Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fox at 25, or TV Networks Don't Celebrate Themselves Like They Used To

I taped Fox's 25th anniversary special for a friend last weekend. After looking at it again, I have to wonder if Fox had trouble trying to fit 25 years of highlights into two hours...because it was worried it wouldn't have enough?

First off, anyone notice that Ryan Seacrest did not mention Fox's first star....Joan Rivers?
That's right. Before Fox even had primetime shows, it had the original Late Show, with Joan Rivers being the latest victim to the Hopeless War against Johnny Carson. Of course, this was before Arsenio Hall used a unique battle strategy....get the younger crowd instead of Johnny's usual audience.
Anyway, here's a clip of Joan in action, from the first show (thanks to YouTube, the online version of the Paley Center)

Then, we had Tracey Ullman. Plenty of clips from The Simpsons, who used to be shown in between her sketches. She even earned the network's first Emmys.
Any segment on her? Nope.
So, here's a clip. Notice Francesca's parents. They're just like Rachel Berry's parents....way before she was born.

Fox was way ahead of their time back then. Why not mention that, Seacrest?
To be fair, here's an early Simpsons sketch...

Lately, TV hasn't taken any time to look back at what it used to be. It wasn't like the 1970's, when the big three actually had big specials to celebrate their anniversaries. It started with NBC's 50th anniversary, where they unveiled a new logo....that they had to replace a few years later. Still, it was a chance to see classic TV from the 1950's, and their two hour event was more interesting that what Fox did. They did it again ten years later, including another new logo. CBS used a whole week to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It meant lots of room for song and dance like this....

Think Jon Hamm could do something like that if and when AMC celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014? Well, I don't think it remembered its 25th anniversary in 2009. Still, he'd pull it off.
ABC used Laverne and Shirley to start its four-hour 25th anniversary special. It also had musical numbers, and cast reunions, too.
Anyway, those three networks had a big advantage: the 1950's. ABC could bring back clips from Disneyland and American Bandstand. CBS could bring back Lucy and Ed Murrow. NBC had Steve Allen and Sid Caesar..and that's for starters.
Fox probably wishes it had stuff that was just as good as the 1950s. It did, only it was the 1980s, and they skipped right through them. OK, we got 90210 and Cops, but they should have given Ullman her due.

Anyone see Comedy Central's big special celebrating its 20th anniversary?
Of course not. They didn't make one.
MTV did nothing for its 30th anniversary. It left the job to VH1 with a two-hour special. VH1 Classic, a digital channel few people get, had the good sense to at least air 12 hours of the best moments of the channel, including the first hour of the network, complete with original commercials. It would have made more sense to present more of that stuff, and send it some of it over to VH1.
It's as if we don't want to think about the past. How can we face our future grandchildren, and explain why Jersey Shore was ever produced, or Toddlers and Tiaras? How can we explain why networks would rather make spin-offs rather than original shows, while cable gave us Game of Thrones and Mad Men?

I'm just saying that if a network reaches an anniversary, it should make a major effort to look back at what it was, then try to convince us the best is yet to come. Sometimes that turns out to be true. While Comedy Central used to have Bill Maher and MST3K, it has Jon Stewart, Futurama (a TV show FOX conveniently forgot it had) and South Park. It should have had a special to mention that.

Did you know E! is about to reach its 25th anniversary? How about some tributes to Talk Soup? Maybe Greg Kinnear would come back? SyFy is about to reach 20 years old. OK, so it has those movies, but how about a special honoring that milestone, and tie that in with the final episode of Eureka, and new episodes of Warehouse 13? AT least have a shindig at Comic-Con.

Nostalgia sells, guys, especially when it's done well. The Original Three proved that in the 1970s, and Fox should have taken the same approach this year with an anniversary week of some kind.
Maybe the CW can do that when it reaches its 10th anniversary in 2016...as long as it also remembers its past as the WB and UPN.
And yes, that includes the Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. Good with the bad, guys. It's only fair. At least Fox did that with its special. We have to suffer through When Animals Attack to get to American Idol.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Morgan Spurlock Tour Spends Easter in SF

Morgan Supurlock and fans

We've been waiting quite some time for Comic-Con IV: A Fan's Hope, the documentary that Morgan Spurlock and Joss Whedon produced. It's supposed to be an inside look at one of the biggest and most popular events anywhere. After seeing it at the Vogue in San Francisco on Easter night, the movie does deliver in some levels. I just wish it was longer. It's just under 90 minutes, but it needed another 15 or 20 minutes. Well, what he couldn't include in the film, it will be in the inevitable DVD. It'll probably be two discs, although three will do, especially the blu-ray version.

Comic-Con IV: A Fan's Hope

So how can you condense 140 thousand fans and four days of Comic-Con 2010 into under 90 minutes? First you have interviews with fans, a lot of them. That produces 700 hours of stuff. I was one of those fans, but I didn't make the cut. I may have had a chance if I was in costume, which I wasn't. I did dress as Dr. Who the 11th last year and will do so again. I just need a fez or something.

The film does have lots of interviews including Joss, Seth Green, Kevin Smith (who plays a part in one of the story lines), Grant Morrison, Kenneth Branagh, and more. It was also the first time I saw Paul Dini's face after knowing his name from the Batman animated series.

To get to the heart of Comic-Con, Spurlock chose several people who have stories that are connected with the event, We have two budding comic book artists who hope to get a foot in the door. We have a couple who met at Comic-Con 2009 who may be taking a big step if all goes well. It also depends on how the guy can get a very special ring for his girl. There's a collector who's there for only one thing: an action figure. There's Holly, a costume designer who hopes her entry in the Masquerade will turn some heads. There's Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics, who has personally seen Comic-Con change from a comics-only convention into, as someone once said, Cannes for Nerds. Chuck's hoping to sell an extremely rare comic book that will keep him in business, in case sales aren't that great.
They are the best part of the film, especially Chuck and Holly's stories.

We also get to see Stan Lee, and Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie and other movie stars that have basically taken over Comic-Con. We get comments about how the con is now a focus group for upcoming movies, which is true. It was the con that boosted Shaun of the Dead and Inglorious Basterds, but also exposed the weaknesses of films that use entire hotel buildings as billboards. Skyline, anyone? Hollywood taking over Comic-Con through product placement, and even "borrowing" a couple of restaurants to plug shows, would have been a great documentary all by itself. Again, if we had more on that, and contrast that with what Chuck and other comic book mavens think about how they're getting forgotten, it would have been a stronger film. It's certain this will be part of the DVD, and maybe something about how other people have become stars not exactly through major movies or TV, but through indie horror or internet shows (hey there, Felicia).

Spurlock takes questons after movie

The people at the Vogue were nice enough to let me sit in with both question and answer sessions with Spurlock. He's a cool guy, and had some interesting comments about movie distribution. He noted that while he was on late-night TV plugging The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (his take on product placement), less than 20 theaters showed his movie on its first day of release. So, he decided with the Comic-Con movie, it would be shown in a few theaters, but also on Amazon, iTunes and on demand. In fact, you can see this movie at home or on your iPad for seven bucks. People at the screening paid $10.50, but that's because they wanted to see it the way their ancestors did....in a big dark room with popcorn and movie trailers. Having Morgan be there to sign autographs and talk about it was a bonus that they, and I, were happy to enjoy. The theater was actually two-third full for both showings, probably because it was Easter weekend. They also got dinged by a less-than-favorable review by the San Francisco Chronicle.

So what was left out of the movie? He talked about a girl who made a living dressed in costume, and how complex her costumes were. There was also a Colombian man who wanted to own his own comic book company, and hoped exposure at Comic-Con would help. He got a booth there, but not a travel visa. His wife had to go on his place, although she was not as involved in the business as he was. Spurlock said he would have had to use voice over to tell the story, and he didn't want to do that because the movie is without narration. He did say their company is still viable, and it's switching to digital comics. In fact, he said that digital comics could be the wave of the future.
He also talked about how that infamous stabbing during the Resident Evil panel prevented them from getting a very special romantic moment that was supposed to be one of the big story lines in the movie.

Spurlock also predicted that Comic-Con may be longer, maybe five or six days. That'll be great news to the hotel industry, that's for sure. I expect Petco Park will be the new Hall H, but that's just me.

Spurlock will continue his movie tour to the East Coast this week. His website reveals where he'll be, and how people can host a screening of the movie in their hometown. That should include San Diego because the movie is only available OnDemand at Cox Cable, but it should be in theaters. Heck, it should be at Comic-Con!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Discovering the Secret in Berkeley

It's been a long time since we had a new post here, since Whedonopolis gets priority for all my Whedon-verse posts. There are times, though, where I get to do such stories that someone else at that site has covered.

Nearly three weeks ago, I got to see the long-buried (thanks to MGM's financial problems) movie, The Cabin in the Woods, made by the words and thoughts of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard--and Goddard directing. My take on it is still here, with the post-picture discussion.

Dread-Central was part of a new round of screenings over the past two weeks, including one this past Wednesday at the Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley.

While we couldn't bring cameras because Lionsgate said so, this was a much more active crowd compared to the one in Anaheim. It really helped when before the movie, Drew said the crowd should be as rowdy as it wants to be as the story unfolds. As my story said at the Anaheim screening, this movie takes a familiar horror story than sends it to places you'd never expect. That goes from what the college students do to where they wind up. I can only wonder what will happen on April 14th, when the "secret" is finally revealed and we can all talk about it. I can just hear the reaction of people being told who exactly is "behind the curtain" as far as the plot is concerned.
Again, no names. April 13th. This movie..your only hope to avoid giving money to a movie that is an even bigger horror, even if it does include Larry David as a nun.

So, what was the place like?

The Shattuck Cinema used to be a department store, but they renovated it for theaters in a section of town where one can choose from at least 15 movies in a three-block radius..and not under the same roof. The theaters themselves are uniquely decorated. They may be small but they are very nice places to check out a movie. My theater had a King Tut feel to it

I went there about 2:30, and found two people in line. An hour later, it was up to ten, and I decided to join in. The chairs are leather with very fancy cup holders. I was n the balcony where they had couches. It was like being at home, but with a very big screen and a stage. The place was filled about ten minutes after the screening was supposed to start. In my section there were a couple of kids that would be too young to see this movie. When you see it for yourself, you'll know why.

Drew and Amy Acker were introduced before the movie. Amy looked great but had cut her hair. That's too bad, since she looked great on Grimm recently with long hair.
Since this was my second time seeing it, I looked for some of the key moments that made this movie special, including how many scenes would have looked better in 3-D (I'd say maybe four or five).

Afterwards, Drew looked pleased abut how things went, especially about how people cheered for a certain item that Starbucks would be reluctant to sell. He also admitted that there are two characters that may remind viewers of Joss and Drew, and they're easy to spot. Again, no names. Go see the movie and you'll see what it is. I'm not the Hollywood Reporter.
He also explained how he tried to get a job being part of John Carpenter's movie, Vampires, in New Mexico. He didn't make it, but wound up working for a TV movie called Scattering Dad with Olympia Dukakis. Apparently it, too, had to wait a couple of years to be shown. Anyway, both movies were being filmed in the same area, which game Drew a chance to visit the set, and eventually meet Carpenter.

Then the discussion went to the chances of a sequel, and what Drew and Joss would have wanted to add to the movie. He also briefly discussed the chances of another Cloverfield movie. He said it depends on getting the right story.

Yes, Amy were there, too. She, too, was excited about working about the movie, and with Richard Jenkins, who...does something. You'll see.

The screening series will be ending soon, then everyone else will see The Cabin in the Woods. You'll find out why in every preview screening, there's one guy who appreciates this movie after the recent string of incredibly disappointing flicks. Seems Silent House is often mentioned.

Also, it gave me a chance to really get to use the BART system. I only used it to get from Fremont to San Francisco..and that was 30 years ago. Heading to Berkeley is good, too, and I may do that again soon. For now, though, I have another special movie screening in San Francisco this weekend. It's a movie I could see on iTunes, but meeting Morgan Spurlock after his Comic-Con movie is something I hope to do.