Monday, May 16, 2016
TV: The fools don't just rush in, they linger
When will they learn?
Like Ellen Barkin before her, Debra Messing tanked an NBC show and put herself, the rest of the cast, the crew, etc out of business.
Was it worth it?
We championed THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA in its first season. We noted it was reliable in the ratings and could be put on any night and get respectable ratings.
And that was only more evident with season two.
At the start of March, the series was going to be renewed.
And then Debra Messing launched a catfight online with activist and Academy Award winning actress Susan Sarandon.
Yes, Debra launched it.
She deliberately distorted Susan's position.
And because our sexist society loves a cat fight, Debra got a lot of attention.
More attention than she'd received since the 90s.
She was a Twitter star.
Now she could have her Twitter fight with Susan and that would have been mildly entertaining to some.
But having found internet stardom, Debra wanted more.
Knowing the world was now watching, Debra used her soapbox to attack Green Party members, to attack Republicans, to attack non-voters and to attack Democrats supporting Bernie Sanders.
Did she forget that she was in a business where she had to appeal to viewers?
That she lived and died by the audience?
This isn't about free speech -- it's about manners and common sense.
And NBC became alarmed as the e-mails and calls started.
Debra was offending a lot of people.
Some of those complaining to NBC about all the hatred Debra was Tweeting were, like her, Hillary Clinton supporters. But they would note that their parent or child or spouse or sibling or friend was for Bernie or Donald Trump of Jill Stein or whomever and that they did not appreciate her the hate she was spewing at their loved ones.
Debra was offensive.
She could be a Hillary supporter.
But there was no reason to be pouring so much hate on those who were not.
There is no mystery about the cancellation, she brought it on.
And we warned her.
TV -- especially broadcast TV -- needs eye balls.
It needs viewers.
And when you insult huge parts of the population, you limit yourself with regards to potential viewers.
Again, she could have been a Hillary supporter online.
No one would have much cared.
But when you're going around insulting whole groups of people?
Debra is still a talented actress.
She is also an unemployed one.
We want to repeat this: You can support a candidate.
You can speak out against a war (we do).
But you can do that without tearing apart WE THE PEOPLE.
It's a lesson Debra may now learn.
After it's too late.
And THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA was not fascinating TV but it could be compelling.
Equally important, it was a rare show anchored by an actress.
What happened to the actresses?
Did anyone notice how they've disappeared?
Where's MURPHY BROWN or ROSEANNE, for example?
Where's the actress playing a woman who's more than an after thought?
Sitcoms are geared around children and adult male actors.
Having 2 BROKE GIRLS and MOM on the air makes CBS almost look revolutionary.
Until we get to the SUPERGIRL thing.
The show is bad.
It should have been so much better.
Actually, it should have been a super hero show about a beloved female character -- Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Storm, Jean Grey, Sue Storm, Spider-Woman, Black Canary, etc.
Instead, one of the weakest female characters in the comic universe was made the focus of a --
What is it?
It thinks -- in its many cutesy moments -- that it's a romantic comedy.
Viewers were hoping for an action show.
But apparently the show runners can only do action when the one in tights is packing a penis.
So the team that could create ARROW and FLASH had no interest in focusing on Supergirl's powers but did have an interest in tearing her down.
And CBS noted the erosion in the ratings.
The debut was a smash.
Nearly 13 million people tuned in to watch the first episode.
There was a clear desire to see an action show with a female lead.
But this wasn't that kind of show.
By the season finale, the show was struggling to get six million viewers.
It's not cancelled but it's moving over to THE CW.
Again, CBS is not revolutionary -- not even by comparison.
Because not only did they dump SUPERGIRL, they also passed on NANCY DREW.
We honestly don't think there's a CBS show in NANCY DREW.
When ABC cast Pamela Sue Martin in the role back in the seventies, the show aired during the 'family hour' on Sunday nights.
CBS fills that hour with 60 MINUTES.
So where a teen show would have gone on the current schedule is a mystery.
But the show did test well -- not well enough with men, however, for CBS' tastes.
Again, we wouldn't put it on ourselves.
Nancy Drew makes for a wonderful book but without a serious update the character can come off a throw back -- especially the further you get from the first 25 books in the series in their original editions. Nancy gets watered down a lot -- to the point of embarrassment.
So we wouldn't have even spent money on a pilot.
But CBS did.
And got a show that, again, tested well.
But passed on it because they didn't think enough men would watch.
Of course, they aren't the most ignorant network.
That would be ABC.
Bad enough that they aired the tired dope opera BLOOD & OIL (forgetting that any real soap opera needs a major female character), they also aired TO REDEAM A PREDATOR aka THE FAMILY in which one pedophile was the good guy and the other was the bad guy.
Continuing their trend of stupidity, they looked at their romantic comedy CASTLE and decided, in April, to sign another contract with male star Nathan Fillion while deciding not to resign female star Stana Katic. As news filtered out that Fillion would be back without Katic, enthusiasm for a ninth season tanked and ABC was forced to announce that they were cancelling CASTLE.
They could put two pedophiles on the air in 2016 but they couldn't provide you with one show that starred a woman. (Shonda Rhimes' various pot boilers are ensemble shows.)
When will they learn?
The networks have been losing audiences forever.
As Susan Faludi documented in the trailblazing book BACKLASH, they've lost audiences in part because they've run off women.
When will they learn?
Maybe one network has learned a little.
THE CW announced they were renewing all of their shows.
They have no ratings bomb and haven't for some time.
But season after season, they, and other networks, cancel popular shows that aren't popular enough by their standards.
What replaces these shows often pulls in smaller audiences.
It creates a lot of ill will and mistrust.
THE CW is moving towards year round programming and they are making strong decisions based upon that goal.
They're also the only network that's not working overtime to run off female viewers.