I am not a fan of the Golden Globe Awards, which are nonsensical, to put it nicely. Particularly when it comes to the TV categories, the Globes are meaningless — when they’re not offensive. Now that I am total ruler of the world, however, I have the power to completely eliminate them, which I will definitely do, without a hint of guilt, after this year’s telecast Sunday night on NBC.
In fact, because I have just been appointed the Grand Poobah of Everything TV, I do have some other changes I’d like to make while I’m at it. Here are the 10 things I would promptly do away with, if I were king of the forest.
Buh-bye, my not so golden Globes: There are only 87 members, all of them white, in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that puts on the annual Golden Globes telecast. The voters are courted by studios, which send them gifts in order to win nominations and statues. Their often ridiculous annual choices, which include TV and movies, reflect all the transactional corruption. And yet, because the telecast has become highly rated, a part of the pre-Oscars celebrity prance, everyone plays along as if the Globes have some intrinsic value beyond publicity. They don’t.
Franchise fever on TV? Yeah, no: I know, people love them. CBS’s “NCIS” shows are among network TV’s top-rated scripted series; “NCIS: Hawaii” is coming for you soon. The “Chicago” hero shows — from “Law & Order” franchise-meister Dick Wolf — do quite well for NBC. But then there are the Marvel and DC Comics series, as well as the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” series, which are a bit scarier. I’d stop these giant franchises from taking over TV, as they have already taken over — and dragged down — the movies. TV was on its way to greatness beginning in the late 1990s, but lately — to help fill all the space available — it’s starting to look like a multiplex. Mark my words, as “Harry Potter” (HBO Max) and “Lord of the Rings” (Amazon) make their way to your homes.
Warning: These commercials are harmful to our viewing health: I’m glad the ad-based networks and basic cable channels are still able to attract enough advertisers to survive; the pharmaceutical industry spent $3.7 billion on TV ads in 2019. But suffering through the range of dull, soul-sucking drug promos can be trying — especially in an era when so very many shows, on pay cable and streaming, are ad-free. Sure, I’m happy John and Jane Doe, with their peaceful elderly smiles and adorable grandchildren, are getting relief — assuming they don’t get any of the 6,000 side effects described. But I may need to start watching CNN on a delay, in order to fast-forward through all the long and insipid pill pitches. And don’t get me started on how Big Pharma’s profuse ad-spending ultimately affects the prices of already absurdly high-priced medications. The ads are [snap of fingers] gone.
Stop moaning about “SNL” and the good old days: I suppose it’s part of the full “Saturday Night Live” experience, to spend time criticizing how the show just isn’t as good as it used to be. But it’s a tiresome complaint, the result of a lot of nostalgic romanticizing of past sketches and past casts. The truth, from my perspective, is that the show has always been uneven; since the beginning, the writing and performances have both risen to brilliance and, more often, fallen into shtick. Millions still watch “SNL” every week for the thrill of live TV — and that doesn’t include those who watch later, or who catch individual sketches on social media. It’s like gambling, as we wait for the wins and, alas, hate the losses, about which we will hear no more.
What is TOO MANY GAME SHOWS in prime time? I get it. Game shows are relatively inexpensive to produce and, of particular value during the pandemic, easy to put together. And if you reboot a classic like “The Price Is Right,” “Name That Tune,” or “To Tell the Truth,” you automatically attract an audience. And more actors than you might expect, such as Jane Krakowski and Alec Baldwin, are willing to host for an extra buck. But they clog up prime time — by my count, there are currently 10 weekly hours of game shows on network TV — with unambitious material that’s only a step up from reality competitions. I’m all for a few game shows, but I will stop the excess, which signals network TV’s throwing up its hands in the face of streaming and cable.
Liars, you are the weakest link, goodbye: There are still elected and appointed officials on TV claiming that the 2020 presidential election was the result of fraud, despite the absence of evidence. OK, whatever, the Big Lie is now embedded in the Republican belief system, thanks to Trump-bred propaganda and honest delusion. But — and I am very far from the only writer to note this — TV, and especially somewhat legitimate news sources, should not be featuring these people as expert guests. US Representative Steve Scalise, for example, once again said that “a few states . . . did not follow their state laws” last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” I don’t care if they represent some voters and viewers, or if they feel like victims of liberal bias, or if the hosts challenge them, as George Stephanopoulos did with Senator Rand Paul in late January; they are liars, and legitimizing them is just another strike against democracy.
I’ll put an end to the disrespect of endings: I am a fan of endings. They are an essential part of serialized storytelling, whether they’re tidy or infused with modern ambiguity. Things wrap up neatly, or they don’t, but they end and the story is complete. At this point in TV history, though, finales have been devalued. When a show has a finale, I now roll my eyes, aware that it’s probably not really the end. Two of the more egregious ending snubbers were “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne,” both of which had to ignore the events in their first finales in order to return as revivals. The finales about to be undone include “Frasier,” “CSI,” “Criminal Minds,” “Dexter,” and “In Treatment.” I like this Nietzsche quote: “The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either.”
No more pretending to be COVID-19 safe: I appreciate the fact the some scripted TV shows want to incorporate the pandemic into their story lines — both for realism and to protect the actors and crew. But their inconsistencies in mask-wearing are distracting, as characters wear them, then don’t, then do again, not always with clear reasoning. “This Is Us” has been guilty of it, as has “Chicago Fire.” There are indications that the characters are being responsible, which is a good thing, but then they are modeling incorrect behavior, which is bad. You will either be good or gone, shows with PPE.
We have enough streaming options, thank you very much: On March 4, yet another major streamer is going to be chugging down the river. Called Paramount+ (plus being the “-gate” of the TV world), it will be an expansion of CBS All Access with new content including a series version of “Love Story” (not joking) and a sequel series to “Flashdance” (still not joking). I’d put a stop to the constant flow of new services for a while; viewers are overwhelmed. The world of TV has become so fractured that it’s becoming difficult to talk about TV shows with other people, since we’re all watching different ones on different services. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery+, Disney+, Apple TV+, BET+, AMC+, ESPN+, BritBox, Acorn TV — it is getting totes cray.
No more adjacent-character spinoffs: What’s next, the story of the mother of the carpenter who made the doorframe that saved Rose’s life in “Titanic”? I’m burning out on shows that zero in on characters from famous books, movies, and TV shows, in order to give us their backstory. In most cases, not all (“Better Call Saul”), it’s simply yet another way — after reboots — to use an already well-known popular title to draw in viewers overwhelmed by new product. I wasn’t particularly interested in the backstory of Norman Bates of “Psycho” or Mildred Ratched of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and I’m not itching for Tim Burton’s upcoming Netflix series on Wednesday Addams of “The Addams Family.”