Monday, November 26, 2007

Gladiators...mount up

I was just sitting here watching Heroes, trying to forget that all television as we know it will cease to exist - I am seriously going to miss 30 Rock and The Office. With reports that Lost isn't coming back until 2009, AND The Wire going into its last season, I might just cancel my cable altogether. So here I was, enjoying what I think is a fun but rather fluffy show, I happened to catch the tail end of an ad for a new show on NBC. Or rather a !NEW AND IMPROVED! version of an old show.

You know what that show is, oh blog readers of mine? Think of the five most ridiculous, inane, cheesy shows you've ever seen. Got 'em? Well, I can only imagine that if you took a poll of those who grew up in the 80s, this show would probably appear on at least a few of those "worst shows of all time" lists.

Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen.

It's American Gladiators. And it's back.

First of all, just looking at this ridiculous photo over to the left here, did you forget how freakin' juiced up these chicks and dudes were?! Isn't it amazing? I mean, come ON! They make Barry Bonds look like he tries to beef up on McDonalds and Bloomin' Onions every day!

And do you remember how ridiculous their names were? Here's some samples - man, I love Wikipedia:
Nitro, Lace, Malibu, Zap, Gold, Laser, Storm, Ice,, the list goes on and on.

And in a truly odd little tidbit of useless pop culture knowledge, Wikipedia also tells me that Joe Theismann hosted the first season of the show?! Damn. Weird. What a career he's had after leaving professional football.

Okay, so enough about the past here. We're talking about the bright future of television here! This particular incarnation of the show here is hosted by none other than Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali. I mean, I know they're paragons of fitness or whatever, but really?! I mean, doesn't that just seem like a disaster to you? Who's the color commentator on that team? Isn't it bound to just turn into Hulk and Laila challenging each other to bigger and bigger duels until one of them kills each other? Maybe I need to pitch THIS show! Can't be worse than the crap that this show is about to rain down on the American public.

Okay, so I'm rambling. The point is, this is the crap that we're just gonna see more and more as the WGA strike goes on. And it makes me angry. Okay, so I've worked on some really crappy reality shows, so maybe I just need to shut the hell up.

But really, my feeling on the whole thing is this - is this all really worth it for the television studios?! I don't claim to know a whole lot about the ins and outs of this strike, but I do know that what the writers are asking for is completely within reason. More and more we're going to see content obtained through the Internet. Hell, we might not even have TV as we know it soon. And it's crazy and incredibly insulting for the studios to expect that the writers are just going to lay down and accept that they just aren't gonna get paid for all the work that they put their lifeblood into.

All that aside though, I just can't imagine that it's even remotely a smart move for the studios not to give the writers what they want on this. Is American Gladiators really going to cut it? Is it a replacement for shows like 30 Rock that have a loyal audience? I don't claim to know much about television ratings either, but I think it's insane to think that a physical challenge show featuring a bunch of jacked up nobodies is going to be a valid replacement for the well-written shows that the studios are tossing aside.

But my biggest problem with the whole thing is this - all of this just shows me that these studios have absolutely no respect for the American viewing audience. They seem to think that if we are presented with the lowest common denominator, we'll watch it just 'cause it's there.

And maybe that's true. And that scares me more than anything.

And honestly - I wish that these studios felt more of a responsibility to present people with intelligent, fulfilling entertainment. But I just can't see that happening.

Someone tell me why I work in television again? Sigh...

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Just THAT Good

So last night, I watched 2 things - This American Life (the Showtime version of the brilliant radio show) and The Animation Show, a collection of animation put together by Mike Judge and Don Herzfeldt. It showcases some of the more incredible and hysterical animation I've ever had the pleasure to see.

These particular pieces of entertainment are very pure examples of people at the utmost top of their games. This American Life is such an unbelievably produced show. The producers find these stories that might seem completely inane and find the heart and humor in them. They take this heart and this humor and bring it to the surface in this often touch, often hilarious and always beautifully sensitive way. I just marvel at everyone involved in the show and everything involved in making it so outstanding.

And some of the animations in The Animation Show are absolutely too ridiculous to describe. And what range too. Some of my favorite pieces in the entire collection are the extremely simple but absolutely hilarious Don Herzfeldt pieces. They're literally stick figure animations, but the scripts are so damn funny, and the amount of expression and life he is able to put into these frankly stupid drawings is crazy!

And then there's Fallen Art. If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this completely beautiful, disturbing, deliciously inventive piece of animation, go to YouTube right now and watch it. I promise you won't be disappointed. It never gets old and I'm just in awe every time of how someone came up with this idea and made into something this amazing.

Anyway. I was watching this with my lovely girlfriend Shannon, and we had a little discussion about how truly phenomenal some of the pieces in the animation collection are, and how we wished that we had ever done something that phenomenal with OUR lives. It wasn't much of discussion - just one of those, "Man, I need to create things!" kind of thing. It's a conversation that comes up often enough, considering she's a graphic designer and I'm a (very much aspiring) producer/filmmaker...etc.

But I just started listening to an radio episode of This American Life a minute ago, and the conversation sort came back to me.

And I realized how much I haven't done nearly enough "creating" in my life and that I'd better get on it or I'm gonna miss out. Don't get me wrong - there are people who start new professions and new hobbies and new talent that they never knew they had at the age of 75. And that's fantastic in and of itself, but I certainly don't want to wait until I'm 75 to discover that I'm capable of writing a brilliant detective novel or take prize-winning photographs of objects that might look completely uninteresting otherwise.

So that's it. This post is basically for me, I suppose. I just wanted to tell myself that I shouldn't just keep having these conversations about how I want to create my own work. I should actually freakin' do it. So if you know me and you see me, please feel free to ask me if I've done any creating lately. 'Cause I obviously need a kick in the ass, and maybe if I actually have to tell people that, "No, I've been meaning to do this and this and that, but I haven't yet..." I'll get embarrassed enough to actually do it one day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Debate-tastic!

I'm sitting here right now, watching the Democratic debate and I noticed something quite odd and frankly really disturbing.

So we have these three "front runners," right? Hillary, Barack and John. Let me say this before going any further: I can't tell you how much I want to have a woman or a minority running our country. I think it's absolutely embarrassing that the only people who have held the position of President in this country have been white males. Truly it is.

That being said, I also believe steadfastly that the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is no reason to vote for her. The same goes for Barack Obama being African-American. If I end up not voting for either of these candidates in the primary, I will honestly feel a little guilty for not having voted for the woman or the black man. But I can't let that sway my vote away from someone who I believe will best represent my beliefs and who will best serve to reverse the atrocious policies that this current abomination of an administration has set upon the suffering people of this country.

But I digress - see, I do this whole digression thing a lot.

Anyway, so what I find so disturbing about this debate I'm currently watching is that the aforementioned front runners are the ones that don't sound real to me. I'm sitting here listening to Obama - a man I saw be so down to earth on The Daily Show - sound so incredibly like a "politician" that I'm starting not to believe anything he says. I'm listening to Hillary Clinton give extremely robotic, very rehearsed-sounding answers that just don't ring true at all. I'm watching John Edwards push his compassionate Southern persona so hard that I'm really starting to wonder if that persona is actually him.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is standing on the other side of the stage from Edwards, Obama & Clinton (with Chris Dodd thrown in between Obama and Edwards in an ever-so-thinly-veiled attempt to say, "Hey, we care about these other guys!") sounding LIKE A REAL FUCKING PERSON. Bill Richardson is talking about how we treat teachers like crap and underpay them and he actually sounds passionate about something that he is making me believe that he FUCKING BELIEVES IN. Right now, Chris Dodd is speaking about Musharraf, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he's almost getting angry, he's raising his voice, and that makes me thrilled because he actually seems like he FUCKING CARES ABOUT SOMETHING.

Now, I know that this isn't all that matters when choosing our President. Dennis Kucinich, as much as I believe in so much of what he believes in, has done very little in his political career to make me confident in his ability to actually get enough done as President.

The point is this - I can't believe that the state of politics in this country is such that the leading Democratic candidates - I'm not even going to broach the subject of republicans, 'cause I could go off about that for hours - are the only ones on this stage right now that I don't think are being straight with me. (I have to say, John Edwards actually showed some life a minute ago, and I have always thought that, of the three front runners, Edwards is definitely the most real.) It just makes very little sense to me, and even more so, it makes me really sad. I want my President to be passionate about issues. I want these candidates to get fired up and pissed about how badly Bush and his cronies have fucked up this country. I want them to make jokes and act like a REAL FUCKING PERSON. Don't we want a real goddamn human being running our country?!?

Ugh. Okay, I'm gonna stop right now, because I'm obviously getting worked up. And I'm not even saying that I'm not going to vote for Obama or Edwards - I'm sorry, I'm not voting for Clinton. I just don't think she's going to do even marginally enough to change this country, and I think she's by far the most vulnerable against republicans. I'm just saying that I wish that the world wasn't this way.

But then again, there are a lot of things in this world that I would change if I could. And maybe this is a minor one. But I just got fired up about it and had to write.