Writing with an Expiration Date

The FUTURE JEOPARDY! CATEGORY is:  Great subjects for American movies in the 2020s.

Well, you’d think ONE OF THE ANSWERS would be: U.S. electoral politics.

I mean, in just the first half year of this decade the majority of us Americans are continuing to live through new, repeated and seemingly never-ending traumas resulting from the surprise 2016 Russian influenced installation of our first reality star president.

This feels right

True, on paper that might not SEEM like the most crowd-pleasing blockbuster of subjects.  But neither was the chronicle of the now second most traumatic electoral aftermath in the last 50 years, All the President’s Men.

And today that film is an Oscar winning classic that cleaned up at the box office.

This was in great part due to the perseverance at the time of producer-star Robert Redford and the great filmmaking team he assembled.

“Devastating” almost seems quaint

But it is pretty much universally acknowledged it was also because of the brilliant yet cheeky thriller screenplay written by the late William Goldman, which he adapted from the best-selling book by the now iconic Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Well, politics and our times have changed quite a lot in the last half a century.  Yet in many ways we’d still all love a good story about the failings of our government and the American underdogs among us who can rise up and at least attempt to make things right once again.

Especially in the era of Trum….okay, you know who and what I mean.  (Note: Don’t make me write IT). 

AHHHH!

So much material.  So, so SO much material.

It’s the unwanted gift that keeps on giving.   Kind of like the equivalent of receiving 32,358 fruitcakes over the last three Christmases that now somehow need to be purged from our systems.

So, how to proceed and eliminate?

Well, if you’re a moviegoer and an industrious studio head who do YOU think would be the perfect person to guide us through this particular type of morass  and expulsion?

Who could come up with a great story about how and why this could have happened to us and in what way we could possibly make things right again?

Who is it in popular culture that has always massively entertained us, made money for the suits AND provided us invaluable insight into understanding politics on a grand scale without, well, talking down to us???

Well don’t take too long

The ONE person synonymous with smarts and originality, the political satirist of our times with the cross generational super power pull that any doubting studio head could feel comfortable with entrusting to tackle the impossible subject of our 2016 electoral aftermath.

You knew/know him – you LOVE him Certainly, I do.

Yes – it’s The Daily Show’s own incomparable:

JON STEWART!!!!

Our favorite goat farmer, Mr. Jon Stewart

…….You’d think.

But wait!!!!

Before anyone goes and thinks the disappointment over Mr. Stewart’s new Amazon film “Irresistible” is entirely or, really, even partly his fault, let’s be clear.

Doing this kind of movie amid the cosmic shifts we’re currently enduring in our pandemically challenged world is a SHEER thankless and IMPOSSIBLE TASK.

You’d have better luck trying to digest those 32,358 fruitcakes in one sitting.

… and now I think I understand the title

Events have been moving at the speed of light and sound since the first of this year (Note: Though not in a good way) and Mr. Stewart’s new film gets caught up in the sheer cyclone of newsiness (Note: And also not in a good way) as it tries to slice and dice the political process with what amounts to a butter knife.

Granted, that butter knife probably felt like the most efficient version of some top chef’s sharpest meat clever when Mr. Stewart first sat down to tackle this story.

But once you’ve experienced a failed impeachment trial for clear high crimes and misdemeanors and a month of street protests demanding racial justice after we Americans watched a Black Man literally asphyxiated to death murdered by two policeman on video over almost nine minutes – during a global pandemic – well, all bets are off.

This is not to even mention immigrant kids locked up in cages, the shutdown and crashing of our economy and an all-time record 16-20% of Americans unemployed (Note: That’s 26-30 million of us).

and then you wonder.. what’s next?

Yeah, it’s a sh-t show out there and even a movie written and directed by our patron saint of political humor couldn’t possibly conquer it.  No movie could, given the one-two year lag time (and that’s being generous) between conception, filming and release.

So what we’re then left with is the story of a jaded Democratic political consultant to Hillary Clinton (Steve Carrell), barely recovered from 2016, who sees a viral video of a middle-aged farmer/military vet (aka Chris Cooper as The Colonel) defending the rights of immigrants to his local mayor and selected members of his small town.

Seeing a chance to once and for all prove to the country that semi-liberal politics are not solely the prevue of big city cultural elites and that exclusionary, far right thinking is, well, small-minded, Mr. Carrell’s character, the consultant, quickly hatches a scheme to run The Colonel for Mayor in the upcoming local election.

Hardest workin’ man in showbiz #hesineverything

The reasoning is that if he makes a big enough deal about this candidate in Deerlaken, Wisconsin it will become national fodder and show the country that progressive policies simply amount to doing what is right and what is human rather than what is hateful and what is most expedient.

In other words, the only reason small town America didn’t buy what the Dems were selling was that it came in the wrong package.  Had the same points been raised by one of their own, well, 2016 would have NEVER turned out the way that it had.

Oh… was that it?

Sure, there’s more to it than that, including a major twist later in the story (Note: No Spoilers here!).  But all the twists and turns on the planet couldn’t possibly make a smart, light, gauzy but only slightly edgy story like this resonate very deeply given what’s presently at stake electorally for all of us.

This is a representation of small town America where their worst problem is that their local economy is failing.  (Note:  Remember when THAT, and that alone, was a BIG problem?).  It is NOT a world where friends and relatives are dying in overcrowded hospitals, supermarket cashiers deserve hazard pay, law enforcement can kill you at any time, and you rightly worry that the Russians, the Chinese and god knows who else might permanently place an aspiring American dictator into the White House.

This all really does seem like part of a Dr. Evil style plot

This is what’s really on the minds of the majority of Americans in 2020 (Note: Certainly the filmgoers) when they think about who and what they’re voting for in 2020 America.  And not even Jon Stewart could possibly know that would be relevant or on our brains in this presidential election year.

This is not to say his new film Irresistible doesn’t have its charms.  But any of us looking for something truly relevant from now till Nov. 5th should merely turn on the TV to MSNBC, CNN, FOX (lol no) or PBS.  It’s there that they’ll find programming far, far more risky and much, much more perversely entertaining.

Sadly.

Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Give it the Boot

I like nostalgia as much as anyone but do we really need a new Magnum P.I. and another Cagney & Lacey? CBS thinks so. They just greenlit them as pilots.

And why not?   They thought the same thing some years ago when they decided to bring back that brilliant series of my youth…wait for it…. Hawaii Five-O – which is now entering it’s…wait for it….EIGHTH season. Never mind CBS’s refusal last year to bring the salaries of its two Asian actors, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, in parity with its other White stars after all that time (Note: No, they didn’t take to heart the snarky hint to change the series title to Hawaii White-O), thus casing them to leave.

ugh.. whatever CBS

And why should they care? As the vaudeville comedian once quipped after an endless string of bad jokes – I (they) got a million of ‘em!!

Case in point. CBS also greenlit reboots of the cutting edge series of my teens and twenties…MacGyver and S.W.A.T!   Yes. Who knew??? Well, somebody did even if we didn’t. Because they’re both in their…wait for it…second year!

Which is to say nothing of their straight to series deal for a reboot of the Emmy Award-winning comedy about a sober female TV journalist — Murphy Brown — but this time with its original creator and star.

Well.. this could be interesting

That’s right. No re-imagining or recasting here. Candice Bergen is returning as the fictional, crusading, single Mom journalist who – to clarify for my current students – once came under attack from the real Vice President of the U.S. in a nationwide speech as a real, culpable threat to the nuclear family for daring to bring a child into the world without a husband or father in her house. Um, fictional house.

UGH. Everything old IS new again. #helpus

Yes, truly, this happened! His name was Dan Quayle (Note: The veepee, not the kid) and no doubt you haven’t heard of either him or Murphy Brown but just wait till the fall. You will. If it gets an airdate. And heck, even if you don’t watch your parents will no doubt tell you about it in one of those torturous, endless conversations where you’re only half-listening, surfing the web in boredom.

Way to compete for that key ad demographic, CBS!!!!

OK, no fair to pick on the Eye network (though they make it so easy to do so). This season NBC brought back Will and Grace with its original writers and cast to great success and somehow managed to embrace their ages AND make the gay-straight thing seem as relevant as it did when it first aired 20 years ago.

and the pop culture train keeps on coming!

So let’s see what Murphy Brown can do 30 years later. As well as Hawaii Five-O did 40 years later, albeit with a different cast (Note: Alas, its stars and creator are deceased)? Well, perhaps.

But no, wait – we see you hiding there in the corner, ABC. Don’t think we forgot YOU.

they’re back on the couch… and so are we

Late last year you had promised to give us a new version of….can’t wait for it….Roseanne!! And now it’s what, less than two months away until its March 2018 announced airdate?? Kewl. Plus, the real Roseanne recently announced to TV critics that her fictional TV doppelganger and husband will be…TRUMP SUPPORTERS!!… …And that she, herself likes the way he’s shaken things up.

omg.. someone get me a bag.

Though seriously, before anyone goes all ballistic on real Ro just know canny comic TV stars say all sorts of provocative stuff when promoting a new show – and even when they’re not. Again, you have to do something to compete with Netflix and everyone knows the real Ro is about as dumb as a fox.

And while we’re speaking of Netflix (not Fox, we’ll get to them), one does wonder: Just how in the hell did CBS let the reboot of its 1970s hit Norman Lear series, One Day At A Time, go to the most successful streaming service around, where it has emerged as a major critical, and from what we hear, though who ever really knows with Netflix, let’s be honest, commercial hit?

Ohhhh.. is that right? #youtellemRita

Was having one of the few living EGOT recipients, Rita Moreno, as a co-star, too much for them? Or was the issue an actual half-Latinx writing staff? Couldn’t they have tempted Mr. Lear to return to the Eye with a new hands-off approach after decades of earning them billions of dollars, literally? Or did it not fit into their…um…business plan?

Well, perhaps they’re just discounting everything other than the three major networks that created new shows during the time ODAAT first aired. Not likely. Very soon after it was cancelled, Fox emerged as the fourth major, then there was pay cable, then basic cable, then streaming and now, well, there’s just too many to count. Or, well, to take seriously as creative, and especially ratings, competition.

There is just too much TV to watch. #help

Which begs this question:

Is it too soon for Fox to bring back Glee with the adults at night school playing the kids’ roles? I, for one, don’t think so. But if we know Ryan Murphy (and we don’t) he might do it better and make it a limited or horror miniseries where the marginalized high-schoolers REALLY get revenge and become…Oh, never mind. That’s the type of reboot that’s probably already been done to film, live, on-tape or/and virtual death. And beyond. Which is not to say that it couldn’t work…in the right hands.

Of course, there is no point in leaving a real-life decision at Fox out of the loop, particularly since that was its choosing to NOT actually reboot American Idol after a long 2 years and instead allow ABC to have the honors. Way to go, Fox! (Note: We Think). And way NOT to go, ABC! (Note: We Think). Since at the end of the day, well, who really knows? There could be a way by, say, 2030, to reboot a series that is currently on the air with a concurrent alternative version and new location. Or perhaps the same general location and even the same stars but in a different reality.

… but just, like, enough with this show already. #isthetruthstilloutthere

Don’t you dare say no and give us the stink eye before you look in the national mirror towards our nation’s capital…and report to us exactly what is real…and what is fake.

Which could actually be a political remake of 1998’s Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, but set in D.C.. Anybody see it? No.   Well, apparently she’s one of Ryan Murphy’s best friends. Want to be a TV producer? Well then, you can have the idea (Note: I got a million of ‘em!) but only if you start there. I’m dying to see what they say about it and what happens when it goes to the networks.

Peter Allen – “Everything Old is New Again”