Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"SESAME STREET" GOES TO HBO!? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN...?



I swear to God, when I heard this news, I thought this was a joke. Like, no kidding, I was waiting for Jimmy Kimmel to come out and say, "Ha!", or a clear sign that the article was from "The Onion" or one  those websites trying to be "The Onion", but without the comedy, but no, this was real. Unbelievably, this was real. Five-year deal, show is now half-hour, will air daily and stream on HBOGO and PBS will still be able to air shows, but not immediately, there's a 9-month delay, so, not great but...

(Long confused breath/thought)

Okay, but let's figure out what this mean; what does it signify; what kind of new world/condition are we in, now that "Sesame Street" is on premium cable?

(Long pause)

I don't know. I mean, I'm pretty good and prophesying, or at least bullshitting enough to make it seem like I am, but after the shock has worn off,-, well, most of the shock has worn off...- okay, eh, here's what's going through my head mostly, the comparison that seems most relevant to me, was when, I was in middle school, when "The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show" was canceled, and I freaked the fuck out, but strangely I was the only know who did, which made me freak out even more, 'cause I was the only one who recognized how horrible this was. And it was horrible, 'cause it meant that it was the very last time that "Looney Tunes" would air regularly on basic television. Think about that, they were the cartoon standard from the moment television first realized there was an audience for those old cartoon shorts before movies on television, and nobody equaled them, nothing came close to "Looney Tunes" over the years. It was the standard we compare cartoons to is no longer there, so now there's gonna be a generation of kids who will grow up, without "Looney Tunes" and yet, no other kid in my class thought this was a big deal. They'd say things like, "Well they'll still be on cable, or VHS/DVD," or "Who cares, "Animaniacs" is better? (It wasn't, although "Animaniacs were great, and I missed most of it 'cause too many assholes said that and I refused to watch in protent, so they ruined "Looney Tunes" and "Animaniacs for me, pricks!) But then, there was no "Looney Tunes" on and suddenly, there was nothing but "Pokemon", "Digimon", "Dtagonball Z", "Sailor Moon" on for kids instead and then everybody started complaining that there were no good Saturday Morning cartoons anymore, and I said, "Well you said nothing when "Looney Tunes" went off and now you're bitching that "Pokemon" is the standard, so fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you! You all deserve your fucking "Pokemon" now, I told you they were lowering the standard, so now my little cousin grew up think "Pokemon was a standard. FUCK ALL OF YOU! GRRRRRRR!

(Deep breath, nearly hyperventilating, catching breath)

Sorry, I've held that in for like 15 years! But, not everyone had cable, or streaming video (Some people still don't have it, btw) on the internet, which was not as refined back then, so it was huge, shocking, and I still don't think people realize the full affect of not having "Looney Tunes" readily constant and available to everyone. Now, the question is, is this an equivalent comparison to "Sesame Street" moving to HBO? Well, no they aren't actually. For one thing, the "Looney Tunes", were mostly reruns, they hadn't regularly made them in the previous 30 years or so, they're still making "Sesame Street", they're up to 4,100+ episodes last I checked. (Wow, I remember when they passed 3,000), secondly, they weren't canceled, PBS would love to still air them, they are still going to air "Sesame Street" actually, they just can't keep producing the shows without the outside funding. Now, I don't understand all the intricacies of producing a PBS program, and I know there some for profit companies involved in other aspects of the "Sesame Street" brands, but yeah, this is a day and age when television, as much as I've tried to fight this, but in it's current form, television is slowly evaporating in general, and hell, there's been pressure to cut PBS funding for years, hell it was brought up in the 2012 Presidential debates (For the record, the government should give way more money to PBS than they do)

Also, I did bring this up in my E/I blog recently, but PBS has 60hrs/week devoted to children's programming a major network only requires, three. and I didn't think about this at the time, but that's a lot more than PBS ever used to. More programs too, I mean, they repeat some, like the same episodes of a series twice in the day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, for the kids at home and the ones who watch afterschool, they still kinda do that, and I'm glad they do, but still, with no FOX Kids or Disney Afternoon competitions, they overloaded. It wasn't always like that. PBS used to have a fairly limited amount of kids shows at one point. I guess the main ones other that "Sesame Street" from my era anyway were, "Reading Rainbow", "Mister Rogers Neighborhood", "Lamb Chop's Play Along", eventually "Barney & Friends", "Shining Time Station", and my favorite, "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" There were some others, like "Ghostwriter," but that aired on the weekends where I was, and I can go back enough to remember "Square One" and even "3-2-1 Contact" but PBS used to also air Julia Child in the afternoon or some cooking shows and whatnot, There was a "This Old House" or two, every Thursday was usually a Bob Ross day, or some painter in the 3:00pm slot, and I even remember a show that used to teach me how to play bridge. Seriously, this was the afternoon shows, it wasn't just kids shows. Also, you might notice among those titles, very little animation. Animation was expensive and there was never an animated series on PBS back then, now it's all animation, even "Sesame Street" animates a lot more than they ever used to. It was used sparingly like the opening of "Reading Rainbow" that was PBS animation, basically. Now, most of the channel is primarily animation. There's good and bad in that, but it definitely makes "Sesame Street" stick out, it's the last surviving from...-, hell, it's survived generation. My mother watched the first episode of "Sesame Street" when she was four and everyday 'til kindergarten and by then, she has basically everything she already needed. Back then, it was one of a kind. Most everything before was basically, like, the local "Bozo the Clown" show, or "Howdy Doody" I guess. Nowadays, there's a lot more than just "Sesame Street" on PBS. I've periodically mentioned how I usually keep PBS on during the day as a default, cause it's either that or, you know, anything else on daytime, but even as an adult I like/enjoy some of these shows a lot. ("Wordgirl" is a superhero parody comedy that "The Tick" wished it was, yes, I said it, "The Tick" sucked, watch "Wordgirl"!). I guess, the point I'm making here is that PBS has just passed "Sesame Street" by, or vice-versa?

I know that's a bit of a weird thing to think about but, while it definitely influence and created the PBS Kids landscape but, maybe "Sesame Street"'s a bit-, well, maybe not too big, but-eh,... you know, "Sesame Street" hasn't had the best few years. It's ratings are down, it's influence is waning, it's had to fight controversy and the inevitable resignation of legendary Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash, 'cause of his accused sexual conducts. (Which he was cleared of btw, although the timing was bad, especially since it came after a high-profile documentary on him), Sonia Manzano, who's played Maria on the series, since the beginning just announced that she's retiring, there was even a minor controversy involving them cutting a Katy Perry appearance on the show because she was wearing a risque blouse. I get the sense that perhaps a change is needed for "Sesame Street" and HBO could be a good place for them to do that. We know, instinctively that yes, it's not on PBS now, but with HBO, we know that no matter what, it'll still be "Sesame Street" and that HBO is the only place where "Sesame Street" can land and not be corrupted.

Hold on a second, is that a really legitimate fear, that, if say, one of the major networks, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX..., what if they had made a deal for "Sesame Street", would they have so corrupted it? Well, admittedly, this isn't an unfounded fear, network influence and interference have compromised hundreds of series' original intents and inspirations, including and especially kids series, but I genuinely think it's reasonable that the programmers, network executives and even advertisers, what few there would be, would probably have the good sense to know that, with a legendary cultural and television institution like "Sesame Street", it's probably best to have them alone and let it do it's thing. That said though, while it's clear that "Sesame Street" was definitely zeroing in on HBO, but I don't know if these fears of networks are as unfounded as they seem. Networks are required to air 3 hours of E/I programming a week, and picking up "Sesame Street", that's five hours right there, and actually while there could've been some advertising influences, the laws are much more restrictive for E/I shows advertisements, so I don't know, it probably wouldn't have been too bad if "Sesame Street" went to a regular network.

So, let's look at this another way, how about from HBO's perspective, I know there's some of the obvious jokes we can make, hell "Sesame Street" been parodying cable shows, probably longer than everyone else has (Something that we only now really realize just how great "Sesame Street" is good at, those parodies they do of pop culture), hell, one of the major articles announcing this, was The Wrap's saying that the show, in the headline, was going to "The Home of Lena Dunham Breasts", (Seriously, WTF "The Wrap"?!?!?!?!) but HBO doesn't get nearly enough credit for trying to reach as wide an audience as possible since the beginning. They've had kids shows before, including and especially educational shows. I think they were one of the ones who first pushed the "Cable in the Classroom" programs way back when cable had no respectability at all. This is for them, really nothing more than one more notch on the one keyword that really does perpetuate HBO's persona, "Prestige". This network is prestigious more than anything else, and now prestigious enough to get "Sesame Street". That's... hmm...-

(Long pause)

You know, now that I'm thinking about it, how "adult" is HBO anymore? Okay, premium cable, but... okay, I know this is a weird thing to bring up now but actually this has started to bother me as of late. I know there might be some nostalgic goggles on, but, HBO isn't as scandalous or risque as they claim to be. Part of that, is admittedly, the time period, I remember back when as a kid, you tried to stay up and catch those late night softcore porn films and adult documentaries like "Real Sex", or "Taxicab Confessions", but-eh, they're not as good as they used to be. They're not trying really. Seriously, first of all, they don't air those programs as much as they used to, but forget that, HBO's made a surprising amount of effort to deviate from those programs. Partly, there's less interest, there's, well, porn on the internet widely available now, but I don't know, they were better when I was younger too. No, I'm serious, have any of you tried to watch one of those movies on HBO lately, on the rare times they air? I mean, these erotic works used to actually be erotic once in a while, or at least, interesting. Even a loose parody at times, they harkened back to a previous era back when there was still an actual attempt at injecting art into porn, and I actually have a soft spot for that. I list "Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy" as one of my favorite cult movies; hell I used to joke that I like the "LOTR" porn parody, "Lord of the G-Strings" was better than the actual films. (Okay, the word "joke" is misleading, I actually do think it's better, and makes more sense.) There was an effort, a tone, sometimes comedic, and bad comedy, but sometimes they were very dark as well, murderous and violent, often based around a sexual adventure. Nowadays however, they don't air "Cathouse" or "Real Sex" anymore, or at least as often as they did, and the softcore movie they do air, I don't know who's making them, but Tommy Wiseau's movies are more sexually accurate. (There, I made a Tommy Wiseau reference, my first one. You're welcome.) Seriously, they're not even portrayals of sex, they've slightly's sexual posing, with minor animation. This is HBO! WTF?

They, can air anything, but they're not. Actually, and this fact is ridiculous, but believe it or not it's true. HBO has a Standards & Practices Division!? Really. I don't know why, but apparently, there's somebody's job to determine, whether or not, well,- basically, you can't show a vagina on HBO. That's about the only consistent limit I've seen lately. It wasn't always like that by the way, but still.... why?! They don't need an S&P department! Basically, as long as it's on "Game of Thrones", they're okay with it, and everything else, kinda just exists, and if you watch some of it nowadays, it barely does that. I'm not expecting full-blown porn here, but there could be an effort made if they wanted to. Like, one of those late night shows I watch, is actually a Latin American HBO show called "Roommates", which, is terrible, but at least, it's stylized and well-made, and even well-acted enough. It's got a sexy tone, it's an erotic, sensual tone, the lighting...-, well, hell, it actually has lighting and it's quite beautifully shot. It feels like somebody was actually trying to make this, ridiculous "story", sorta, about, four girls in a lavish Chilean house with unrealistic sex lifes and urges was actually done with the intent of making it as good as they could've made it. Yeah, I know, it's strange. Maybe the language is making it seem like the acting is better, but,;..-, No, actually it is better, go watch, whatever dumb late night movie they're promoting on HBOGo right now, and yeah, it's clear, HBO is moving as far away from this perception as possible, and "Sesame Street", might be the biggest sign yet that they're truly going away from it. I mean, they could make those late night programs that they used and do it well, but they really seem to not be willing to anymore.

Yeah, what this really means is that it's the end of "Barbarella" being screened at 2am, and more, ABC's and 123s being aired at 9am on HBO. "Sesame Street"'s is going to be "Sesame Street" no matter what, but this now changes the direction on HBO, possibly forever. Is that a good thing, a bad thing? I don't know, but strangely, the more I look at this, this is much more a sign of HBO moving to the mainstream than it is for "Sesame Street". It does seem strange, just if you look at the main headline. It's shocking, but oddly, it's not life-altering, it's not even television altering. It's just strange. Maybe there's something about the falling influence of television I could get into, but, frankly this isn't the first or the last step towards that. Maybe there isn't anything really earth-shattering about this, it only seems like there is, or should be. I guess that's something in of itself, and it does keep "Sesame Street" on PBS and HBO is gaining even more prestige. Yeah, this is strangely anti-climatic this announcement wasn't it? Hmm.
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