Tuesday, August 20, 2019

TV: Time for a rebirth?

The latest golden age of TV ended some time ago.  INSTINCT was proof of just how scrape-the-bottom things had gotten so maybe the news last week that CBS had finally cancelled the show might portend a rebirth but we doubt it.  There's still so much garbage wrongly applauded by the Water Cooler Set -- they don't know the damage they do.


Take HBO's SUCCESSION which is billed as a "black comedy" (really?  with that all White cast, that was their word choice) and as "satire" and "comedy-drama" -- HBO has sold the show with those terms.  It's not funny.

"Comedy-drama" might be best because it allows for drama which is all the show is -- bad melodrama.  The only one giving a performance worth applauding is Jeremy Strong.  Everyone else is overacting or barely acting.  The show garnered an Emmy nomination a few weeks back -- for Outstanding Drama Series.  Talk about unworthy.

It's especially sad because the show is trying to send up Rupert Murdoch and HBO already has a series that does that -- TRACEY ULLMAN'S SHOW.  Now in it sixth season, Tracey plays model Jerry Hall and interacts with Rupert and his children.  It's hilarious and she gets her point across in mere minutes while SUCCESSION meanders around for hours without ever arriving anywhere.

It doesn't help that SUCCESSION is yet another single-camera nightmare.

MODERN FAMILY's upcoming season has been announced to be its last.  And it should be.  It will be the show's 11th season.  It's won 22 Emmys.  And it is proof of why single-camera shows grow tired, stale and idiotic.


A studio audience would have expressed misgivings during the filming of some of these episodes.  They would have surely noted how so much -- especially in the last season -- is not funny.  But more to the point, they would have noted that the writers-for-hire didn't know the characters and that the show was insulting the intelligence of its viewers.

Time and again, storylines have set up elements that later episodes have ignored.  There is no one paying attention to continuity.

We'll give you two examples.


Season 9's episode 15 is "Spanks For The Memories."  Poorly written by Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh, the episode revolves around Jay mishearing Gloria on the phone.  She is speaking to a friend about their child Joe and how Joe keeps leaving his toys all over the place, "I'm telling you, it's a disaster in the bedroom. I don't know what to do. It's like he can't remember where things go. Eventually, I get so frustrated that I take care of it myself. Spanking? Well, yeah, I guess we could try that. Actually, now that you mention it, Javier and I tried it a long time ago. It was a game-changer."

Jay thinks Gloria wants them to try spanking in the bedroom.

The entire episode revolves around this.

What's the problem?

Season six, episode eight's "Three Turkeys."  Written by Jeffrey Richman, this is the episode where the family gathers at Jay and Gloria's for Thanksgiving because Jay and Gloria have gone to Mexico -- only Jay and Gloria haven't gone.  They're hiding in the house.  And this is the episode where Mitch and Cam go up to Gloria's closet to get dresses to wear to teach Lily a lesson.  They are being overheard by Jay and Gloria as they talk about Lily.  Gloria and Jay believe that the "she" being talked about is Gloria.

Cam: Maybe it was cute a few years ago, but she's just getting too old for this.

Mitch:  You know what she needs is a good spank on the bottom.

Cam:  No, that's your father's way.

Gloria (to Jay):  You told them about that?

So in season nine, there's all this panic about sexual play in the bedroom over sexual play in the bedroom that's already taken place according to an episode three seasons prior.

Luke becomes Haley.

Season five, episode 11 "One To Grow On."  Jeffrey Richman wrote this episode which finds everyone ending up at Jay and Gloria's where one lie after another has been exposed and it's Haley who fixes everything with lies.  At the end of which, Claire and Phil marvel over their daughter's skill and "Did she learn that from us?"  No, "it's a gift," one that "cannot be taught."

In season eight, episode 17 "Pig Moon Rising," bad writers Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh return for more lies -- and Haley again with parking tickets) to be fixed at Jay and Gloria's only this time by Luke.  At the end, Claire and Phil marvel over Luke's skill

And why recycle (steal) once when you can do it multiple times.

The same "Pig Moon Rising" has Luke getting an e-mail from a college.  He reads it out loud, "Welcome to Arizaon State -- Welcome to Arizona's admissions portal.  We regret to inform you --"  Phil and Claire moan in regret.  Haley, however, just smiles and looks around, declaring, "Well don't leave us in suspense, what did they say?"

Now let's drop back to "Election Day" from season three (episode 19) written by Ben Karlin.  In it, Alex reads, aloud, a letter to Haley from a college she applied to while Haley sits with Claire and Phil on the couch.  "Dear Miss Dunphy, We regret to inform you --"

Alex stops there as Claire hugs Haley in sympathy.

But Haley's confused that Alex hasn't finished reading, "What!  Don't leave me hanging!"

The recycling (theft) goes on and on.  The ignoring storylines and plot points already created does as well.

While we're on writing, let's note that the anti-woman show has had very few women writers in its history.  The season that just ended?  22 episodes.  Only four were written or co-written by women.  If you're not getting how appalling that figure is, let's do a contrast.  Season one of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, which kicked off in 1972, featured five episodes written or co-written by women.  These are appalling figures and they've been appalling season after season.

The single-cam aspect, though, is what buried the show alive and allowed it to stiffen and stop growing. 

Had the show been filmed in front of a live studio audience, they would have known this was a problem and could have fixed it on the spot.  Instead, they just churn out meaningless episodes while everyone wishes the show had ceased production years ago.

The problem with the single-camera 'comedies' is they just aren't funny.  They're like HAZEL and the other bad 'sitcoms' of the 60s that were single-cam or they're like the crap that returned single-cam 'comedies' to prime time, Larry Gelbert's hideous UNITED STATES

Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh's COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK AND CABLE SHOWS found UNITED STATES "tedious, boring and didactic" -- that pretty much summarizes them all.

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