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, June 3, 2015

Just for the Hell of It -- Episode Twenty-Three

   Direct from the corporate suite of Les Moonvies to your television...

Were there any justice in this world, Big Les Moonvies -- the $70 million dollar a year man atop the corporate dungheap of CBS -- would be ashamed.  But there's precious little justice being dispensed anywhere these days, so nobody should hold their breath waiting for an apology or admission of moral guilt from Moonvies, or any of the other corporate media kingpins who grow ever-richer spewing raw sewage into the freshly-scrubbed faces of the broadcast television audience. 

If this is the best CBS can come up with to stem the rising tide of cable programming, then we may as well raise the white flag of cultural surrender, because there seems to be no limit to what Big Les (who more and more comes to resemble the corporate media personification of Monty Python's Mr. Creosote) will do to fatten shareholder portfolios.  

As a spot-on post in The Daily Banter put it:

“The exploitative dynamics at play here are truly grotesque: rich people in the media create a game show where poor people are made to fight for resources so that those rich people in the media can get richer when poor people tune in to watch it.”

I'll admit that I'm no fan of so-called "Reality TV."  I considered it garbage right from the very first episode of Survivor on up through the hillbilly antics of those hirsute fools on Duck Dynasty.

And let's not even mention Honey Boo-Boo or the loathsome Duggar clan, okay?

That said, I really don't care what anybody else chooses to watch on TV -- that's their business, not mine.  Having met a some very smart people who love watching some very dumb shows, I long ago learned not to judge others by their programming choices.  TV is all about relaxation, recreation, and distraction from the increasingly ugly world outside our collective front door, and that's a very personal decision. How you lower your stress levels with the help of television is up to you. So I'll tune in my favorite shows while you do the same, and since we'll never be in the same room fighting for the remote, there'll be no harm, no foul, and nobody will get hurt.  If you love Duck Dynasty, more power to you -- and enjoy the show.

De gustibus, as they say, non est disputandum.

But the real question remains: can cable -- which has been eating broadcast networks lunch in terms of programming quality ever since The Sopranos debuted on HBO -- ultimately win this battle for audience eyeballs and advertising dollars on the strength of vastly superior shows, or will the broadcast networks successfully fight back by appealing to the worst in human nature as they sink deeper into the moral sewer of ever-more depraved reality programming?

My money's on cable, but then I'm a closet optimist.  As a much smarter man than I once observed:  "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public," so it's much too early to count the broadcast networks out.

Time will tell.


Over at The Big Wah (in my opinion, the most thoughtful and best-written quasi-industry blog around*), a recent discussion concerned the amateurization of everything. As usual, it's a compelling read of the sort that always makes me think -- and this time got me to wondering just where the digital revolution is taking us, and whether that ultimate destination is a good place or not.  

Again, we'll find out -- because there's no stopping the digital train now...


This week's podcast of The Business (from radio station KCRW) features a fascinating interview with Josh Karp, who has written a book detailing the saga of The Other Side of the Wind, the infamous unfinished final film by Orson Welles. His career in ruins, relegated to doing voice-overs and television commercials for Gallo Wine (among other things), Welles cast many of his Hollywood friends and acquaintances to appear in the film as actors, from John Huston to Peter Bogdonavich and beyond. Karp tells the story of a true indy film made by a combination of industry legends and newbies that eventually entered the dismal labyrinth of international financing  and endless complications. Welles died before the film could be finished -- indeed, it's not clear that he ever really intended to complete it -- but in the years since, the unfinished epic acquired a legendary status of its own.  

And now -- these being such modern times -- there's a crowd-funding campaign underway to finance its completion.  Hey, I hope they get it done.  Whether this capstone of Welles' career would burnish or stain his legend remains unclear, but if nothing else, a theatrical release of The Other Side of the Wind can only add to the man's hard-earned reputation as an American original, and the greatest filmmaker this country has yet produced.


And speaking of crowd-sourcing, remember this from just over a year ago?  Whether you contributed to Scott Storm’s Kickstarter campaign or not (and give yourself a pat on the back if you did), the funding goal was achieved, allowing Scott to finish his long-time labor of love, a twenty minute animated short called The Apple Tree.  Five years of hard work paid off last weekend in the big-screen LA debut of The Apple Tree at a theater in Hollywood, along with a full slate of brand new indy films. I couldn't make the screening, but apparently it went very well.

Check out this glowing review, then put yourself inside Scott's head for a minute and imagine how good it must have felt for him to read it, knowing that all his efforts had paid off -- that his film made a direct, deep emotional and artistic connection with the audience.  

You can't buy that kind of satisfaction, kiddos --  you have to earn it -- and it never comes easy.

With any luck at all, this (and his previous films) will lead to Scott taking the wheel of bigger budget features sometime in the not-too-distant future. If that happens -- and I really hope it does -- we'll all be the winners.  

Congratulations, Scott -- you The Man.

* I use the qualifier "quasi" only because she often wanders far off the reservation of industry topics, which is fine by me.  Hey, she's a smart young woman in New York who knows there are other things in life than what happens on set...


JD said...

If reality shows like Survivor were about reality instead of contrived situations, dirty dealings and back stabbing, we'd have something worth watching. Since they signed their life away to be on the show, why couldn't we have real life or death situations? That would bring in the rating and the advertisers.

Michael Taylor said...

JD --

It won't surprise me if it comes to that. Sooner or later, a reality program will show a participant getting seriously hurt or killed, and "snuff films" will finally become mainstream entertainment...