Tuesday, January 03, 2023

2022: The year of bad 'documentaries' (Ava and C.I.)

AMERICAN MASTERS, PBS's piss poor series.  

Facts don't matter on the program -- see, for example, "TV: American Forgers and Billie Jean Fraud," "TV: PBS' long con," "TV: American Liars," "TV: Exclusion empowered by The Water Cooler Set," etc. Talent or interest don't really matter either -- as AMERICAN MASTERS demonstrated as the year round down with Groucho and Cavett.  

Are you scratching your head?

You should be.  The focus of the 'documentary' was the alleged friendship between Groucho Marx and Dick Cavett.  Groucho is a legend, part of the Marx brothers who made many classic films (including our favorite DUCK SOUP, but we love them all including LOVE HAPPY) and who was popular as the host of the TV program YOU BET YOUR LIFE.  Dick Cavett was the host of numerous TV talk shows.

They weren't wonderful friends and it's not a good 'documentary.'  Now a good one could easily be made about Groucho himself.  And, truth be told, if you wanted to focus on all of Dick Cavett's inappropriate behavior (which is not limited to sneaking on stage in the middle of a concert to pinch Diana Ross' ass), you could have a riveting documentary about a man who was endlessly praised while repeatedly preying on women.

Instead, you get this garbage.  

And so much that poses as documentaries these days is garbage.  Is that to be the legacy of AMERICAN MASTERS?

Or maybe it will be the never-addressed sexism of the long running series.  The first 200 'documentaries'?  Only 30 focused or co-focused on women.  Only 30. 

Public Broadcasting thought that was appropriate.  Tax payer money funded that sexism -- and it's on going sexism.  Diana Ross can't get an episode nor can Patti Smith, the late Etta James, Carly Simon,  or . . . But Doc Severinsen can and, in fact, did?  

In 2022, we saw a few outlets up their coverage of women.  But it really wasn't women that mattered.

We took on one 'documentary' here about a woman whose art was overrated in real time and who should be forgotten.  That's part of the reason we loathed the broadcast.  Part.  Another?  Well when you're over fifty and you can't come out of the closet, that's sad.  But it's sad and dishonest for filmmakers telling your story to play along with your lie.  Everyone knows she's a lesbian and most thought she would come out in the 90s.  She never has.  How very sad.

Another bad 'documentary'?  SHOWTIME's NOTHING COMPARES.

The world needed that?


It offered nothing new.

The world wanted it?


She's a one hit wonder.  She had a hit with Prince's "Nothing Compares To You" -- a song that The Family did better before she recorded it and that Prince and Rosie Gaines did better after Sinead recorded it.

But then, when you can't sing, you can't sing.  When, to have a 'range,' you have to let your voice sound like you're stripping the gears on a standard-shift car, you don't have a range.

She also couldn't write songs which is why her only hit is "Nothing Compares To You."  In the US, she got a moderate success with that first album (it went gold).  That was only because she was being lumped into a group of women coming up who were doing actual amazing work.  For example?  Tracey Chapman.  Why is that we get these mediocrities like Sinead and others from SHOWTIME but no documentary on Tracey?  

Her second album went platinum.  And it was her last hit album.  Seven years later, the label was desperate to grab some money after O'Connor flopped with two albums in a row, SO FAR . . . THE BEST OF which only became her third flop in a row -- and we weren't even done with the 90s by that point.

Some might see her as a political figure and, if that had been what the documentary wanted to focus on, we would have just rolled out eyes.  But to present her as a musical artist when she's really nothing but a spectacle?  At a time when there are no SHOWTIME documentaries about Tracey Chapman, Natalie Merchant, Liz Phair, Tori Amos, Michelle Ngo, PJ Harvey .  .  .

 The point is truthful documentaries.  And when you're scraping the barrel with Sinead or Doc, no one's being served.  As various 'documentarians' look back on 2022, let's hope that they grasp that and will learn from it.


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