Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best And Worst Of Saturday Mornings Pt. 2

Trips In The WayBack Machine # 2-A

The Best Of Saturday Morning Programing
Continued from The Worst List

Last time was the worst of Saturday mornings, this time, its the best, so with out any large explanation, where we go, right into the 10 best things to ever air on a Saturday morning. I should state though, I keep stating Saturday morning for a reason, I figured it best to exclude first run syndication stuff like Transformers, G.I Joe and the like because if i didn't, I wouldn't give the true feeling of Saturday Morning, and I feel I'd be cheating all of you, and sadly though, as it omits alot of the awesomeness of the 1980s weekday afternoon fodder, it also negates shows like Johnny Quest, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Space Ghost and many others which were originally aired in primetime slots.

Ok with that said, here we go....

The 10 Best Saturday Morning Programs Of All Time:

10. Adventures of the Gummi Bears

Let it be known far and wide, that this one would have made the top 10 simply for the theme song alone, but believe me, there was alot more to it then just an incredible and infectious theme song. Gummi Bears was proof that when Disney thought outside of its box, they could not only create something that was visually beautiful and strikingly pleasing in traditional Disney animation style, but also something with a rich, deep and intricate plot. Gummi Bears was an experiment of sorts, an experiment in breaking from the Disney chain and starting new ground for the company, a test that would later see not only a long and beloved run for The Gummi Bears, but would later give birth to Disney greats such as Ducktales, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, Tailspin, the often forgotten but amazing Darkwing Duck, and ofcourse, Gargoyles, the greatest Disney animation ever created. Yes, even better then Kim Possible. But Gummi Bears on its own was an incredibly good story, sort of midevil steampunk in a way with an incredible backstory that was always being added too, and not once in the shows run had it felt tired and used up after a short time, which happens alot in saturday morning programs, oddly though, Disney has done very little in terms of marketing merchandise, even to this day, its kind of like Gargoyles in that respect, insanely beloved, but never really acknowledged or shown love by the parent company for some unknown reason. Shame really.

9. Mission Magic

Made as a spin off of sorts to the horrible cartoon about the kids from The Brady Bunch as a pop band with magic powers, Mission Magic starred then unknown in America Rick Springfield, who was sort of a teen heartthrob in his native australia in 1973, but it really had nothing to do with The Brady Kids other then that it was musical and solved mysteries with magic. However unlike The Brady Kids, Mission Magic stands out for many reasons, for the time period the animation was incredible, in the time when Hanna Barbara was pushing the music and animation drug trip angle with almost every cartoon they made, Mission Magic took more of a Yellow Submarine style approach to it, high end art with the perfect colors for the mood and expression, it was at times incredibly beautiful to look at, even if you didn't care much for the show itself, plus, alot of the songs are pretty pleasing to the ears and are a joy to listen too for a look at. Mission Magic, though a total drug trip of sorts based around Miss Tickle, a magical teacher who's classroom you entered through a drawn door in a magic chalkboard, and could also enter our world where she would use her magic to teach through adventures of various kinds. And if you are thinking that sounds familiar, or if Miss Tickle looks familiar to you, then you're right, she does, the show was remade in the 1990s as The Magic Schoolbus, with Lily Tomlin as Miss Frizzle, an almost exact copy of Miss Tickle in personality and looks, just with a magical schoolbus instead of being inside of being inside a door drawn in the land of chalk drawings. If you know where to look, you can find the series on DVD, its really worth a watch if you'd like a nice trip back in time to a simpler time, long before Rick Springfield wished that he had Jessie's Girl or took that job at General Hospital.

8. The Jackson Five

For whatever reason in the 1970s, every single cartoon was about a band, normally a band that solved mysteries or were superheroes on the side, so the logical step was to take a band that the kids love, and give them a cartoon where they basically goof about and have fun. The Jackson Five wasn't really about anything other then the band getting into wacky and goofy adventures that lead to comical outcomes and mixed in with musical numbers sung by the band. Like most other shows of its kind, the real band voiced their own characters, and had a hand in designing the look and movements and the like. The Jackson Five to this day is harolded as possibly one of the greatest cartoons of its era because it really was a hit with everyone, it didn't matter where you were from, you knew who the Jackson Five was, and you knew they had a cartoon, it successes where dreck like Rickity Rocket and Street Frogs fail horribly, which given the political and racial climate in the world at the time, was an incredible feat, Micheal himself said many times that the most fun he had was becoming an animated character. The show has now gained a giant cult following, specially after Micheal's death when two whole new generations were introduced to this lovely masterpiece. If you've not seen it, go have a look. :)

7. Sigmund And The Sea Monsters

When I was a child, my parents sat me down infront of a television on a sunday morning, turned the dial, this was back when televisions had dials, to a local indie channel that went on to become one of the flagship FOX stations, and I remember them telling me to watch with them. For the next few hours my eyes were opened to the world of Sid and Marty Krofft, two brothers who were completely insane, but were able to make insanity profitable. The first of the shows they aired, and my personal favorite, was Sigmund And The Sea Monsters, starring the great Billy Barty as Sigmund, the cutest sea monster there has ever been. Sigmund was not interested in scaring humans like his family, Sigmund would rather be friendly and enjoy life, he saw no point is scaring humans just because "its what sea monsters do", Sigmund wanted to be is own Sea Monster, a kinder gentler Sea Monster who could suck at Volleyball and you wouldn't be scared to tell him, because he won't rip your arms off and beat you with them, because thats not how Sigmund rolled. This was my gateway drug into the trippy world of The Kroffts, and to this day, I still love it so very much. But anyone thats seen my Sigmund Action Figure, which sits next to my H.R Pufnstuf action figure can tell you I'm still a fan. Oddly though, I couldn't find video of "You better run you better hide" the second season ending theme.

6. Spiderman (1967)

I wanted to add atleast one superhero cartoon here, and though I could do many great ones that have been made over the years, I picked this one simply because it was marvel's first saturday morning attempt, and their second cartoon attempt over all, second to the super rare but also insanely cult 1966 Marvel Superheroes Show that aired weekday afternoons in a very small market, back when you could air shows in very small markets and be ok with it. Spiderman kind of sums up everything that would eventually follow with comic book based cartoons until the 1990s when everything became serious and no fun, Spiderman was as funny as it was serious, and it truly gave you the feel of the character, Spiderman is funny and serious at the same time, and actually enjoys his work, much like any of us would if we were suddenly given powers like this, plus the theme song, that lovely lovely theme song that just drips awesome all over the place. To farther explain my point of why this show was so great and worthy of a spot in the best, I'll give you this clip, possibly one of the greatest bits of 1960s animation ever...

Yeah thats some good old fashion awesome... I could watch that all day long.

5. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales

I have said this many times, and I will continue to say it till the day that I die, everything that I learned about science, I learned from Phineas J. Whoopee and his marvelous 3.D.B.B (Three Dimensional Black Board), and it was all thanks to this amazing bit of early animation that still stacks up today among the all time greatest. When they talk of iconic television, they talk of characters that years later have become part of our every day culture, the things they say, the stuff they've done, their names, all of it, all iconic, Tennessee Tuxedo is sort of a textbook case of ironically iconic animation, its the goofy story of a penguin named Tennessee Tuxedo and his friend, the rare south pole walrus Chumley, they live in a zoo and as they strive to be seen on the same level as human beings, always doing some scheme or another that would get them recognition from humankind, the whole time annoying the hell out of Zoo director Stanley Livingston, and getting help from every mad scientist's idol, Prof. Phineas J. Whoopee, owner and creator of The 3D Blackboard or 3DBB, and sometimes they're either helped, or hindered by the other animals in the zoo as well. Its goofball comedy before goofball comedy had to be forced, like other shows from its time, Rocky and Bullwinkle, King Leonardo And His Short Subjects, all pretty much just out and out goofy comedy and various secondary characters, Tooter Turtle, The Hunter, and afew others are just as iconic as the main characters. Its pretty amazing really. If you've never been lucky enough to have seen this show, get to youtube yo.

4. Clutch Cargo

Is that not the coolest, wackest, most insane drug trip of a limited animation cartoon ever? Seriously this show is a god damn trip though time that you just don't wanna ever forget! Its some stone cold freak nasty yo. The concept of Clutch Cargo is basically Johnny Quest, but with out Benton Quest, so its just Clutch Cargo, middle aged muscular rugged adventurer, who lives alone with a young boy and a dog, and how they go on adventures all over the world and even the moon, its sort of like TinTin but with the racism taken out and a sort of creepy nambla feel to it all. Thats pretty much all there was to Clutch Cargo really, its a great little show that actually lasted almost 40 years in syndication, spanning from the late 1950s into the 1990s in some small television markets in the united states. Its more renounced for its insanely weird animation style, where the characters are more limited animation then Speed Racer, and the mouths are, well, the mouths are real mouths placed into the animation, a concept used many times over in various other forms of comedy based on obscure and silly concepts of filming and animation. Its not hard to find Clutch if you're looking for a good trip down trippy classic lane, the dvds aren't hard to come by and aren't expensive, get on that yo.

3. Fat Albert

Long ago in a time called the 1970s, long before he started to play a white man with 15 grandfathers that were all jazz legends, Bill Cosby had a whole other career, you see back then, Bill Cosby was funny, I mean really funny, but as I said, he eventually went on to play an old white guy in everything he did from the 80s onward. But in the 1970s, he created his greatest creation, even greater then The Chicken Heart, there was everyone's favorite overweight kid, Fat Albert. Fat Albert was an early attempt to make cartoons both fun and educational, an idea that went through out the series, goofball antics style comedy where in Bill Cosby would address the kids and tell them what the lesson learned by what they did that day was, normally it wasn't anything all that super important, just being nice to each other and stuff, but still it was memorable enough to stick with you. They also infused music and the message that as long as you could imagine something, it could be, oh and also, don't under estimate the fatties, cuz Fat Albert had skills for a kid that probably would lose his foot to diabetes by the final year of high school, and his friends have one heck of a way of working out the creation of instruments and stuff out of what they found in the junkyard, it was sort of like the Jackson Five with out it being about a real band in that respect, and the kids they just ate it up, they still do. Fat Albert has remained current and relevant for somewhere around 35 years, even if you exclude that horrible live action film from 2004, which really is best left forgotten, or burned in a fire, and then stabbed in the eye with a rusty fork. But if you would like a nice little bit of classic americana, then honestly, Fat Albert is it.

2. The Bugaloos

Long ago, in 1970 two brothers name Sid and Marty Krofft riding high off their monster pop culture creation H.R Puffstuf decided to see if lightening could strike twice, and taking a cue from the rise of teen idols in pop music among the non-woodstock set, decided to create their own multimedia crossover band, having made The Banana Splits for Hanna Barbara just before their own creation of the iconic Puffnstuf, and seeing how much the Splits were bringing in not only as a show, but as a legitimate band, no really if you ever get a chance check out a Banana Splits album "Till Tomorrow" is a forgotten jewel if I ever heard one, Sid and Marty wanted to get in on that sweet sweet cash, so they set about making up a band that could be on tv, and that kids could wanna go out to see a live show by. I'm sure you've seen this pattern repeat many a time on both this best and worst list, and there are tons of hits and misses in this area, but well, this had to be possibly the best. Deciding to take a page from The Monkee's playbook and playing on the Davey Jones popularity, Sid and Marty went about obtaining the services of a group of British teens who were young, easy to look at, and able to vocally harmonize convincingly enough to sell that they're a pop band, once that was done, they created The Bugaloos, a group of insects who are a pop band among the insects of the world, each episode focused on The Bugaloos, sometimes driving around in their odd as hell looking dunebuggy (I guess everyone in the 1970s drove dunebuggies everywhere from what shows like this and Hanna Barbara's stuff show), sometimes with their friend Sparky The Firefly, played by brilliant midget actor Billie Barty, who'd go on to be in every other Krofft creation sense, including starring as Sigmund The Sea Monster. And the whole time they'd be being thwarted by Benita Bizarre, played by the legend of the stage and screen Martha Raye, near the end of her life and career. The show was basically Josie And The Pussycats (both regular, and in space) meets A Bugs Life, and for all of its goofy surrealist offbeat humor, which was standard issue for Krofft Brothers work, The Bugaloos remains one of their most beloved and most popular, some could argue its just as popular as H.R PuffnStuf and Sigmund, their two most well known works. I would also note I put this show on the list over Puffnstuf simply because I've always found the whimsy of saturday morning was how you had shows like this, that were created with a stage show to follow in mind from the very start, where as shows like Puffnstuf had them tacked on later. Oh and for those wondering, if I was a Bugaloo, I'd be called Shadow and I'd be a Tarantula Hawk Wasp with dark wings, and I'd be a DJ or front a metal band.

1. The Wacky Races

Every now and then a company will strike gold, and not just gold as in one character or a show that has a timeless following, sometimes they'll strike gold with a show that will in itself become an iconic and beloved series, that will also spin off and serve as a prototype for many other shows to come. And for Saturday Morning Kings William Hanna and Joe Barbara, their first gold strike of what would become many, was a show called The Wacky Races, which not only created some of the most memoriable moments in Hanna Barbara's history, but would be the launching pad for classic characters either by name or formed from characters on the show, it would also lead to the genre of cartoons where you team up known and unknown characters and set them off on a task, you'd find it again in Laugh-a-lympics and Yogi's Space Race most notedly, given that most have forgotten the short lived Yogi's Treasure Hunt and Gumball 500 which to date were the last of the "Team up toons". Wacky Races was pretty simple in concept, a group of 11 cars do a cannonball run style wacky race or another, the whole time out smarting and pulling tricks on each other, as well as adding in jokes to what the narrator's saying, its all pretty goofy and silly, but thats what matters when you talk of the things that air in the saturday morning genres. Plus the show is important for afew reasons, all the cast when onto become someone else, or fame in their own right, Penelope Pitstop, The Ant Hill Mob and Dick Dastardly and Muttley all started out in The Wacky Races, and those The Ant Hill Mob and Penelope Pitstop, with afew alterations and change of the Bulletproof Bomb to Chuggaboom, would go on to be in their own brilliant series with the Paul Lynde voiced Hooded Claw, Dick Dastardly and Muttley would go on to have in their own right one of the most memorable shows of Hanna Barabara's library as well as become their most popular villains. The rest of the cast would be prototypes for others; The Slag Brothers would go on to be the design used for Captain Cavemen, The Gruesome Twosome would go onto Laugh-a-lympics, Professor Pat Pending would be Hanna Barbara's design for Prof. Keenbean on Richie Rich, and the others would show up now and then. What makes this show some memorable though is that for over 40 years now, its been loved and homaged many times over in various tv shows, you can find references even in today's modern cartoons, its pretty great really, and if you haven't seen it, you really should, you won't regret it.

well thats my list.... I hope you enjoy both halves of it...



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Best And Worst Of Saturday Mornings Pt. 1

Trips In The WayBack Machine # 2

The Best And Worst Of Saturday Morning Programing:
When They Were Good, They Were Amazing
But When They Were Bad, They Were Rickety Rocket.

For so many of us, the memories of our youth is a giant hodgepodge of spending many a saturday morning infront of the television with some cereal or whatever you could eat in the living room infront of the tv with out making a mess, there isn't a person over the age of 25 that doesn't have incredible memories of this, long before cartoons were relegated to basic cable, which then gave up and just decided to loop stuff they could get cheaply, or made inhouse that didn't really get ratings anywhere else, saturday mornings weren't always a wasteland, which is something I feel that kids today got cheated out of understanding. And sense i'm feeling abit like taking a trip down memory lane, I figured I'd spend alittle time having a look and a laugh at the best and worst of saturday mornings past, after all, whats the point of remembering if you can't have abit of a laugh right?

Alrighty, so lets get down to it... worst first, then the best...

The 10 Worst Saturday Morning Programs Of All Time:

10. Jabberjaw

Just think, the title sequence was actually the least painful part of this show. No really, it was. The basic thought process behind Jabberjaw's creation; Step One: Smoke ALOT of weed. Step Two: Watch The Three Stooges with Frank Welker while he does his horrible Curly Howard impression. Step Three: Watch Scooby Doo. Step Four: Watch Jaws. Step Five: Smoke even MORE weed. Step Six: Watch an episode of The Marvel Superheros Show from 1966 featuring Namor The Submariner. Step Seven: Smoke even still more weed. Step Eight: Make it all fit together somehow in a lose and not really all that interesting plot, and then make the group a band. Step Nine: Sit in your office at Hanna Barbara Studios, look in a mirror and go "Oh Quincy Magoo, you've done it again.." as you count your thousands, because in the 1970s, thousands were alot of money. See, this show really is horrible on its own, but when you filter in the fact that it became worse because it was the first time Hanna Barbara retreated the Scooby Doo plot and concept, and one of the few other times it would be successful. And seriously, don't kid yourselves, Speed Buggy, was not at all successful. But he does make a good segway to my next offender...

9. Wonderbug

Ok so, here is how this show came to be; one day Sid and Marty Krofft were sitting in their failed Atlanta Theme Park that would eventually become the main office for CNN, they were making monsters out of foam rubber and taking alot of PCP, when Sid looked at Marty and said "hey bro, lets rip off Speed Buggy, but make it live action, and have lots of singing.." and Marty goes "Oh Quincy Magoo, you've done it again.." and then they sat there in their failed theme park and counted their thousands while doing pcp, because in the 1970s thousands were alot of money and pcp was sold over the counter as a weight loss drug. A sad note though about Wonderbug, its star John-Anthony Bailey, who some would know as obscure Happy Days character Sticks the drummer, and possibly the only black guy in Wisconson, fell pretty hard after his run on this show and on happy days ended, he ended up doing porn movies in the hight of the late 70s porn boom and even lost all his money doing that, he died in a poor house of a kidney infection just afew years ago. So remember kiddies, sometimes, worse things can happen then hanging out with a talking magic dunebuggy. Also another neat fact, Megas XLR was found the same way Wonderbug was.

8. The Kids Super Power Hour (with Shazam!)

In The 1970s it was pretty common place to mix live action and animation, it was sort of a weird hope that it could be marketable as both a television show and a stage show, much like The Brady Kids were, well actually just about everything the Krofft Studio made really was marketed as live action stage and television honestly. But still, it made them ALOT of money in the 70s, and alot of other companies wanted to rake in some of that sweet cash, as well as those sweet 1970s milfs, but thats a story for another time. Anyway, one of the many failed attempts at this would be a show called The Kids Super Power Hour, where they would mash the at the time hit cartoon Shazam! with a horrible offbeat comedy series called Hero High, about a high school for heroes and the like. It was kind of like the X-Men but with 400% more suck and fail added to it. And because NBC have never really had a clue what they were doing, they really only gave Shazam, the show kids wanted to watch, about 12 minutes of the show, the rest of the "power hour" was made up of animated shorts or the even worse live action skits and musical numbers done by the cast of Hero High, with spliced in stock footage of kids from teir pilot episode and then never filmed with another audience again. Seriously, weak sauce.

Oh and just for added horror, try and see how much you can sit through of this...

And with that, I become the greatest bastard of all time... now be honest, I sat through 4 minutes of it... how about you?

7. Lassie's Rescue Rangers

I guess at one point in time, Lassie got bored of saving that stupid kid she was raising because his parents were to ashamed of his retardedness, and decided to go into business for herself, forming the Rescue Rangers, a group of humans and animals dedicated to saving the environment from badly drawn people and badly drawn wildlife thats decided to rise up and rage against man for some reason or another. It was alot like Sealab 2020, where they went for a super serious and education about the world around you tone over comedy, until the final moments of the show which would normally end in a laugh, much like with this show, but it would also end with alot of barking. Honestly I'll never understand what the fixation the world has with Lassie is, I really won't. Even though Rex The Wonder Dog would have made a better cartoon.. I mean he fought Tyrannosaurus Rexes and vaguely octopus looking things called octopuses, what did Lassie ever do? Watch Timmy fall down that old well for the 50th time? Yeah real heroic there. Fun fact though, After Lassie went out of business, mostly because dogs aren't good with money or power delegation, and finding herself at that point in her life were it was either sell her business and likeness or end up doing those "peanut butter movies" we all heard that Snowy from TinTin had to do near the end of his life, not wanting to do that, Lassie sold the Rescue Rangers company to Chip and Dale, who, got their money to buy from investing with Scrooge McDuck, because, well, everyone knows Scottish ducks are good with money, they make it by the moneybin load after all. Chip and Dale would go on to rebrand the company, and make it much more successful.

6. Street Frogs

This is what happens when Jessie Jackson bitches that there isn't anything in american cartoons aimed only at the black community. No, seriously, I'm not kidding. So seriously, thanks alot Jessie. Street Frogs was one of those shows that seemed innocent enough when you're a child that you don't notice that the writing is so horrible and by people that have no idea of the subject matter they're dealing with that when you see it years later, you realize how offensive it was, its sort of the Amos and Andy of 1980s cartoons, much like how The Cosby Show was the Amos and Andy of 1980s prime time programing, ok well really anything where that Cosby guy gets to go around in blackface is the Amos and Andy of that time period, but thats for another time. Street Frogs tried to bring the at the time young musical form of hip hop and its culture into the mainstream, the problem was, there really wasn't anyone that knew the culture old enough to actually be a writer on the staff, so you basically have a bunch of middle aged white jewish guys who got booted off working on shows like Maninal and Automan for not making them suck enough, writing about rapping frogs that really aren't living very hip hop like lives. Its more like 1950s kids dressed in tracksuits and vaglely attempting to rap. Seriously, this was just horrible. Oddly though, it was very popular in france, no seriously, it was released on dvd there and everything. Go figure, the french like unintentional racism.

5. The Funky Phantom

Ok, seriously, what in the FUCK just happened? What was that? I have no idea what the hell is going on, I've watched this thing through 5 times before writing this out and I have NO IDEA what is going on. So, these kids bought and repainted Speed Buggy the colors of the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, and broke into an abandoned house during a rainstorm, and thought "hey, lets set the clock to the right time" and that somehow triggers a homosexual ghost and his ghost cat both dressed like its 1776 to pop out and become their friends? ... Huh? Isn't that also how The Big Bad Beatleborgs started? Seriously, I have no idea at all whats going on here, and the show itself, WAY more confusing then the intro, I mean this shit is light compared to what actually went on in the show. It seriously just leaves me confused and wishing for the next stop on the USA Cartoon Express, because really, this is some drugged out Hanna Barbara stuff right here. And not in the fun way.

4. Partridge Family 2200 A.D.

Once you get past the projectile vomiting caused by remembering the Partridge Family, or if you're a girl from the 70s, the same of thinking one or more of them were cute, you'll notice something, does all of this look familiar? Because it should, this show was intended originally to be a show about Judy and Elroy Jetson, Judy would be working as a reporter, and Elroy would be in his third year of high school and would be the Jetson's answer to that horrible show Pebbles and Bam Bam had as teenagers, but for some odd reason, that when asked neither William Hanna or Joe Barbara could explain, they changed the concept at the very last second to be The Partridge Family, in the future, where they're still singing shitty pop songs, but now have a robot dog, and a creepy textile colored jetson's car. You know, because thats totally logical for them to do and have, almost as logical as believing that fad pop music from the 1970s would still be popular in 2200 AD. Because, you know, thats totally possible.... my head hurts, I really hope this show hasn't given me a tumor... Honestly, of all the Scooby Doo clone shows, this was possibly the worst, worse then Jabberjaw, yes, much worse, worse then The CB Bears even. Oh yeah, I went there. I went The hell out of there.

3. Rickety Rocket

Jesus Christ surfing ontop of a jet fueled monkey driven rocket car being driven across the yukka flats, did you really have to give the spaceship big lips? REALLY? REALLY? Sigh... I get that Ruby Spears animation wanted to take the ever popular Fat Albert, mix it with Scooby Doo and The Jetsons, but my god, really? Did they have to make it this? REALLY? Remember what I was saying earlier about how middle aged white guys shouldn't try to write shows aimed at inner city kids that try to be relative to what they know? Yeah see, this is another example. Not sense the 1930s have I seen such a racist depiction in drawn form, and thats saying something because I've read TinTin comics. This sickens me so much I can't even look at it for more then afew seconds with out feeling the need to donate to a worthy inner city charity, or maybe watch The Whiz as a way of saying I'm sorry.

There is a tie for the second worst, so here we go..

2-B. Beverly Hills Teens

Now, don't let the delisiously 1980s theme song fool you, this show is basically Rickie Rich meets Beverly Hills 90210 about 5 years (I think) before everyone knew the zip code 90210 was for Beverly Hills. This was basically The Archies meets Richie Rich, well The Archies before that horrible "Archie's Weird Mysteries" show ruined the Riverdale gang from being relevant to kids, much the way Yo Yogi ruined Yogi Bear from ever being relevant again in a way that horrible 2010 movie never could, but thats something for another time. Each episode of Beverly Hills Teens was basically a Richie Rich style plot, someone using their insanely large wealth to do some insane thing or another that we all wish we could do ourselves, as apposed to like solving world hunger or taking some under privileged kids to an amusement park or something. Something stupid would happen, and the group, which has one token stereotype they could think of for teenagers, would need to each use their unique talents to help get their friend out of trouble, because, you know, the best way to get a kid out of trouble with a international jewel smugglers trying to steal some jewel they've recently been given as a "love me because of my money because I can't make emotional connections" present from their parents, is to have help from a giant haired rock girl and a nerd that built himself a robot girlfriend. Add to the fact it was later repackaged for weekday afternoons and paired with the just as horrible James Bond Jr. about the nephew of british super spy James Bond. And yes, that was as bad as this one was, just with less of a catchy theme song.

2-A. Rubik The Amazing Cube

Somewhere in the early 1980s, in that month that Menudo was sort of almost cool for a week, someone had the brilliant idea to take the massive craze that was the Rubik's Cube, and make a horrible cartoon that would haunt the nightmares of a generation as a vaguely remembered nightmare of horrific short bits of images and a hauntingly creepy voice that sounded like 10,000 angel babies singing as their murdered souls spiral down into hell for all of time. Kind of alot like Menudo actually. Now why someone would ever think making a magic rubik's cube was a good idea, I have no real idea, it doesn't really make sense, why would children like a show about a fad puzzle game aimed at adults? Seriously, unless the real cube magically became, in my friend Rose's words "something that looked like a smurf fucked a rubik's cube" after you solved it, and granted wishes while annoyingly trying to be your friend, sort of like a furby, but even more horrific, if thats even possible. Rubik, for all of its wrong and horrible nightmare fuel imagery, Rubik teaches us afew lessons; 1.) Kids don't like puzzles made for adults created by a genius as a super hard to solve puzzle, 2.) It doesn't matter what you are trying to market, a shitty cartoon is a shitty cartoon, and 3.) Corperate greed was the biggest drug of the 1980s, even bigger then cocaine.

1. Casper The Friendly Ghost

Am I really the only one that was bothered by the fact HE'S THE GHOST OF A DEAD CHILD? Seriously what in the hell is wrong with the world? GHOSTS DON'T HAVE GHOST CHILDREN THATS NOT HOW BEING A GHOST WORKS! Casper had to be a child who died in some way that would leave him here on earth forever, where his only family is a 10 year old Hitler ghost and his three uncles who rode around on a horse called Nightmare, and I guess you could consider Wendy his girlfriend, but that'd make Wendy the world's youngest necrophiliac. Seriously, for all of this to happen, added to the fact that Casper can NEVER find friends, all points the fact he had to be a dickhead of a child in life. Which makes me wonder if maybe he's the ghost of a murdered child. Which kind of supports my idea that Casper actually is the ghost of Richie Rich. Mostly because you have never seen them together, and they look almost exactly alike, plus each of their shows followed the same plot basically, Casper would make a friend, they'd for some reason not notice he's a ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ghoooooooooooooost til something goes through him, and they'd run off and leave him emosad. Richie Rich was kinda the same but Professor Keenbean's invention to make his friend's life better would just end up ruining it instead. But still, Casper is a murdered child's ghost, who on earth would find that worth showing to our children, or to anyone at all really? Its sickening.

I'll post Part 2, which is the best in Saturday Morning Programing either later today or tomorrow...



Friday, December 17, 2010

Fixing American Television 2.0

Wrote this alittle over a year and a half ago, you can find it here in its original form, and added to it just recently, I feel the points from the first round were still very valid, so no need to rewrite or change, simply added two more points...

Fixing American Television 2.0:
Returning American Television From The Waistland Its Become

There seems to be a misunderstanding among the people of hollywood's boardrooms, well to be fair there are many, but the one that stands out the most is that they believe that given other countries are literally shoveling them truckloads of American dollars to air their programing internationally, they feel we must be the best at producing television. They assume that because we pioneered and innovated so much in the field, and that our programing becomes “international hits” more often then not, they believe that what they are doing, and what they are producing is excellent, quality programs. When in truth, when compared to programing from around the world, in content, production, quality of acting and writing, things like that, American television most of the time falls short of the mark, and in more then afew cases falls so short of the mark you have to wonder if anyone even attempted to aim for the target in the first place. You see, the problem with it all is, American Television Executives are completely out of touch with those who they are aiming their product at. They seem to be completely unable to reach the common everyday person with 90% of their programing, and the 10% of the time where they do, its either rammed down our throats until we vomit it back up at them, or is canceled after one season, sometimes not even that, you see, it doesn't matter to a network that fans rave about a show, or that critics rave about a show, all they care about is how much money they can make off a program based off how many people are watching it. Because thats their bottom line, to those who dictate what is put on the air these days, money they can make off of something, is all they care about. They no longer care about innovation or quality, all they care is that we will sit down infront of our televisions and watch, they don't really care what they air, as long as you are on your couch watching whatever they put infront of you, no matter how lackluster or mediocre a lot of it is.

Now, don't get me wrong, when we here in America produce a show that goes international and becomes a hit, about three and a half out of five times, its deserving, the rest of the time you end up with mostly badly written programs that are a hit here for some reason, and people internationally clamor for only because they hear the buzz about it coming from our magazines and websites and the like, because lets face it, the American Hype Machine is unmatched the world over, after all, its how horrible excuses for famous people like Paris Hilton and that guy from Twilight keep their faces posted all over every news stand the world over. People in general, myself included, have a habit of keeping up with things just because they feel if they don't their friends will look at them odd for being clueless when talking about whatever they watched the night before, anyone thats ever watched any of the many reality shows the world over know exactly what I'm talking about, no one wants to be that person that gets confusing looks because they didn't watch whatever over the top serious drama or reality show was on the night before, no one wants to be the odd person out, we all feel we need to be in the loop on stuff like that, its important to us all, the whole common ground thing and all that, if we can't relate to what our friends are talking about, then we feel we're left out or will be left out. Its funny because we all know that its not supposed to matter or effect us, but we all know it does, and will continue to do so, simply because we as people care about what others think of us and what we watch. Network boardroom executives call it “Buzz Factor” and count on this to get as many people watching as possible which brings in higher prices for add space, infact many times they blatantly play off of it as a means of making money by making you think you are seriously missing out, buzz factor is what keeps shows like “Lost” and “Law and Order” on the air regardless of if most claim they've become tired lumbering almost parodies of themselves and what they stand for or not.

So the question still remains, how do we fix American Television? Well, there are afew ways, none of which are really all that simple, but at the same time, not all that complicated, they're abit time consuming, but, as the old saying goes, “If something is worth doing, its worth taking the time to do it right.”.

The steps to Fixing American Television is as follows...

Step # 1: Understand Your Subject Matter: 
take the time, hire writers that are aware of the subject matter they are writing about, look outside of the normal 30 or 40 guys that write on television, look for someone unknown if you have too, but no matter what, find writers that actually are knowledgeable on what they're writing, you can't write a comedy with people that have been writing cop dramas for the last 10 years, and you can't write a drama with sitcom writers it just doesn't work. Example: If you are writing a science fiction series about vampires, that is going to attract many different types of views given how vampires are viewed in today's popular culture, now thats all well and good, but, here is the catch, there are so many different types of belief on vampires out there, and you don't want to exclude one group or favor another because that will make you lose those viewers, so what do you do? You go out and hire one writer who is knowledgeable in each of the different beliefs on the matter and they all work together to mesh the different types together as one, sure there will be some that hate the aspects they don't believe or agree with on the matter, but, they'll still watch the series for what they do enjoy, which is probably as close to enjoyable as you'll get with some fans, especially in certain sci fi niches, where people can become angered and out and out rude and spiteful over certain things. If you need farther proof of this fact, go look at a comic book forum whenever a movie or television show based on a comic book comes out, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.

Now I'm not saying, you need to simply aim at pleasing a niche of fans, obviously the goal of any series is to bring in as many viewers as possible, but what I'm saying is, more people will watch your program if you are aware of, and respectful, to what the subject matter is. Another example; afew years ago there was a series called “Over There” which was based on the current Iraq “war”, it was violent, it was gritty, and it didn't exactly show the united states army in the most holy and pure of lights, it was realistic and true to its subject matter, and though that brought controversy and eventually an undeserving cancellation after only one season, the ratings were so far through the roof it was almost criminal watching this show slaughter anything else in its timeslot. Now, what made this possible is, 3 of the writers on the show, and the show's “Creative Consultant” were former military personnel who had either served in the 1991 Occupation of Iraq or in the case of their consultant, not even home from Iraq just about 18 months before being hired for the job. The show did gain a lot of praise and a lot of hate for its realistic depiction of what things were like over there, but the final facts on the matter are, even though its realism was its downfall, people still to this day 4 years after it was taken off the air talk about it, and how true it really was. Love it, hate it, or not even remember it, all that matters really is, that the firestorm that followed that program, came because the writers knew exactly what they were doing and what they were writing about. Its proof positive that knowledge of subject matter will make a show great.

Step # 2: Cast Your Series Correctly: 
This has to be one of my biggest issues with television here in America, they don't want to cast for the character, they want to cast to find someone that looks like someone that is already a star, or who has a look that could make them a star. They don't think about the character or the acting ability, they just think about the marketing, and personally I kind of see that as a kick in the crotch to viewers. Its like saying “We aren't strong enough as writers to write a series that you will find enjoyable, so instead, here is an actress who looks like whoever the super hot actress everyone is going nuts for on the internet, we will write around dressing her in sexy clothing and put her in as many vaguely sexual situations as possible just so you will not notice our lackluster attempt at writing.”. They do the same thing with men on shows aimed mostly at women too, except in those cases you can spot the guy their trying to do with with by the fact he's normally wearing an unbuttoned shirt or no shirt for atleast one scene per episode.+ Now some people might think its silly to say that correct casting is important to a tv show, but, you see, no matter how you look at it, casting is the corner stone of any series, it can make or break one. Here in the states a role is cast do to how well they can market them if they become popular, it doesn't matter if the actor or actress can actually act, or more is believable as the role, all they care about is if they can stick you on a poster or a lunch box, or whatever other useless bovine excrement they slap your image on. See, your characters need to be as believable as your plot and your over all story, two years from now, a thin Paris Hilton looking blonde idiot might not seem as great a character on a “fresh and hip” teen aimed drama, that would work on a comedy, where as people would just assume you're making fun of Paris, but you get the idea, you need to think ahead instead of looking at whats outside your door.

You also need to learn what “average” is, more times then not, a character is described as “an average everyday person” or something or another, and yet, they look like the spend all the time they aren't working for a delivery service with an angry fat midget that runs the dispatch, working out in a gym. I'm sorry, I understand the need to make things look “pretty” for television, but take a really good look around at the casting of people in other countries, on other nation's programs, they don't all look that way, you have a nice mixture, much like you would in any average place here in the states. When foreigners watch our programing, many don't understand why on television, Americans are all in excellent shape and attractive, when the average American isn't, that isn't saying that we're all fat and ugly, I just mean that looking at statistics the average American isn't what we see on television, its a falsity. Other countries cast their programs accordingly to how people look where they are, and it pays off. Example; if the Canadian series “Trailer Park Boys” was made here in the states, I doubt that the characters that appear in the series would look as they do, Bubbles, who has thick glasses, lives in a shed with kitties and spouts wisdom wouldn't look as he does, Randy the shirtless trouble making assistant supervisor wouldn't look the same, nor would main characters Ricky and Julian, or the girls, or well the whole cast really. Someone in an American network boardroom would say “these don't look like what we want Americans to think are your average everyday people” or something, and they'd be changed to pretty people who look good on posters and things, except Bubbles, he would be made into a nerd that spends to much time on the internet and constantly spouts off quotes from various cult classic movies. Yeah, the idea of a show like that scares me, but you get the idea, American networks seem scared to cast realistically, if we're to survive and bring our product up in value, we need to get over the “only pretty people on TV” stigma we have here, and do what the rest of the world has done, try and cast our shows so they fit more with how our people really look, so they can identify with them.

Step # 3: Stop Making Formula Sitcoms: 
I can not stress this one enough, the writers on American television programs have become lazy and unimaginative, and just recycle the same plots and the same episodes over and over again, either on the same program or on different ones that follow the same formula. There is no creativity anymore, and it just has become so painful to watch as this circle repeats over and over and over, its been happening sense before I was born, and it will be happening long after I am dead unless someone stops it. It was once said to me, the sitcom killed television comedy, and in a sense thats true, before sitcoms came along, there were actual comedy series on television, which were filmed infront of live studio audiences, which ment the laughter, was real laughter, there were no signs saying to laugh or cheer or clap, people just did it because they wanted too, because the character was someone they all cared about or because the jokes were actually funny. Now most shows are closed set and the laughter is added in later with what they call “canned laughter”, which pretty much tells you when a joke is ment to be funny. I don't want some moron with a sound effects board to tell me when to laugh, or what should be funny, I want to decide for myself. And I want writers to come out from behind their hiding spots at their desks and own up for how they've done nothing but prostitute themselves for the sake of claiming they wrote on a certain television show, it happens this way in drama too, more so actually, where they try and make everything all super high tone drama all the time, but its just not. Though were a drama can sneak by with the guise of it being ment to be super dramatic, a sitcom can not.

And example of why the “American Style Sitcom” does not work; back in the mid-1990s, New Zealand's then fledgling network TV3 wanted to branch into comedy, so they hired some American sitcom writers and producers to come over and make a sitcom for them, the end result was the series “Melody Rules” which not only is seen as the worst comedy that was ever made in New Zealand, but also is seen as one of the worst sitcoms ever made in the entire world, it actually ranks number 4 on the international all time worst list, it used to be number 3 but was recently moved to its current standing do to an american made sitcom that aired and was promptly canceled ranking above it. The fact that the top three worst comedy programs ever made are american and follow this formula doesn't seem to bother anyone amazingly.. Melody Rules followed the “American Formula” which to those that don't know means this; three cameras to film, very few sets normally a living room/lounge room where most of the show happens, a kitchen, a bedroom, and maybe a hallway or front or back porch, everyone has a catchphrase, there is atleast one “wacky neighbor”, you hear people on the phone or references are made, but you never see them, and no one talks about anyone else they know that is not either part of the main cast or the extended cast and if they do, its because this person who they've known for however many years is going to appear in that episode and then never appear again or be mentioned, they are in a sense in their own little bubble, oh and they use canned laughter instead of live reaction. Melody Rules lasted two seasons, but most claim that was because they didn't want to give up on the show right away, given their lack of a replacement series for its timeslot. When asked why they disliked the program, the general response was that it seemed fake and cheaply made, they seemed to have no real point of plot, and were just poorly written and poorly conceived. This doesn't say that all sitcoms are bad, there has been a rise in recent years in one camera ones that are pretty good, one camera meaning they aren't bound to one location, they can go anywhere and its just needing one camera staying with the characters to film it, plus with those, the world seems more rich and believable because you aren't stuck in a living room or a kitchen all the time, you're able to roam and meet others, and have a big rich cast of extended players, this, though still using absurd plots, makes it seem more realistic and allows you to believe these people aren't just in a bubble where nothing ever happens except what goes on in that main room.

Step # 4: Do Not Use Ratings To Judge A Show's Worth: 
Its a hard cold fact, more times then not, ratings kill a program long before it should end. See, unlike other countries, which are willing to let a show air for its complete ordered run and maybe a second series, or season, or whatever it is they call first run programing where you are, just to see how much can be done with it, and allow it to properly set up its world and those who live in it, here in America we don't seem to believe in that concept, we believe that if the ratings aren't to a certain level, its not worth the time to air the program, and that we could just replace it with something else, or a rerun of something else in its timeslot till something can be found to fill that space. We seem to forget some programs start out slow and build up steam near the end of their first season, or the beginning of their second one or later. Some stories and characters take time to properly develop and build to what we're expecting them to be before the show can be as great as we're told it can be. Seinfeld was that way, I don't know how many people realize that after its first year Seinfeld was canceled, it was brought back after some boardroom politics and went on to become the series that so many claim to be one of the best comedies ever put on television, in a similar vain Fox's Family Guy was canceled for almost three years, only to come back and become a behemoth of sorts in the world of animated comedy. But in a world where so often you're given just afew weeks to attempt and find and gain a fanbase, cases of that nature are very few and far between, these days at best you can hope for would be a miniseries that concludes everything for you like the series Jericho had recently, or a direct to video finale like the series Prison Break. Or in the case of Guiding Light, the longest running non-news or sports program in american history, you'll just get an end, no real send off, no real fanfair, nothing, just shutting down the set. I mean I'm no fan of a soap opera, but come on, after 63 years or something, you're gonna just up and cancel a program because of numbers? Thats nuts.

More times then not in this day and age, the voices the networks should be listening too, are ignored, what the critics say and more importantly what the people say, a lot of times is completely ignored, and instead the over night and weekly ratings are all that matter. Now, I can understand to some degree where they might dismiss those like me in the critic field, but when you completely dismiss the voice of the viewers? That just seems like idiotic to me, the viewers are what matters, the viewers have all the power in this industry, they are the ones sitting infront of the television to watch a program, that means they are really all that matters. And if you ignore their voices, and just keep churning out spin offs and rehashes of the same thing over and over again, eventually they will leave you. Think about it, why do you think there are so many police and law shows out there? American Networks don't care about giving a program time to grow, to find its place, two perfect recent cases of this were the great dramatic comedy series “Reaper” which was poorly advertised but was incredibly fun to watch and loved by critics and fans, and the american take on the british series “Life On Mars” which, though very well made and well written, might have strayed from its concept slighty, though to be honest, I found it abit more enjoyable then its original version, both were great programs, that had slightly slow starts, and ended up being canceled because of it. Apparently averaging 2.5 million viewers per week isn't good enough to keep a program going, shame that. Also, just because a large amount of viewers appear for a pilot or a movie that will become a tv series, does not mean they are going to always be there, curiosity factor is huge in ratings, and how we end up with piles of crap like the 2008 version of Knight Rider.

Step # 5: Have Faith In Your Programing: 
This one is sort of a secondary to the ratings one, but is just as important. Sometimes, a television series will go through a small creative slump, sometimes it lasts half a season, sometimes it lasts a whole one, sometimes it lasts afew, but the point is, that doesn't make a tv show bad, its just in a ratings fueled world, a slump puts a target on your back in the entertainment business. Its natural that after a while, a show will have a small slump in writing, after afew years writers get alittle tired, and alittle creatively tapped and are in need of a refill on their creativity, this happens with all tv shows, its the nature of the beast as they say. But that doesn't mean you give up on them. A network should have enough faith in what they are airing that it shouldn't mark a show's demise when it has a slight slump in ratings, if it was always the case that once your ratings go down you're done, iconic series like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, M.A.S.H, All In The Family, Cheers, The Flintstones, and The Simpsons, wouldn't have lasted as long as they did, each and every one of them, to some degree had a slump in ratings, where they'd go from top 10 programing, to top 20, and finally round out somewhere in the top 50 for a time, but they would eventually power back, in most cases they'd do this cycle repeatedly. Infact in the case of The Simpsons, FOX Network owner Rupert Murdoch has stated that the show will only end when those that make the show feel its time to end it, and that he keeps it on to prove a point, that if you're good to your shows, they'll be good to you. Which is kind of ironic because FOX is one of the biggest offenders of canceling a program to do ratings. But my point is, if more networks had enough faith in a program to stick with it through the good times and the bad, and see it through to the light once again, we would have a lot more programs that are of good quality and of good standing with all aspects of the business, specially in a time when making 10 years is a big thing, let alone soon to be 21 years that The Simpsons have been on.

Step # 6: Less Reality Programing: 
Now, Reality TV is some pretty tricky water to traverse, and before you get the wrong idea, I'm not saying all reality series have to go, there just comes a point when enough is enough. Sure, we all have our own guilty pleasure reality tv shows, there isn't a person alive thats not watched atleast one episode of Survivor, or 3 minutes of the Real World, I have a friend in the UK thats like, super way into Big Brother, I personally am a huge Hell's Kitchen and Extreme Make Over: Home Edition fan, and I'd be abit hypocritical to shout down all reality television when I personally know some of the cast of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. But despite all of the good programs out there that are reality, there is a whole lot of bad ones out there too. Mostly in the “reality game show” market, which in itself is a kind of slippery slope a lot of times, where the good is lost to the background for horribly bad dating game shows like “The Bachelor” and all the rehashes of that, or the ones where they put former or minor celebrities in horribly idiotic situations and record as they whore themselves out for prize money. Reality Television has become the last stop before you fall off the entertainment grid forever, its become a freakshow of sorts, anyone that doesn't understand what I mean by that, google a series called “There's Something About Miriam” and you'll understand exactly what I'm saying about reality tv.

Step # 7: Shorter Seasons Make For Quality Programing: 
I have said this so many times, quantity, does not always lead to quality when it comes to television, infact 9 out of 10 times it leads to failure. In every other country, and on both subscription and non subscription channels that do original programing here in the states, the most you'll see your average television series is between 10 to 13 episodes a year, sometimes more then that, sometimes less, depends on the show, the network all that. Now this isn't done for cost reasons, though cost does help, its done simply because it allows the writers time to come up with good quality unrushed scripts, that don't rehash or retread things they've already done, or were done by others. It allows them time to carefully write out and create great programing that people will wait all year, or in afew cases over a year, for. This works for the network's favor in two ways, first, you can allow your writers time to come up with the best programming you can for their timeslot, there is a very little pressure situation when you only need 13 episodes of gold instead of 26 episodes, of which 13 or so are gold and the rest is just filler, and secondly, it keeps a buzz going for your series, people knowing they'll have to wait like a year or half a year to see how a storyline progresses, that wait factor and the buzz it causes in a fanbase is the greatest form of promotion possible, its free, its honest, and its truly what the fans are saying, all the magazine adds, television spots, and whoring out of your female cast won't get you the kind of buzz word of mouth does. Plus, 13 episodes a year is cheaper then 26, the money they're saving, could fund another program that might have been great, but passed on because they couldn't find room on a schedule or something, which would be great, because I can't count the amount of times programs have been killed before they ever got the chance to air. I still am upset for shows like Babylon Fields, Pretty Handsome and Global Frequency among countless others that looked so well done, and such good ideas, but were killed because there was no place on the programming schedule for them, with 13 episode per season shows, there could be a chance things like that never happen again.

Step # 8: Dissolve The FCC: 
Next to the RIAA and the MPAA, the FCC is the most harmful organization in entertainment, originally designed as a governing body in the early days of broadcasting as a government run organization that sort of acted like a police force for, at the time radio, it was created to regulate and monitor and keep in line localized and nationally broadcast radio programs, back in the days when american radio wasn't a joke, it was basically a way to witch hunt communists and other groups who were deemed subversive and “a threat to our freedom” by instilling none of them are able to get on the radio and reach the masses. Over the years its broadened its hold to include television as well as radio, and, by most accounts, is the single largest reason why american television has lost its way. The FCC seems to feel its their job to tell networks what is and isn't ok to air, in a sense, censoring content, which, I find very odd, given that each network has their own internal censors called “Standards and Practices”, who's job it is to regulate the nature of content aired on their network. Why we need a Federal organization that does this even after standards and practices has gone through a program, and simply just nitpicks and waters down each thing they show, is anybody's guess really. It all seems slightly redundant to me, if you have an inhouse censor who is versed in the rules of broadcast, who goes through each episode with a fine toothed comb before it airs, looking for anything at all they find questionable and with the new rating system we have here that clearly marks a program's intended viewer group, then why do we need a group like the FCC who really don't seem to do any good at all, and infact, a lot of times will go against their own written rules, I wonder just how many people are aware of The Safe Harbor / Watershed Laws out there.

The Safe Harbor / Watershed Laws are the laws that dictate what content can be shown after what time at night, as the night gets later, we're allowed to do more, these are the laws that let words like “bullshit” and “asshole” be used in dramas after 9pm at night, as well as in the past allowed for naked human rears, and I quote directly here, “side boob” meaning a woman's breast but seen from the side. Basically as far as the time frame goes, by 1am EST, there are no real limitations on what you can air content wise, this is why a lot of cable stations air “uncut” or “uncensored” versions of films at that time of night. Its funny though, even when we know that we're allowed, by law, to say certain words and show certain things after a certain time, the major non-pay networks are still pressured by means of threats of fines and being put off the air, to ignore these laws, and air the same “safe” programing they do otherwise. No one that I have asked in the industry really understands why this is done, but they all know it is. Its just one of the many things the FCC does that people find questionable. And what scares me the most, they've been doing it sense the beginning of television, if not longer, because, well, there aren't a lot of records remaining from the early days of radio, so we can't really guess.

So really, what good does the FCC do now that each network has its own internal monitoring group and willingly submits to its own clearly marked rating system? It does absolutely nothing. It just hinders people, as it always has, and most of its hindering has seemed puzzling in reason. Example, during the early 1950s, the FCC took up issue with now american classic series “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, first complaining about, and I kid you not, young Mary Tyler Moore, who played Dick's wife, wearing “skirts that were tight enough to show more female bottom then they believed wholesome”, when they would later fix this idiotic complaint by allowing Mary to wear pants, they then complained that “women don't wear pants, men do.”. I kid you not, these were their actual claims. They lost the pants issue when the entire female staff of the network showed up for work one day where the FCC was there to discuss it, and they all wore pants. Ironically, not long after this, “I Love Lucy” appeared, and both Lucy and Ethel would wear pants from time to time, many saw this as a jokingly supportive stab at the FCC. There are many other incidents like these, most recently, “nipplegate” as its called, where singer Janet Jackson flashed a nipple on international television for less then 0.7 seconds, the FCC used this incident to go on a media witch hunt of sorts, laying most of its brunt down on radio DJ Howard Stern, though, I'm not exactly sure how an incident that happened on television would lead to issues for radio, but I guess in their minds it was allowed. Anyway, you get my point, the FCC is a joke, its become nothing more then an interest group out to govern what we watch and what we see to their own personal likes and dislikes. Which is wrong, no one group should be allowed to force its ideas on anyone else, regardless of who they are. They're on par with religious radical groups like you read about in the news with their beliefs and really should be taken out of power. Plus, they're watering down and changing of our television programs is the number one thing keeping us from being able to compete with the other countries in quality.

Step # 9: Know When Enough Is Enough:
I mentioned this in the comments of the original post, and still feel its important enough to mention. American television networks need to know when enough is enough, not every show can go on forever, internationally its not uncommon to find a show that only lasts one or two seasons by design, and regardless of how well the ratings are, they still stick to their limited run. Sometimes a series that lasted only one year or two years and has a finely told intricate story thats deep and engaging is just as one that can go on and on for years, just with out the same pitfalls that long running shows encounter. Mostly those pitfalls being the most feared question in all of hollywood, "where do we go from here?", and well, when you get to the point where you have no real option but to repeat yourself, or come up with some completely absurd thing or another, its time to end your show, it really is.

A good example of what I'm talking about is the recent series "Prison Break", billed as a modern take on "The Great Escape", and though the first 13 episodes of the series, which was the planning and escape from prison, was well worth the ratings it was given, however when the show's first season's second half began, the man hunt for the escapees, it was completely different and not nearly as good as before, even at one point having one character lose an arm in an accident, thus making him The One Armed Man a rip off of the classic series The Fugitive, they would go on the repeat this and basically remake the first season for a total for four years, each time it would get more and more unrealistic. Had it been left as a simple one year 13 episode season, with maybe a tv movie or mini series of 4 episodes or so to cover how they got to freedom, the show would have never become the embarrassment it became, and would have been harolded as one of the best american programs in the last 10 years. But instead, it went on to be a parody of itself, as many shows that run out of ideas end up doing. We call it Jumping The Shark, and its normally the first sign of a show's end coming from ratings slump instead of a natural organic end to the story they tell.

The term "Jumping The Shark" is rather well known in television and American pop culture, taken from episode three of the fifth season of the classic american sitcom "Happy Days" where the show stops being about its large cast of characters and their lives, and becomes out and out worship of the show's most popular character Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli AKA "The Fonz" or "Fonzie" to his friends, where in the episode he literally jumps a shark on water-skis while wearing his trademark leather jacket, from this point the show became centered around basically getting Fonzie to do some silly stunt or another, normally involving the jumping of his motorcycle over something. Some people also call it "Jumping The Silo" in reference to a like minded practice around the same time period on the show "The Dukes Of Hazard" where in they would find new things for the show's main draw, the 1969 Dodge Charger known as The General Lee to jump over, including at one time an alien starship (please, don't ask) and, as the term implies, an almost 100 foot tall grain silo.

The longer a show runs, the longer the chances are that a show will eventually jump the shark if the writing isn't there to keep it current and fresh and well done. Think for a moment of long running shows that were, for a time, successful here in America and you can normally pinpoint their shark jumping moment; the downward spiral from All In The Family and its change to Archie's Place, the revolving cast on ER, The Facts Of Life's final season, the last few years of Good Times, horrible changes in concept, theme and plot like turning Sanford and Son into The Sanford Arms or The Golden Girls into The Golden Palace, honestly, I could go on for hours listening reasons why the idea of a limited run is better for viewers and for television, but I think you see my point.

Step # 10: Don't Be Afraid To Import Programing:
For some reason here in America, we would rather ignore, or remake foreign programing, which doesn't always turn out so well, for every strike of gold like "All In The Family", "Sanford And Son" and in recent years, "The Office", there are just as many complete embarrassments like "Viva Laughlin" (based on "Blackpool"), "Beacon Hill" (based on "Upstairs, Downstairs"), "Scoundrels" (based on "Outrageous Fortune") and that malformed remake of "Life On Mars" just to name afew that actually made it to production, as well as those embarrassingly bad pilots for american takes on "Red Dwarf", "The Vicar of Dibley" and many others that are just so painful to sit though, but have gained cult followings all over the internet. All of which could have been avoided had we just imported the shows in their original form, when they were currently on the air over seas, thus keeping them current, and allowing us to broaden our horizons as viewers, and maybe keep such messes as the american take on Kath and Kim to have ever taken place in the first place.

For some unknown reason, american networks are under the impression that it takes less money to remake your own version of a show, then to import one. Other then non-english language programing, I don't understand where this comes from or why someone would believe it to be true, but they do. Maybe they feel the subject matter might not appeal to american viewers, or some other lazy excuse, but the facts stare you in the face, if american programing can be seen the world over and no one has issues with translation or situational differences, then why would they think we'd be the same way? Alot of the time, importing would be the best answer to fill timeslots and summer seasons that sometimes will see an entire network's summer line up get canceled and they just take the hit in the ratings for it. With alot of foreign shows lasting between 10 to 13 weeks, that would be the perfect counter to the horror that is, at times american summer programing, and would also factor into my above statement of less reality tv, which often is used to fill those summer slots. Have faith in american viewers that if you air it, and its worthy, it will become a hit. Americans miss out on myriads of great programing simply because of this idiotic concept that does nothing but line the pockets of those who are steering us wrong these days, all to make their bank accounts bigger with out care that substandard programing has become the normal here. If shows like Canada's "Durham County" or New Zealand's "Burying Brian", or even UK's brilliant "Afterlife" which might very well be the greatest dramatic sci fi series ever made, were picked up aired as they were, and not adapted and watered down, as most television shows are here, the landscape would be alot different, people would see what they're missing, and they'd start demanding that things be just as good if not better, which would mean alot of the older, tired, completely hack writers, directors, producers, everyone in production that have let the quality slip, would all be out of jobs, and hungry, new people with new ideas and new ways of making things work, would instead take their places, and making television here amazing again. It would also show alot of these actors and actresses working their asses off the world over a new audience, as well as music and various other things from where ever each show is made. Just think about it for a second and just imagine how great that'd be?

And now, with all of those things said, I leave you with one final thing...

I understand that a lot of people won't agree with my ideas, and thats fine, its your right to do so and I respect that, but even if you don't agree with all of my ideas, think about them, just try to picture them in practice, and if you don't agree still, then I respect your right to think that way. I am just a man who wishes to make a medium he loves just abit better then its becoming, thats all.

I thank you for your time



A Nightmare On Elm Street [2010]

A Nightmare On Elm Street:
Jackie Earle Haley Can Make Anything Worth Watching

When rumors started to fly about that there was to be a remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, I have to admit, I cringed abit at the idea. How do you recreate one of the most successful film series in history, with one of film's most iconic villains, even if near the end he was more murderous comic relief then true blood and guts slasher villain. The whole world waited nervously to see who would be taking up the bladed glove made famous by Robert Englund, while the world waited, we ofcourse debated who would be worthy to rock the Fedora and sweater of the man that really is the stuff nightmares are made of. And very quietly it was released that it would be brilliant character actor Jackie Earle Haley, fresh off his critic and fan favorite roles in incredible films "Little Children", "Watchmen" and "Shutter Island". When news of this hit, the world of slasher fans ofcourse, started to rejoice, combined with the word that the film would be focused on the horror and scary aspect as apposed to having Freddy cracking jokes and killing people in comical ways, the film would just be a straight up no nonsense slasher thriller, which was a sigh of relief for most fans, given that at times, the old films were almost unbearable with their forced attempts at horror comedy over slasher film fundamentals; blood, gore, out and out horror. When you start laughing at a villain, he's no longer scary. This remake did their best to bring Freddy back to the stuff that nightmares are made of, because with out that, the film would just fall completely apart and crumble to the ground.

The remake differs from the original in many ways, the film is completely horror, there is no formula slasher movie tropes; excessive nudity, generic teenager stereotype characters, drug use or drinking alcohol, excessive sex, ect. And it also takes a page out of the book of 2007's Halloween remake, and tries to make Freddy a human being instead of just a larger then life killing machine, flushing out his back story more, and changing it at the same time, making him a grounds keeper at a pre-school, showing Freddy as alive and on the surface being a caring friendly man who lived in the school's basement, until he's accused of molesting and hurting the children when parents notice afew marks that shouldn't be there on their children, who then tell them that Krueger "took them to a secret cave" and hurt, touched, and took pictures of them, they go as far as to show how Freddy was killed by a mob of parents blinded by rage. You don't really know for sure if Freddy did it until the final act of the film.

Freddy is played more as a poltergeist who is brought back to life by repressed memories surfacing with in the minds of the children who accused him, none of which know who he is until one discovers a hidden away picture of the children in school Freddy worked at. And from there, you discover that Freddy is murdering the children who accused him as they start to remember the slightest inclination of Freddy. You're left confused on if he's doing it to spite the children, or their parents, or to show that he was really alive, and not forgotten as fast as local scandals tend to be forgotten. I rather enjoyed that aspect of the film, the idea that maybe Freddy was a child molester or maybe he was evil because of being a wrongly accused man murdered by a mob that was never brought to justice, instead of a serial murderer who killed for fun. Though I loved this twist and found it bringing depth to the character, I can see how many voiced their opinions against the idea. But thats normal with a character thats in a sense a household name, same with the redesigned making him look more like a burn victim would design, another thing I enjoyed, but see where others would complain..

I can see why many would complain though about the film, you don't see Freddy all that much in the film, he shows up mostly in shadows, and out of the corner of your eye, or just for a second for a jar you out of your seat moment. Modern slasher film fans aren't really big on the concept of "little screen time makes the monster more horrific" so much as all up in your face blood and guts. That always makes me abit sad really. But i can see how many would say Freddy was just a secondary character because of this, but thats always been the formula for movies of this type, the monster is the secondary character who the main characters have to overcome as it kills their friends, to think anything else simply because its the more well known, is just giving into fanwank at its purest level.

So if you're interested in a nice mental mystery hidden behind a slasher film about the stuff nightmares are made of, or you just wanna see Jackie Earle Haley prove why he's one of the best character actors there is right now, then by all means give it a look, or if you just wanna be scared out of your wits, give it a look too.

Here's the trailer...