Friday, January 11, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Cable TV Limbo. How Low Can We Go?

Continuing on my theme of derivative programming showcasing the worst (well maybe not the very worst, but still) we have to offer, comes this announcement from A&E that they are green-lighting a "reality" (yeah, we all know reality isn't real.. but that's the name of the "genre") program on the former "colorful" Louisiana Ex-Governer Edwin Edwards who was released from prison after serving time on bribery and extortion charges.

From Inside TV:

The Governor’s Wife will star 85-year-old Edwin Edwards and his 34-year-old wife, Trina, along with several of their children from previous marriages. Edwards served four times as Louisiana’s governor over the course of three decades, and also served eight years in federal prison for crimes committed while he was in office. In 2001, Edwards was convicted on bribery and extortion charges. He became pen pals with Trina during his prison stint and they married after his release last year. 

The show will focus on Edwin and Trina’s May-December relationship and follow Edwin’s daughters (Anna, a 62-year-old, four-time divorcĂ©e and Victoria, a 60-year-old ex-showgirl) along Trina’s sons (Logan, 15 and Trevor, 13).
Some official description: “The series follows Trina as she attempts to fit into the former governor’s upscale world and busy social life while trying to get along with daughters twice her age and corral her teenage sons. Between school projects, running for president of the Homeowner’s Association, fending off skeptics who think she’s a gold digger, and thoughts of adding a baby of their own to the mix, the Edwards clan truly represent a new take on the modern family.”

Click HERE for the rest of the story on Inside TV.

According to the site, executive producer Shaun Sanghani told the New Orleans Times-Picayune  that Edwards is “one of the most animated political leaders of the last century” and noted that producers “hope to capture that same charisma and charm in his personal life as he re-enters society after a lengthy prison sentence.”

Here is what I say to Mr. Sanghani. "You are intellectually lazy and represent what is THE WORST (well maybe not the worst, but then again, maybe so) in the television industry. Shows like this reward bad and outrageous behavior and criminality with fame. Could it be that you don't know how to tell an original story? Of all the great subjects out there you could choose to cover, you chose an ex con politician and his former pen pal, now wife who from the looks of things, could have seduced a murderer, but I suppose decided that move had already been done multiple times. Sleep well tonight. Job well done." 

But we can't lay the blame all at Mr. Sanghani's feet. He's just pitching what sells to cable networks  these days. The whole process has become soulless. People either quit having pride in their work or somewhere along the line just figured it doesn't matter. Or more likely, the pressure to stand out in an increasingly fragmented and outrageous media landscape has infected decision making of folks who may not have had that strong of backbones to begin with. 

I can only hypothesize why someone, anyone, with a modicum of respect or talent would choose to follow the herd off a cliff. But then again, this has been going on since the dawn of time (not misguided reality show concepts but horribly bad behavior). Rewarding bad or obnoxious behavior via a TV show, is however, fairly new but has already become the new normal.

Of course, I can and will choose my right "not to watch". And increasingly more and more people are doing that. Yet, according to the ratings, not enough to make it not worth cable networks' while not to continue to perpetuate programming such as this. TV viewership is like a once deep body of water, who's banks have been leveled and now the water is spread so thin over such a large area, no healthy fish can survive, only bottom dwellers and amoebas and such. Bad analogy, but it will have to do until I can come up with another one. 

Now I strongly believe in freedom of speech and Mr. Shanghani's right to choose whatever subject he decides to choose to make his show. But I also believe that networks, TV stations and all media outlets and their producers & content creators do have a responsibility and accountability for their actions and right now, they act as if their actions and choices don't have consequences for the rest of us. They do and as the Newtown, CT tragedy illustrated, these consequences can be horrific (violence is an even older if more damaging scourge inflicted on us by "Hollywood").

Cable's new found love affair with "laugh at the redneck" shows (with full cooperation and no shortage of fame starved rednecks or actual faux rednecks) would be deemed politically incorrect and offensive if this were "laugh at the Asians, Hispanics, African Americans" or "laugh at the people living in the ghetto" or "struggling illegal immigrants" or any others on a lists of "can't touch" ethnic or socioeconomic groups. Luckily for the networks and for people like Honey Boo Boo's parents, poor white trash is fair game. Go for it and duplicate it, and then do it again and again and again only further and further pushing the boundaries, not of creativity, but of bad taste. This coming from a medium never really known for it's refined tastes in the first place. 

Well, I'm a former redneck (see high school sophomore yearbook photo as exhibit A if you can find it. Sorry, no way am I posting that here) and I find this garbage offensive, both as a viewer and a former redneck. I think I'll start a group called RAGE (Rednecks Against Godawful Exploitation). OK, OK it should be FRAGE (Former Rednecks Against Godawful Exploitation). But by the time I got around to getting it organized and arranging a decent protest the powers that be at cable TV would have changed yet again (see "Current TV", one of the few decent channels that no one watched as Exhibit B) or have moved on to lowering the bar even lower, also yet again. (Say what you will about A&E but they are in no danger of being sold to Al Jazeera).

Just when you think  that they must be running out of people to put on TV comes a new one. If they could find Hitler alive and well, he'd definitely get a show that would probably show his "softer" side.

Since Hitler is a no go, maybe they'll find that murderous despot Joseph Cony in the African jungle or some other war criminal and the different channels can fight it out over his life's story of "reintegration" into society. I'm sure it will be a ratings killer. Pun intended.