6 Really Tired TV Trends

tvI just noticed that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has produced a new TV series called Pure.  It’s a scripted drama about (and I’m not making this up) a Mennonite family of drug dealers.  A Mennonite family of drug dealers!  Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.  But I digress.  So — uh — wow — a television series about a dysfunctional crime family.  What a novel idea!  (Sometimes I wish sarcasm had a font.)

I hate to say it folks, but the fantastic days of glued-to-the-sofa television are over.  The Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Dexter, Deadwood and Breaking Bad are all gone — and they ain’t comin’ back.  There are a few leftovers from that 20-year entertainment banquet (notably, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead) but, in general, TV has gone back to the same old crap.  Why?  ‘Cause studio executives are beating audiences over the head with really, really, really tired ideas.  For example:

Cop Shows — There have been so many cop shows on TV recently that half the population of Hollywood has worn a badge at one time or another.  There were at least three NCISs, four CSIs, and God only knows how many Law and Orders.  People, it’s the same program!  All they do is change the skyline in the opening credits.

Paranormal Everything — Ever since aliens got the jump on agents Mulder and Scully, television producers have been trying to recapture those ratings — and, believe me, they’ve tried everything.  The litany of ghosts, trolls, witches, mutants, aliens, vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, superheroes and telekinetic, super-powered, extraordinary beings reads like an Aleister Crowley nightmare.  And have you ever noticed these programs never actually come to any conclusion?  They just keep going sideways until you’re so pissed off you could scream.

Talent Competitions — The format hasn’t changed since The Original Amateur Hour debuted on the DuMont Television Network in 1948, but since the 80s, there have been a ton of talent hunt programs like Star Search and American Idol on TV.  The problem is last year the market got so saturated that, for the first time in television history, there were more contestants than there were viewers!  OMG! Andy Warhol was right.

Cooking Shows — No, guess again; they’re Game Shows.  Cooking is now a competition, and any way you slice it, the formula is basically the same.  Several teams are given a bag of weird ingredients and told to make dinner (or dessert) before the third commercial break or get kicked to the curb. It’s basically Beat The Clock with butcher knives.  The only deviation is that sometimes a celebrity chef gets to swear at the competitors.

Quirky Ensemble Comedy Shows — And it came to pass that MASH begot Cheers and Cheers begot Seinfeld and Seinfeld begot Friends and Friends made piles of money, and so Friends begot How I Met Your Mother, Community, 30 Rock  and every other sitcom that’s looking to become the new Friends.

And finally:

Celebrity “Real TV” Reality Shows — If this were a more civilized time, the purveyors of these programs would be dragged from their homes and horsewhipped through the streets.

Reality TV — The Cameraman

camermanAs I’ve said many times, even though I don’t watch it, I have no philosophical bitch with Reality TV.  It’s TV, so, as the man said “Here we are now: entertain us.”  And presumably, it does.  But have you ever wondered about the cameraman? (Yes, I realize sometimes they’re women, but we all know what we’re talking about.)  He’s the guy who has to do everything the Reality Star does — with one hand holding a camera.  This is nothing special if you’re Keeping up With the Kardashians but in the wild and woolly world of Reality TV, I imagine some gigs are tougher than others.

Ice Road Truckers – The camera follows a group of truck drivers in northern Canada and Alaska — in winter.  I’ve been to northern Canada, and the place is so full of nothing even Google doesn’t go there.  Calling it “tedious” is wildly optimistic.  The cameraman’s job is to film somebody driving a truck, hour after hour, through this white wasteland — on the off chance that something will go wrong.  That anything will go wrong.  Please, God!  Break something!  At kilometre 300, he can’t feel his bum anymore.  At kilometre 600, he’s convinced he’s trapped in The Matrix, and by kilometre 1000, he’s praying for a polar bear to come and eat him.  Nowhere in the history of entertainment has one person so completely wished for disaster to befall another human being than on the set of Ice Road Truckers.

Swamp People — The camera follows a group of ‘hunters” who find and kill alligators.  What possible enticement would convince anybody to go and film that?
Wanted:  Experienced camera person to travel to a disease-invested swamp, get into an itty-bitty boat with a couple of hillbillies, and film them attacking gigantic piss-off alligators.  Good balance an asset.  Lack of imagination a plus.  Malaria, typhus, cholera, hepatitis A, B and C, yellow fever and rabies shots required.  Preference given to orphans and idiots and anybody who hasn’t seen the movie Deliverance.

And the granddaddy of them all:

Deadliest Catch — The camera follows crab fishermen in the Bering Sea — in January.  Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations on the planet.  People die doing this stuff — frequently — when they’re holding on with both hands.  Imagine standing in the middle of an iceberg-cold ocean, pointing a camera at a 10 metre wave that’s about to drown you, the stupid little boat you’re standing on, and anyone else not smart enough to be on dry land.  What would you be thinking?  “Wow, those four years of film school are really going to pay off now!”

So, even though I don’t watch it, I tip my hat to Reality TV — if only for the person working the camera.  I’d pay money to eyeball that guy.

We’ve Run Out Of Villains

zombieA couple of years ago, I thought one more season of The Walking Dead was finally going to finish all this zombie crap — for good.  Wrong!  In a couple of weeks, AMC is going to be back at it again with Season 6.  (Not only that, but word around the campfire is, the production team has plans for a Season 7, and an 8, 9 and 10.)  It’s like Route 66 with butcher knives.  Plus, now they’ve come up with some nonsense spinoff, “let-me-explain-the-apocalypse prequel: Fear The Walking Dead.  What’s the deal?  The original Night of the Living Dead lasted 96 minutes.  Rick and his minions have been killing zombies for 5 years!  How many different ways can you blow somebody’s head off?  And more importantly, why is any audience still interested?

I’ve figured it out.

As a society, we’re starved for villains, and zombies are the last ones available to us.

Check it out.

1) Hollywood has clichéd Evil Corporate America out of existence.  When a movie has a white guy in an expensive suit in it — he’s the bad guy.  D’uh!  Audiences have been there/done that so many times even Disney has quit trying to sell that lame old story line.

2) No film maker is ever going to risk making the ethnic guy the villain.  That’s like throwing gasoline on the Eagerly Offended fire.  Every self-appointed activist this side of Mars would be on his ass faster than you can say “Don’t you ever show your face at Sundance, again!”

3) Point #2 goes double for all other identifiable groups.  Try making a gay guy evil, or a single mom, or a paraplegic and the Social Media would go berserk.  They’d threaten to blow up your car, burn down your house, slap your face, kick your dog and pee in your porridge — you insensitive bastard.  The last time a guy in a wheelchair was the villain of a movie, it was Kenneth Branagh in Wild, Wild West and even Salma Hayek’s boobs couldn’t pull that dog out of the fire.

4) The entertainment industry has made bad guys look good.  Tony Soprano was a Mafia Boss.  He was a criminal.  He stole things.  He cheated.  He lied.  He killed people.  WE SAW HIM DO IT!  But who cares?  We were still cheering for the guy when family night got cut short by the blackout series finale.  Dexter?  Totally psycho!  Walter White in Breaking Bad was a meth dealer.  A METH DEALER!  There are no redeeming qualities to that profession.  Yet there are people in this world who think the moral of that story is we should pay teachers higher wages!

So who’s left?  British accents and pretty girls.  And even that doesn’t always work.  I cheered for Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl just because she knocked the snot out of Ben Affleck.

No, folks.  We’re stuck with zombies for the foreseeable future.  In a society where vampires are cozy, crime is a career choice and everybody’s entitled to a rainbow, zombies are the last bastion of evil.

And to demonstrate just how far our world has descended into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, never once — in the entire Walking Dead series — does anyone ever say the word “zombie.”  I think the producers are scared skinny that Z.A.C (the Zombie Awareness Coalition) is lurking in the shadows somewhere.