Tag Archives: Network

R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

Lost a giant this weekend; Sidney Lumet passed away at 86.

One of my favorite directors ever. Lumet’s films were almost always as much about morality and social conscience as they were good storytelling. No wonder that some of the finest actors of all time – Henry Fonda, Al Pacino, Paul Newman among them – gave perhaps their finest performance under his leadership. You always got the sense that everyone involved in the production shared his passion for authenticity and depth.

Lumet worked heavily in theatre and in television, directing over two hundred productions for Playhouse 90, Studio One and Kraft Television Theatre before moving on to film. His first movie, 12 Angry Men, remains an all time classic over fifty years later. His last, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, proved he hadn’t lost a step. Hopefully his overlooked series 100 Centre Street will be released on DVD someday soon.

Amazingly, despite such a stellar career, he never won an Oscar for directing, although he was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 2005 for his career achievements. He was nominated four times, for 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon and Network.

He did, however, directed seventeen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix.

When someone from the arts passes, I like to celebrate their life through that art by listening to some of their music, or watching one of their films. With Lumet, there is a wealth to choose from but I will probably pull this one off the shelf.

Roger Ebert wrote a nice remembrance.

A very informative New York Times obituary.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV

TV or not TV?

Get back here and WATCH ME, dammit!!

It’s been an interesting year for television.

With ratings sinking, cheap reality programming gaining traction and a couple of long-running landmark programs coming to an end, the landscape for the next year or two might be a complete crapshoot. 

Although I don’t spend my time wallowing in celebrity gossip, I do find the machinations of the television industry fascinating. And this year has been particularly bizarre, with the whole Leno/Conan debacle the biggest story of the year – unless you want to separate Leno’s return to The Tonight Show from the single greatest disaster in prime time history. Ironic that Jay would make Headlines wither way. 

"Man single-handedly kills 15 hours of broadcasting"

Somehow The Simpsons keeps rolling along, South Park remains controversial and long running franchises Law And Order and CSI Wherever multiply like rabbits. Networks try to feed us more copycat cop crap, lame lawyer shows and miserable medical dramas. When they come up with something original (FlashForward) or even a reinvention of a past success (V) they forget that a complex serialized drama can’t have a huge gap in its schedule or momentum will be lost. (And speaking of Lost, someone at ABC couldn’t even understand the concept of  the phrase “uniterrupted schedule”, choosing to air a repeat episode April 25th). 

Fox has announced that 24 is ending this season, no doubt largely in part to the high cost of the program. But they hit the jackpot with Glee, and hopefully will pour some American Idol profit into keeping the wonderful Fringe alive. NBC looks like it might finally have a Thursday night comedy block again (Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock) but is scrambling to replace the third of their schedule that The Jay Leno Show wiped out. If ABC drops it’s two high-priced sci-fi shows and cancels Heroes, they virtually  concede Monday and Tuesday nights; only Castle and Modern Family have broken the mold of celebretard programming. CBS might have found a winner in The Good Wife but the network is still more likely to clone a show than create one. 

 It’s not all hopeless. USA came up with a winner in White Collar which should help ease the loss of Monk.  Friday Night Lights returns this week thanks to the cost-sharing deal between NBC and DirecTV, whereby DirecTV gets to air the series on pay TV in the Fall, then NBC gets to air it on broadcast TV in the Spring. (Maybe that strategy can save shows like Damages and Southland; adult oriented drama that doesn’t pull vampire numbers in the ratings.) 

And the summer brings us basic cable winners like The Closer and Rescue Me and Mad Men as the more nimble basic cable channels like TNT, AMC and FX counter-program the dead season. Elmore Leonard on television is a good thing.  Louis C.K. on television is a good thing. 

If the smaller channels can get it right…why can’t the major networks? Pretty soon it’s all going to be internet television anyway, so the smart and savvy will survive. There is still a large audience that wants great storytelling and well-written comedy

But every year I still cringe when brilliant shows get cancelled. Watching the slow death of Better Off Ted was reminiscent of Arrested Development’s demise, only accelerated. And why would you have a show called The Unusuals and not let it be…unusual? But I could just be bitter. Hell, I still haven’t forgiven CBS for cancelling EZ Streets. 

There are a few excellent resources for those of you looking into that crystal ball wondering what’s happening with your favorite shows…or with the schedule in general. You’ll probably want to bookmark them. The week of May 17th might be D-Day for many of these programs as the networks finish Sweeps and sharpen the axes.

 

The Futon Critic is an excellent resource for TV news and even includes this handy guide to how many episodes are left for each program. Shows are listed by network in a cancel/renewal status grid  (note that a lot of them are TBD). 

The aptly named Is My Show Cancelled site focuses on just that very thing. 

TV By The Numbers takes a more statistical approach to the situation, tracking ratings on a daily basis and making some predictions based upon trends and historical decision points.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV

Mad(?) Prophets

My daughter picked up a copy of Network the other day; we had watched it together years ago. I’ve tried to resist imparting my list of music and film “classics” on my kids because people need to get their own socks knocked off and not have pre-conceived notions (at least any more than they will get from the media and/or their peers). But since she is pursuing a career in television production, I made an exception, and apparently an especially valid one since we now know just how prescient Paddy Chayefsky was.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

I’m a big fan of curmudgeon comedy when it’s done well; few are better angst-ridden wailers than Marc Maron. His podcast series, WTF, is my favorite, and this recent bit with Eddie Pepitone just slayed me. Sure, it’s no Howard Beale going crazy, it’s just a hysterical rant from a comedian. But at the core it’s a rallying cry to see through the bullshit for what it is and realize that (in the words of Dean Vernon Wormer) “fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son“!

“Why do I have to be concious for the horror?”

Subtly – or perhaps not so muchMaron and Pepitone are challenging their fellow comedians to step up their game and honor their craft by holding a mirror up to society and telling the truth. Because no one else is.

Laugh til it hurts, folks.

Marc Maron WTF podcast

Eddie Pepitone website

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Editorials, Film/TV