Monday, July 20, 2015

Vault of Coolness: Journey Into Old TV Guides

Due to a recent ARCHIVE FIND, I have a decent stack of vintage "TV Guide" issues I'll be using for Vault of Coolness material.  If I can get my scanner working again, I'll post some of the ads and artwork, but for now let's look at some of the program descriptions.

From Monday, January 22, 1979, at 9:30 PM, here's what the Guide says about "The Honeymooners":

A misadventure strains Ralph and Norton's friendship.

That's it? Really, "TV  Guide?" Are you not supposed to guide us through the process of deciding what to watch on a given evening? At 9:30 PM, you have described virtually every episode of "The Honeymooners" ever made.

I thought maybe this was just a generic placeholder description to account for the fact that the mag didn't have episodic details, but the rest of the week, same time, same channel, we get specifics that better explain what the show is about.

A misadventure strains Ralph and Norton's friendship," just ain't cutting it. Fortunately, at 10:00 PM, we get more info regarding "Sanford and Son":

Fred steals money from Lamont for a get-rich-quick venture.

OK, that actually might describe more than one episode, but at least it's something.

Friday, July 17, 2015

No thanks, Netflix

I'm watching a lot of "Quincy" this month because it leaves in August, part of the apparent ongoing purge of older content from Netflix's streaming library. I wish Quincy were around to go on "one of his trademark crusades" (quote from one of the episode descriptions) against Netflix's shabby treatment of catalog content.

Lately I keep getting a recommendation to watch "Murder, She Wrote" "because I watch Quincy." Netflix, stop pimping Jessica Fletcher (OK, I wrote it, and I'm not going to delete it, but let's not go there). I don't want to watch "Murder, She Wrote."

You know what I want to watch? "Quincy!"  That's why I'm viewing so much of the series. Jessica is not an acceptable substitute. Your algorithms and recommendations may seem cool, but they're not going to make me forget that you're dumping so many series that I actually like.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I hate the word "hatewatching," BUT I might have to make an exception

I find the term "hatewatching" ridiculous. If you hate something, why watch it? Is it really worth sacrificing 30 to 60 minutes of your time to get a few quips for Twitter (or, say, a pop culture blog)? On the other side, defenders of a crummy show will throw out "hatewatcher" to insult people who are critical of something they don't want to criticize.

So I try to avoid that term, and I have way too many things I legitimately DO want to watch to be able to delve into things I think will make me miserable. And yet..

Denis' Leary's new series, "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll," premieres on FX tonight. Lately I've seen some ads with actual footage from episodes, but the previous marketing campaign filled me with a bizarre mixture of revulsion and intrigue. I fear that I will hate this show, but it.

Denis Leary plays an aging, hard-partying rock star who is washed up  now but somehow finds himself looking for work with his daughter, herself an aspiring rock star. Those teaser ads featured Leary's character and the daughter responding to an unseen interviewer. These 20-second spots said it all: Leary's gonna be playing an addict, he and the daughter have a contentious relationship, the show is gonna be outrageous and edgy, etc.

"What kind of fatherly advice do you get from a legendary rock star like Johnny Rock?"
"Hmm." [pause, smirk] "Don't wear anything flammable."
"And I thought she didn't listen."

Cue guys singing , "Sex and drugs and
rock and roll, ALL RIGHT!"

You can tell just from Leary's sunglasses and haircut how this is all gonna go.   It gets worse, though, when co-star John Corbett shows up in another set of ads as the guitarist. It looks suspiciously like Corbett and Leary are "riffing" and "having fun" in character as they go back and forth. What's the problem with that? Well, what's the problem with any of it, you  might ask? It seems like a funny enough idea.

Unfortunately, it's all reminiscent of Leary's "Rescue Me," which I found brilliant for the first few seasons, but which I just stopped watching by the end. I thought it had degenerated into a self-indulgent parody of itself, and perhaps this series is on the right track by focusing on comedy from the get-go, but, boy, does it look like it could be trouble.

On the other hand, I like Leary, and I have to admit this role seems perfect for him? Too perfect? We'll see. I will watch this. I just don't want to hatewatch this.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Things Only I Want to See: Cannon

I was looking at a list of best-selling books on my Kindle the other day, and I was stunned to see one title pop up: "Cannon: A Stepbrother Romance." I knew it wasn't what I first thought it was, but would it be so bad if there were an erotica series devoted to William Conrad's Frank Cannon character?

"I'll caress you in a minute, my lambchop...but first, where's that lambchop?"

OK, maybe it would be, but I still wish someone would make a Cannon Fanfic series.

(NOTE: I am actually too chicken to look and verify that no one has)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Aaaaand there go the old shows...

Should we be worried about Netflix? I haven't been too concerned with Netflix's ongoing effort to become HBO. I would much rather it spend its money on acquiring OLD content, not producing tons of new shows, each of which lately sounds less interesting than the previous one. I understand the strategy, though, and I can believe it is tougher to get library content at a decent price these days.

But it's easy for me to be ambivalent about spending money on Adam Sandler movies and Lily Tomlin series when there's tons of other programming I want to watch. Make no mistake, there still IS. But this summer is worrying me.

"Mission Impossible," "Hawaii Five-0 (1968)," and "Knight Rider" left Netflix at the end of the month. That's two CBS shows and one Universal. In a few weeks, Universal's "Miami Vice" and the 1960s "Dragnet" will be gone. At the end of the month, we'll say good-bye to "Leave It to Beaver" and "Magnum P.I."

I'm not shedding tears over the loss of "Wings" and "Melrose Place," but they are two more long-running CBS shows that left Netflix at the end of June.  No, another season of "Glee" arriving in a few weeks doesn't satisfy me. Where are the new library deals? A big part of Netflix's appeal is access to commercial-free, unedited shows from the CBS and Universal vaults. I want to see these deals expanded, if anything, but right now there is no sign that anything is in the works.

I hope these shows come back in the near future. I believe "Mission Impossible" left and returned before. Netflix doesn't usually tip its hand on these kinds of things. We need to keep a close eye in particular on the CBS shows, which could show up on Amazon Prime or maybe on CBS' own lame subscription video on demand service, which could use a whole lot more content. Universal doesn't have its own dedicated offering yet, so I hope these shows will migrate to Hulu and/or come back to Netflix.

 I worry, though, that there isn't the outcry I've seen when other deals expire, possibly because these departures are staggered.  Does anybody else care?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" video: Is this the end?

OK, Swift is as popular as ever, and I can't get this song out of my head today. But have you seen the video? It's one of those "concept videos," and the concept appears to be Taylor Swift playing at being some future spy chick and inviting her celebrity pals to be in the clip with her.

It starts out kind of cool. There's action and ridiculous costumes, and Swift herself looks great. But it soon degenerates into a series of even faster edits and pointless cameos. I would have enjoyed 4 minutes of Taylor Swift kicking butt, but shots of Lena Dunham looking tough and smoking a stogie? Not so much.

Plus the nice catchy radio edit is abandoned for a "Bad Blood" mix with an extended rap part. What comes to mind is the word my kids use when they don't like what comes on the radio: "SKIP!" If this version were on the radio, I probably would skip it.

I don't intend to just rip this video, though I got off to a good start in those last two paragraphs. What worries me is the parallel I see with another pop superstar. Remember when Michael Jackson's "Thriller" established him as not just a pop superstar, bit an icon? His videos were eye-catching and entertaining and complemented his songs.

Then the "Bad" album came out, and suddenly Michael Jackson didn't just release videos. He made "premiere events." The videos had to be directed by Hollywood big shots and had to feature celebrities and musicians from different genres. The overhype was bad enough with, well, "Bad," but it really got out of hand with "Black or White." Lordy, remember the Macaulay Culkin part?

It only got worse with Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson in "Remember the Time." I believe the music at this point was nowhere near as accomplished as it was on "Thriller," but I honestly can't guarantee I am not swayed by those lame bloated videos.

I'm not saying Lena Dunham is Macaulay Culkin (it would probably make a better blog post), but I see in "Bad Blood" some troubling signs. Taylor Swift is one of my favorite celebrities because my kids like her music, yet her songs don't make me want to jab my ears with knitting needles. She keeps her nose clean--at least as far as the public is concerned--and doesn't do anything that makes me embarrassed to watch her with my children. The "Bad Blood" video is *almost* embarrassing, and if she shows up in her next one with a pet chimp, I think I'm outta here.