Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Something Bitter, Something Sweet

Peggy Archer, the original and still-reigning Queen of the Industry Blogosphere, put up a great post discussing the harsh realities facing all Hollywood work-bots these days. Everybody in this country who actually works for a living -- or is looking for work -- is suffering right now.* With our floundering economy facing a very slow recovery, it will be years before we can get back to anything like the way things used to be, and it’s entirely possible that boat has sailed for good. This time, due to a number of converging economic, geopolitical, and environmental factors, we may be in too deep to ever fully recover. Things will eventually improve, but by then the baseline level of expectations for most of us will be so beaten down that the go-go economic era now growing ever smaller in our collective rear-view mirrors will seem like a fever dream from another long-lost Gilded Age.

The common wisdom has long held that “Hollywood is recession proof,” and as is so often the case, the common wisdom has it wrong. In past downturns, the Industry held up better than most in resisting the worst effects of economic decline, but back then Hollywood had the bulk of the movie business to itself. Needless to say, this is no longer the case. Now they seem to make movies everywhere but Hollywood, even as the real bread and butter of this town – television – has begun to slip away to other states.

The good times -- the truly fat times – are over. We’ll all have to deal with that in our own ways, but it’s not going to be much fun.

On the brighter side, here’s today’s column from SF Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman, reviewing two of the CW network’s new offerings. CW is an awkward hybrid cobbled together from the ruins of the WB and UPN, neither of which ever figured out how to create a decent show. It used to be said that any new show landing a slot on the WB rotation was good for a five year run simply because the rest of WB’s lineup was so bad. I don’t know if the same is true of CW, but Goodman is always worth reading – and today, he’s especially good.

* And just for the record, I don't think those miserable bastards on Wall Street do actual “work.” As far as I'm concerned, they’re nothing but con artists and criminals in three piece suits...


Anonymous said...

Not being entirely fair to the CW. At one point they produced both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls. Granted lately their lineup stinks, but Buffy in particular is widely regarded as ground breaking and Joss Whedon has an almost religious following.

Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous --

A quick Google search tells me that Buffy ran from 1997 though 2003, and since the CW didn't come into existence until 2005, then the new hybrid network had nothing to do with Buffy. It must have been WB who produced the teenage vampire-fighter show.

Still, even a blind pig occasionally finds a truffle, so it's possible CW might have created a show somewhere along the line that wasn't a complete steaming pile. But when I think of CW, the image of "One Tree Hill" always floats to the surface -- and that alone qualifies as a crime against humanity.

I'm in the wrong demographic for vampire shows or romantic teenage dramas, and thus missed Buffy and Gilmore Girls -- but did hear good things about Buffy and Joss Whedon. After trying to endure "Dollhouse" (three episodes and I was done), I'm not so sure young Mr. Whedon deserves canonization just yet. Some very talented people have been known to peak early in this town. Aaron Sorkin wrote and produced the first few years of "West Wing," the last truly great broadcast network drama to hit the airwaves, but his followup show ("Studio 60") was a huge disappointment.

It's hard enough to catch lightning in a bottle once -- that takes brilliance. To catch it twice requires genius, and there aren't too many geniuses working in television.

Still, I'm a juicer, not a TV critic. If you want to read with someone who actually knows what he's talking about, try Tim Goodman -- he's as smart and knowledgeable as they come. Follow the link in the post and see what he has to say about CW.

And thanks for tuning in.

Anonymous said...

Oops. My bad. I've always considered the CW to essentially be Warner Bros. I'll certainly agree that since the marriage with UPN they've produced nothing noteworthy outside of Gilmore Girls, which started on WB and ended on CW.

As for Whedon, Firefly had great potential. Fox aired the episodes out of order, thereby confusing the audience, and then canceled it. Completely mishandled by the network. Dollhouse on the other hand is a misfire and certainly tarnishes his halo.

I used to live in the Bay Area and read Tim Goodman religiously. He was a big fan of the first couple of seasons of the Gilmore Girls. He was the reason I gave it a try as from the title, like you, I thought it wasn't going to appeal to my tastes.

You never know until you tune in. :-)

Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous --

I heard good things about "Firefly" (after the fact, unfortunately), but did see the movie -- can't recall the title -- that eventually resulted, and liked it a lot.

Goodman has led me to so many terrific shows (and had a very direct hand in the genesis of this blog, BTW) that I trust his taste and judgment implicitly.

But you're absolutely right -- we never know what we shows we might like until actually watching them. My comments about WB stemmed from a pilot I did at Warner Brothers a few years back, and the scuttlebutt on set at the time.