Who’s to Blame? Or Only the Good Die Young

Blog No. 46

I am a big consumer of media.  I’ll be the first to admit that I watch too much TV and I can’t go ten minutes without turning on some music.  I have talked about my fixation and I have gone on about how I don’t always agree with the choices the people in charge make.  Too many terrible shows and movies get made at the expense of the good ones.  The old maxim that cream rises doesn’t apply any more.  I try not to go over the same topics too many times.  It’s too easy to become the broken record and who wants to read that?  But, I try to keep my blog about what’s going on in my life and what I happen to be thinking about at the moment I sit down at the keyboard and this week it’s about what content do we as consumers get to experience.

Last night my brother and I watched “The Good Guys”.  It was a great TV show that came out in 2010 and lasted one season.  It had the distinction of  being a favourite in my family at the time.  We watched a good amount of TV as a family when I was young.  MacGyver, Quantum Leap, Due South and the A team were shows that we would gather around the TV to watch on cold winter nights.  We would talk about what was going on during the commercials and enjoy a cup of tea.  While those old shows were sometimes silly and predictable they always had something enjoyable about them.  Whether it was the story, acting or visuals there was something about each of those shows (and others) that kept us coming back.  The one thing they all shared was that they were fun.  Every week we were excited for what was going to happen next (even when it was obvious that MacGyver would build something with the contents of his pocket or the A team would blow up jeeps – but never seem to kill anyone).

“The Good Guys” was a show that brought back those feelings.  It was a show that had the same fun and engagement of those classics but had writing, acting and production values that stood on the old show’s shoulders and met the standards of modern television.  I’ve heard it said many times that we are in a golden age of TV and while the level of writing and filming has certainly grown since the 80s there isn’t the same feeling of fun in a lot of modern shows.  The hour format shows are usually dark drama and the half hour sitcoms are more formulaic than ever.  But every once in a while there is a show that breaks the mould and bring with it the spark of the anything goes – as long as it passes the censors – joy.  Then they get cut down in one season because it isn’t the same old thing that every other station is showing.

Why?  Why do shows that try to achieve something more so often (though not always) fail? I blame the audience and the studios.  In a nutshell: People hate change, people hate risk and people like money.  The studio doesn’t like to take those risks when they know that they can copy a success on another (or even their own) station and have a hit.  I’ve always found it strange that people complain when things don’t change, but they second someone tries something new they cry for the old.  That’s why we have had so many NYPDs and CSIs.  That’s why every new sitcom is trying to be the same as the one that pulled the most ratings last season.  That’s why new shows that have clever writing and good acting fail.  The studios are going to get complaints whether they take a chance or not, so why would they put their money on the line?

Back when classic rock was new, producers would tour clubs to find the next new super starts.  As time went by they realized that they can keep the old stars going and not spend the time and money trying to find new ones.  They wait for someone to break through the complicated, expensive and extremely difficult industry on their own and then copy what they do.  They make more on the status quo than on finding new talent.  Now there is YouTube but that’s no guarantee of anything.  There are more determined and talented people who will never get their chance than ever.

The other day I offended a friend of mine on facebook.  I was at a local concert where the band members outnumbered the audience.  It was a Thursday night and hardly anyone was around downtown.  That’s not always my scene, but it is a haven of “things to do” in this and many other cities.  I made a comment that night that the next day all we would hear is that nothing happens in Windsor.  It’s a common cry that frustrates everyone who puts on shows and events and has no one show up.  Of course the comment on facebook was in that vain and I jumped on it.  I didn’t mean to be rude, but I’m sure I sounded that way.  My point is that if we want the cream to rise, either in music or TV or any other media we need to be the ones going to the concerts and writing letters to the studios.  The people in charge are only interested in money.  If we can show them that there is money in that new show or a favorite local band they might be willing to take the chance.  Maybe you can subscribe to a friend’s blog and support his writing?  Just an suggestion.

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2 thoughts on “Who’s to Blame? Or Only the Good Die Young

  1. melschnarr

    I’ve heard the “Golden Age” thing alot too and I can’t help but think that it’s really more of a negative thing than a positive one. Kind of like jumping the shark. If we’ve reached our “Media Golden Age”, it must be all downhill from here?

    The gaming industry as well is not immune to this constant deluge of formulaic and/or sequel games. Production values are so high, no publisher wants to take a risk on anything new. The one good thing about all that (for the gaming industry atleast) is that this rut of re-used content has sparked a revolt in the way of indies. Not sure if we are there yet for amateurs to start producing TV and movies that rival the quality of big name channels/studios etc but we’re probably pretty close given some of the stuff on youtube right now. So, maybe that’s the answer? Indie revolt across the board.

  2. That’s an interesting take on “golden age”. I’d like to think that there is always room for quality in any media, but I’m often shown the opposite. Like I said, as long as people are willing to do the work to find that good stuff, people will still make it.

    As for games, I’m not as well versed in the medium as you are but that makes a lot of sense. Games, like movies, cost a lot of money and not everyone is willing to take chances.
    Indie everything seems like the way to go (at least for me).

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