I’m sure more than a few regular readers would say that the whole Humanoids column has jumped the shark (or is it nuked the fridge). But that means that I wouldn’t be alone because I would have a lot in the way of elite company. Last week, I briefly touched on Twitter’s Trending Topics jumping the shark. This week, I think everything in here has jumped the shark.
We all know what The Walking Dead is. It’s that show about a world where the zombie apocalypse (a scenario that we’re fond of discussing on this very blog) has happened and the state of Georgia is filled mostly with zombies but there are a couple of non-zombies still hanging around.
In the second season, there has been a very noticeable change of plot writing. The first season was really a show about survival. The Walking Dead was about a group of people waking up to see their lives fall apart around them and trying to survive. The show was really sci-fi survival drama/horror. There was the occasional zombie that would jump out of nowhere to kill you but even without the sudden shocks, it never really felt like a guarantee that everyone would get out of every zombie encounter in one piece.
This season has seen the show shift from zombie drama (for lack of a better short descriptor) to character drama. In last week’s episode (the 4th of the season), there was only one zombie in the whole episode. And even then, no one ever seemed in danger despite the obvious attempts to create some tension by lowering Glenn into a well with him because it was obvious since the previous episode that he was going to get laid (SPOILER ALERT: He did). In fact, none of the central characters have really seemed in danger of being killed/zombified at all this season.
In a sense, The Walking Dead has stopped being a zombie show but a show in which zombies are background characters which are used to advance the plot as needed. The focus is really on how the characters are handling a completely different existence rather than survival. The problem with that is that the writers have spent the better part of the show’s first 10 episodes developing three characters (Rick, Lori and Shane). Only two other characters (Andrea and Daryl) seem to have any sort of effort put into making them characters. The five other characters still with the group (at the end of the last episode) have had little to no character work done on them (yes, that includes Glenn whose character is limited to running fast and being thrown head-first into danger).
So if The Walking Dead removed the zombies, would anyone still be watching? I know that it would be a completely different show but the fact remains that most people wouldn’t watch a show where only three characters actually have a character. The Playboy Club had more characterization than The Walking Dead and it was cancelled (and I’ve seen every episode of both series so I can say that). At what point do we realize that there is no effort put into the writing here.
We’re not just talking about the shows that might have jumped the shark, such as The Killing (which jumped the second it became clear it was Twin Peaks without the unique parts of the plot or interesting characters). No, the whole network might have completely jumped the shark.
Before I get into my diatribe, I haven’t watched a single episode of Mad Men or Breaking Bad. By all accounts, they’re both outstanding shows. But two shows that’s account for 26-ish new hours of programming per year in a 8,760-hour year (not subtracting the infomercial filler) leaves 99.7% of their airtime to be filled with other stuff that really isn’t setting the world on fire. Honestly, apart from those shows, the syndicated programming like The Three Stooges, The Rifleman and I Love Lucy are the highlights of AMC’s programming.
Their schedule is filled with some classic movies but not many. Those good movies they do have are played ad nauseum until you get sick of them. For example, AMC’s primetime lineup from Monday to Wednesday this week was Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park 3. They’re programming strategy seems to be buy a movie and show it repeatedly over the course of a month because I’ve seen JP3 about a half-dozen times over the last six or so weeks. Before the Jurassic Park run, they had The Mummy and The Mummy Returns running constantly for a few weeks and Top Gun before that. They’ve also come up with a pop-up video style of presentation which is very reminiscent of reading IMDB while watching a movie.
The biggest problem AMC has is that they don’t know what sort of cable network they want to be. That’s the biggest problem with any company that ends up failing is that they really don’t know what they are. For example, CBS is a police procedural channel while ABC’s primary target seems to be middle-aged woman who like to talk about TV at the office the next morning. AMC just doesn’t seem to know what they are. AMC could get by if they just showed good classic movies (to target the 35+ crowd) but they’re trying to do quality original programming. As valiant as those efforts are, they can’t seem to find the mark. Their idea of high-quality original dramas doesn’t seem to jive with the programming from the movie side. They try to go affluent/intelligent with their dramas but the movies often don’t target the same group.
If AMC wants to solidify their network, they have to either broaden their appeal so there is programming for people interested in something other than Mad Men and Breaking Bad for those other 26 Sundays a year or they have to go solely for the Breaking Bad and Mad Men crowd. Going niche basically forces AMC into showing critically acclaimed dramas, be it movies or syndicated TV. Going broad costs AMC their current identity. There are opportunities to be good and appeal across the board with quality comedy programming with movies and TV shows.
As it stands, though, AMC TV is lost. They want to be taken seriously but they just aren’t giving us much to take them seriously with. If you were to show their schedule to any random TV viewer, they wouldn’t know what AMC is trying to be. I don’t think they know what they are either. The danger is that they haven’t realized they’re lost yet.
Lindsay Lohan seems to have officially served her 30-day prison sentence on Sunday night. According to the tabloids, she surrendered herself to authorities to begin her sentence on Sunday night and was released early Monday morning because of “overcrowding” in the Californian penal system. She served approximately 4.5 hours of her approximately 720 hour sentence (24 hours x 30 days) which means she served about 0.6% of her sentence. She still has to do her community service requirements and can’t leave the country without the approval of her parole officer but apart from that it’s business as usual for Lohan.
It’s not the first time that Lohan or any other celebrity seems to have been given a break based on their celebrity status. Look at Nicole Richie who served 80 minutes of a four-day sentence and Paris Hilton who had a prison sentence cut short. All three were given early release because of “overcrowding.”
While these celebrities aren’t dangerous offenders by any stretch of the imagination, the optics are horrible. Short sentences creates the impression, whether it’s a correct impression or not, that famous people are given a benefit that the rest of the population aren’t given. In other words, they get special treatment because they’re famous. Your neighbour would have to serve his whole 30-day sentence for violating his probation but Lindsay Lohan doesn’t even have to enter the general population.
And it’s not just that supposed celebrities are getting off easy in the legal system. Those who wrong celebrities are also treated differently. Stalkers usually get restraining orders. Celebrity stalkers get prison sentences. Doctors who make mistakes get a reprimand and a civil lawsuit. Michael Jackson’s doctor is found guilty and is likely to be sentenced to prison.
You honestly can’t tell me with a straight face that the Conrad Murray trial wasn’t as much of a sham as Lohan’s legal saga. The good doctor was tried, convicted and sentenced in the court of public opinion before he set foot in a courtroom. Michael Jackson was a mess long before he ever met Conrad Murray. We all knew he wasn’t likely to have the same life expectancy as the rest of us. Dr. Murray just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because of who died, Murray was himself made a victim of celebrity justice and a society in which you are guilty until proven innocent.