Wednesday, March 16, 2022

TV: What wins out

We like to think we get smarter as a society. There aren't a lot of indicators that we actually do, but we like to think that. We also like to think that excellence is rewarded but that appear to be a baseless belief as well. We realized that over the weekend as we caught up on two series. NETFLIX's THE ANDY WARHOL DIARIES and NBC's THE THING ABOUT PAM.


The documentary actually qualifies as excellence. It does a strong job of presenting a Andy Warhol -- a, not the. He was too complex and a bit of a chameleon. The documentary provides a nice overview of Andy through the decades. It also does a strong job of explaining how he ended up becoming one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Passages are read from his 'diaries' and they're read by Andy; at least, by an artificial intelligence voice Andy. While it might not work well for other deceased celebrities, the dry and emotionless manner in which he spoke is conveyed well by the device.

Jean-Michel Basquiat is a contemporary of Andy's in the 1980s and the documentary does a fine job of covering him. Where it may be flat or fall short is with other artists such as Debbie Harry who speaks on camera early in the documentary. Harry fronted the rock group Blondie and they and her look were part of the pop art Andy's films, also, get less attention than they deserve. And while we know Bianca Jagger -- activist, human rights advocate, ex-wife of The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger -- we're not sure everyone will know her just from her name.

You can also fault the insistence that Andy, in the 1980s, shouldn't be held accountable for staying closeted and for not speaking out against AIDS. We're told by a woman speaking to the camera that, as a Catholic, it is unreasonable to have expected activism from Andy. And that's apparently that.

He died a year short of 60. We're not really sure that that is, indeed, that. He had a name and could have spoken out. He could have raised awareness. That section needed more exploration and not just a fan of Andy's work saying 'no big deal.'

But, again, Andy was a complex person and no single documentary -- not even a six episode one -- is going to be able to cover everything.

What depressed us the most about this excellent documentary was that the series which debuted on Friday has not, thus far, made it into the daily top ten of most watched on NETFLIX. Other very questionable things have made it in -- including a film from 2007. But what we were most appalled by was Tyler Henry.


When he was confined to the E CHANNEL, he was at home in the trash dumpster he belongs. The 26-year-old con artists self-presents as a psychic (he's not) and E has allowed him to run his con on their channel. Now NETFLIX -- a streaming pile of garbage, remember, we were just discussing that -- has decided Tyler needs to be expanded. Again, we like to think we grow smarter as a society but a bad, cheaply made, basic cable show hits NETFLIX and quickly makes it into the top ten.

And this garbage show was in NETFLIX's top ten all weekend long. We believe that there are psychics, sorry. But we also believe that there are con artists. Tyler Henry runs a scam.

And people would rather watch that garbage than a documentary on Andy Warhol, a significant artists in many mediums in the 20th century.

Excellence isn't rewarded. It's certainly not rewarded at the Academy Awards. The only exceptions being Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in a good year. The statues are not handed out to the deserving. Men -- in both male actor categories -- win because Academy members liked the films they were in and because the Academy thinks it makes them look good. That's why there are so few memorable performances among the winners for Best Actor.

Anthony Hopkins for his performance in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a rare win. More often it's pedestrian performances in pedestrian films that the Academy thinks hugging will make them look good.

Actors win Academy awards are winning based upon what Academy members feel about the film they appeared in.

Women win for acting. They have to go all out, most years. While men can be stoic (stiff) onscreen but still win.

Bette Davis, Jane Fonda, women like that have to really deliver. They have to dig deep and serve it up onscreen.

If you doubt it, think about Sally Kirkland. ANNA (1987) was one of the worst films ever. But Sally did deliver in it and she got a Best Actress nomination. You won't catch any actor -- even if he delivers -- from a third-rate, C-picture getting nominated. And actors are rarely asked to deliver any real range when being handed an Academy Award. Think about that when they're handing out Oscars at the end of the month.

And think about the fact that when a woman wins she has delivered. If she wins twice -- for example, Jane Fonda, Bette Davis, Jessica Lange, Hillary Swank, Olivia de Havillind, etc -- then she's really something. That list would include Renée Zellweger

If you doubt that, check out NBC's limited series THE THING ABOUT PAM. The six part series has just started airing but already Renee's delivered excellence. Pam, her character, is a liar and a killer and she's unlike anything Renee's created before. There are no hints of CHICAGO or Bridget Jones or Judy Garland or JERRY MCGUIRE or ME MYSELF AND IRENED. As with her NETFLIX series a few year back (WHAT/IF), Renee's created a brand new character and fully inhabits it.

Josh Duhamel delivers as well. We love Josh so it does our hearts no joy to note that no one will notice Josh in the series. Again, he does an outstanding job; however, Renee is on fire and she steals all the attention as a result. Katy Mixon also delivers but, again, it's Renee's show. She's not eating the scenery, she's not trying to upstage, but she's gone so deep into her character, she holds your attention.

 Renee's delivering art and maybe that can elevate us as a people?  Or maybe the dominant response the series will receive is some sort of prurient, crime-porn fascination?  Again, we like to believe that we grow better as a society -- trends and events don't always bear that out.





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