So Wow. Tonight. Some episode huh? Wow. It’s title is “Operation White Shadow”. The episode has the Black character, Lem, played by Brooklyn born poet and improv comic from New York University, Malcolm Barrett, not being able to get the machines in the building to acknowledge his presence. I actually have a REAL LIFE case in a video down below. But where do I start? Well, if you don’t have a copy of the show you might want to either get the DVD or do a download from Amazon by clicking on this giant picture, because I don’t think the show is going to be around too long.
Well, ok, let’s look backwards for a second. So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new show Better Off Ted. The premise of that piece was that the show is pretty much guaranteed being canceled in the first season, probably in the next few weeks (Just so you know that didn’t happen, I talk about Better of Ted Not Canceled in a June article). But why did I think it was on thin ice? Because it’s too weird. Creatively “weird” is good, but for TV? No. No, no, no, no, no! Not anymore. TV networks are NOT playing around anymore. They are NOT experimenting with new ways to loose money. No matter HOW much people like shows, if ENOUGH of them don’t watch a show it’s gone baby.
Early January 2010 update; looks like my original prediction was correct, looks like they ARE going to kill the show. They’re going to run double episodes for the rest of the month and after that it’s anybody’s guess. This IMDB forum is where people are voicing their opinions.
But people have been talking “cancel” talk from the start. Just as an example look at the stats from this article within 24 hours of me writing the piece.
Networks are dumping good shows so fast now it’s like watching one of those old 3 Stooges shorts where the row boat springs a leak and all they have are teacups to get rid of the water. Dead Like Me, Pushing Daises, My Own Worst Enemy, Kings, Kyle XY, Battlestar Galactica, Scrubs, Cavemen, ER(!), Knight Rider, Reaper, Prison Break. I mean, damn! And those are just shows I either watch or know about, there’s a whole bunch of crap I don’t watch that’s getting the axe. Meanwhile, every single DAY this blog gets traffic with people trying to find out if the awful Kath and Kim is canceled because of a piece I wrote talking about how NBC is being loyal to Molly Shannon DESPITE how gloriously terrible it is. It defies all logic. It’s otherworldly how bad it is.
Which brings is to ABC and Better Off Ted. The piece I wrote described how I think there are 2 factions at ABC. One group who keeps pushing the envelope, in terms of programming, and another group who has the power to kill shows IF they get either numbers too low or too many complaints. I predicted the show would be killed off because ABC is going to reach that fork in the road and do what they always do-kill the show. So tonight’s episode, clearly indicates that at least one producer of the show is aware they’re not coming back and has decided to just go for broke. (See my piece on Morel Orel on Adult Swim for a show that followed that strategy)
Tackling “Black Issues” is something they don’t really do on TV. Unless it’s a news piece of course. Old school news was all about “the Black people are running wild, so be scared.” They would do it in both overt and subtle ways. Then after Islamic terrorists became the new bogey man (and so much white crime became entirely too noticeable to ignore) the Black thing took a backseat in news. And then news shows switched the coverage of “Black Issues” to “These poor miserable wretches.” On the surface it was all about casting us in a sort of Sally Struthers surrounded by fly-babies sort of light, but the CODE was “They are such a drain on our resources, God, if we could just get rid of them America would literally be a place of milk and honey.” Never mind the fact that we spend such a disproportional amount of money that the country would collapse if we stopped-or the fact that entire industries are built on our work. Ok, ok, I know; you didn’t come here to hear the guilt trip plus you’ve heard it all before, yadda, yadda, yadda…
So the episode! Black guy isn’t picked up by motion sensors in the office; hilarity ensues. Now let’s just talk about how I perceived what was going on; your mileage may vary. I still haven’t posted this EXTREMELY long Obama piece I wrote about what it meant with him getting elected etc., but one of the points was that the BAD news was that “white people” were finally gonna get what they’ve DESPERATELY wanted; the opportunity to say “We’re cool right? The whole slavery thing is a non-issue because, see, we voted Black!” No, you didn’t. You voted for reason and intelligence. In response to Bush. That’s what happened. Now yes, I’m all for peace and harmony but a BUNCH of things needed to happen before we were gonna be “cool.” Nothing crazy like reparations (I know who much that very idea freaks white people out “but I didn’t even do anything, my family didn’t even get here until after WWII”). Trust me I’ve heard it all.
By the way here’s that REAL LIFE version
But ABC clearly felt in the “era of Obama” having one or two Black guys on staff (and who probably came up with the plot) would give them the free pass. But the SAD fact is, Black people are on the lookout every single day for a slight or offense they can take to their keyboards and spout off about. (Yeah, we finally closed the digital divide. But we’re also too damn lazy to take to the streets unless you actually KILL one of us in an unarmed and blatantly racist-cops scenario). So what elements of the show might get Black people riled up?
*The idea of putting this issue in a comical light. Anybody remember a comedy set in Civil War era with Lincoln and his slave butler having “crazy” times a la Benson? It was The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer
*The idea the of the white shadow in the show where a white guy has the magical powers to “open doors” the Black characters cant (that’s a two-fer by the way; a literal and figurative)
*The idea that it took MULTIPLE white people to get the Black guy motivated enough to stand up for his rights
*The idea that too many Black men in an elevator would cause white flight (again, a two-fer!)
*The episode is called Operation White Shadow which references ANOTHER “white man’s burden” type show from the 70’s. And at some point they assign white guys to follow the Black guys. This of course is like the real life adventures that I and most Black men (and some women) have to go through ALL THE TIME being followed around if we go ANYWHERE that’s not 75% or greater Black people. Neighborhoods, malls, stores, theme parks; basically any Goddamned where. And in the show, they kind of give off a slave vibe when the Black guys compare the white guys they’ve been assigned. AND like in real life; even the most remedial and barely functional of white guys has more access than the most educated Black men
*The fact that even the commercials were pre-planned. A Verizon spot with a Black man being ominously lorded over by a train conductor. Followed by a “chocolate” flavored breakfast cereal.
Here is the cereal-I think it was “Special K”
And here are those “spooky” guys in the elevator
Turned out NONE of that matter, not enough people watch the show (of any color). So we never had a big outcry of any kind.
So to conclude; I like the show, I liked the episode, but for all intents and purposes it was really something that should have been on cable. Network TV, and the people who don’t live in cities with a population over say…2 million can’t really digest a farcical and intelligent look at race-and survive. I mean they can air it, but they’re not going to survive the Black people online assault AND the white viewers who were on the fence falling onto the “not coming back to this show” side of that fence. PLUS they’ve got one of the only 4 or 5 openly gay Hollywood actresses with Portia de Rossi on the show? Come on! They’re asking to get kicked. Obviously time will tell. But TWELVE HOURS after I wrote my thing saying Kyle XY wouldn’t make it-it got killed. I’m giving Better Off Ted…3-5 more weeks. And 5 is being VERY generous. I’ll miss it.
One final unrelated note; I used the word Blackisode in this piece, and it’s not the best example. But I INVENTED this concept of contracting words you wouldn’t normally contract-at least in modern culture. Let me rephrase that. Obviously I didn’t invent the concept of Portmanteau words, but I DID bring it to the forefront of modern American culture. Having spent the last 25 years in LA, NYC, and Chicago and been in showbiz and around advertising execs for all those years I can guarantee you some of those people heard me doing and started throwing it into commercials, sitcoms and movies. Just had to put that into print somewhere-and why not here?