Jul 19, 2008

Just Came Back From "The Dark Knight"


Just . . . wow.

Too much to process right now. Review at The X Bridge this Monday . . . unless Cristobal forms down in the Carolinas crippling the interweb for yours truly.

Jul 17, 2008

The Force is Strong With The Emmys.

Today, nominations for the 60th annual Primetime Academy Awards were made. The complete list can be found here.

Among the notable animated highlights, both Star Wars-themed episodes of fan-favorite shows, Fox/[adult swim]'s Family Guy and [adult swim]'s Robot Chicken (I know Cartoon Network are livid about the main network's name is mentioned in the category instead of the block network, but a nomination's a nomination), were nominated for Outstanding Animated Program, but won't compete against each other. Family Guy is nominated in the category for shows an hour or more while Robot Chicken is in the category for shows under an hour. It must give Cartoon Network and TNT a little pause about the Clone Wars series coming next month (plus, the microseries is already a two-time Emmy winner). Also, Justice League: The New Frontier was nominated, which I believe is the first time an on-demand presentation is a nominee.

One last note. The Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad with floats of Underdog and Stewie Griffin "running" around town to grab a Coke also got nominated for Outstanding Commercial.

And here are the nominees (animation-related nominees in bold):

Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)

Creature Comforts America • Don't Choke To Death, Please • CBS • Aardman Animations production in association with The Gotham Group

King Of The Hill • Death Picks Cotton • FOX • 20th Century Fox Television in association with 3 Arts Entertainment, Deedle-Dee Productions & Judgemental Films

Robot Chicken • Robot Chicken: Star Wars • Cartoon Network • ShadowMachine Films

SpongeBob SquarePants • Inmates of Summer / Two Faces of Squidward • Nickelodeon • Nickelodeon with United Plankton Pictures, Inc.

The Simpsons • Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind • FOX • Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox

Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming One Hour or More)
Blue Harvest (Family Guy) • FOX • Fuzzy Door Productions in association with Fox Television Animation Studios

Imaginationland (South Park) • Comedy Central • Central Productions

Justice League: The New Frontier • Warner Bros. on demand • Warner Bros. Animation

Outstanding Special Class - Short-format Animated Programs

Camp Lazlo • Lazlo's First Crush • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Chowder • Burple Nurples • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Outstanding Commercial

Brother Of The Bride - Hallmark
PYTKA, Production Company
Leo Burnett, Ad Agency

Carrier Pigeons - FedEx
MJZ, Production Company
BBDO New York, Ad Agency

Delivery - Travelers
MJZ, Production Company
Fallon, Ad Agency

It's Mine - Coca Cola
MJZ, Production Company
Wieden + Kennedy, Ad Agency

Swear Jar - Bud Light
Hungry Man, Production Company
DDB Chicago, Ad Agency

Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics

Disney's Phineas And Ferb • Song: 'I Ain't Got No Rhythm' • Disney Channel • Walt Disney TV Animation in association with Disney Channel

Flight Of The Conchords • Song: 'The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)' • HBO • Dakota Pictures and Comedy Arts in association with HBO Entertainment

Flight Of The Conchords • Song: 'Inner City Pressure' • HBO • Dakota Pictures and Comedy Arts in association with HBO Entertainment

Jimmy Kimmel Live • Song: 'I'm F***ing Matt Damon' • ABC • Jackhole Industries in association with ABC Studios

MADtv • Song: 'Sad Fitty Cent' • FOX • Girl Group Company

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (original Dramatic Score)

Family Guy • Lois Kills Stewie • FOX • Fuzzy Door Productions in association with Fox Television Animation Studios

House • Guardian Angels • FOX • Universal Media Studios in association with Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z Productions and Bad Hat Harry Productions

Little People, Big World • Roloff Road Trip: Grand Canyon • TLC • Gay Rosenthal Productions in association with TLC

Lost • The Constant • ABC • ABC Studios

Pushing Daisies • Pigeon • ABC • Living Dead Guy Productions, The Jinks/Cohen Company in association with Warner Bros. Television

The Simpsons • Treehouse of Horror XVIII • FOX • Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox

My early picks/who will probably win:

Outstanding Animated Program (less than 1hr):
Robot Chicken/The Simpsons - If Creature Comforts USA wins, that'll be an upset for sure, but Robot Chicken beating all the nominations would be a true upset. KOTH could be the spoiler in the end. A little ticked that Avatar couldn't at least get a nomination this year, but that's probably Nick's own fault. You know, delaying episodes could make people forget it's on. The Simpsons is a safe bet, but the episode nominated was actually a pretty innovative one this season.

Outstanding Animated Program (1hr or more):
Family Guy/South Park - I'm not picking JL because it wasn't on a traditional channel, but I would be happy if they won. More critical buzz has swarmed around the Imaginationland episode like flies around scat. Readers already know I'm not a South Park fan, so I'll say no more. However, I'd love for Blue Harvest to squash the smug arrogance of Trey and Matt just this once.

Outstanding Special Class - Animation Short:
Chowder/Chowder - It's a fan favorite. It's a critical favorite. Cartoon Network will be pushing for this show's win.

Jul 10, 2008

A Celebration and Murphy's Law

Today is July 10, 2008.

Ten years ago today, I launched The X Bridge.

I had uploaded a brand new layout, new articles, new sections, and other newness to the site. BUT, and this is a big but, my site's host, Toon Zone, went down. It's currently undergoing a server move. Still, the principle of Murphy's Law comes into being today. What can go wrong usually does.

The only day when it wasn't lightning and pouring down rain was today. The lightning returns later. Oh well. Stuff happens. And there is another day.

Still, it's not everyday your webpage turns 10. It's a rarity in this day and age of the blog. To all of you who had been a part of the readership over the last decade, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Check out The X Bridge . . . whenever the server move's complete. I hope you'll enjoy the changes.

May 8, 2008

What About Before The Empire Struck Back?

George Lucas is a hack who ripped off a lot of stories to make him a multibillionaire and has done a lot to piss off the fans he created over the last decade. You know, the folks that made him a multibillionaire?

I'm a fan, yes, but I'm not one of those fans that get orgasmic about everything Star Wars, including the upcoming animated retelling of the Clone Wars.

Yes, it's a retelling of the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars was already told in a microseries that aired on Cartoon Network a few years ago that chronicled the closing moments of Episode II and the opening moments of Episode III. The movie and upcoming series is going to delve into some of the story that the microseries couldn't get into.

Still, The Clone Wars should make for interesting television, but there's a sense of "been there, done that," and after three "prequel" films, the fans have grown weary of the characters.

We know what happened to Anakin Skywalker. We know the Clone Troopers turned on the Jedi Knights and nearly wiped them out. We know Senator Palpatine was Darth Sidious, who became Emperor of the Empire. We know what happened to Padme and who took in her "younglings" afterwards.

But the story is incomplete.

"I get asked all the time, 'What happens after "Return of the Jedi"?,' and there really is no answer for that. The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends." - George Lucas, LA Times, May 7, 2008

That's fine and all, and I'm okay with that. Unlike a lot of people, I can get that Lucas wouldn't want to do another three movies nor any non-published versions of the stories beyond the Ewok Onslaught. The books exist and have the characters moving on facing inner conflict and creating a future generation of heroes.

However, there are a pair of plotholes that need to be filled.

I don't think the story of how the Empire grew to become so oppressive and how Darth Vader grew to power has been told. I know there's a live-action Star Wars series in the works, but the main characters who survived Revenge of the Sith aren't going to be in it, nor will the upbringing of the Skywalker twins be discussed or shown. They're largely going to be populated mostly by characters you never heard of. The prelude to A New Hope will probably never be told.

Nobody cares about the new characters. They want Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, R2D2, C-3PO, and, of course, Darth Vader. There's hardly any stories about what happened after the award ceremony and before the Battle of Hoth. Did Luke ever understand what happened and occurred in the Death Star battle? When did Han and Leia find themselves drawn to each other? How did the enigmic Boba Fett, son of Jango, find notoriety in the Empire? How did Darth Vader rise to power to command a new generation of soldiers after the destruction of the Death Star (remember, he was second-in-command and largely a glorified soldier prior to the beginning of Empire)? These are questions that could have easily been answered by a new animated series.

But like Joe Quesada, George Lucas's ego makes him believe that he knows what the audience wants. And apparently, he feels that we want more Clone Wars, despite already seeing it animated prior to Episode III's release and in most of Episode III, and none of what happened between Episode IV and V nor what happens beyond Return of the Jedi.

May 5, 2008

Destined To Die

You know, people get all over me when I say that Time Warner is THE MOST POORLY RAN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY IN THE WORLD because, at times, I seem to beat the notion into their heads.

While that may be true and the fact that there are a lot of companies with inept executives, no company publicly shows its ineptness more than Time Warner. And no one represents the ineptitude of Time Warner more than its CEO, Jeff Bewkes, a man who is on record of stating that synergy (cooperation between separate units within the same company) is bullscat. Every major decision in the past four years at Time Warner has been largely brainstormed by him and his collective yesmen, from the ouster of Richard Parsons as CEO to the now ill-fated merger of The WB with UPN to the change of direction at Cartoon Network to the downsizing of animation at the company to the combination of "similar" units like Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema which are very similar companies not really.

Recent announcements of the "resignation" of the head of Warner Bros. Animation and the impending sales of Time Warner Cable, a bulk of AOL, and maybe Time, Inc. itself prove that the current management of Time Warner is not only inept, but they're headed for self-destruction.

The fact that Warner Bros. Animation is no longer its own entity is worrisome to say the least. It's theoretically been halved and seen more as a technique rather than a medium. The television side is now essentially a part of Warner Bros. Television and the theatrical side is now a part of Warner Bros. Pictures. If I had my way, this is what I would have done, especially if costcutting and unit unification is what they wanted in the first place (something they've actually done as of late with New Line Cinema, which used to be a separate unit but now a "prestige" brand of Warner Bros. Pictures), and it actually makes sense.

An animation unit that includes the major animation studios of Time Warner, the animation library, a unit responsible for potential content creation, and outlets to broadcast the shows (especially since Cartoon Network is at least pretending to give a damn about animation these days) would be welcome, but alas, sense left the company the moment AOL flashed them a few bucks for a slight majority stake in the company.

Instead, the head of WB Animation was essentially tossed aside, though the writings on the wall was evident when The CW sold the Kids' WB block timeslot to 4Kids Entertainment and cancelled all WB-made shows from the block in one fell swoop. The current CEO of Time Warner has always been an opponent of synergy, so WB Animation and Cartoon Network has been separate in nearly everything and barely worked together. Now, Looney Tunes are nowhere to be seen in a regular form on television in the US for more than 30 minutes a day.

And yes, the new de-facto head of WB Animation is Peter Roth, a former programming head of Saturday morning of ABC just as Michael Eisner (yeah, that Michael Eisner) left. He got the job only to go ahead, as most people in Saturday morning programming did. And since it's already established that animation is a secondary (or maybe even tertiary) part of Mr. Roth's agenda, the only thing I expect will happen is even less thought about it. And I didn't think that was even possible.

It just seems like they got rid of Ms. Judson because they severely limited her position. Aside from Brave and the Bold, there aren't real projects are coming to television in the first place from Warner Bros. Animation. Everything's mostly direct to video. T-Works (which had since been rebranded as the second coming of Kids' WB) is only using library stuff for the most part. Artists had already been canned. Shows have already been outsourced (remember, Johnny Test used to be made by and at WBA). There is no direction at Warner Bros. Animation, and sadly, there is literally no more Warner Bros. Animation.

Soon, there will be no more Time Warner Cable. Time Warner is planning to sell their majority stake in the nation's largest cable provider, who also provides broadband access. The unit's still profitable, but Bewkes feels that it's an awkward unit to hold on to, particularly as a content creator. Didn't hurt Levin, Parsons, and Turner when they were running the company. Theoretically, the selling of Time Warner Cable is the equivalent of those people that feel the need to get rid of a normally healthy limb.

The fact that they're even considering selling Time, Inc. is also self-destructive. I know that print media isn't on everybody's must-read list anymore, but it's still relevant to the rest of the country that isn't hooked on computers. It frustrates me to no end that media companies believe that everybody is connected to a broadband-capable computer. I'm still running on a 56K modem, and I just got that in 2006 (I don't long for the days I was on a 1GB 120 MHz Packard Bell POS with a 28K modem like I was for almost a decade). Also, without the Time brands (including Sports Illustrated, Money, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, and Life), there's no need to call the company Time Warner. It'd be . . . Warner.

Essentially, Warner Communications would be reborn with HBO, Turner Entertainment, half of the CW, a chunk of AOL (they're still selling a bulk of that company to another group), and numerous broadband channels, including the recently reintroduced broadband versions of The WB and Kids' WB and the Turner nets (Jetstream, CN Video, Super Deluxe, and Gametap). The new Warner Bros. Media Company would be born and be less than half the company it used to be almost two decades ago (remember, the company sold off the music and book publishing units a long time ago). Bewkes will be responsible for the destruction of a once-venerable and vibrant entertainment company, but, like all recent leaders, instead of being punished, he'll be rewarded for his ineptitude.

I'm a fan of regime change, and it's time for Bewkes to go. He was the one who put Jamie Kellner in charge of Time Warner when he led the television unit of Time Warner. Bewkes moved up, creeping into the management ladder until everybody that was above him was gone. Bewkes is more about the short-range instead of seeing what the company will look like years, decades from now. He's looking for a legacy, but he doesn't have a creative bone in his body. He's a destructive force. Look at what he has done to Warner Bros. Animation and New Line Cinema. Look at what he's doing to Warner Bros. Pictures.

Lesser men would have been fired by now.

Apr 22, 2008

Is It Time To Cancel Showtime Yet?

Read something stupid today.

I tend to do that a lot these days.

I read that Viacom, cable masterminds behind the MTV Networks, BET, and Paramount Pictures, are launching a pay-TV network in fall 2009 along with Lion's Gate Films and MGM. Films from these studios (starting with those distributed by Paramount this year and the newer releases from the other studios next year) will be exclusive to the new unnamed network.

Here's why this is stupid to me.

You know there's a network named Showtime. It's a premium network that used to be owned by Viacom but now owned by corporate cousin CBS Inc., which used to be known as Viacom. See, the current company called Viacom is a newer company that was formed to concentrate on "core" industries like film and basic cable. The Showtime family of networks was essentially the anti-HBO at launch, picking up rights to films from studios not 100% committed to HBO. Over the years, HBO became the ultimate premium entertainment network and a newcomer, Starz, took Showtime's thunder by snatching up a bunch of studio licenses once held by both HBO and Showtime. As a result, the only studios that committed to Showtime were Paramount, Lion's Gate Films, and MGM.

Now, they won't even have those since they're moving to the new network.

Showtime is essentially outdoing HBO when it comes to original series now, but the premium movie network won't have any major studios providing new movies to the network beginning next year. Unless Showtime becomes a premium original series and original movies network, Showtime's original purpose of being a premium movie network is about to suffer as a result of Viacom's announcement. Perhaps the announcement will create a merger of sorts for Showtime considering Showtime is in a lot of homes (and Comcast, one of MGM's owners, one of the owners in this new endeavor, isn't beyond cannibalizing a network to place one of their own on a lineup [see TechTV . . . oh, wait, you can't]). Is Showtime on the outs? It doesn't look good, but stranger things have happened.

Mar 20, 2008

A Theory About Springfield

Thought I'd try something a little different and a little lighthearted instead of the old gloom and doom ranting I've been doing of late.

It's something I talked about on another board, and thought I'd share this theory with you.

Everybody knows about The Simpsons' hometown of Springfield, a massive city that's pretty much small town USA. Everybody has their opinions on where Springfield is. Some feel it's in the West. Some feel it's in the middle of the contry. I think that Springfield is in southeastern Virginia collectively called Hampton Roads in the real world. Yes, this is also my homebase at the moment.

Why do I believe The Simpsons take place in my part of the world? Let me explain.

Springfield is a strong miltary town.

There's a shipyard, naval port, and military bases all within the city. In southeastern VA, we have the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (the oldest naval shipyard in the US), the Norfolk Naval Base (the largest naval facility in the world), and a couple of bases of all military branches, from Oceana to Ft. Eustis. There's even a NASA facility in Hampton called NASA Langley.

Springfield has strong colonial roots.

Jebediah Springfield founded the city and cleared the city of snakes. While Col. William Crawford didn't pull a St. Patrick-like feat, he did found the city of Portsmouth during the colonial era. Before that, the first English settlers came here in 1607, more than 400 years ago.

Springfield is in close proximity of various East Coast cities.

It can be certain that Springfield isn't in a West Coast state. Sure, you could throw the K-decaled station names often signifying they're in the west, but that's a ruse. If it was in a West Coast state, the cast couldn't get to Tennessee, New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., or Delaware within hours, like you can from Hampton Roads. The old Simpson farm Homer grew up in is in North Carolina and just minutes away from Springfield, not unlike it is here.

Springfield is a minor-league town with access to a northern major-league town called Capital City by the interstate.

Hampton Roads is as minor league as you can get with the Norfolk Admirals AHL hockey team and the Norfolk Tides AAA baseball club. Here's where the tie between Hampton Roads and Springfield really come together. The episode Dancin' Homer had many elements from the area, including crosstown rivals the Pilots, a few character names similar to former Tides players, and the name of the Capital City team owner is the same as the Tide's owner, Dave Rosenfield. Ironically, the owner of the Tides recently created a minor league team out west called, and I couldn't make this up if I tried, the Alberquerque Isotopes! The most northern major league area from here is Washington, D.C. THE Capital City, which is also a frequent stop for fliers every morning from Norfolk International Airport.

Springfield is surrounded by oceans and bays in the east and mountains and forests in the west.

The Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay are in the east around Hampton Roads and the Appalacians and a whole lot of rolling hills are in the west.

A huge nuclear plant provides power to Springfield.

Although it's not the only source of power here, Virginia Power's Surry County nuclear plant provides a lot of energy to most of the area.

Springfield has several television studios.

So does Hampton Roads. One produces The New Detectives for Discovery. Other studios produces films. This week marked the premiere of John Adams, which was produced right in Hampton Roads.

Springfield has a beloved television icon character known throughout the area in the form of Krusty the Clown.

Hampton Roads has a television icon as well in Dr. Madblood, a popular horror/schlock movie host for as long as I can remember.

Springfield has both a Duff Brewery and a Duff Gardens theme park within city limits.Hampton Roads has an Anheiser-Busch brewery and a Busch Gardens theme park both in Williamsburg. One of the most beautiful theme parks on the planet, mind you.

Okay, maybe there's no case supporting it, but it'd be funny to consider the seven cities and many counties of Hampton Roads, Virginia the closest thing to a real world Springfield equivalent.

Mar 13, 2008

What I Want (and Don't Want) To See This Upfront Season

The weather is fidgety, cold one day, hot the next.

Flowers and trees are becoming confused. People are wearing brighter colors and showing a little more skin.

That could mean only one thing . . . it's almost upfront season!

Okay, I know spring is in a couple of days at the time I'm writing this, but people like me (namely TV geeks) are getting ready to see what the networks are planning to offer in the next broadcast season. Considering the current broadcast season was interrupted by a strike that could have been avoided if broadcasters and producers weren't so dang greedy in the first place, next season is all we have to look forward to.

But that's just it. Nobody knows what's up. Well, not the regular viewers anyway. For all intents and purposes, for the next couple of months, I'm writing about what I'd like to see come out of the upfronts this year. I'm not totally concerned with the shows coming on next season. Oh, sure, I'll complain, but still, shows aren't a big concern to me.

Here are a few things I do want to see presented by the major broadcast networks this year:

- More emphasis on broadcast television. Yeah, it seems like a strange request, but particularly this season, the major broadcast networks focused more of their energies on broadband rather than broadcast. That's fine and all, but the shifted focuse just makes the need for broadcast channels irrelevant and unneccesary. It isn't true (yet), and we still have a need for broadcast networks here in the US. Now, if they actually acted like they give a damn, I'd like to see them concentrate on the original medium before pushing it aside for the next new thing. Speaking of the next new thing . . .

- PRESENT plans for what they're going to do with the digital space. In less than a year, all regular-powered analog stations (meaning: all regular stations) will be shut down as the digital television format will be the new standard. You've seen the ads, I'm sure. The promise of clearer channels is one thing. The idea of more channels is promising. However, I haven't heard word one about what the NETWORKS are going to do. Affiliates are scrambling what to do with it, either going at it on their own by striking deals with outside groups like Retro Television Network or the late music channel called The Tube, picking up smaller channel groups as a secondary affiliate, or relaying the standard channels the networks are offering. In this case, it's NBC Weather Station for NBC affiliates or ABC News NOW for ABC affiliates. PBS and ION already showed what could be done with additional digital space creating digital subchannels on their own. This year's upfronts is the perfect year to PRESENT plans on what THEY WILL do with the digital subchannel space they're about to get. If there's no plan, well, the whole nature of television affiliation will become not only loose and disconnected, but also irrelevant.

What I Don't Want To See:

- Countless remakes of older and foreign shows. Oops, no chance of that now, is it?

- 3/4 of new shows being "alternative/non-scripted" programming. No chance of that either.

- Networks with limited diversity on their lineups. I doubt we'll see more than two high-profile shows on a MAJOR network (i.e. NOT The CW, ION, nor MyNetworkTV nor any Spanish-language channel) with an all minority cast created by a minority, especially after Cane's "failure." Right now, Ugly Betty is all.

- An end to multicamera situation comedies taped in front of a live studio audience. Most of the ones currently on the air aren't very good to be honest with you. While single-camera shows are great and all, I don't want it to be the norm by any stretch.

Keep an eye on Thoughtnami this upfront season. It should be an interesting one.

Feb 28, 2008

Judas Denied

I saw a news link at Newsarama's blog earlier today that my friends at World's Finest confirmed.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract has been put on hold at Warner Bros. Animation.

The reason? Marv Wolfman, creator of what many people call the definitive Teen Titans lineup and the fan-favorite story in question, stated that the reason is Warner Bros. told him that not a lot of people know who the Teen Titans are nor are they really interested in seeing them.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I know I was out of it a few times, but wasn't there a wildly popular Teen Titans animated series that just ended a few years ago? Aren't they still airing the series on two outlets in the United States (as of the time of this article, February 28, 2008)? Don't people know who the core of the characters in the story are? I'm sure Warner Bros. did tell Mr. Wolfman that, and this once again proves that Time Warner is THE MOST POORLY RAN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY ON THE PLANET.

Jim has more at World's Finest.

Feb 26, 2008

I Haven't Forgotten About My OTHER Site

Despite the lack of updates at The X Bridge as of late, I haven't forgotten about it. It's not that there are a lack of thoughts. I've just been doing other things.

My grandfather's still off and on healthwise, and he's the highest priority for me. A friend of mine needed someone to design wedding invitations and such, so part of my time had been doing that. Been compiling a pair of story bibles for two universes I created (and it's very, very detailed). Finished plotting the entire "magic teen girls" novel series (which actually crosses over with Bridget Hex's Year Three storyline [I'll get to her later]).

Still working on Centauri. I think the April launch was a little too optimistic, but it will happen before the summer. Still working on Frost Brothers. Still plotting Bridget Hex. Thinking of a plot over at Zero 2 Heroes that doesn't connect with the other stories (because I want to own my properties 100%).

Oh, and I've been working on TXB. The site turns 10 this July, and I want to do something special. Kind of stuck on what to do to be honest. I do know that TICA Base opens back up in mid-March. I do plan on adding one last member of the Toonami Inner Circle Alliance on that date, if they still want to be a part of it.

I haven't forgotten about The X Bridge. Life just gets in the way.

Feb 24, 2008

The Rat Cook Won *YAWN* and One Thought

Now that Ratatouille won every animated best picture award it was nominated for, for the love of God, can we please, please, PLEASE stop talking about it? I swear, it's bad enough people treat it like it was the only animated movie that came out last year, but I don't think it deserved to win EVERY animated award out there for film.

Still, congratulations Brad Bird and PIXAR on making a fine film. Not the greatest film ever made, mind you, but a fine film nonetheless.

That said, I do have a thought.

Why ISN'T there categories for best actor and actress in an animated film? I know I've talked about that in the past, but you see all these praise for Ratatouille and the writers and animators and such, but you rarely see praise or even acknowledgement for the vocal talents in animated productions aside from the Annies. The vocal talents on any animated production are just one of the five core components in any production (plot/story/dialogue, design, animation, and music are the others).

Don't believe me?

Watch any Bugs Bunny short with the audio muted and captions off. I dare you!

The History Eraser Button

Back when I was 13 years old, Ren and Stimpy premiered. One of the first episodes was "Space Madness," a short that's still recognized as one of the greatest shorts ever made. In the climax of the short, Cadet Stimpy was punished for trying to help Commander Hoek get over his space madness by putting the ever curious cat in charge of guarding the History Eraser Button, a device that nobody knows would happen if pushed. As Ren stated, what could happen is "maybe something bad" or "maybe something good."

I think comic editors and writers pushed the History Eraser button one too many times in recent years. The more history is erased and altered, the more the question of "Does continuity matter?" arises. That's bad and good.

It's bad because whenever a major story ccompletely alters everything we know about a particular character or universe, it almost makes it seem that the story never happened. I wasn't a DC Fanboy back when the first Crisis happened (Crisis on Infinite Earths), but I can now imagine how that generation felt when the stories that were told before the Crisis were essentially erased from our collective histories. I'm feeling that way when I heard about Joe Quesada's plan to end Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane. Joe never liked the marriage in the first place. Kids can't look up to a guy married to a supermodel he claimed (read: kids are the primary readers of comics). Now, despite the fact that there is already a Spider-Man who ISN'T married and still a teenager (remember the Ultimate Universe? Marvel doesn't, apparently), Joe felt he had to get rid of the marriage to save the character for future generations. They tried killing MJ off. Didn't hold. They separated them. Didn't hold. So, to paraphrase the late Flip Wilson, the devil made them do it. Well, a devil, Mephisto. Maybe. Essentially, the History Eraser Button, in this case Mephisto (maybe) doing the bidding of his master Joe Quesada by making the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane nonexistant. Not nullified. Not annuled. It never happened.

Marriage at Shea Stadium? Never happened. The stalking ofMJ by Venom at the Parker home? Never happened. Harry Osborn's stint as the Green Goblin and his death? Never happened. The lost Parker child in the events of the so-called Clone Saga? Never happened. The revelations of Ezekiel, the whole stint as a high-school teacher, and essentially the entire JMS run on Amazing Spider-Man? Never happened. The whole unmasking situation that caused his family to be stalked and May Parker near death due to an assassin's bullet? Never happened.

The History Eraser Button is pretty dang convienient, isn't it?

Depends on who you ask. We all know they happened, but because we are told that it didn't by people who didn't like the married couple in the first place, it didn't happen.

However, continuity doesn't always have to be so rigid either.

Look at Batman.

In animation alone, there have been several interpretations of the character from Filmation and Hanna-Barbera's campy versions to the familiar DCAU version that has been a part of our households for almost 20 years to The Batman of today, younger and still learning what it takes to be a hero to more alternative ones. All of these are the same character and yet, there is something different about each and every incarnation. There's no continuity that ties them together, just certain strings that are constant in every version.

Yes, at times it is tempting to push the History Eraser button and start things anew. Sometimes history does need to start again. Then again, some things are as they should be and should never change, especially for the sake of a story. Fellow creators and readers, I close this post with a gift.

The History Eraser Button.

It controls the fate of your favorite story and your own stories. What happens if you push it? Maybe something bad. Maybe something good. I guess we'll never know because it's in your hands.

You won't touch it, will you?

Feb 23, 2008

Wisdom Questioned #1

I've been reading Sitcoms Online's news blog for a number of years, and I love it. It's probably one of the most comprehensive news outlets for all things situation-comedy. At times, however, I feel it's catered to an older set at times, and nothing illustrates that more than Solomon's Weekly Rants. Some are enjoyable, but most tend to be rantings of an out-of-touch guy that pretty much hates television as it is.

Before you all go "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black" on me, I do look at things through all perspectives and can be unbiased on occasion. It's just that the negative, opinionated side of me that gets noticed. Some of Solomon's opinions are grating to the point that it illustrates him as the old man on the porch shooing the kids away with a cane. I'm an old man too (well, if you consider 30 old), and I'm questioning some of his wisdom based on everything he wrote that week. I might actually agree with him on a few points.

I think I'm going to do this every weekend, so this is only a test Read this week's Solomon's Weekly Rant first and then read my counterpoint later.

Wisdom Questioned #1: Malcolm's Newer Than Strokes, Countdown to Shutdown, and Defending TV One

In case you haven't heard, BET recently acquired several classic sitcoms, including Malcolm and Eddie, Diff'rent Strokes, and a pair of returning sitcoms Sanford and Thea, to the lineup. Finally, something other than wall-to-wall videos, pointless reality, and tired comedy shows (though, I must admit, I do miss the news programs). And yes, Malcolm and Eddie airs more than Diff'rent Strokes. Some folks have a problem with that, but one should recognize the belly of the beast that is distribution costs that can determine how many times something can air a day. Some shows are more expensive than others to air. Diff'rent Strokes is more expensive than Malcolm and Eddie. It's older, more familiar, and actually not really aimed towards the BET age demographics, the 18-34 crowd. Malcolm and Eddie is cheaper, more recent, less familiar (remember, it WAS on UPN as were Moesha, Girlfriends, and a bulk of what's on TV One [more on that later]), and actually aimed towards the demo.

For the record, I hate the UPN reject label. UPN was a legitimate network and one of the few that actually programmed shows for urban audiences unlike the other broadcast networks. Is it a reject because it aired on UPN or is it a reject because it's an urban comedy? It can't be a reject because it was a short-lived series. I don't recall anyone calling Firefly or Arrested Development FOX rejects.

Still, the notion of favortism for Malcolm and Eddie over Diff'rent Strokes isn't true, at least from my perspective. I think the St. Louis-based sitcom is less expensive than the New York-based one to air.

The countdown towards digital television continues. The general public has been aware of it for about a few months. They've should have been aware of it for about a decade now. I think the government should have been educating the public earlier than they have. Digital television will become the standard in under a year, though the standard was known for about a decade. There's going to be a mad dash to get the converter boxes which comes out in a few months for those without the funds to buy a new television. HDTVs will hopefully be marked down enough so they could be bought by those of modest means as well.

Still, the complaint of the television industry advertising the digital switchover too much is laughable. I don't think they're doing enough. The $40 coupons are a start. I'd like to know more about the station number changes for some networks, exactly WHY we're going digital (yes, digital pictures are pretty, but they haven't explained WHY we're going digital), and exactly how each affiliate will broadcast their newfound channel spaces (the whole subchannel schemes will make new channels that could air anything). The general public is still in the dark about those aspects of digital television. DTV Answers is one place to learn.

TV One is about five years old. They're still a fairly new network, and as such, people want them to "pick up the pace." TV One is still working with a small yearly budget, picking up what they can, and basically make it on their own, and I respect that. While it would be nice of TV One to pick up a high-profile urban sitcom like The Jeffersons or even something the caliber of OZ, Soul Food, or The Wire, but shows like that are fairly expensive to pick up. You work with what you've got to get what you need later on. That's something my grandma used to tell me. I miss her so much. TV One doesn't have access to the resources BET does, but, then again, neither does BET. They do have the financial backbone of Viacom, but Viacom will only give them so much. BET's kind of like Cartoon Network in that aspect. Both are owned by powerful entertainment conglomerates (BET's owned by Viacom while Cartoon Network's owned by Time Warner) and both usually are alone in the world and largely on their own with little to no help from their parents. It's strange, but the more people take a closer look, the more they see the bigger picture. Maybe even on digital television.

If they get it.

Feb 8, 2008

Let Me Get This Straight About The CW

I know I'm not a media executive, but I want to know if this thesis is even correct.

The CW Television Network hands over control of their Saturday morning lineup to a competing company that already controls a low-rated Saturday morning block.

The CW moves its modestly-performing urban comedies to a night that has the worst ratings for the network most likely causing their imminent cancellation as was the case with Reba and 7th Heaven a year ago.

The CW is rumored to be cancelling Smallville, which may not be on everybody's must-watch list, but has a significant fan following that kept it around for seven seasons. Even that didn't help Veronica Mars nor Gilmore Girls.

And today, The CW announced that they're pulling the plug on their highest-rated series, Friday Night Smackdown.

Here's my thesis.

The CW wants to shut down operations.

That's the only logical reason I could think of for the recent idiotic decisions to come out The CW as of late. The C part of the partnership seems to have left the building a long time ago (perhaps focusing more of their energies on CBS itself) leaving Time Warner, the MOST POORLY RAN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY ON THE PLANET, largely in charge of the network. And heaven forbid they're thinking these days. I mean, the idea of shutting down New Line Cinema is moronic, but that's what Jeff "Synergy is bullscat" Bewkes is thinking about in this round of "Who Wants To Demolish A Media Conglomerate?," but I digress.

The recent decision to cancel Smackdown is troubling to say the least. As I mentioned before, it's the highest rated series on The CW, and that's saying a lot. It attracts young viewers, Blacks, and Latino audiences, more than any other show on their lineup. The Smackdown brand had been a major component of the WWE for almost a decade. Hell, the brand has become the wrestling video game franchise of the WWE and became forever immortalized in Webster's dictionary.

I wonder why The CW cancelled it though. Was it to distance themselves from the WWE in the light of the Benoit tragedy and the impending steroids investigations? Was it because Vince wanted to shutter the Smackdown brand? Or is because The CW (Time Warner) is jealous of the somewhat chummy relationship WWE has with NBC Universal, home of the RAW and ECW brands and the bi-annual Saturday Night's Main Event? I'm thinking that relationship may be the true reason behind The CW's sudden and surprising cancellation of Smackdown.

I doubt Smackdown will be gone entirely. Hell, I bet that another network (either Fox or the struggling My Network TV) would jump at the chance to acquire the brand for their lineups. As far as The CW goes, well, they could only go so far with those shows about "pretty White kids with problems" (thanks MAD TV) and "reality" shows, because at this rate, that's all they'll have in the 2008-09 season. Oh, and Saturday morning lineup full of low-rated 4Kids acquisitions. The CW has become The WB.

And The WB failed a long time ago. Even before the merger.

POSTSCRIPT: On Tuesday, February 26, World Wrestling Entertainment officially announced that Friday Night Smackdown will continue at its new broadcast home, My Network TV as well as launced multimedia deals with MNT's parent company, Twentieth Century Fox. Meanwhile, The CW has nothing. Ongoing . . .

Jan 28, 2008

The Disappearance of Reruns

Whatever happened to reruns?

It’s like we have to be bombarded by new episodes on television every week, and if we don’t get repeats, we don’t see our favorite shows.

Yes, I know shows are instantly repurposed on cable because that’s where the old media feels the money is. Of course, as the old media migrates to the new media, they’re placing reruns at your fingertips, either “on-demand” or on broadband channels. If you don’t have access to “on-demand” services or broadband access (myself included), you’re scat out of luck. The old media once proclaimed that content is king, which is why they went on a buying spree purchasing smaller and, in rare cases, larger libraries and studios.

Instead of Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., New Line, and Castle Rock, there is Time Warner. Instead of Greengrass, Disney, Capital Cities/ABC, Miramax, Saban, and PIXAR, there’s The Walt Disney Company. Instead of Jay Ward, Filmation, Rankin-Bass, Big Ideas, and UPA, there is Entertainment Rights. MGM is owned by Sony and a bunch of other investors. NBC Universal owns a lot of smaller studios and outlets as does CBS Paramount, Viacom, and News Corp. They own the content. They own the networks. They own the outlets where reruns could be aired. Since they control the property’s destinies, they also have the power to keep shows off the air.

They can decide when and if a particular show would be reran. Some shows will. A lot won’t. Those shows you’re likely going to have to pay for, whether it’s a DVD purchase, a download fee, or subscription fees to cable and broadband services. Even next year, if you want to watch regular non-cable television and don’t have access to cable or a digital television, you’re going to have to buy a digital converter box for every set in your house. However you want to watch your favorite shows, it’s going to cost you in the end, which is kind of sad.

The media is changing, but certain attitudes don’t have to change because of it. People actually like certain shows and would gladly watch them, even during off periods. “Out of sight, out of mind” is an adage that comes in handy this way. People might actually forget about those shows networks tried to get people to watch in the first place.

By the way, LOST returns this week. Remember that show?

Jan 9, 2008

The New Era

I think we're approaching some strange age in the coming months.

Over the next 24 months, everything we see and realize as the world will be gone, replaced with something exciting, confusing, and entertaining. Media as the world knows it will be a thing of the past. Television, as we, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents knew it, is history in 2009, replaced by some digital device that'll look pretty and add more places for infomercials because network execs are idiots.

Well, they are.

98% of entertainment executives are clueless morons trying to find the next great fad rather than creating something that'll last longer than they do. They'll spend and spend, but 98% of what they'll make will end up being not worth making. The traditional studio system is on the outs because those in power are becoming greedy and stupid. And you know what? The producers have nobody to blame but themselves. And the people, their consumers, aren't even on their side anymore.

We've become an age of pod people, with our ears connected by white wires to a small device in our pockets. We're connected to music or something relatively resembling music and portable videos. Now, you can see amateur performers acting foolish on the go.

It's not a pessimistic era we're about to enter, but rather, a bright era. We have the capacity to entertain ourselves, whether it's creating videos, podcasts, blogs, or websites. Talent is flowing within all of us, but only a few dare to create. Tools are becoming cheaper and more availiable to all. I'm not saying anyone can make a broadcast-caliber series, but we're definitely getting close.

It's a new era. A new wave of consciousness is approaching.

Are you ready?

Jan 8, 2008

It's Garry's Show, Not Dexter

I'm writing about a sitcom that hasn't seen the light of day in almost two decades in the US for my first real post in 2008?


I noticed that everybody is reporting that Showtime's popular crime drama Dexter is coming to CBS's strike-ridden lineup (go Writers!) in February. Everybody that reported that are saying that Dexter will be the first premimum cable series to air on broadcast television.

And those people are wrong.

Although Dexter will be the first premium DRAMA series to air a complete season, the very first premimum cable series to air a complete season on broadcast television was It's Garry Shandling's Show. Like Dexter, the popular sitcom was an original production of Showtime. It premiered in 1986 on the cable network and made its broadcast debut on the young Fox network two years later, where the channel ran four of the five seasons of the series. It left the Sunday night lineup in 1990, just catching up to the Showtime run and right around the time The Simpsons became a stand-alone series.

Another thing that's wrong . . . people say that HBO couldn't bring any of their shows to broadcast television because Time Warner doesn't have a broadcast network. They actually have a half-interest in The CW along with CBS, who also owns Showtime. And all the major HBO shows are seen elsewhere (The Sopranos are on A&E, Sex and The City is on TBS, Six Feet Under is [was? I don't have cable anymore, so I can't tell] on Bravo, and The Wire is also on BET [the final season is currently on HBO even as we speak]; OZ is nowhere to be found).

Jan 1, 2008

Happy New Year

According to the currently used calendar in the Western world, it is now 2008.

Happy new year, my friends.

I'll be back after the Epiphany.