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Tirade of the Week


6.11.00

Fuckin' Savages in This Town...


"Hells yes, whatever that means."
- Jay

I think it's safe to say that Kevin Smith won't be taking his little daughter to Disneyland anytime soon.

Triple-fucked by the Mouse -- first by Disney-owned Miramax, which wimped out of releasing DOGMA, and then twice by Disney-owned ABC, which consigned his CLERKS toon to a late-May death slot and then pulled it after two episodes -- Smith is just the latest in a long, long line (which rivals the line outside Space Mountain) of creative people who got shafted in the house Walt built.

It's especially irritating because ABC had only committed to six episodes to begin with. Unless it pulled down Regis-type ratings, CLERKS was never gonna be picked up as a fall show. Smith rightly complained that there were "only four episodes to go." With all the cabbage ABC is making off WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE, they couldn't at least allow CLERKS the dignity of its already short run? This isn't just adding insult to injury, it's pouring piss on top of that.

CLERKS got slammed by most reviewers, but I can't really see why. It was a good little show. Granted, not as deliriously profane as the original movie. And no earth-shaking animation. But the charm of the show was that it seemed to be written and drawn during one long drunken night. Better animation wouldn't have worked. As for charges that it was "unfunny," I laughed pretty consistently through both episodes I saw. It was goofy and haphazard; in short, it was a Kevin Smith show. It was fun to hear the voices of Dante and Randal again, and for every wet fart of a gag, there were two others that scored.

The decision-makers at ABC have been morons lately anyway. They fucked David Lynch when he tried to do MULHOLLAND DRIVE for them. They spiked Peter Berg's drama WONDERLAND, which I never even got to see, after a mere two episodes (sound familiar?). They cancelled the critically acclaimed and well-respected SPORTS NIGHT. So Smith can take some solace: at least he's in good company. And he's out of the company of returning shows like NORM and TWO GUYS AND A GIRL, which, as an irate letter-writer to Entertainment Weekly pointed out, actually got lower ratings than SPORTS NIGHT.

At the end of the 1999-2000 season, ABC is on top for one reason only: a game show imported from Britain. (Their other inexpensive hit, WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY, is another British import.) And of course, next season ABC is offering virtually nothing aside from MILLIONAIRE, which is set to air four times a week. Of course, the fact that yet another import -- CBS's swinish and opportunistic SURVIVOR -- kicked Regis's ass two weeks running may be causing some cold sweat to pop up on the brows of ABC's execs. Is that your final answer, ABC?

"By premiering only four new shows this fall," said ABC cochairman Stuart Bloomberg, "we'll also be able to maximize our promotion, marketing and publicity efforts as never before." Translation: We're only gonna take a bath on four shitty new shows this fall, instead of the usual eight or ten. And what shows they are: GEENA, the oh-how-the-mighty-have-fallen sitcom starring Geena Davis; MADIGAN MEN, a comedy starring Gabriel Byrne (??); PEOPLE WHO FEAR PEOPLE (???????), an ensemble comedy; and yet another medical drama, GIDEON'S CROSSING.

ABC, the network that's proud to give the world PEOPLE WHO FEAR PEOPLE, doesn't think CLERKS is an ABC kind of show. Which raises the question of why ABC even agreed to buy the show in the first place. Smith had shopped it around everywhere else, including ABC, which initially didn't want it; when it looked like UPN might give CLERKS a 12-episode commitment, Michael Eisner suddenly got interested, and based on Smith's pitch ABC bought the show. Then, apparently, Eisner and Bob Iger actually saw the episodes and decided to bump CLERKS from a March airdate to late May, because according to Smith, they didn't get it. Smith considered buying the episodes back from ABC and editing them together into a feature-length CLERKS cartoon, but then he thought better of it, essentially deciding "Fuck it, let ABC run it." But then, of course, they ran it for only two episodes.

Smith has talked about putting the six episodes out as a couple of tapes or a single DVD; here's hoping legal issues don't muddy the waters, because I really would like to see the remaining four eps. I also hope they restore the infamous "Flintstone's List" bit that had to be cut from the second aired episode. (It's available for RealPlayer download on the web, of course. I've seen it. It's fuckin' evil, and fuckin' funny. Also fuckin' brief -- maybe 10 seconds total.) Not to mention putting the episodes in order; I have it on good authority (from an unnamed correspondent who saw all 6 episodes on a review screener) that ABC was airing them out of order.

Increasingly, the networks aren't the place to go for fresh, original programming anyway. If you want something stupid to decompress in front of after a hard day at work, the networks are your best bet. But if you want daring stuff -- frequently more daring than anything you'll see in a movie theater -- you have to go to HBO or Showtime. If the networks keep reaming artists like Lynch and Smith (two otherwise completely opposite directors who can now co-chair the "I Got Fucked by ABC" support group), nobody of talent will come to the networks, and we'll see yet more uninspired sitcoms with obnoxious people in their twenties, and yet more "reality-based" shows or game shows swiped from other countries. This is not the kind of atmosphere in which a TWIN PEAKS or a ST. ELSEWHERE would last more than two episodes. If X-FILES -- originally a slow starter which took about a season to hit its stride -- premiered today, it'd be gone faster than you can say HARSH REALM.

Why would anyone even want to work for a network that puts WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE on four times a week? I can see it now -- each network will gradually scale back its schedule until it only airs a handful of proven hits, and of course endless reruns thereof. Come to think of it, that's kind of what they do now.