Pop Attention Span

Trying to keep up with the zeitgeist

How do you update a Britcom from 1978?

Well, here are two shows in development that I wasn’t expecting. For one, the BBC has announced they’re looking at developing an Butterflies for American audiences, a Britcom that ran from 1978 to 1983 and has been a PBS mainstay.

Butterflies — which followed a housewife’s midlife crisis as her sons became slackers in adulthood and debated an affair with an ex-boyfriend — certainly captured the zeitgeist of the time but can it be relevant 30 years later? The series largely dealt with the idea that the concept of marriage had changed and that women were no longer marrying for the same reason that Ria, Butterflies‘ heroine, did. Ria’s husband Ben was a good provider but distant emotionally and the arrival of her ex-boyfriend, Leonard, made her realize her marriage lacked romance.

How do you update such a theme in an era of shows like Weeds, Gilmore Girls or 30 Rock with heroines whose problems make Ria look like a quaint relic? You could say that at the core of Butterflies is the story of a woman contemplating adultery and that’s a story that hasn’t been told sensitively (instead of being played for sensationalism) in a while, but updating Butterflies sounds as daunting as taking Absolutely Fabulous out of the 90s and into the 21st century.

At the least, I’m looking forward to hearing the show’s theme song “Love is Like a Butterfly” (performed by Dolly Parton below) updated.

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October 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off on How do you update a Britcom from 1978?

There’s a new Clock to Beat

Fox has picked up the rights to adapt UK game show The Cube which, from what I’ve seen could be described as Beat the Clock prettied up with modern production styles. I’d be excited about the possibilities if Fox’s recent game shows managed to hold my attention for more than two episodes. Then again, it’s not like Fox’s competitors have managed to make any gameshows I’ve liked, either. (Though the frequent gratuitous beefcake did get me to watch NBC’s Identity.)

October 1, 2009 Posted by | US Broadcast Networks | , | Comments Off on There’s a new Clock to Beat

FlashForward: won’t get lost?

My big worry about ABC’s newest sci-fi show, FlashForward, was that this would turn into Lost — a poorly-paced mythology show better at asking questions than giving satisfying answers.  However, according to series producers that’s not a danger. David Goyer and Marc Guggenheim told SFX Magazine that they have a detailed outline for seven seasons that will tell the story.

Hopefully, this means FlashForward won’t fall into the traps that befell Lost, which started to fall apart midway through the first season and we got several episodes in a row where the Lostaways had the same debate about the hatch door. Of course, the real challenge will come when ABC gets a hold of focus group reports and directs Goyer and Guggenheim to ensure whichever character tests highest becomes overexposed instantly.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | US Broadcast Networks | , , , | Comments Off on FlashForward: won’t get lost?

Another flashback from ABC Family

ABC Family has shown a knack for casting that invokes nostalgia in Gen X viewers (which is admittedly odd, considering the network’s target demo isn’t Gen Xers) by including the likes of Molly Ringwald and Josie Bissett in The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Charisma Carpenter and Thomas Calabro on Greek among others.

Now, the network is planning another nostalgia trip with a new comedy pilot starring Clarissa Explains It All/Sabrina the Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart and Blossom heartthrob Joey Lawrence. Hart would play a member of a political dynasty who takes in her niece and nephew after her sister is sent to prison, while Lawrence will be the manny she hires to help manage her new family.

Now, I wonder what it would take to get the network to take  a look at revisiting the youthful absurdity of The Adventures of Pete and Pete

October 1, 2009 Posted by | US Cable Networks | , , | Comments Off on Another flashback from ABC Family

People who don’t know how to use their TiVo, evidently.

The question, “Who’s watching The Jay Leno Show live?

TiVo reports that for the first two weeks of the season, less than half of Leno’s audience (46 percent) opted to view the show in time-shifted mode in homes with TiVo DVRs. By comparison, 70 percent of the audiences tuning into NBC shows between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. last season did so in time-shifted mode.

When NBC tried to pitch Leno as “DVR proof” I scoffed, thinking, “If you feel the need to be able to discuss Jay at the water cooler, you can just start watching at 10:15, skip all the commercials and finish watching the show the same time as the rest of your time zone.” So far, it’s looking like I was wrong in that assessment.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | US Broadcast Networks | , | Comments Off on People who don’t know how to use their TiVo, evidently.

The daytime implosion

Sadly, rumors of soap operas facing cancellation continue with rumors getting louder that One Life to Live does not have long to live. What’s frustrating in this case is that OLTL is arguably the best soap on the air right now, it’s the only soap that even vaguely resembles what the genre was like at its best. It’s also one of the best managed, reportedly coming under budget while its sister shows keep looking for ways to cut costs.

There still is one big unknown in all this — how OLTL lead-in All My Children will handle moving production from NY to LA. A move like that could mean a big change for the audience to accept — the majority of the behind-the-scenes crew will change and it’s still undetermined which cast members will make the move — and this attempt to save AMC could just as easily kill it.

A mild silver lining to the rumor says that OLTL‘s most compelling characters right now — gays Kyle and Oliver — would move to Pine Valley if OLTL were canceled. I’m not sure if that’s much of a silver lining, however,  when you consider how fans of AMC lesbian Bianca Kane have been frequently frustrated with how the show has handled gay storylines.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | US Broadcast Networks | , , | Comments Off on The daytime implosion

156 Twilight Zone episodes in under 10 minutes

Every time I watch a Twilight Zone marathon, I’m surprised by the number of episodes that are new to me, even though it’s a show I’ve watched since childhood. I have a similar reaction to this mix of scenes from the iconic series’ entire run, there are so many moments that are a complete blank.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | US Broadcast Networks | , | Comments Off on 156 Twilight Zone episodes in under 10 minutes

Now leaving “Mars”

SPOILERS below for both the American and UK endings of Life on Mars.

—-SPOILER WARNING—-

Continue reading

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off on Now leaving “Mars”

What killed The Chopping Block?

Even if you hadn’t watched it, I’m sure that (if you heard of it) you knew that NBC’s latest attempt at a reality cooking competition (remember Celebrity Cooking Showdown?) The Chopping Block was an utter trainwreck of a show.

The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley has a theory to why the show failed and, well, it makes me wonder about her ability to judge the format:

As anyone who has watched “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Top Chef” or “Iron Chef America” knows, cooking shows are no more about food than talk shows are about conversation. Chef competitions, in particular, showcase personality and pressure cooker brinkmanship — boiling stockpots and roiling tempers. Success depends on the charisma of the star, the chemistry (preferably bad) of judges and contestants and, above all, timing.

Now, there may be a delicate balance at work on Top Chef when it comes to focusing on food or personality but food is a definite part of it. Top Chef is the kind of show people watch and walk away hungry. Viewers want to be wowed by the food so that they can dream of visiting their favorite cheftestants’ restaurants or just try some of the recipes at the Top Chef website. That’s why producers switched from open auditions to recruiting the cast in the third season. Continue reading

April 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off on What killed The Chopping Block?

Legacies end

My TV viewing isn’t affected, but it’s still sad to hear that CBS is canceling Guiding Light. Having debuted as a radio serial (about a preacher’s family, his faith being the titular “Guiding Light”) in 1937, the soap opera has been broadcast on radio or TV for 72 years, a run that will end on September 18.

The soap has long been troubled and facing rumors of cancellation In the mid-90s, it almost became the second soap to end soon after a period where reviled producer Jill Farren Phelps was in charge (that, instead happened to Another World) but negotiations were able to save the show.

More recently, the series tried to experiment with its format under producer Ellen Wheeler in an attempt to find ways to save money and make the show more buzz-worthy. Those efforts included one day a week being reserved for more episodic storylines (which resulted in the Marvel comics crossover) and, later, a revamping of how the show was filmed, giving the series a look inspired by reality TV dramas like The Hills. The ideas may have been solid, but from what I saw of viewers’ reaction, the writing failed to live up to the potential of those concepts.

Guiding Light was the first soap I got drawn into. In my part of the country, it followed the game shows I used to watch regularly during summer break and, eventually the opening segment (something involving Lujack’s adventures) drew me into the story.

At least, CBS came to a decision about the serial’s fate early so that they could let the writers give it a proper send-off. (Though, as with most troubled soaps, I have to wonder if the current team is up to the task of giving this show an ending worthy of its legacy.)

One thing that will be interesting to follow in the coming days is the rumor that some actors will move to the remaining Procter & Gamble soap, As the World Turns. ATWT (for a short time) became the home of a handful of Another World stars after that soap ended . That might not be good news for ATWT, however, considering how the show is currently struggling to deal with its reduced budget, as a small number of sets and not being able to use most cast members every day has negatively affected storytelling. That said, at least ATWT has the continuing buzz generated by its gay teen couple Luke and Noah.

As for what replaces Guiding Light the most likely suspect is probably a light entertainment talk show… something daytime TV has in spades. Sadly, that will continue as long as those shows get a large audience for a cheap production.

April 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off on Legacies end