Wednesday, July 5, 2017
TELEVISION REBOOTS: DOES THIS MEAN THAT TELEVISION IS DEAD? OR, TRYING TO DIE AT LEAST?
So, I've been behind on my television for a little bit, and with Emmy season coming up, I'm only now trying to begin catching up on some television, that I've been overlooking or missing lately. "This Is Us" for instance, which is probably gonna compete with "The Handmaiden's Tale" for the Drama Series Emmys; I'm starting to get into that show. Kinda reminds me of what I always thought "Thirtysomething" should've been. Those shows, acclaim and popularity didn't totally surprise me, uh, I was a little caught offguard when I kept seeing "One Day At a Time" popping up sporadically on some Comedy Series categories and ballots however. Partially, 'cause I had totally forgotten that, they were rebooting that, and partially because, it was getting that kind of attention. I've seen one episode so far of the Netflix reboot, which Norman Lear does have a part in, and-eh, it's pretty good. It's solid, really solid. I'm a late-comer to the original series actually, only recently got around the original show, but that was a great show to begin with. Very underrated series in hindsight, and probably more ahead of it's time than we realize; I'm not ready to call this version better or equal to that yet, but it's a good reboot. It's got the same pieces as the original, but they modernized it, they change up the context enough, gave us some good variations on the characters that I wouldn't have considered before, added an ethnic element to it, that also gives it some added layers of depth, making it it's own thing. You certainly could watch this series and enjoy it immensely without any knowledge what-so-ever of their being an original version out there.
So-eh, why that title of this post, where I talk about how television reboots might mean the death of television. Well, everybody been talking a lot about how, feature films, especially big budget Hollywood feature films, have been, in terms of the creativity department, a bit stagnant when it comes to new ideas, just a tad; a tad being three times the size of Florida. But, I think we've been laying it a little easy on television for this.
Now I planned on doing a post on television reboots for a few weeks ago, and I decided to write down every time I heard or read a piece about a reboot or a remake of a television series that was going on, or about to happen or just going signed off on. Just, in the last few weeks, "Roseanne", "Dynasty", "Animaniacs", "Twin Peaks", "The Joker's Wild", "Sister, Sister," "Fear Factor", 'That's So Raven", "MTV's Cribs", "Beach House", "Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego", "American Idol" and "The Jetsons", have all been in the news, or in the public eye, for having a television remake/reboot or whatever, and to be honest, I'm fairly certain that since, I've been a little distracted paying attention to other work I have outside of this blog, I think I've missed like thirty others that have just popped. I mean, this promo just got released today!
Yeah, they're bringing back "Will & Grace". I'm- I'm not against that in theory, and hell that show's last episode, was really, really awful, so...-, I guess why not, just to correct that, but still.... "Hawaii Five-O" had two of their cast members leave the show this week; I didn't even realize that reboot of "Hawaii Five-0" was still on the air! (Seriously, we're we actually craving for a reboot of "Hawaii Five-0", 'cause I don't remember that. I mean I liked the original fine, but other than wanting to hear the theme song once in a while, I don't think we were asking for a new one?) You know, I do hear a lot of people talking about how we're in such a golden age of television, and yet, it seems like we're more or less going back to the old golden age of television to come up with this new golden age of television. Supposedly this is the new artist's medium and everybody creating they're own original material and there's more television outlets and genres than ever, but that's kind of a hard argument to make, when, it seems like television is almost as equally devoid of modern ideas as film supposedly seems to be.
Let's think about this for a second here, the cinema is losing out more and more to television than ever before because there's more creative freedom, inventive programming, cheaper, more availability to quality programming, etc. etc. etc. More cable channels, more streaming channels that take television seriously, etc. etc., so in order to compete, with some market, and a lot of that market is overseas, they're putting all their into already popular franchises either from another medium or in remakes of previously successful films. Is it annoying, yes. Is it frustrating, yes! Do they usually not result in good films, uh- well, Michael Bay's really screwing up the average on that one, but yeah, let's say they're generally subpar, with some notable exceptions. You all love the new "Mad Max", how many of you even remember that there was a remake of "F.A.M.E."? Yeah, exactly But, from a business perspective, it's not a bad strategy and it's probably the best strategy they can do. And, let's not forget, they still work to put out top quality films under those tentpoles and say what you want about things like the Oscars being used more as a promotional advertisement for a film than an actual judgment of the film's quality, usually they're represented of more quality films, and I seriously doubt "Moonlight" would've made the box office that the latest "Transformers" made with it's advertising budget and approach, so...- Okay, let's say it makes logical sense for film, which it does? Why is television so fascinated with reboots and remaking their own work? Film, they have to, but television....
Okay, well-, first of all, even though I did include them in that, let's throw out game shows for this topic. Well, not entirely, but most game shows, have several incarnations and variations over their run. Even the big three "Jeopardy!" "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" that have been on forever decades each now with no end in sight for any of them, none of those shows are the original versions of that series, all of them are reboots or reworkings of their original series. It is a little weird now, that the networks have started to get interested again in rebooting old game shows. With the exception of "The Price is Right" and "Let's Make a Deal", (Itself a reboot of an original game show) most game show runs have been the realm of syndication or perhaps cable, and certainly they weren't primetime until now. Off the top of my head, only the failed "Let's Make a Deal", was a network reboot of a show, (At least a reboot of an old classic American game show) that's been on Primetime and had network backing, (And I guess the failed "American Gladiators" reboot too, if you want to count that as a game show, which, I consider dubious, but okay.) since the game and reality show boom back in the late '90s and early naughts. And even then, with the exception of the rebooted "Twenty-One", from that era, they were original game shows for the most part. Not necessarily good game shows, but definitely original ones. The fact that suddenly, we've got a new "Match Game", "To Tell the Truth" and "Pyramid" and they're on in Primetime to me, on network television just seems bizarre on top of everything else. I mean, sure I spend half my time when I'm not on Facebook or writing this blog on Buzzr watching old "What's My Line?" reruns, but even in an age when reality rules network television, this comes off as odd to me. Usually either a network would fill up a morning block with game shows, which the networks haven't really done since 1990, or they're syndicated and picked up by local stations across the country, and that's a successful strategy; you just have to look to "Family Feud"'s recent inexplicable longest continuous run in it's history to see that. (Yeah, I'm not a Steve Harvey guy, sorry.) But, like I said, game shows comes in spurts, and if we're in a game show revival again, why not, at least they're redoing good old game shows, and it's not like these other games have been so great. Really, it's shocking hard to come up with a new inventive game show idea, so.....
However, the other reboots? Whether they're good or bad shows, they seem very counter-productive to me, at least in terms of television place right now in the media landscape, and in terms of what's television morphing into. Yeah, I'm working on my "Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego?" spec script, but I'd still contend that you'd think this would be much more of an anomaly than it is. I'm not gonna go over, each example of a reboot and explain how why it's good or why it's bad, and there's plenty of example of both in recent years, and hell, you can just go to Nostalgia Critic's last commentary about that with films, and you can basically apply it to television, but-, like, fine, "One Day at a Time", modern-day, Cuban-American family, single mother and divorced husband being in the military, and having gone through tours of duty, etc. Okay, fine, use the format and the structure to tell a modern, relevant story, that make perfect sense; why are we getting a live-action reboot, of "The Jetsons"? Now, maybe it'll great. There's been plenty of attempts to do a live-action sitcoms that take place in the future where the only jokes is the reverse of the same joke from "The Flintstones". I can't think of any successful ones. I'm not counting "L.A.X. 2194" as a success, are you? (Holy crap, that was done that by the guys who directing the "Captain America" films. Weird. For those who aren't with that show, that was the show that almost kept Matthew Perry from doing "Friends".) Hell, "The Jetsons" was never that big a hit as a cartoon. Look it up, it never had that great a ratings.
Ratings. Well, there's an interesting topic to take a closer look at these shows through. Were these shows big ratings hit? Eh, some were. Not all. They all mostly had better ratings than anything on TV now, that's for sure. That's something else too that bugs me about this increase in television reboots that's happening. These shows, for good and bad, all were on TV at a very different era of television. For one thing, there were fewer channels and fewer shows, so the selection was limited. I think some, think that means that nowadays with more shows than ever that means we're better off, eh, yeah, with fewer networks, they were more selective of what made the air, so, a lot of what did go on was the best of the best, so I think it's a bit, it's a bit of a wash. There's just as much crap on now as there was back then, it's just that the average doesn't seem right. But more than that, because there was so little else on, a lot of those had to do something that we take for granted a bit now, and that's basically, create the language and mythos of television. The canon, of television if you will...- (No, I'm not making that a new segment on this thing. Well, not right now anyway.)
You might've noticed that when I make a television reference, I reference, something old. That's not because I can't reference newer things, I can easily do that, but the real reason is because we have a collection of the important television works and moments, and it's ingrained in our cultural lexicon, the same way, Shakespeare is now. Here, I'll show you:
"I hate spunk"
"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia"
"I'd like to buy a vowel"
"Jumping the Shark"
"Who shot J.R.?"
"Eat My Shorts!"
"Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!...."
"Is that your final answer?"
"I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV..."
"Two thumbs up"
"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz...."
"I am the one who knocks!" (Fine, I threw in a recent one)
"Are you ready for some football!"
"How 'you', doin'?"
"Book 'em, Dano"
"Lucy, you have some 'splainin' to do!"
That last one, didn't even happen. Seriously, at no point does any character in "I Love Lucy" actually use that phrase, "Lucy, you have some 'splainin' to do!", but, like "Play It Again, Sam", is for films, it's ingrained in us anyway. And most of that's just quotes. Central Perk, the 4077th, The Regal Beagle, the Soup Nazi, and Jerry Matthews as The Beaver", these are all apart of our culture, so, we know them, we don't have to explain them. Part of the reason for that, is that, we as a country watched more television, and we watched the same television, and a wide range of it, so it's recognizable, it's, apart of our culture, it's a representative of us as a people. In other words, it's nostalgia. Now, that's also why Hollywood keeps constantly remaking the same movies, however, does that work for television in this day and age?
I mean, first of all, traditional ratings are practically meaningless in today's television landscape, but today's television landscape looks nothing like when these shows were on the air originally. Now, I think it's for the worst, because it's means that audiences can narrow into their specific things they like to see, and that means they, if they want to, don't get to experience and see everything that television can be and offers, the good and the bad, but, you can make the same argument the other way, but more importantly than that, with so much television, that encompasses, hell, it barely a literal television anymore, it's streaming, it's DVDs, it's Roku, it's-, I mean, unless you've trademarked "Super Bowl", you're not getting decent ratings anymore. That's what I don't get about this reboot trend, everything about television indicates that the majority of people watching it, in whatever form, are looking for something new, something distinct. Unique ideas and voices. Sure, there's a few "Twin Peaks" and "One Day at a Time" that have gained some fandom and popularity, but they also just canceled that reboot of "The Odd Couple", which was the second attempt to do a TV reboot of "The Odd Couple". They're bringing back "Dynasty" 'cause that reboot of "Dallas" that got canceled was apparently a hit? Or not.
Look, I'm probably the biggest classic TV buff out there, but, this is not a good direction for television to go, to constantly be trying to revive the past of television, in an era, where everything else about television right, is about new. New stories, new genres, new voices, new ways to watch television, new medium for television, and here we are going to back to the times again and again and again, where it seems like they're trying to recapture that time when television was, to quote Edward R. Murrow, merely wires and lights -- in a box. And believe me, if anything of television went back to the past, I wish it was the news, and there's certainly nothing wrong with taking influence from the past, (Again, news industry), but whatever's gonna be left of television, in whatever form that takes before it's ultimately destroyed by, whatever the next generation of film and television melding together to rot our brains in quicker and quicker fashion will end up that overtakes all forms of moving pictures, it's not gonna be led on the back of shows that are from the past.
Whether that's the intention or not, with this run of television reboots, that's the impression we get from this. There's a time when that could've worked, and I can think of a few examples where it even has, (Don't think this practice is new either, it was old when "What's Happening, Now?" tried it.) but, today.... (Sigh) Movies, they have to. But television...?