Monday, November 26, 2018

TV: Things to ponder

To watch TV is to constantly ponder.  For example, viewers have made clear that they prefer sitcoms filmed before a live audience but networks continue to indulge lazy producers and actors as well as self-appointed 'hipsters' who really don't care for TV anyway.  And not only is there the issue of low ratings when new episodes are broadcast, there's the issue of syndication.  MODERN FAMILY, the biggest of the single cam sit'coms,' is floundering in syndication while KING OF QUEENS is a hit.  Repeating -- while KING OF QUEENS is a hit.  USA, for example, is praying that REAL COUNTRY takes off.


REAL COUNTRY is the latest singing talent show on television.  Why?  We're not being sarcastic.  Has any winner of these talent shows had a career?  Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.  Jennifer Hudson?  She didn't win the talent contest (she did go on to win an Academy Award).  Clay Aiken?  Hasn't hit the Hot 100 since 2004.  Daughtry?  Don't make us laugh.  The last album sold under 25,000.

REAL COUNTRY, we hoped, might be different.  Somehow AMERICAN IDOL, THE VOICE, etc had missed the mark.   Maybe they were wonderful TV -- we don't think so -- but they didn't live up to their purpose.  BBC's THE  BIG TIME, by contrast, appeared to grasp that they either delivered devastation or success.  In July of 1980, they went with the latter and Sheena Easton went on from THE BIG TIME to 5 US gold albums and one platinum one, and she had 15 US top forty hits (11 UK top forty hits).  To provide some context, sixties singer Leslie Gore had 10 top forty hits, Helen Reddy had 14 top forty hits and Natalie Cole had 12 top forty hits.  So for a pop career, Sheena Easton more than lived up to her promise.

But maybe the problem with the TV shows was crossover?  We'd been told that.  Too many were trying to have too many varied hits.  We didn't buy that nonsense.  We felt the issue was clear -- and Clive Davis knows this himself, listen to him talk about Taylor Dane -- pop singers have short careers.  Yes, there are legends like Diana Ross but those are the exceptions.  Pop singers have short careers because they are dependent upon others for songs.  And once they have a hit or two -- Taylor Dane, Clive's pointing his finger at you -- they don't want to listen.  They think they know hits -- even though they've never written one -- and they won't listen to the label.  After refusing to listen to the label, they are then surprised when the album comes out and the label doesn't want to promote them.

For us, the problem with these shows was that they were signing competitions in a time when artists were writing their own songs.  And we argued that repeatedly, have songwriters competing.  But we could be wrong.  So our hopes with REAL COUNTRY was that this would be something very different since the genre was different.  They weren't trying to find a pop singer, they were trying to crown a country singer.  Maybe it would be more authentic?

So far, it's not.   But USA is happy with the ratings.  And they're happy to send MODERN FAMILY packing from the schedule.  They think this is going to be a hit and are even more excited about their next reality show: TEMPTATION ISLAND.  Yes, they are going to try to reboot that cesspool that once aired on FOX.

Why?  Again, TV gives you so much to ponder.

Like Norman Lear.  Never the hero he wanted to be (or thought he was), he has to live with the fact that his most embarrassing moment was filmed back in 1979 and still exists for all to see.  GET TV re-broadcast it on Thanksgiving Day.  It was the 200th episode 'celebration' of the sitcom that made his fortune.   There was Lear, hosting bad clips from the overrated show and offering 'insight' -- or what he tried to pass off as insight.  No, ALL IN THE FAMILY was not Moliere and didn't need to be compared to it.  Nor did hosting the clip fest require him to dress it up with quotes from VOLTAIRE.  But he did that and so much more.  It only made the shallow series come off even more pathetic.

Lear was attempting to insist that this was a liberal show and this was that and blah blah blah.  It was a deeply conservative show and Archie Bunker was a racist.  He was also a homophobe and after hearing the f-word over and over in just one single clip. let's not pretend that Archie advanced a damn thing regarding equality.  And that's before you grasp how poorly women were treated on the show.

ALL IN THE FAMILY is an embarrassment.  Many viewers watched just to hear what racist thing the lead character would say.  They chuckled over him and embraced him.  And in the 1979 special, Norman Lear tried to dress the program up with high brow citations -- that had nothing to do with his gutter TV show -- and pretend that art was created.  It was not.  And that's why the show has had no real syndication life.  It pushed racism in its day and got away with it by pretending otherwise.  No one's buying that crap today.

No one's buying Channing Dungey's crap.  She was fired two Fridays ago.  We ignored it for two reasons last week -- (a) we hoped she'd be able to fool her family at Thanksgiving and (b) we were told to wait by ABC execs who were afraid, if we covered it, Channing might benefit from some wave of sympathy.  We said there would be no wave of sympathy and there wasn't.

We told you it was coming.  We told you she was screaming at assistants and people below her.  We told you the vice presidents and other brass hated her.  We told you she'd be out the door.

Her crime remains ROSEANNE.  You do not cancel the number one show on your network (the number one show on any network, in fact).  You don't do that.  You are the president of the network.  Your job is to salvage.

But Channing didn't want to.  She told Roseanne not to do any press, she said ABC was taking care of it.  She lied.  She had already decided to cancel the show and she didn't want Roseanne Barr talking.

Channing's job was to salvage the situation.  ABC had done that before.  There was Roseanne's performance of the national anthem -- which was attacked by many including the hideous George H.W. Bush.  ABC didn't dump her.

She brought in viewers.  She was the star of the number one show.  You didn't like her Tweet?  Fine.  Tell her to get off Twitter.  You don't cancel the show.

That's not what you do as the president of ABC.

You have to answer to the board, you have to answer to the stockholders.

Thanks to Roseanne's ROSEANNE, ABC had the number one show on TV and this was going to be used to try to build a winning schedule for the low rated network.

Channing was dead the minute she fired Roseanne.  It was only a matter of time.  As we reported here, the fall season was one disaster after another for her.  THE CONNERS?  Each episode has dropped in ratings just as we said it would.  And it started off with half the audience ROSEANNE had.  It is a bomb.  Sarah Gilbert is trash.  We're talking about her image.  She better pray they keep her on the CBS show because no one wants to work with her now.  For years, while she was in the closet, ABC wanted to fire her for being a lesbian.  But Roseanne Barr stood by her.  One Tweet scandal and Sarah is trashing Roseanne and attacking her?

Not only did Channing fail with watered-down ROSEANNE (THE CONNERS), she failed with TGIF -- and her programming also showed she was both stupid and tasteless.  TGIF is about families gathering to watch shows about families.  It's not about shoving your two lowest rated sitcoms -- that no one's wanted to watch in any of the years they'd already been on -- over to Friday and calling it TGIF.

Meanwhile, despite all the promotion of CBS' MURPHY BROWN, it was FOX's LAST MAN STANDING that was the big comedy hit of the fall.  "That's CBS and FOX!" Yes, but FOX wouldn't have LAST MAN STANDING if Channing hadn't cancelled it to begin with.  When cancelled, it was ABC's top scripted show.  But Channing didn't like the show's politics, so she cancelled it.  As FOX proved this fall, Americans love LAST MAN STANDING.  And Channing remains the reason that they love it on another network.

On ABC?  She gave them THE ROOKIE -- a series so bad it can't even match the ratings for the final season of CASTLE.  Someone should have seen the problem with building a show around Nathan Fillion just on the low ratings CASTLE had in the final season.  But that would have required someone with a brain.  Channing had no brain which is how she not only built a show around Nathan, she also ended up spending more money promoting the dog of show than any other ABC fall program.

Around the time the industry bibles -- always keen to play nice -- began to note the problems Channing had created for ABC, she announced she was adding an episode to the order of THE CONNERS and episode orders to THE ROOKIE.  This did what she had hoped, distracted the slow minded industry 'reporters,' but it only angered the board.  On what basis did she order another episode of THE CONNERS?  The board was furious -- not just because of the low ratings but also because of the huge cost in producing the series.

She spent a lot of money on THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT as well and that didn't work out very well either.  The non-funny show (filmed with no live audience, of course) started out with low ratings and went on to crater with each episode broadcast.  On any other network, it would be cancelled.  But this is the network that kept SPEECHLESS on the air for three seasons now (a show that pulls in approximately two million viewers -- about the same number that watches a college basketball game on ESPN).

Channing is a disaster.  She failed and will be remembered as a failure.  No one's lining up to hire her.  She's been floating rumors that Shonda Rhimes is interested in having Channing work for her at NETFLIX.  Shonda may be forgiving but those working with Shonda aren't and one of them told us that they would love -- love -- to have Channing work with them, "We need someone to fetch our water bottles."  Meaning, her enemies would love for her to come in, entry-level now that she has no power, and work because they've got a lot of hostility they'd like to work through.

Meanwhile, ABC suits are dancing with joy.  Channing was a backstabber and she couldn't program.  They're hoping that a new day has arrived and that ABC might finally stop being seen as the failure in the ABC-DISNEY-WARNER-ET AL mix.  They note that talent is interested in ABC again.  See, you don't fire Roseanne Barr.  Not for a Tweet.  When you do that, you scare talent.  Talent is told they have to deliver and they hope they can.  But when they're told that and they see Roseanne deliver (more than deliver!) and get fired?  It makes them wonder whether if they had, for example, a DUI in the middle of filming, would ABC kick them to the curb?  Would the network stand by them or suddenly turn on them?  Channing destroyed herself but, while she remained at ABC, she also destroyed the network.

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