Cultural News Bytes – January 29th

Television:

The Muppet Show Meets The Office: The Return of Kermit to Primetime?

The Elder sent me this a link just now that some part of me knew about, but I forgot to head to Muppet Central recently and thus missed out on the details. It seems as if the Muppets may well be returning to television, as their Disney overlords are shopping around a 10-minute pilot featuring everyone’s favourite puppets.

The short pilot uses the television syntax of a documentary (think “The Office” meets “The Muppet Show“). The series revolves around Kermit the Frog as he attempts to reassemble the Muppet troupe and launch a new Muppet show. The mockumentary mini-series would feature fictional English filmmaker Ian Bascombe who, with his film crew, follow the daily happenings Kermit and the Muppets, both on and off stage. Bascombe finds that many of the classic Muppets have gone off to other venues since we last saw them and follows Kermit as the frog attempts to track them down and get the whole troupe back together.

Now, it is just a preview of a proposed mini-series that could then launch into a series, but there is some promise here. There is a sense of wit about a show like The Office that the Muppets have been lacking lately, and I think that it could bring broad comedic possibilities. That being said, I also think that it’s basically ripping off The Muppet Movie (Not the worst source material, but still) and that it will need to find some more ground to work on.

I think that the idea has potential, and I hope they at least go through with a mini-series. The Muppets deserve a chance to reconnect with today’s viewers, and this seems like the best concept to come along yet in terms of doing so. It is certainly better than the defunct America’s Next Muppet pilot they shot a few years back. There might already be two shows covering the backstage tomfoolery of variety shows, and there might have already been two versions of The Office, but I think that the Muppets can work it out.

Reality TV Gone Bad

So, for anyone who might be following the state of entertainment journalism on the internets, this might be repetition for you, but there’s an interesting little war brewing surrounding the amount of nostalgia being pumped into reality TV programming.

Reality Check for a Generation That Knows Best – Alessandra Stanley

New York Times TV reporter Stanley is basically arguing that reality TV, despite its apparent appeal to young audiences, tends to cater more to the nostalgic baby boomers.

“The larger cruelty of Fox’s “American Idol,” its NBC look-alike “Grease: You’re the One That I Want,” “The Apprentice” and even “Armed and Famous” (Erik Estrada?!), is a generational snub. Reality television, which was originally created as a thumb-nosing alternative for the young (“The Real World”), has been co-opted by the baby boomers, who never miss a chance to assert their hegemony on popular culture.

It’s not so much that they watch the shows, though many do. It’s that reality television aims for younger viewers, 18 to 34, while subliminally underscoring and cementing their fealty to the relaxed-fit generation.

Whether it is a firing by Donald Trump or a personal attack by Mr. Cowell, each rejection is a symbolic re-enactment of an inter-era struggle in which the bullies always come out on top.”

Now, at first I wasn’t sure I necessarily bought that this struggle existed to the degree she claimed it did, and I was somewhat siding with Michael Slezak, who over at Entertainment Weekly’s Pop Watch noted the following:

“If I ever got 30 seconds to bend Stanley’s ear, I’d tell her this: Sometimes, TV is just TV… or occasionally, it’s HBO. And that’s not going to change — no matter how much highfalutin’ philosophizing people do about it. So please, for the love of Paula Abdul, stop trying to beat the fun out of my favorite programs, especially Idol. Thank you. That’s all.”

Perhaps it was my general appreciation for reality TV, but I somewhat agreed with his general statement if not his bashing of analyzing reality TV in general. I, of course, had not actually read the article in question. Or, as it turns out, seen the most recent episode of Grease: You’re the One That I Want.

If there was no generational battle going on there, I’m blind and deaf. You have young singers preparing for a role in a broadway musical, and what do they do? They have them singing popular music. And, not just somewhat popular music that works as broadway. There was a version of KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” that almost made be wretch. There was a version of “Summer of ’69” that honestly made me throw things and hope that they never try to stage a Bryan Adams musical in Toronto. But really, at this point in the competition who exactly is this show aiming for? The kids are going to be the ones voting, but the judges are indeed baby boomers. It was a difference that resulted in some absolutely terrible performances.

Because, really, they should be singing SHOW TUNES. It’s a BROADWAY MUSICAL. COME ON, PEOPLE! It’s not that hard to figure out that when judging someone’s ability to deal with broadway material, you shouldn’t be testing their ability to turn George Michael’s faith into something even more theatrical. Rather you should be testing their range with the type of song they’ll actually have to sing.

But, Show Tunes wouldn’t continue their charade of youth, would it? Really, if they didn’t allow for popular music, why would the kids watch it? The reality is that they wouldn’t, and there’s the problem. And, it’s why I’m on the side of the New York Times, all outside of one little quibble.

See, I like Ivanka. She’s attractive, intelligent, and good-humoured. Her comments are usually pointed, on-topic, and well-stated. This week’s lack of Ivanka was most depressing. In the end, she is surely overstated as she has to give her horribly staged “It was a tough decision, but you made the right one” speech, but I personally continue to see her as the actually intelligent one. I think that there is the ability for some of us to see through the power, see through the annoying hair, to those elements that are actually somewhat enjoyable.

Weekend Box Office Results

The predictions were a bit off this week, no question. People seem to be tired of the Oscar-nominated films, opting instead to head in droves to the two new popcorn releases. Here are the early estimates, along with their difference from my predictions in parentheses.

1. Epic Movie – $19.2 Million (+2.8)

2. Smokin’ Aces – $14.3 Million (+1.8)

3. Night at the Museum – $9.5 Million (+1.6)

4. Catch and Release – $8.0 Million (Not Predicted)

5. Stomp the Yard – $7.8 Million (+0.6)

6. Dreamgirls – $6.6 Million (-0.9)

All in all, I was too high on Dreamgirls and not quite high enough on everything else. Seems like people didn’t quite embrace the Oscar hopefuls as much as was expected, but Pan’s Labyrinth and The Queen each saw healthy returns so it was really only Dreamgirls that suffered greatly.

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