You know, there are times when I think I could make it in Hollywood, if I ever decided to put my mind to it and give it the old college try.
Of course, there are also times when I think that a lobotomized orangutan with bad hair and a deviated septum could make it in Hollywood, if it could memorize a couple of lines and manage to keep from farting while on camera. Then again, this post isn’t really about Fran Drescher, so I’m not sure why I brought that up.
(Oh, I kid. I kid. I don’t think she’s an orangutan. Really. More of a gibbon. Spider monkey, maybe. Too small to be an orangutan, though. I was just joshing.)
Anyway, I’m not particularly interested in making it in Hollywood in front of the cameras, anyway. I don’t seem to be all that invested in ‘making it’ at all — which is sort of the point, I suppose. But if I ever did decide to concoct a dream and follow it, it would probably be doing comedy in seedy clubs, or writing comedy for wigged-out sitcoms, or fetching donuts for the Simpsons cast members during shoots. Something glamorous like that.
But back to the writing for a second — now, I honestly believe that there are some bright, talented writers working in the TV and film industries. I do. I’m not sure where the hell they’ve all gone, but I believe they’re out there. Somewhere. Probably working on the next Viagra commercial, or figuring out new and innovative ways to peddle Tampax. The truth is, mainstream entertainment is pretty much going down the crapper lately. Or always was in the crapper, and I’ve only recently noticed the crapperiness. Eight of one, half dozen the other. It doesn’t really matter.
Now, normally, I’d blame the ‘reality’ shows (and movies) that are all the rage with the kids these days. I can see the draw for the production execs — these shows not only ‘pretty much write themselves’; they actually do write themselves. No plot progression or premise-setup-joke structure to worry about — just throw a gaggle of boobs in a house, or onstage, or in a pit of rabid alligators, and let nature take its course. Hell, you don’t even have to pay them — they’re not real actors. Or real people. Many of them are just real stupid. Hyuk.
Of course, the most depressing thing about reality shows is that there’s nowhere left to turn — there’s no bastion of decent, well-planned and professionally-produced entertainment left for us to watch. It’s no surprise that the conglomo-networks have jumped the bandwagon, of course — Fear Factor, American Idol, Big Brother, Survivor… all of these and more are raking in the dough for the Big Four networks, and cost pennies to make.
And maybe that’s why other, usually more cerebral stations have hopped on board, too — PBS has got people living like it’s 1900 (except for the ever-present cameras), and another group of jokers stuck in a reconstructed colonial American village. A&E — long the purveyor of stark dramas and gritty documentaries — is in the act with Airline, following SouthWest Airlines employees around LAX and calling it entertainment. As if we want to relive the time our luggage landed six hundred miles away from the plane we were on during vacation. Thanks — thanks so much. Assbags. Hell, even ESPN is doing it — they recently hired a new news anchor based on a popular vote during an on-air popularity contest disguised as a job interview. Or was it a job interview disguised as a reality show? A cattle call disguised as entertainment? I dunno — maybe we’d see more on the slo-mo replay. Cue the clip, Bob.
Anyway, none of that is really the point. As usual. Just at the moment, it’s not the reality shows that I’m railing against. As far as I’m concerned, they’re a lost cause — the fad will eventually pass (can you say ‘Real World XII‘? How about ‘Average Joe 6‘? I didn’t think so, and neither can I — there is a light at the end of this tunnel, dammit), and Hollywood will have to again hire real actors, and write actual scripts, with bona fide, meaningful plots. And that’s where I get worried, people.
See, the problem is that there are less and less people out there doing this sort of work now. Basically, most of the writers scattered to the winds, and the only people left are doing cop shows and animated programs. That’s it. You’ve got the FOX cartoons — Simpsons, King of the Hill, etc., and then the CSI franchise and the seventy-three versions of Law & Order, and the rest of primetime TV is a wasteland of elimination rounds and 60 Minutes ripoffs.
Not that I’m complaining about the cartoon and cop shows — they’re some of my favorites. I can’t wait for even more spinoffs, like CSI:Motown and Law & Order: Litterbug Patrol and Apu Loves Chachi. But I worry that there’s just nobody else anywhere keeping in practice for when we’ll need ’em again to write good material. Soon, we’ll lag behind Bollywood in the area of quality writing; Europe will be snickering into their sleeves over our flicks, too. Already, the cracks are beginning to show. I’ll give you an example.
I got up this morning and turned on the tube, hoping for a quick fix before work. Eventually, I flicked past USA, which has never really been known as the voice of quality entertainment. Still, I never thought they’d stoop as low as what I saw on the screen. Hell, I never imagined anyone would sink so far. Here’s the description of the movie that was on, pulled right off the TiVo guide:
Octopus – A giant octopus, mutated from years of radiation exposure, attacks a Navy submarine transporting a terrorist captured by a CIA agent.
Now, I ask you, people — what kind of ludicrous, half-baked bullshit is that? Who would make a movie like that? How do you go through weeks or months of filming, and all the time, and the expense, to make a film where even the description is lousy? I’m all for suspending belief, but holy Christ on a Triscuit — where the hell would an octopus get mutated? And who transports captured terrorists on a submarine? And why is the Navy helping the CIA? And what… what? Why? Who the hell? Huh?
See, this is what I’m talking about. This movie came out in 1999, just as the ‘reality craze’ was hitting full stride. Obviously, the writers were already out of practice. Or they were crazed, lobotomized orangutans themselves; I honestly don’t know. But it seems that someone was desperate to make a movie that had nothing to do with reality shows, and this was the claptrap they came up with. The future does not bode well, folks. Not with shit like ‘Octopus‘ hanging over our heads.
But that’s not the worst of it. Uh-uh. Sadly, no.
It was bad enough that this train wreck of a movie ever saw the light of day. And frankly, I might be willing to give the people involved a pass on this one — maybe they were ‘pushing the envelope’ somehow, and just shoved in the wrong direction. Or maybe they made the movie on a bet, or to get back at the octopus that killed their father, something ridiculous like that. Fine. Bad movies happen; you live and learn.
But — and this is an enormous, Al Roker-sized but — you do not, repeat, do NOT, take an asinine clunky stinker of a movie, and make a damned sequel for it. Do. Not.
And yet, they did. And USA picked it up, and aired it just after the original, presumably as part of a plot to make the entire viewing audience faint at the sheer crapulence of it all. I didn’t stay for the festivities myself, but I did take a ‘sneak peek’ at the description of the sequel that just had to be made — because we can never have too many movies about killer invertebrate sea creatures, of course:
Octupus 2: River of Fear – After a giant octopus kills his partner, a scuba diver searches for the monster, as it terrorizes New York.
Frankly, I don’t know whether that’s better or worse. I know it’s not good, but at that level of outlandish boobery, it’s hard to make gradations fine enough to separate the frothingly stupid from the merely droolingly stupid. Weep, dear readers — weep for our brains. This, it seems, is the future of entertainment. And it makes Ernest Goes to Camp look like frigging Kubrick. Keep weeping.
Maybe there’s hope — I dunno. Maybe this reality thing will blow over, and the writers will come back, and we’ll have some real shows and movies again soon. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m afraid it’s gonna get more Octopus-y before it gets better. Let’s bring on Law & Order: Mail Fraud Squad and ride this thing out. Mutated octopus, indeed.Permalink | 2 Comments