The Peacock, the Ginger, and the Chin

Jay Leno is officially destroying network television. And not just for NBC, I’m talking for everyone.

Thanks to the epic hissy fit he threw at the moment of his ousting from the Tonight Show throne and his subsequent takeover of the 10 PM one-hour spot on NBC, the network world has begun to implode.

In case you don’t know the story, Jay Leno was practically forced into retirement by NBC who wanted a younger demographic tuning in to their late night lineup. They know, as I know, that Leno’s jokes and bits were too tired and safe for the younger crowd. They know that Leno’s interview skills are absolutely horrible and completely sterile – that he strives to avoid controversy and will shut down at any instant of conflict with his guest.
Did I watch Leno? Yes. My wife liked Leno on the Tonight Show and I didn’t mind him all that much.
When the announcement was made that Conan would be taking over, however, we were both overjoyed. We loved watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien and we knew that Conan would continue to deliver his brand of humor (albeit slightly toned down) when he began his reign from the big chair. We found ourselves more excited for the emergence of Conan than disappointed for Leno’s departure. It was only in his latter days that I may have gotten my wife to crack a bit and admit that Jay’s stuff was getting lame. I won’t quote her on that, though.

When it came to pass that Leno was not being fired but rather rescheduled for the 10PM slot, I was outraged. NBC was so afraid that a disenfranchised Leno would leave for another network (citing mainly the empty Fox late slot or even axing Jimmy Kimmel out of his spot on ABC) and “take his audience with him” that they had to offer him something.
It is for this sin that NBC has suffered. A daily talk show at 10PM on a network is a horrible idea and everyone in the broadcasting community knew that it was a massive mistake. I called it when the announcement was made: NBC is going to hit the skids. No one is going to watch Leno. The other networks could run shots of a flaming pile of crap leading into the local 11PM news and they would probably pull better ratings (especially CBS, as long as they titled the show CSI: Piece of Flaming Crap. … Wait, isn’t that a show already? YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!)

The reality of the fallout was something very interesting, indeed. For once, people who were network junkies were clicking the remotes on those digital boxes and checking out shows like Sons of Anarchy and Men of a Certain Age. And, the people who were watching something else on another network are getting told by friends that they should be watching some cable show instead. Friends are heeding this advice and cable is reaping the rewards, and not just from the wounded and lame NBC time slot as it limps on down the road.
The problem was, the bullet in the thigh that is Leno hasn’t killed the network yet, but the bleeding is affecting the local NBC affiliates 11PM News. People who are tuning out from Leno aren’t tuning back in to the same channel to get their news where they would have previously stuck with whatever program they were watching on NBC (or other networks) into the 11 o’clock hour.
This is where things really get me because Leno, in this fashion, is hurting the little guy. The affiliate stations are suffering losses in ad revenue for their 11 o’clock news. Ad revenue from local programming and slots offered in some network shows is really how they make their scratch. Taking away the revenue of that half-hour’s worth of that programming due to crap ratings could very well cost someone (if not multiple people) their job. And, I don’t mean the people who sold the ad time. I mean loss in revenue = loss of jobs. Across the board.
In essence, Jay Leno’s rich stubborn ass might cause a check-to-check cameraman or production assistant to lose their income. He’ll probably just use the proceeds to buy another car.

Now, news hits that NBC has had enough of Leno dragging their ratings deep into an unrecoverable quicksand of death. It dropped last night that, after their Winter Olympic coverage ends, the 10PM Jay Leno Show will be no more.
I honestly squealed with joy as I read the headline, “Leno’s Future Up in the Air”. I was excited when I read about the looming cancellation.

I almost choked when I read that NBC may be moving him back to his original 11:35 time slot.

The deal would be thus: Leno at 11:35 in a half-hour program, then Conan with the Tonight Show at 12:05, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 1:05. At least, that’s the latest rumor courtesy of the AP Wire.

Note to NBC: This is not going to right the ship. If you continue to force Jay Leno on your viewers, you will lose them. The audience is finally starting to get used to the flow of the new late night lineup and you are going to shake things up again. People, especially your traditional late night audience, despise change.
I would like you to know that, if you do put Leno back on at 11:35, my wife and I have both agreed that we would be much better served watching the Colbert Report live rather than on the replay. Will we tune back in for Conan? Who knows. We’re both up early in the mornings and most of the time fall asleep before Conan’s second guest. We were giving you that extra half-hour of ratings. I’m sure that most people who actually watch network late night will probably feel the same.

Leno, at this point, seems to be the albatross around NBC’s neck. Rather than buck up some nuts and fire his sorry ass (preferably out of a cannon), the pussies/morons at 30 Rock would rather coddle him so that he doesn’t “take his audience with him” when he goes away.

NBC, you’re a respected news provider. It should not be a flash that LENO’S RATINGS SUCK. What exact audience will he be taking with him if he goes? A small piece of the Tonight Show pie? Hangers-on who are as-yet unsure of Conan’s awesomeness? Trifles. He’s not going to upset the balance of the universe. He’s going to go to another network, have the exact same lame-ass tired show he has now, and tank there. Why not pass the bomb off to someone else and save yourselves the trouble?

I’m sure you won’t. You’ll drag Conan down for the sake of a billionaire has-been stand-up comedian who you think has you by the short-and-curlys.
I say call his bluff. I say let the bastard go. Give Conan his due. And, remember how much this is hurting your local affiliates. Leno is essentially costing people their livelihood. Don’t be one of those companies.

Down with Leno.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—


Recently, I was contacted by a webzine to which I have been a rather infrequent contributor as of late regarding any “decade lists” I would wish to post.
I have to admit, at first the concept interested me. I started to think about all the rankings I could give things. Top ten movies, top ten albums, top ten TV shows, concerts, moments, newsbytes, socio-political or scientific breakthroughs. Anything.

I gave it some long hard thought. I sat with an open word document for a few hours pondering what I should rank. Being something of a purveyor of pop-culture, the idea should be an incredible opportunity for me. Here we sit, perched on the edge of another epoch and I’m caught speechless.
Of course, heading on a brief outing to Barnes and Noble and merely looking at the magazine rack, many powerful and name brand publications seem to think that their opinion is the end-all-be-all of the first decade of this fledgling millennium. Entertainment Weekly, for instance, published their top 100 in entertainment (obviously) for the decade. This ranked everything in one large bundle. I suppose this is the easy way out of the problem. Put everything into one place in a sort of loose yet obvious numbered system and make your readers debate amongst each other as to which particular thing should have been placed where in their opinion.
This is the coward’s way out. I could probably tell you a hundred things in pop-culture within the 20-ought years that would rank up there for me. Shit, I practically have. I’ve been blogging (and some of you have been reading) for eight of those ten. I guarantee that there were more than 100 rants in my catalogue over that time, most of them about pop-culture. So, there we have it. I’ve already done what Entertainment Weekly did, though in no particular ranking or order.
I’ve probably recommended ten albums. I’ve probably reviewed ten movies with a 5/10 or higher on the Bidula’s Last Word scale. I’ve probably told you about 10 or more video games which rocked me. I’ve definitely told you of more than ten socio-political moments that moved me. I have, more than anything else, told you of more than ten personal moments when I was particularly moved, overjoyed, saddened, awakened, broken, reassembled, stripped for parts, reconditioned, and resold.
Ten years ago today, I was a first quarter art school student with a head full of ideas as to where I would be by the end of the decade – I thought I would be doing something incredible, creating for a living. Ten years later, here I am, with the same hopes for the end of the next decade but with a much more realistic perspective on what it takes to obtain that goal.
Ten years ago, the computer I used to connect to “the internet”, not much more than a collection of lists of other sites and moving .gifs of construction people eternally shoveling in their little yellow triangles, was a horrible mess of a machine compared to the fine laptop on which I am now writing. Ten years ago, there was no real blogging. Hell, ten years ago, there were barely frames and flash. Ten years ago, there was no Xbox. Ten years later, life seems so much different when we look back.

Ten years in the eyes of pop-culture is much more than a decade. It’s almost two lifetimes when you think about it. The very nature of the “pop” aspect limits things to their run of mainstream glory. Judging simply by the events involved, thinking back to where we were when this or that happened, it doesn’t seem like that far back. Take a moment to think about where exactly you were ten years ago. Think about where you were, what you were doing, and what you were anticipating in the terms of what came next. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See what I’m talking about? Mindblowing, isn’t it. Top ten movies in the ought-decade? How does one really put that down on paper? I mean, look at 2000 alone: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Chocolat, Finding Forrester, Almost Famous, Battle Royale, Gladiator, High Fidelity, The Perfect Storm, O Brother Where Art Thou, Snatch, X-Men… And that’s just a few. Granted, not all of them would be in my personal top ten, but still, right there, you have 11 movies I think are awesome out of one freaking year. Don’t even get me started on music or anything else, we’ll be here all night.
Great movies come out every year. To limit the field to so few would be ridiculous. Why do you think that IMDb has a “Top 250 of all time”? Sure, they narrow it down to a top ten at the end, but there are still 240 other movies that get props because they’re awesome.
For the decade, I would probably be able to do a top 25 for things. Hell, I might just do a top 25, maybe even a top 50, maybe even a ranking in no particular order, but it’s going to have to come with massive amounts of research.

I could never classify an entire decade worth of entertainment within 10 anything without giving respect to the tons of decent efforts that may have come up short of the elusive 10th slot. We won’t do that here. Within the next few weeks look for the best dozen or more of the decade. Originally, I had set out to make this a rant about how decade lists would be nearly impossible. The more I sit here in my late night mind set, the more I think it can be accomplished as long as you don’t limit a number and you don’t lump everything together.

Sure, I’ll do the decade lists. Just don’t hold me down to a number. 10 for 10 just ain’t enough. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I’m just now scratching the surface. Expect updates.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Apocalypse Wow

I am addicted to the Discovery Channel.

This is a pretty common thing, though. Addiction to documentary programming is something that is experienced far and wide, especially due to the lack of quality of most network shows.

History Channel, Food Network, Travel Channel… it’s all part of the same giant addiction. Science, technology, and history are three of my favorite things. Where else, on a Sunday afternoon without Steelers football, can you watch a two-hour block of ancient and medieval methods of torture and execution? I mean, really, there’s nothing else on and the premise of that is pretty damn awesome. It’s brutal and metal and all those other fun adjectives that make medieval torture devices seem cool, as long as you’re not the one strapped to them.

Recently, however (and by recently, I mean over the last two years or so), I’ve been detecting a more sensationalism in some of the shows.
I’m not talking about Mike Rowe shoveling cow manure or narrating while a bunch of crab fishers brave the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. I’m not talking about Andrew Zimmern showing us exactly how homosexual he must truly be. I’m not talking about the cringe-worthy video on some episodes of Destroyed in Seconds.
I am talking about the end of the world.

Over the last few years, speculations have started rising with regards to the end of the Mayan Long-Count Calendar. A good portion of people have been lead to this tidbit of information from watching both the Discovery and the History channels. Since shortly after Y2K went bust, they’ve been running documentaries about the end of humanity in increasing numbers.

When will it happen? How will it happen? How many of us will be left alive? Is anywhere on Earth safe from the ravages of the impending apocalypse?

The common answers to these FAQs, according to Discovery Networks: 12/21/2012, somehow we’re not sure, and probably not, respectively.

Doesn’t quite make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, does it?
In the end, I suppose watching a show regarding the possible methods and timetables for the end of life as we know it isn’t supposed to make you feel good. The problem with it is that something like this scares people a lot more than a horror flick. The end of the world ain’t no haunted house picture, that’s for sure. It’s also not an Eli Roth-style gorefest. This is something that, with the right mind, could be very legitimately scary.
I, personally, have no insight on whether or not the world will actually end on the prescribed date of the Mayans. I can’t say whether anything is right or wrong. I mean, the world could just as easily end tomorrow as it could on December 21 three years from now.
After Y2K, though, I’m kinda played out on the whole idea of the death of humanity being predicted.

You can sit and watch these documentaries and you may think, “Well, shit, it’s on the Discovery/History Channel! They’re all about facts! Why would they lie?”
They’re not lying, per se, they’re just very selectively choosing the “experts” they decide to interview in order to make the best television possible.
Someone educated in the field of Ancient Mesoamerican Studies may not have the same opinion regarding the Mayan Deadline as an “Astrology Expert” or an analyst of ancient prophecy. We all think that the Discovery Networks would pull in the best minds on the subject to discuss what could actually happen and what, if any, significance the end of this calendar will have on our society at large.
We are all duped in this way, especially when it comes to these sorts of things.
Mostly, if someone tells us they have a line on the end of the world, we’re at least going to listen to their crackpot theory. If there were someone in the street screaming the end was near and citing a specific date, you might not look like it, but you’re mentally marking that day in your head. There’s a good chance that the kook with the sandwich board is wrong, but you’d like to at least be aware of it if he isn’t.
Discovery is guilty of something much worse. They’re giving the sandwich board kooks air-time. They are pulling rogue scientists and historians – mostly people whose credibility within their respective field seems questionable at best – to be interviewed regarding their skewed and not generally excepted views which just happen to coincide perfectly with the particular sensational variety of the program in question.
It’s not just the end of the world docs, either. They’re interviewing people who consider themselves “doctors of cryptozoology” on other programs. You might as well strap on a proton pack and call yourself a Ghostbuster at that point. Experts in fringe science (like parapsychology or ufology for example) are, essentially, experts on nothing unless they can provide concretem conclusive, and incontrovertible evidence that such things exist. Catch yourself a bigfoot, get me some real footage of aliens, show me the boogieman. Then, maybe, I’ll consider you an expert in your field rather than someone who thinks they’re the God of their particular field just because they edit the Wiki entries on the subject.

I’m not here to criticize any beliefs. I have an open mind. I acknowledge the possibility that there are things out there in the world and in the universe which can’t be explained by current science. But, you can’t consider any of those fields science until you actually lock the shit down with some hard facts.
Believe what you want to believe, but just remember, not everything you hear on television is real. From a Discovery Channel documentary to Cable News. Nothing is 100% until it’s proven and no one, not even the ancient Mayans, can predict the future for sure. Remember that the “experts” involved in these programs, even if they’re experts without the quotation marks, are just giving their opinions based on collected evidence and supposition when it comes to these mysterious things. There is no real conclusion, especially when it comes to prophecy and most certainly when it comes to apocalyptic prophecy.

Discovery Networks and Roland Emmerich (the guy behind the new 2012 movie) are responsible for continually proliferating the belief that something terrible is going to happen on December 21, 2012. You can listen to the “experts” they’ve got, telling you that because it’s the end of the long cycle, that the world is going to implode or erupt in violence or even (one of the funnier online beliefs) that the government is covering up the rapid approach of the Dark Sun Nibiru which will, in one of many described ways, decimate the Earth and destroy humanity (look that one up, it’s fun).
Or, you can just check a little bit around the internet. Even the Wiki entry has this to say:

Despite the publicity generated by the 2012 date, Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that “We [the archaeological community] have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end” in 2012. “For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”
“There will be another cycle,” says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”

Just remember, there are many more opinions about things than Television lets you know. And, the TV, even if it’s from someone as trusted as the Discovery Channel, isn’t always the singular or definitive or even the most popular opinion among the scientific community. Remember that, even though they are educational channels and shows and most of their programming deals with flat fact rather than pure speculation, it’s still television, which means it’s prone to exaggeration to draw ratings and keep you watching.

I am happy in the knowledge that if nothing happens December 21, 2012, I’ll be able to scream “I told you so” from the highest mountain. I’m even happier that, if something terrible and catastrophic happens and we’re all dead, I don’t have to hear it from anyone. Unless there’s an afterlife. In which case, find me and get all in my face about it. You have my permission.
Just don’t let the paranoia devour you before then, ok?

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—