Look, everyone who’s been paying attention has been waiting for this whole thing to fall, because it can’t be that good forever.
Chances approach 100% that you all reading this are between 18 and 45, with a couple of olds like me and Dave Olbrich and a couple of kids like Randall and the Lowell High School football team at the other end, but, you get it. Solid citizens who can buy their own Captain Crunch. When Dave and i were kids, there was the Dupont Network and I think CBS and one channel that was just a Felix the Cat clock going back and forth. That was it, and we loved it. Then there were three broadcast networks and Walter Cronkite and those poor people who could never escape the island. And then Fox gave us The Rifleman as a werewolf and Johnny Depp and who thought Richard Greico was going to be the star because I emphatically did not but Dave and I were skewing a little older than the rest of you even then.
But all of us who grew up with MeTV and Heroes and Villains not the specialty channels of the old days when obviously TV network heads were all on some military-strength pharmaceuticals but rather prime time offerings because how does I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched and It’s About Time and Holmes and Yo-Yo and Fantastic Journey all get greenlit? Maninmal? Buck Rogers Season Two? You see what I mean. It’s beyond let’s-throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks. It’s basically whim programming, with a weekly magazine at the checkout line for you to keep track of when the Red Sox are playing and who’s on Merv Griffin when you get home from school.
And then you get the… whaddayacallit? A confluence of events. Movie theatre tickets go up to the point where mom and dad and a couple kids go out for hamburgers and Puss and Boots 2 and the parents are in for two hundred dollars, when you can fry up a little protein and steam some veggies and throw some fruit on a plate and everybody chow down in front of the 85″ TV and soundbar and we can pause it whenever you little chipmunk-bladdered eating machines need to pee and nobody is inconvenienced in any way. Throw in a global pandemic, and what did you think was going to happen? Writer Mark Finn, the world’s leading expert on the author of Conan, West Texas’ own Robert E, Howard, and owner of a rural Texas movie theater, says: “This new post-pandemic phase is the most complicated sea change of all because of so many moving parts many of which were designed specifically to endure the pandemic and nothing else” which is putting his finger on it as far as I’m concerned. He also continued: “Hollywood‘s problem has always been the corporate mindset of ‘but that’s the way we’ve always done it’ coupled with a refresh rate at the corporate level that is measured an eye blinks. There are people in positions of power and authority who can’t recall where they were when Jurassic Park premiered in the movie theater because they didn’t exist yet. And what about those forty-somethings? Those Millennial types who think black-and-white film is icky? Those are the current taste makers and deal makers in Hollywood. It’s no wonder people think it’s collapsing.” which is pretty salient and quotable but is getting away from the main event:
We’ve all been trained to continue consuming our pop culture during a pandemic in which we all were forced to sit inside and consume our pop culture for the greater good. Hollywood must go on, we were told. Marvel isn’t going to be able to roll out Phase IV the way they want to so let’s just put all our efforts into Disney+ and do some long-form. Alligator Loki, Thanos ‘copter, Jack Burton’s son as evil, drugged-out Captain America from Wish? Finally Nick Fury gets a show? What do we need two-and-a-half-hour movies greenlit from before 2020? Come on.
My old pal Darryl Hunt, keeping it real at 210 Sports in Worcester, MA. says it’s franchise fatigue: “As soon as something doesn’t make a fortune at the box office it’s thrown aside to make room for the ‘next big blockbuster,’ which is just rehashed and repackaged crap from before” which is fine as far as it goes, but when Michael Keaton shows up as Batman for the first time in thirty-five years and there’s a big meh from the people who should be eating it up? A perfectly serviceable Indiana Jones movie with all the derring-do and excitement of the… well, the whole series except for the scenes the woefully miscast Shia LeBoeuf was in… a perfectly entertaining Jones movie is consumed and grumbled about in about five to seven days and then is largely forgotten.
Can you believe that? It’s because nothing is an event, any longer. Wait three years to see what happens to Frozen Han? Better watch Star Wars and Empire forty or fifty more times to prepare, right? That just doesn’t happen, now. Nothing just is consumed and experienced and considered and thought-over and enjoyed and Dave at the restaurant really likes this kind of thing, I should ask him about it… Right? Nothing like that is allowed to happen in the current scene. I would argue it’s not even in the interest of the audience any longer to engage with their pop culture in a deep way, turning that rock over until you see motivations and throughlines and reveals and all because even if you knew three or four people who could rock a discussion of Poker Face and Columbo and Rian Johnson, you all aren’t watching it Wednesday at nine together like you used to Moonlighting so there really isn’t any opportunity to get really fired up with your opinions on Curtis Armstong as the principal in New Girl or that they hired Emilia Clarke just to kill her on Secret Invasion because we all used to gather in the multiplex and wave our beers at Armageddon or thumbed through the TV listings because Lost is on tonight, sure, but what’s on HBO because we pay for that, too, you know…
The Winter Soldier is fronting Thunderbolts with Elaine from Seinfeld, a team that stars US Agent and Shang-Chi, the new Black Widow and her dad, the Red Guardian, and Harrison Ford as The President… no one is talking about it.
Harrison Ford, one of the biggest movie stars of our time, just put out a crowd-pleasin’ rollercoaster of a flick, and everybody is saying it flopped because it only made money for the first five or ten days. Guess what? That’s all you get, now. A 300m theatrical juggernaut can’t make its money back any longer because it only has a week, two-week shelf-life until the next big thing comes along. No one has time nor even the inclination to consider what’s going into their minds, anymore. So that’s what we get. Flashes in the pan, and things people used to love when they had time to love them.
Anyway, you can’t blame me, that’s what I’m saying. My kid and I loved LA –> Vegas. Watch it all the time because Amazon burned us a disk. That’s where we were going back in 2018 and it’s just worse now. Buy that physical media if you want to watch anything later, and hope anybody cares. That’s what Hollywood is doing.
With one eye on the fault.