Have We Reached the Bottom Yet?
Let’s be honest, if the 1920s – 1960s was the Golden Age of Hollywood, then today we live in what could be best described as the Green-Brown Poop-hued age. The forces that be in Los Angeles and New York have figured out that there’s more money to be made in pandering to the lowest common denominator than in creating quality programming. CBS, the highest rated TV network, has made a fortune off of octogenarians and LeRoy W. Twelve-Pack by running a non-stop stream of crime procedurals and unfunny Chuck Lorre sitcoms. The second highest rated show on television is NCIS, a show about naval crimes. This is a premise so asinine that it requires writers to somehow shoehorn a boat into every episode, yet somehow its been successful enough to spawn a spin-off, NCIS: LA, which is the fourth highest rated show on TV. Think about that for a second, two of the four most highly rated shows on TV are about naval crimes. Cable isn’t much better; the top two shows are The Closer and Rizzoli and Isles, both of which might as well be named LADYCOPS! and the third and fifth most popular shows are about pawn shops and people who go through trash.
It’s the same story in film. Every year, we’re subjected to a minimum of three Kate Hudson movies, each more inane than the last. The completely forgettable movie Valentine’s Day has actually spawned a sequel: New Year’s Eve, which stars Josh Duhamel, Ashton Kutcher, Zac Effron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, George Lopez, and Jon Bon Jovi. It’s like they found a list of people that I don’t want to see in a movie and smashed them together into some kind of horrible-acting monster that feeds on the tears of those who are forced to see New Years Eve by family members or significant others. Oh, and the trailer (I refuse to embed, because I like you) features a song by Pink. If you think that rom-com’s are low-hanging fruit consider this, what summer blockbuster this year was actually original and good? Certainly not Transformers or Super 8 or Cowboys and Aliens. Thor and Captain America were decent, but hardly original. Harry Potter was by all accounts a well made movie, but it’s hard to screw up when you’ve got great source material. In the comedy world, Adam Sandler has seemingly been on a decade long mission to find the point where even the stupidest of people won’t laugh. I’m pretty sure that he created Kevin James in a lab somewhere for this specific purpose.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. But for every Community, there’s a Two and a Half Men, a Big Bang Theory, and a Rules of Engagement. For every Game of Thrones there are 5 procedural dramas on CBS alone. For every Inception there’s three Transformers films. And for every Bridesmaids there’s a Zookeeper.
The good news? We appear to have reached the tipping point, at least when it comes to the movies. The aforementioned Zookeeper had one of the weakest openings of any Happy Madison film, while smart, funny comedies like Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses have done well this summer. Maybe Adam Sandler has found the point where even the lowest common denominator is insulted. Or maybe no one could tell Kevin James from the CGI gorilla (get it, cause he’s fat). Cowboys and Aliens barely outperformed The Smurfs and while that’s scarcely reason to believe in humanity again, it does show that if you’re going to make a big-budget movie people have to understand what it’s about. Who knows, a few more Waterworld’s and we might actually see good movies on a regular basis. As for TV, it can’t get much worse can it? Nevermind.
(ratings information from Nielsen)