Sunday, August 24, 2014

TV: Watch the viewers scatter

Last May, we noted the problems luring audiences to ABC's promising Black Box and "Americans don't like illness, the entire American culture is geared towards ignoring and avoiding any sickness."  The feedback from friends in the entertainment business was a long the lines of 'how insightful.'  No, not really.



We're just noting the obvious.

And it's even more obvious when it comes to sick children.

For example, many share the hostility Sharon Stone's character expresses in Diabolique -- anger that Kathy Bate's character acknowledges and discusses her breast cancer.  That's hostility isn't even shocking at this point but we were a little taken aback last December when we began hearing people complaining about St. Jude.

That's the non-profit hospital officially known as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital which Danny Thomas founded and which Marlo Thomas is now National Outreach Director of, does great work. And even the people complaining agreed on that when we asked them.

If the value of the work done and the necessity for the work wasn't in question, what was the problem?

The commercials with Jennifer Aniston and St. Jude's patients.

Where we saw happy kids who filled us with joy, some saw manipulation (some compared it to the infamous animal abuse PSA that used Sarah McLachlan's "Angel") while some saw realities they just didn't want to address  which really is the typical American attitude on most issues.

We thought about that as we watched The Red Hand Society, Fox's new hour long drama-comedy -- the pilot of which has been made available for streaming online for a brief time before the series debuts next month.

We've seen two episodes and read several scripts.

The people who can't handle the St. Jude commercial?

They're not going to be able to handle this series about a group of children with cancer.

Thing is, though, they're not the only ones who will have a problem.

Who the hell cast the 'juveniles'?

If you're not 18 or over and in you're in the cast, we're not talking about you.

(We don't criticize actors who aren't adults -- we offer neither negative or positive criticism of them.)

But a number are 18 and over and it's like the juvenile cast of Spielberg's Hook, you watch and wonder where in the world these thespians came from because they fail to resemble actual children.

They're like performers turned away for McDonald commercials for being too happy.  These performers were born and bred by Central Casting.

As they attempt to sparkle in every scene, you may have trouble remembering that they have cancer.  It's a detail the actors apparently struggle with remembering as well apparently confused that they are not starring in a new version of Glee set in a hospital.

We mentioned Spielberg's Hook earlier, this series is from Spielberg's production company and will only serve to remind you that the only child star Spielberg worked with whose career had legs was Drew Barrymore.  Worth noting there, she hails from an acting dynasty which includes Lionel, Ethel, John and Diana Barrymore as well as her late father John Drew Barrymore.  In addition, before she started filming Spielberg's ET, Drew had already received near universal praise for her film debut in Altered States.

There's no Drew among this cast.

If you move over to the adults who play adults, you have Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson and Brothers & Sisters' Dave Annable as Dr. Jack.

Not surprisingly, the two elevate every scene they're in.

Sadly, Nurse Jackson never grabs Jack and whispers, "Let's you and me play doctor."

That would make the show worth watching and not just because the two can act and then some.  In addition to that reality, there's also the fact that Spencer and Annable have the kind of chemistry casting directors go insane trying to discover.

But instead of exploring that rich terrain, we're left with the ah-they're-so-sugary-sweet-they-rot-my-teeth kids.

Will viewers stick around once the show starts airing?

We doubt it.

We have no idea why it even got a greenlight.

Is there a need for a series on this topic?


But no one should have thought a needed show on this topic would come from Steven Spielberg.

Aliens he can handle.  Sometimes sharks.

But this man who has worked with Academy Award winners like Goldie Hawn, Audrey Hepburn and Leonardo DiCaprio and only Goldie walked away with a film worth watching Sugarland Express.

His ability to handle special effects has never been in question but many of the other needed skills -- especially to handle a series on a topic like this -- just aren't there.

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