MICHAEL DAVIS: Fade To Black
I fully realized that the article I wrote last week was at some times petty and juvenile. I was furious and I forgot that the best way to make a point is a well thought out lucid argument. At one time I may have suggested some people in the Genarlow Wilson case were racist and because of that I wrote that “white women love me.” This was simply not right.
I was wrong and I apologize. In my attempt to strike a nerve with the people in the case I lashed out but I was totally wrong to say that. I was wrong and I hope that those people I lashed out at will forgive me.
The fact of the matter is white women don’t love me…they REALLY love me!
Dudes! I can’t keep them off of me! I’m thinking of changing my name to Mandingo (they love that) and seeing if there’s any money in this!
Yeah, I’m still a wee bit bitter over the whole Genarlow Wilson and Paris Hilton thing. To all my friends’ black and white, all jokes aside I’m just trying to get those morons in Georgia to lose some sleep at night. That way they can share in a little of what Genarlow Wilson is enduring.
I was going to write this particular column last week but I got caught up in the Genarlow Wilson and Paris Hilton debacle so here it is a week later and I hope it’s still relevant.
By now we have all seen or heard about The Sopranos series ending show. The vast majority of the world hated that ending. Me? I thought it was a cop-out UNLESS they are planning a movie. Then I get it. If they are not planning a movie then HBO should change its name to simply B.O., because that ending stunk.
HBO is a funny little network. No one doubts that they do GREAT TV. In fact The Sopranos would not (could not) have been done on any other network. If the show were picked up by ABC then Tony Soprano would have been played by Tony Danza or some such actor. It was The Sopranos that really lit the fire under the rest of the TV world. I remember NBC did a Soprano rip. It was called Kingpin. Everybody in that show looked like supermodels. Even the hit men were wearing Hugo Boss suits. That show went bye bye faster than Barry Allen. Why? Because as I have said a million times: Americans are not the idiots some TV executives think.
Rather or not you like the ending or not it sure did make an impact, this morning I watched a Hillary Clinton parody of the ending on the Today show.
Wait a moment.
Did I just say that Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the race for President did a Sopranos parody? Love or hate the ending (or love or hate Hillary) you have to respect the power of a television program that can do that. As I said in my very first column my readers would always know where I stand so let me be clear: I hated the ending but I love Hillary. Why do I love Hillary? Well if we elect her we get Bill as a bonus! Why did I hate the Sopranos ending? Because unless there is going to be a Sopranos movie then that was not an ending. It was a big slap in the face of America by a great producer who wants to be considered an artist.
For the most part television is not an art form. It is an entertainment medium. Yes there is great TV and yes there can be some shows, movies etc. that can be considered artistic but TV is not an art form.
Art by definition is an individual who creates something for no other reason except to see it created. They do it because they have a desire to share their vision with the world. Anytime someone pays you to create a product where the sole purpose is to garner ratings, that is not an art.
The producers of The Sopranos, are not artists they are producers of popular content. If the producers of The Sopranos had made the show without any involvement of the network, no notes, no suggestions no rewrites and then HBO would have aired it would have been closer to being an art form but it would have still fallen short. Why? Because HBO is in the entertainment business. People pay to be entertained.
This is why I did not like the ending of The Sopranos. Where was the entertainment? Yes there are films out there that are “art.” The difference between those offerings and The Sopranos is they tell you right up front what they are. It’s usually some depressing story about some eternal good vs. evil struggle with all sorts of hidden images and subtle comments on society.
That’s not my cup of tea. I have nothing against people who like that sort of deep stuff and in fact I have been known to watch one or two – both times I was trying to impress a girl with my deepness when I really wanted to see Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
The Sopranos was not deep, it was a really well done story about a family in the mob. It had a cleaver twist (Tony was seeing a shrink) but that twist could just as easily been a comedy. In fact it was. Remember Analyze This with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal? That film had the same exact premise as The Sopranos. What would have happened if the producers had decided to end that movie with a fade to black scenario? A million people would have asked for their money back.
I’m a simple guy. At Christmas I buy people what they want, not what I think they need. Where’s the fun in buying people what they need? “Here you go buddy, I noticed you needed some new socks so I got you that instead of the Wii you wanted.”
When it comes to my entertainment I want to be entertained. Don’t try and teach me anything. I’m not interested in a meaning. I don’t want to reflect on what I just saw and talk about how I can help in a world gone mad. If I want to learn something I will watch one of the many channels that tell you that is what they are. The Learning Channel, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Playboy Channel.
What? You can certainly learn something from the Playboy Channel. Why, just the other day I learned that most playmates are dumb as bricks with more plastic parts than My G.I. Joe collection.
When I watch a channel like HBO I just want you to give me what I pay for. Entertainment.
I watched The Sopranos for eight seasons to see the inner workings of a mob family. I expected (and I got) to see bullets fly and people die. I waited eight seasons to see how Tony Soprano would pay (or not) for his crimes. All I got from the last episode was pissed. Most people reading this are to young to have seen a show called The Fugitive. But I’m sure you have heard of it. The series finale of that show was the biggest in television history at the time. If CBS would have pulled that fade to black stunt at the end of that show they would have suffered the biggest backlash in the history of television.
There are those who work in TV who think that they are being cool and relevant with their take on popular culture. It’s like those stupid ads for perfumes. What the fish does all that stupid imagery mean? You know those ridiculous commercials like the one where the lady walks from the pool into space and things fly around her. There’s no sound and no point but the director is making a statement. What statement?
This is how ‘art’ gets on the air. It starts with a bunch of guys/gals sitting in a room with a good idea. Let’s say it’s for a cologne called “Shark” (I have no idea if there is a cologne called Shark and if there is then I am not talking about that cologne. If there is not a cologne called Shark then it’s MY idea!)
So Shark is a manly scent made for manly men. The advertising group is telling each other how cool this is. Let’s listen in on the groupm shall we?
So, we are agreed. The Shark walks into a room of guppies but instead of being afraid for their lives The Shark smells so good they are all drawn to him despite the danger!
That’s good but what if…
What if what?
What if the Shark is a Butterfly?
But the cologne is called Shark.
So? The Butterfly’s name could be Shark.
Oh yes, I see where you are going! So the Butterfly walks into…
No! He flies into the room of guppies…
NO! He flies into a room of chocolate!
Yes! Chocolate that smiles when the Butterfly flies in!
Yeah, but what if the Butterfly was just a stick of butter.
A stick of butter named Shark.
By the time this reaches the airways the creative team had talked themselves into believing that this is still a good idea. I’m not kidding; I have been in meetings like this. Commercials, TV shows and movies like this are created to make the viewer work. Hey I have a job so when I watch TV I don’t want to work and if you want me to work then write me a check. I’m writing you one with my cable subscription.
I am not interested in trying to figure out what happened in The Sopranos. I have not been paying HBO so that I can figure anything out. I want YOU to give me what I paid for. I hope the next time the Sopranos creative team goes into a restaurant the chef tells them to pay up front then makes them make their own meal. Or better yet maybe they can imagine what they want to eat.
Years ago I went to an Eric Clapton concert. Mr. Clapton only wanted to play his blues work. That is not what people paid for and they let him know. Yes, he has a right as an artist to try new things, but as a performer if I pay for Rock and Roll I want to hear Rock and Roll. You want to create something new, great but give the people what they paid for. How would you react if you paid for a steak and got fish?
I don’t pay for cable so that I would have to work at my entertainment. I pay for cable (in this case HBO) so I can be entertained.
I know, It’s not TV. It’s HBO.
You may have to consider a new slogan. If you pull that Sopranos stunt one more time, here’s my suggestion:
It’s not HBO. It’s Showtime.
Hollywood’s own Michael Davis is a comics creator and the founder of the Guardian Line series of comics as well as being a television producer and writer. He is a co-founder of Milestone Comics and his artwork has appeared in Wasteland, Green Arrow: Shado, Green Hornet and The Question, among others.