Jul 26, 2005

I Love Popnost

popnost - (derived from the phrase "pop-culture nostalgia") n. A type of retrospective programming that humorously and nostalgically talk about things from pop-culture past and present. Also adj. (~ program)

A couple of articles down, I talked about how networks tend to have lost their primary focus as they continued to evolve. VH1, which began life as a music video network, has more or less become a pop culture network, rarely airing music videos. Some shows I don't really care for. Kept? The Surreal Life? Celebrity Fit Club? The Fabulous Life of . . . ? Feh. Give me more popnost anytime.

Pop culture nostalgia has become a part of our pop culture. It's nothing new, people always had fond memories for cultural events of the past. However, I blame the British for this modern era of popnost, of course. BBC introduced the "I Love The . . . " format to the world in 2000. VH1 introduced it a year or so later with their version of "I Love the 80s" followed in the months ahead with a quartet of related specials, "I Love the 70s," "I Love the 80s Strikes Back," "I Love the 90s," and "I Love the 90s Part Deux" (the Brits wven went as far as to make "I Love The 60s" and "I Love The 50s," but for some reason, I don't think VH1 would make those in this country.

With the success of the "I Love The . . ." series of specials, VH1 tried their damnedest to imitate its success with random popnost shows celebrating celebrity moments, television stars, musical moments, and reality moments. Rival network E! Entertainment Television revamped their network in 2002 to focus more on reality, celebrity/pop culture documentaries/biographies, and popnost programming. E! developed their own popnost franchise, "The 101 Moments," which combines a countdown format with the popnost interview elements made famous by VH1's "I Love The . . . " series. Hell, both franchises usually have the same talking heads.

Perhaps the biggest thing VH1 has done for its popnost programming is the creation of "Best Week Ever." Think "I Love This Week." The best and oddest events of the week combined with a bunch of comedic minds make up this show. Meanwhile, E! created their own popnost weekly show, "The Soup," a show that mocks reality shows and celebrity news in the tradition of the late "Talk Soup."

They're all pretty damned good. Other networks have aired popnost programming in recent months. TV Land has "Top 10," CNN had numerous CNN 25 specials which chronicled 25 different highlights in their 25-year existance. You know, if Cartoon Network was a legitimately-ran network, they could create their own popnost programming. But that would actually means they have to show reverance to the past, which they clearly don't. Pity. It could have been fun.

Why Most Cable Operators Don't Carry Boomerang

Every now and then, I hear this question:
Why don't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The network's been around for five years, and yet, it's mostly on satellite and a few cable operators (nearly all Time Warner Cable). I just happen to live in a Cox Cable service area set up in Pat Robertson's backyard, so we're more likely to pick up the NFL Network or iLifeTV than Boomerang (by the way, these are some of the most recent additions to our lineup). So, why won't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The short answer:
Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing the network and marketing "retro" and cable operators aren't convinced there's an audience for "classic cartoons."

The long answer:
When Cartoon Network announced the creation of Boomerang, a retro animation network aimed towards baby-boomers and family audiences, in 1999, fans of these classic cartoons were thrilled. However, on April 1, 2000, when viewers (and cable operators) got their first look at the network, they were less than pleased. The lineup wasn't a linear 24-hour network but rather a rigid eight-hour rotation that repeated thrice a day. Not exactly something worth watching, let alone something worth carrying on cable lineups.

In 2001 and for a period of two years afterwards, the powers that be at Cartoon Network implimented a phase-out of classic animation (not unlike what TBS and TNT did when they got rid of all animation in the mid-90s) to convince cable operators to pick up their new Boomerang network, which, unfortunately, led to Cartoon Network dropping all Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Paramount, and non-Tom and Jerry MGM shorts and shows. The strategy backfired, as most cable operators ignored Boomerang, largely because of its non-traditional network lineup grid.

In late 2004, Cartoon Network publicly stated that they [i]might[/i] want to change Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network. Also around this period, Boomerang created a more linear network with a 24-hour lineup. Cable operators remain skeptical about the future of Boomerang and whether or not they want to actively pursue it. Some operators still believe that Boomerang has the eight-hour
"boomeranging" lineup, which is why they often tell customers that if they carry the network, it could only be on a VOD service.

But the lack of cable operator confidence is only half of the story. Cartoon Network has NO idea how to market nor operate a retro television outlet. Turner Broadcasting knows how to operate a classic movie network because, gasp, they actually have people who give a damn about classic movies. The people who currently run Cartoon Network have little reverence for classic animation. It's not even funny. Boomerang is often seen as an afterthought throughout Techwood Drive.

When was the last time you've seen an Boomerang ad on Cartoon Network for something ON Boomerang rather than the network itself? Seriously, Boomerang has had numerous events and premieres, and most of the general public is oblivious from it because THEY DON'T HAVE BOOMERANG! June Bugs, the Pink Panther event, the Fantastic Four event, Battle of the Planets, the recent premieres of Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, if you don't have Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, or Dish, and didn't have access to the internet, you wouldn't have known a damned thing about them since Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing Boomerang.

Cartoon Network should look at how MTV Networks manage TV Land for an example of how to manage Boomerang. TV Land has a very diverse lineup of classics, near classics, and retrospective/historical programming every day and night with a strong variety of choices. Boomerang could be an animated equivalent of TV Land, but neither Cartoon Network nor Time Warner would want to commit that much energy to something like that. It'd be so much easier to turn Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network than to, I don't know, make Boomerang something worth watching. Seriously, why aren't the remastered Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts on Boomerang right now? Why hasn't Boomerang aired more classic shows from the Warner Bros library nor acquired more shows and shorts from Classic Media, Sony, and Entertainment Rights?

Seriously, there's a classic sports network (ESPN Classic), a classic movie network (it used to be AMC, but Turner Classic Movies has seriously outclassed it), a nostalgia network (American Life [we ain't got that either]), and a classic television network (TV Land), and Boomerang, a classic animation channel, would fit in nicely, but alas, cable operators are oblivious to it.

Boomerang has so much potential and yet lack the bodies to actually see it through, which is a damned shame.

Jul 12, 2005

An Open Letter To Reginald Hudlin

Mr. Hudlin,

This has been a very good year for you, Mr. Hudlin. You have an animated series greenlighted for Cartoon Network this fall, a pair of very well-written comics courtesy of Marvel Comics, and now, you're the president of entertainment of BET.

Now, bring some entertainment to the network.

Okay, okay, that was a little harsh of me. But, you see, I've been watching BET off and on for a good portion of the 25 years the network has been on the air (little known fact: 25 years ago, both USA and BET shared channel space before becoming their own individual networks, not unlike Nickelodeon and the Arts Channel [now A&E Network]). Over the past decade, BET has gotten a bad rap (no pun intended) of being nothing more than an outlet that showcases the negative, materialistic side of "urban" culture, and they wouldn't be wrong. BET has minimized its news/forum programming and still remains hip-hop music central.

I don't hate hip-hop, but I can guess that Black Entertainment isn't just limited to a lineup comprised mostly of music videos.

Look at TV One. Great network with off-network sitcoms, variety shows, and dramas not owned by the parent company as well as original programming. Black Family Channel does offer a lot of college sports, forum programming, and a few reality shows, but their lineup is mostly religious programming and a few foreign general entertainment acquisitions like Cybernet. These two channels, in their short lifetime, has, in essence, proved that black entertainment is not a code word for 2/3 music videos.

Unless BET intends on renaming itself MTV Black, you are the network's last hope. I can offer advice, and I know where the network's weaknesses are and how to repair them.

For example:

- Target younger viewers in some timeslots: Cable networks once dedicated progamming to younger audiences back in the day. Even BET aired fare like The Jackson 5ive in the mornings. But in the era of the big three (that's Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney), cable networks have conceded children's entertainment to those networks. I'm not saying they should air thematic blocks ala Miguzi, SNICK, or Jetix, but they could at least provide an alternative to Kids Next Door, All Grown Up, or Proud Family reruns on a Saturday morning. Heck, pick up reruns of C-Bear and Jamal, Kid 'N Play, Fat Albert, or something just to get started.

- STOP AIRING VIDEOS IN ALL OPEN SLOTS: Sixteen hours of music videos is twelve hours too many. Seriously, 106th and Park is another Viacom-guided TRL clone. I never understood why a daily top-10 video countdown show is worth watching. That's three hours gone. Music videos shouldn't be a backbone of a network that wasn't solely dedicated to music videos (unlike MTV, whose first name is Music, and VH1, whose first and middle name is Video Hits), and Black Entertainment shouldn't just be limited to sixteen hours of music videos a day.

- Add more non-Viacom-owned sitcoms and dramas: Sony Pictures Television has plenty of modern and classic shows by themselves. Benson, Julia, Sanford and Son, Temperatures Rising, Diff'rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, What's Happening!, What's Happening Now!!, I Spy, 227, and Good Times are just a few that could fit in at BET. Seriously, they need to get in on that.

- Develop more original sitcoms and dramas: No, this doesn't translate to more reality shows. I'd like to see more original scripted programming, not another retread of an MTV show. Blowin' Up Fatty Koo?!? College Hill? The hell?! Mr. Hudlin, you're one of the most talented producers out there. Prove it!

- Bring back news/public affairs programming: No, this doesn't translate to more documentaries surrounding the Rap It Up initituative. I'd like to see more forums dedicated to current affairs, non-entertainers making a difference, and real documentaries and newsworthy specials.

BET could be the best urban channel out there, and I have a lot of confidence you could make it happen, Mr. Hudlin. You're the network's last hope.

Jul 1, 2005

O Canada

Once again, those on the northern border of the States are celebrating Canada Day, a day of celebrating all that is Canadian. I have nothing but kind words for the country that has given us Redwall (a fine book series and animated trilogy of shows), Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, You Can't Do That On Television, Degrassi, ReBoot, Red Green, Eek! The Cat, Deep Water Black, Ocean Studios, the "Jack" radio format (although some New Yorkers will disagree), singers with the names Alanis and Avril, Stu Hart's Dungeon and its graduates, and other contributions (today, only today, will I forgive Canada for Celine Dion).

Happy Canada Day!