The 2009 TV season was just all over the place. So many shows were coming and going that it was a little hard to keep track. I think the dust has settled and we can finally start taking stock and make some definitive statements about the status of a lot of these shows.
A very long time ago I wrote about Mad TV probably needing to go. It was a tough call on my part; I love comedy, people of diverse backgrounds were getting seen, the show taped 2 blocks from my LA apartment. So I wanted to be loyal but it just suffered from weak writing. Weekly comedy is hard. Hell, COMEDY is hard, but those folks had access to top resources and just weren’t willing to get out there and find a stronger comedic voice. So as much as people have maligned SNL they just do better. The final episode and season finale of SNL, ironically, chose a lot of similar topics.
Man, a long time ago I also wrote about Knight Rider’s first episode and I had high hopes. But they fell into the young white guy is the hero of every scene formula and that’s all she wrote. Another cable show that got a little press The Beast and Nip/Tuck are gone too.
Kyle XY, well, I also wrote about this show just being too good and the network not knowing what to do. Hour long fantasy/sci fi shows have very loyal fans. And they’re a lot of them. But networks get INTO these deals and every single time they are surprised when they’re not making enough money on these hour long shows after 2 seasons and then start talking cancellation. Every time. Look at Battlestar that show is technically gone, but Caprica is on the horizon now because the networks have fans flooding them show interest. The fans TRIED with Kyle but SO FAR the networks aren’t listening.
But don’t believe everything. Case in point. They killed Family Guy and voila. It came back. They killed Scrubs and voila it came back. And this brings us to the strange new trend of Network Hoping. Networks with weak programming blocks are picking dropped shows. ABC took Scrubs. And CW just dropped The Game and now BET is pretty much locked in on finalizing a deal. FOX let Futurama go years ago. But did you know they’ve been making Futurama movies? Yeah, three of them. And fans like me have been collecting them. So now Comedy Central is renewing the show. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if a network like Lifetime picked up the recently canceled Samantha Who. It looked like something like that MIGHT happen for Reaper. But, poor Reaper, it’s gone for good now. It was SOOO good and at first CW just canceled it. Then there was this mailing in socks campaign by the fans. So they renewed the show but gave it a delayed renewal last YEAR and now it’s pretty much dead. I figure if the network can’t find another hit this summer they’ll bring it back. And if they bring it back I will update this article. But some cast members are already booked on new shows. But again; fantasy shows so rarely are giant hits like Heroes and that’s the only way they can make it.
Now a sad situation is My Name is Earl fiasco. As you may or may not know Chuck was canceled, but due to fans like me who made videos, the show got renewed at the last minute. The Earl group tried a similar tactic on Twitter, but it didn’t work out. Sad. Good show and I’m surprised because half hour comedies are cheap-for the most part. Earl was kinda filmic (not set in and around a living room like Rosanne or Family Matters) so it probably cost a little more to make.
Speaking of surprises. I PREDICTED the cancellation of Better Off Ted. But guess what? It’s staying on the air! I reasoned that the show was actually TOO funny and good for ABC, but what I forgot about was one of the stars being involved with Ellen and a network not wanting to ruffle feathers of a money maker. Totally forgot about that. It’s similar to the reason that Kath and Kim is still on the air-but they finally killed it! As awful as that show is, because Molly Shannon has a history with NBC they’re letting it live. The EXACT same reason they’re keeping Amy Poehler’s awful show Parks. Love Amy but man what a horrible premise for a show. Not the workplace but Amy playing one character. A dumb one too. Who the hell thought that was the way to go? Ah well, TV…
I’m torn. I mean, I’m really on the fence about this PBS special. It aired May 12th on the station’s Independent Lens series and I watched the whole thing. From Terrence Howards’ intro right on through to the credits. And as a Black man I’m torn. On the one hand I guess I feel like “the message” can’t be gotten out there enough. But as a person who has seen a LOT of movies (including many, many documentaries like this) and who has seen a lot of PBS in general, this film had an eerily “familiar” look and feel to it. So much so that it ALMOST seemed like a parody. I almost expected to hear a raspy voiced narrator saying “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time…” with Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” playing in the background.
Bloods and Crips: Made in America. Whew, I mean, that’s like a conversation from 15 years ago right? Or twenty-FIVE years ago if you wanna talk crack in it’s hey day. So what compelled Stacy to drag all this out like it’s something new? For those of you (probably most) who don’t know Peralta is a a film director, but really he’s a skateboard guy. I’m a 41 year old guy and I first heard his name from precisely 26 years ago as I ventured outside of Chicago’s version of Los Angeles’ South Central (called the South Side) and made my way into the “white part of town” and discovered punk rock and skateboarding. And for those of you who don’t know Chicago is the home of the 2 other largest waring Black gangs; the Disciples and the El Rukins.
Peralta is “old school” having been a part of that original crew of Dogtown skaters in the 70’s (for this history lesson we’re gonna skip over the 60’s “sidewalk surfin’” era). Eventually he began to skate a little less and video tape younger skaters more and more. And voila; film director. So he’s no stranger to documenting LA based, sub cultures. And by him being an LA native who has lived so adjacent to one of the most largest Black communities in the America (a community that has affected so much of the PLANET via violence, style, music and attitude) I can understand him being compelled to FINALLY saying to himself, “Man, I really ought to see what’s going on in my own back yard. I’ve already got the cameras…” But isn’t everybody who watches PBS gonna be up to speed on this issue? I mean I don’t think any FOX News viewers will ever see/care about this film.
But with this film I see a lot of “hack” standards (from a film making point of view) and in terms of ground covered I see a lot of stereotypical elements re-hased (as a guy with a degree in Anthropology, point of view). All the favorites are there.
The soundtrack ripped straight from about 3 shows on KCRW’s night time line up
The look back at the 60’s Civil Rights movement as the “start” part of cycle
Dragging out 60’s Lefty Tom Hayden
The footage of Black kids with gang paraphernalia and guns
The photos of dead bodies
The footage of (primarily White) cops abusing Black people of all ages and sexes
The former gang members talking about “giving back” and “changing things”
The interviews of young current gangsters talking about “no way out” “it’s all I know”
Rodney of course, can’t talk about angry Black people without Rodney King
The montage of sad/crying Black parents
And the warehousing of people (Black men) by the prison complex
So, the phrase “Black on Black Crime” isn’t actually verbalized, but the…look and feel is tried and true “Black people as surrounded by/causing violence and being victims of a culture that created a quicksand of despair that we can’t seem to break away from.”Again, I guess the word needs to be put out there…but as an educated Black man it’s also a little tiring. Really? This is still new knowledge to white people? Really? This is still something you think would make an insightful thing to put all that money and time into? Really? I’ve seen this done so many times. In fact I’ve seen it done better several times (hey, I like the morphing photo effect a lot too but I’m not sure if it really reaches my heart in this context). I’ve seen where they give the kids cameras and let them film their lives for a few months and we see what’s important to THEM. What story they think should be told. But a project like this where you can’t personally follow individual just seems like it’s glossing over Standard Black Problem. It just affirms that violence/victim model.
But I’m torn. People think we have “overcome” because they see Obama; and he is close to being a Martian than he is to most Black people, so it’s good to get this reminder of what’s truly a part of OUR daily existence. But maybe there are different problems that need to be addressed or maybe this film could have tackled why so many efforts to change things have been ineffective. I’m not sure, but I DO know that if I had had access to Peralta before this project was done it would not have looked like this when the finished product was done.
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 watchingone 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?