Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Screening Process: Recent Thoughts About Television and Film, part 1 -- The Boob Tube

A few nagging tidbits about television and film have plagued my thoughts lately, so I've decided to purge them here for your enjoyment!

* While I was as compelled by the last season of American Idol as the squeaky teeny-bopper, I'm half-watching this season -- literally, since it airs on the Wednesdays I usually participate in a local poetry open mic. Even if I did reserve Hump Day for the latest round of Idol antics, a moment from season eight's premiere may have turned me off to the hunt for America's next diva altogether. Rocker Randy Madden betrayed his sensitive side when he cried for the camera, and after his ambitious performance of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," the judges said that Randy hadn't learned any of the industry's hard lessons, that he wasn't qualified based on a lack of experience and presumably its subsequent disappointments. In the same segment, they let a sixteen-year-old girl through to Hollywood, based on, gasp, her singing voice. The judges sugar-coating their critique with claims that life lessons are necessary for stardom when in the same fifteen minutes they open the door for a middle class teenager with nothing to lose . . . is hypocritical. It cheapens the show, even these first few episodes apparently dedicated to superficial value judgements based on a virtual freak show of wanna-be singers. Randy wasn't "make it to Hollywood" material, but at least guys like him know what they want. Me, I don't know how much entertainment I can derive from watching them fail anymore, especially in the face of judges that don't even know why they're there.

* Prison Break has been cancelled, probably for its own good. I've read the episodes that have been filmed will air in April, but the series finale hasn't been shot yet and maybe never will be. As a fan of the show, of course I'm anxious to see how these four seasons reach their end, and while such an action-packed show would undoubtedly demand a significant budget for a finale, I don't see why Fox wouldn't deem it worthy. First of all, a concise conclusion makes for a great complete Prison Break boxed set; second, a few more episodes might cement syndication sales. I mean, who would watch the reruns knowing that it all just leaves you hanging? Finally, since the show has always been an allegory for overcoming others' perspectives (the whole reason Lincoln was successfully framed and convicted for killing the Vice President's brother was because of his lifestyle as a thug, plain and simple), a series finale makes symbolic sense. We viewers have been chasing after the show's dangling threads for years; now, here we are, face to face with the fugitive that is Prison Break in the proverbial leaky sewer tube, except, unlike Tommy Lee Jones, we do care. Don't leave us hanging here, Fox! Like Michael Scofield, learn that hard lesson: finish what you start, no matter what!

* Sean Hannity recently interviewed Rush Limbaugh about President Barack Obama's economic plans. I didn't watch the interview, and I don't know if I have to, because I can predict how they feel and really can't get past the conversation's very concept. Its logistics. Hannity interviewing Rush is like a person getting interviewed by his own echo. It's like my left testicle high-fiving my right. It's like that verse in the Bible that says the Bible is the inspired word of God because the Bible tells us so! (That's 2 Timothy 3:16, folks.) Of course, the interview wasn't really a chance for Rush to share his thoughts on just-inaugurated President Obama -- he has a nationally syndicated talk show for that. No, sitting down with Sean Hannity was a purely militant move, akin to a platoon beholding its field commander chatting with their staff sergeant. The message is loud and clear: "As the newly elected minority, the more of us in a room, the louder we can be!" Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity: Keeping the can in Republican!

* In the wake of the holiday season, I've realized how important The Late Show with David Letterman is in my life. Long-time friends will remember my "Top 10 Boy" alter ego in high school, but on a much more personal level, unlike other television staples Letterman has adhered to a few traditions on his show that have become integral to my sense of the holiday spirit. For instance, on Thanksgiving night, when Dave began the "guess the pie" segment with his mom from Indiana, I nodded fondly, familiarly. Then again, when Jay Thomas tossed a football to knock down the Christmas tree meatball in December, I smirked knowingly, remembering I had seen the bit some years before. Dave's always been a sensitive guy, but especially since his heart attack, September 11, and the birth of his son, his vulnerability for tradition is apparent now more than ever -- and I'm all the more appreciative of his comedy as a result. When I first moved to California, I thought I should pledge an allegiance with Leno by way of coast, but Dave proves it every year: home is where the heart is. I couldn't deny my own late night nature for too long.

Now, these thoughts aren't in order of importance or anything, but I consciously concluded the diatribe on a high note. Needless to say, when it comes to the boob tube, I usually always have something to get off my chest . . . but the silver screen isn't safe, either! To be continued!

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