WARNING: I’m about to rant like a big baby.
I did a lot of stuff this weekend, and most of it made me grumpy.
On Saturday, Drew and I went to the Museum of TV & Radio. They’ve been running an extended series called “What Gen X Watched”, featuring a lot of TV from the late 70’s and early 80’s. Drew and I are both from Gen X and we both watched a lot of TV (still do!), so off we went.
This week’s program was Saturday Morning Favorites — could I have been more excited?
We entered this auditorium, which looks like it normally seats about 300 people. At that moment, it was seating exactly zero. We were a few minutes early, and we had to sit through an old “Will & Grace”. I’ve been telling myself lately that Will & Grace used to be so much better than it is now. Turns out I was wrong. Drew and I fought over who got to nap until the show started and who had to stand guard to wake the other one up.
First up on the program was “Hey Hey Hey, It’s Fat Albert”, not to be confused with “Fat Albert” (unfortunately, we confused it). Hey x 3 was a primetime special (uh, isn’t that a bit off-topic for “Saturday Morning Favorites”, MTV&R?) that preceded and led to the creation of the Saturday morning “Fat Albert” we all know and love. The animation was the worst I’d ever seen in anything anywhere. Go to any house with small children and you will find better artwork taped to their fridge. Really. It was that bad. Most of the characters were there (though sadly, no Mushmouth), but their catchphrases were missing. (Russell and Rudy’s verbal sparring “You’re like school on Thanksgiving!” “School on Thanksgiving?” “No class, turkey!” made no appearances.) Drew and I both fell asleep.
Next came the “Land of the Lost” pilot. Man, was that show lousy! The special effects were laughable, which was good because unlike with Fat Albert, at least we
were laughing. The acting was also awful. There are thousands of out-of-work actors in LA, you’d think they could find three good enough to star in this show. Maybe they all turned it down. Some jobs are worse than unemployment. I know we only watched it when it was originally on because we were kids and we didn’t know better, but we should be ashamed!
After that was Schoolhouse Rock. And unfortunately, it was only Science Rock, the least noteworthy, in my opinion. Sure, it has “Telegraph Line” and “Electricity”, two catchy, educational classics, but what the hell is “Interplanet Janet” about? Is it trying to teach kids that there is life in outer space, and it’s comprised of a single frizzy-haired woman with rocket jets for legs and an enormous metal space bra? Is that educational or was it a shameless bid to capitalize on the popularity of “Star Wars”? I could’ve dealt with that one being left in the archives. If you only have half an hour, MTV&R, why not compile a best-of of all the Schoolhouse Rock songs? Oh, because that might actually entail you doing a little WORK to prep it? Thanks for popping in the DVD, which Drew already owns, and which I could watch at any time.
That’s probably what bothers me the most about the whole thing. The museum should do a little more to raise the presentation quality in their exhibits. Each show was preceded by nothing more than a plain text message on screen saying the year it originally aired. No interesting facts or trivia, no clever internally-produced interstitials. At least they could’ve had a staff member stand up and introduce them. It’s not called the Warehouse of TV & Radio. Members like me expect you to do a little more than pull something off a shelf and pop it into a VCR. Go to another museum and see how much work they put into their exhibits, MTV&R. You can do better. Your website stinks, too.
A couple people walked in and out of the screening room during the 100-minute program. At the most crowded, there were 8 people there. Usually, it was just Drew and me. If that’s as many people as they can rope in at 3PM on a Saturday afternoon, I sure hope Steven Bochco is donating A LOT.
After Schoolhouse Rock came “The Smurfs”. I have no complaints about “The Smurfs”.
It was the episode where Gargamel makes a magic mirror that traps the smurfs when they look in it. Of course, the one to get sucked into the mirror was Vanity Smurf, who couldn’t resist his own reflection — oh, Vanity, what were you smurfing? Then, Brainy, Smurfette and Clumsy got sucked into the mirror when they went looking for Vanity. (Why send Clumsy to do anything? He’s a total smurfhead.) At the end, all the smurfs got out of the mirror and went back to the village. Man, I fucking love the Smurfs.
Then, on Sunday, I went with Drew and Other Drew (look, Other Drew! You made the blog!) to an Outfest screening. The movie was called “Gay Hollywood”, and it was a documentary that followed five young gay men trying to make it in the entertainment industry. They handed out scorecards so the audience could vote for the festival awards, and on a scale of 1 to 5, I gave it a 1. I might’ve been more charitable, but I wanted to influence the voting. Who doles out 3’s? Wimps! (Sorry, Drew and Other Drew. I still respect you both.) For me, it’s a 1 or a 5!
The main problem was that this movie taught me NOTHING about Gay Hollywood. It could’ve been about any five struggling people in the entertainment industry. None of them were very established, and the filmmakers had to set up meetings for them to go on just to manufacture some kind of drama. One guy, an aspiring TV writer met with Bruce Vilanch (yeah, like he just scored that meeting on his own). Bruce said he hadn’t read the guy’s Will & Grace spec because he just couldn’t read another Will & Grace. He’d read too many bad ones already. Well, gee, Bruce, don’t act, you know, nice for the cameras or anything.
Then the writer met with an NBC guy who HAD read his script. Unfortunately, he didn’t like it and informed the writer that the notion of “struggling” artists is a myth. He claimed everyone he knew who was talented had been successful within a year or two. Implication to struggling writer: since YOU haven’t made it yet, you’re obviously not talented. Go home. (Ouch.) The producers then set up a third meeting for him, with similar results.
Another guy decided to try standup comedy. His first gig was at the Improv. (Uh, yeah, that’s a common experience.) It was possibly the worst standup I’ve ever seen. It was the standup equivalent of the animation from “Hey Hey Hey, It’s Fat Albert”. But then Judy Tenuta magically shows up to take the guy under her wing (wow! Who set that up?), and soon he’s opening for her at the Comedy Store. In his defense, his Comedy Store set was a million times better and proved he’s actually kind of talented.
I wish the people the filmmakers had cast were a little more established in their careers. For the most part, the five stars of the movie were barely IN Hollywood, and the only doors that were opened for them were kicked open by the filmmakers. There was no reason to believe most of these guys had any talent, and that was just as likely a reason for their struggles as their sexuality may have been. It could almost have been called “Untalented Hollywood” — in fact, that’s a great idea for a documentary. Plus, having more successful people in the cast would’ve saved these guys the sight of having their humiliations captured on film for all eternity. For the most part, they seemed like very nice people.
Furthermore, I wish they’d cast a legitimate actor or two. I don’t think being gay really hinders anyone behind the camera, but couldn’t coming out of the closet harm an actor’s career, preventing him from getting “straight” roles? I don’t know, and “Gay Hollywood” sure didn’t tell me. The one thing “Gay Hollywood” DID tell me is this: if you want to make it in Gay Hollywood, get cast in a documentary called “Gay Hollywood” and let the producers boost your career in order to help their story arc.
Just so I don’t come off as a total grump, let me say that I also saw a Groundlings show this weekend, and I thought it was really funny.
Plus, let me repeat: the Smurfs was awesome.