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, January 19, 2011

The World According to Others

Yeah, I know -- this is possibly my wost... title... ever... for a blog post. But hey, it’s a Wednesday, and these mid-week posts are held to a blessedly lesser standard.

If my own recent assessments of the road ahead seemed rather bleak, I make no claim to have an inside track on The Truth. All I can do is call it like I see it from my own occasionally jaundiced (and admittedly limited) point of view -- and that's all it is: my POV. I'm just one juicer, staring up into the night sky and howling at the moon. There's a very wide spectrum of opinion out there on what's coming our way, much of it better-informed than mine.

The always-interesting and entertaining Tim Goodman (ex-SF Chronicle critic now headlining the newly revamped Hollywood Reporter) recently offered his initial take on Google TV, the latest digital media hula-hoop designed to pick our pockets while mesmerizing our brains. Goodman worries that all the multi-tasking bells and whistles promised by Google’s Internet-based approach to our modern culture’s collective hearth could have the effect of dumbing-down TV.

Not so long ago a line like that would have been the straight-line setup for fifteen minutes of comedy, but not anymore. Those who think TV remains nothing but a wasteland simply haven’t been paying attention for the last ten years, an era that has produced more smart, creative, compelling television than ever before.

Yes, we've also been subjected to everything from Maury Povich to "The Jersey Shore" along the way, but ours is a time of extremes in every way.

So having finally dragged itself out of the evolutionary swamp, is television now in danger of slipping back into the slime thanks to Google TV? Read Tim Goodman's Hollywood Reporter piece and see what you think.

I stumbled across another viewpoint – well, three viewpoints, really – buried in the back of the LA Times Calendar section last week in a short but interesting article from the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Here, Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, and Baz Luhrmann discuss the future of films, the impact of technology, and what we can expect on the road ahead.

One reader's reply to my own gloomy outlook countered with a more sanguine view on the subject of runaway production, at least. In his opinion, many of the states who have used generous tax subsides to lure production from the West Coast will be unable to afford these programs as the current economic difficulties continue. Maybe he was right. Today's LA Times reports on the troubles some states have been having with these programs.

If I'd inhaled two more cups of coffee this morning, perhaps I could come up with some snarky comment about the wages of sin and the karmic payback that comes from stealing other people's jobs -- but I didn't, so I won't. Besides, having suffered considerably from getting the short end of that particular stick, I can't bring myself to wish the same on people working in those troubled states.

The jury's still out on all this, and I really don't see any massive change coming soon to the tax subsidy drain that has inflicted so much damage on those of us who do the heavy lifting making film and television here on the West Coast. But where there's smoke, there's fire -- and the scent of smoke is in the air.

Most predictions about the future turn out to be off target, some wildly, others by a matter of degree. The effects of new technologies on our culture, society, and economy are seldom clear right from the outset, and often evolve in totally unexpected ways. There isn't much we can safely assume, other than that we're bound to be surprised -- sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

One way or another, it'll be interesting to see how all this plays out.


egee said...

I looked over some of the comments to the Goodman article after reading it. Most were rather critical of Goodman's perspective. A few extolled the virtues of Google TV with some claim of how this is the way the future will be and to "get with the new program!" Frankly, I'm skeptical. I can still remember when VCRs were going to put movie theaters out of business, when the Mac computers were going to be driven to extinction by PCs, and when it was hip to wear leg warmers (even when not exercising). Change is inevitable but not predictable.

Michael Taylor said...

Egee -

I read those comments too, and was amazed at the wounded tone of so many. I particularly liked one angry retort that began: "What are you, a hundred years old?"

The Geek-o-Sphere utterly rejects as heresy any suggestion that "new" might not always be better when it comes to our ever-evolving media technology -- but to my way of thinking, Goodman has a point. The kind of dark, edgy dramas he favors ("Breaking Bad," "Deadwood," and "Dexter," among others, along with lush, dense character studies like "Mad Men" and "Men of a Certain Age") demand -- and command -- a serious degree of focus and attention. I can't understand how any fan would be tempted to check e-mail, FaceBook, or browse while watching one of these shows.

And if they do, it will inevitably dilute their viewing experience.

Less compelling programming (sit-coms, reality crap, anything involving Oprah, and the vast majority of broadcast network offerings) might not suffer so much in the multi-tasking environment facilitated and encouraged by Google TV.

But you're absolutely right about the inevitably unpredictable nature of change. Like I said, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for tuning in...