for a few moments, but you know, she parlayed that, to numerous romantic-comedy roles, that frankly,- I'll admit now that I didn't see any of them, if anybody thinks any of them were good enough that they're worth seeing, let me know but if any of them had even decent reviews I would've gotten to them with more immediacy, I'll guarantee that. And again, you know- I was talking with a friend recently, who comes from a family of actors, and he himself at one point did some acting, and we were talking statistics, talent, etc. It's, about 3% of actors, work regularly in film or television. It's not exactly who's the most talented, is gonna get the most roles, there is a great deal of who-knows-who in Hollywood and nepotism, and connections at play, although that said, there's so many talented people, that, if you're not talented to some degree, and/or are, in some other way hard to deal with, you won't be acting long, and there will be plenty of people left to replace someone. I don't care who you are, unless you're one of the five or six names in Hollywood, who's name on the marquee is guaranteed box office, they'll find somebody else. There's way too many talented people out there, to stay with somebody who isn't talented if they don't have to. So, in that sense, if they're offering Katherine Heigl, a bunch of romantic-comedies, and I'm not gonna lie, even without her, it's not like the genre's been great recently (That might be a discussion for another blog, the lack of quality rom-coms) but, she still had a relatively unusual amount of control over what she can do, and she could've been more discerning. Insist on a better romantic-comedy script, if she actually did want to limit herself to the genre for instance. It's a lead in a movie, it's an offer, I get it,- still, she was known for TV dramas mostly, even before "Grey's Anatomy" she was on the cult show "Roswell," one successful, comedy, that, I wouldn't even call a romantic-comedy per se,- I guess, I'm almost trying to figure out what did I miss here? What exactly led her, or us, to indicate that she even was a big enough of a name to be a brand, or to have the time and ability, and some instances freedom, to really be this big at one point, and now this down?

If you get it, let me know, but it feels bizarre to me. You know, I'm amazed how often, the question of "Who the biggest movie star?" is comes up, (It's Will Smith, btw, I don't care if his last film flopped, that's one flop, in twenty years where every film of his made 9 digits at the box office! 2nd flop, then we'll discuss it further) but there actually is a list of who the biggest TV stars are. It's never released publicly, but there's something in Hollywood called a TVQ rating, and this a really bizarre ratings system, but essentially, the idea is that it's a ranking of how much the audience likes an actor/actress. How much they enjoy your presence in their life or how comfortable they are having se person in their living room, in their home essentially. I know secondhand a few stories about how the TVQ rating has effected things like a casting choice for instance or even, the tension on a set between stars, but without going into too much depth, those actors/actresses who you constantly find getting another TV series, again and again, those are the people with the really high TVQ ratings. Think William Shatner, think Heather Locklear, think Robert Urich, people who you constantly find yourself going, "Oh, he the guy- what's his name, from that show that time...". Hamish Linklater, people like that, they probably have really high TVQ's. If one of their shows gets cancelled, and they're on a prolonged guest spot for six or seven more episodes, the next week on a similar show,.... This has very little correlation with, who might even the highest-paid, or biggest stars of television in terms of pop culture, even, and frankly, here's the real kicker, correlation between a TVQ rating, and film success, (Hold circled hand in air) pretty much, zero. There's a few George Clooney anomalies here and there, but they are anomalies. Heigl, very likable on television, two shows with a certain popularity, very pretty, probably had a better TVQ rating than many of her co-stars. That's probably one of the reasons she's back into television now. Whatever it is, this is the weird line where that supposed distinction between television and film really exists, and sometimes that, just exists in the mind of the actor/actress.

This is really, what's come to mind when I think about Heigl or some of the other names that seem to,- (troubled sigh) erroneously think that, such a jump from film to television is really within their grasp, when it, in fact might not be for them. I understand wanting to leave a TV show, for many different reasons, just playing the same damn role for years alone, can be incredibly frustrating. (That's why Charlie Sheen, did a lot of shit, to try to get fired.) Basically, it's this tricky thing that I think a lot of fans don't understand, and it's a lot worst frankly when we discuss this with people in the industry, who may not, realize how big a star they are or aren't and that's frankly just strange. I had a professor who was an actor, gruffy rugged type, who used to play a lot of villains over his career, and he said it, "When I get a script, I know Brian Dennehy's fingerprints were all over it already." and he mentioned a few other names as well, 'cause those are the people who get the chance at those scripts first. Dennehy and others said, no, they end up with him. (And usually when he reads the scripts he gets, he understands why they said no) That's what I generally think Heigl, might not have understood. She did a lot of romantic-comedies, and I guess what really worries me and makes me wonder about Heigl is, exactly how many other people's fingerprints were on the scripts she inevitably took, and didn't she think about that before taking the parts she did? I mean, most of Hollywood, is not only very much aware of where they stand on the totem pole, they're beaten to death with it. Wherever they are on it, whether there's thousands of paparazzi watching every move, or getting every offer that heads their way from the best filmmakers, or whether they're lucky to purposefully be on the third part of that days "TMZ" episode, and half-amazed they got noticed. Is Katherine Heigl like that, a name who's fallen victim to Shelley Long Syndrome, and mistook or misread just what kind of power she had or should've had? I don't know, maybe, maybe not. Maybe she gets it but she had to take advantage of what opportunities she had, and understand that a celebrity's career is essentially a series of comebacks, but I must say that, right now I, and probably others have a perception, that- she might have made that mistake. Misjudged the amount of fame and stardom she actually had. Well, in any case, I hope I'm wrong.
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