November 23, 1999
Quote of the week: " It was a Disney Christmas celebration. The dancers were good and the production values were high. My only problem is that it was almost all Christmas and not very Disney. When I go to see a Disney show, I want some Disney. I love old Disney. And as a Jew, I love it a lot more than Christmas. But it was a nice show. " -- David Poland
This HotSheet isn't going to make predictions about the future of television, though I will mention ReplayTV and TiVo a little bit later. It's going to discuss what TV has always been about-- marketing and lawyering.
The media freely spews catch phrases like "entertainment industry" and "movie business", but in most people's minds, there's still "no business like show business". Even with the recent upsurge of interest in grosses and contracts and other "behind the scenes" mechanics-- it seems like every other newspaper routinely publishes weekend movie grosses on Monday morning-- the general public still seems to consider the process of TV and movie production and distribution as somehow different from normal business.
"[W]hen I was about twenty-one or twenty-two, I went to Indonesia and what I saw there was so extraordinary to me -- first of all, theater was operating in its original form, as ritual, as connected to people's everyday lives. There's no word for 'artist' in Bali. It's just what you do. What we would call putting on a play, dancing, playing music, that's not your profession, that's part of your act as a human being."
That's Julie Taymor, the woman behind the Broadway production of Disney's The Lion King. It's important to remember that television, in addition to being an American invention, is a very unique and integral part of American culture.
How do we choose our entertainment?
It's all about perception. A good example is the Star Trek phenomenon. Recently there's been a lot of talk about the franchise losing its steam, and comparisons between the "classic Trek" (TOS) of the 1960s and the "modern Trek" which debuted in 1987 with TNG. One fan in particular claims that Gene Roddenberry and the staff of TOS had more of a connection to real life and the world at large, while the current Trek producers, led by Rick Berman, have had no life experience other than the television business.
While this is, to some extent, true, let's face facts: Star Trek has always been, first and foremost, a television show. It recycles concepts that originated in written science fiction decades before, and reshapes them to fit the five-act, forty-five-minute format of the boob tube. TOS exploited the 1960s general public's ignorance of SF to make itself seem unique and groundbreaking.