Wednesday, May 15, 2013


That’s how they say it in England (at least they did when I lived there.)  Somebody says something naïve or simpleminded or possibly idealistic, and the lip-curled response to such eye-rolling innocence, uttered by someone who believes themselves to be superiorly sophisticated is…

“Don’t be styew-pid!”

I herein acknowledge that the positions I take in some of the posts I write can be legitimately categorized at “styew-pid.”  Not because they include “styew-pid” observations or points of view.  Those are brilliant.  Okay, well…not brilliant, maybe – I may have overshot somewhat in that regard, overcompensating for the stinging “styew-pid” rebuke.  Self-inflicted but, still, what rebukes are in greater need of resuscitation?  Returning back to earth, I believe that, in my “opinion posts”, I, for the most part, offer reasonable arguments backed by supportable evidence.    

That doesn’t mean they’re right.

I have no answer for that.  So I’m just moving on.

What’s admittedly “styew-pid” about those posts is that, on a number of occasions –  measurable as too many – I have chosen to argue against things that have already – in some cases centuries before – been decided.  And they are not going to change. 

Such as:

“They really outta get rid of the Electoral College.”

Since a three-quarters vote by the states is required to pass a Constitutional amendment, because the number of little states – who like the Electoral College because, without it, nobody would ever campaign in them again – is greater than one quarter, the Electoral College will never be abolished.

“Cable news, which divides the country and undercuts solution-finding, should be mandated by law to be even-handed in all its presentations.”

Sorry.  As long as there’s money in it, inflammatory partisanism is also here to stay.”

“Women in the military?”

Move on, Earlo.  They’re already killing people.

Associate Justice Scalia of the United States Supreme Court offers a standard
response to people still outraged by the odiferous decision, requiring Florida to suspend its recount, thus handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.  His three-word advisory:   

“Get over it.”

Somehow, I can’t seem to.  Partly, it’s my nature.  Wrong is wrong, even if it’s unalterable.  (Though it’s important to remember that certain Supreme Court “dissents” led to adjustments down the line.)  But it’s also a practical matter.  If I got over stuff, what ever would I write about? 

But railing against the done deal, “crying over spilt milk”, as it was once called, back when they used the word “spilt” so that was a while ago…

Definitely “styew-pid.”

The generous amongst you may forgive my “styew-pidity”, noting that these issues are beyond my area of expertise.  Being a substantially honest person, I would have to reject such forgiveness.  My area of expertise is show business.  And the evidence reveals I am equally as “styew-pid” talking about that.

I knew this guy once.  Incredibly successful.  Personal Manager, primarily of comedy writers and performers.  Possibly one magician.  But mostly, it was comedy.  (“Sour grapes” caveat:  He never offered to represent me.  I was always waiting for him to, so I could say no.  That may be what I hold most against him.  He denied me the opportunity of turning him down.)

I’ll call the man Bernie, because that was his name.  As a Personal Manager, Bernie was often heard offering enlightening aphorisms concerning the nature of the enterprise in which he and his clients were engaged.  This solved an ongoing mystery for me.  Since agents got clients jobs, I had no idea what Personal Manager’s actually did.  There was my answer.  They offered enlightening aphorisms. 

That’s worth five percent, an Executive Producer’s credit (and salary), and an off-the-top “packaging fee”, isn’t it?

One of Bernie’s oft-repeated aphorisms was this one:

I once heard a client, screaming about how the studio or the network or whatever financial backers were involved had destroyed his project with their egregious meddling.  Reminding the client they were not involved in a purely creative undertaking – and were never promised they would be – Bernie would say,

“It’s called show business, not show art.”

You get the point, right?  When its their money, the “money people” get a say.  Whether they know what they’re talking about, or not. 

It’s an undeniable truism:  Without the money, there is no show.  Maybe shadow puppets – all you need are fingers and a wall – but that’s it. 

Imagine Siamese Twins who can’t stand each other.  The “talent” hate the “money people”, because they are entirely dependent on the “money people’s” money.  (The “money people” hate the “talent”, primarily, because they have talent.)  It may not the happiest arrangement.  The “money people” have to put up with “prima donnas”; the “talent” has to put up with idiots.  But that’s the way it is. 

Who knows?  This tension may be actually necessary, offsetting oars keeping the boat headed in the right direction.  The “talent” works its magic under the “money people’s” financial scrutiny; the “money people” control the purse strings so the “talent” doesn’t go crazily overboard.   

“It’s called show business, not show art” shut me up, because it was right.  You needed both.  And if each partner conscientiously and respectfully works its own side of the street, the outcome would have the best shot at be satisfying for all concerned. 

The trouble is, at some point – and I lack the studiosity to put my finger on when, though it was in the last thirty years – the natural tension between “show” and “business” became massively unbalanced, and “business” entirely swallowed “show.”  I believe, in one gulp.

Check out this year’s schedule of “Summer Movies.”  Based on the summaries – be honest – how many of those movies are movies a filmmaker passionately wanted to make, and how many are movies that were produced in the calculating hopes of massive profits? 

Forget about all “show.”  That never happened.  (And, most likely, never should.)  How many of these movies are all “business”?

Networks now own all the television shows they broadcast.  No more Mary Tyler Moore Company, Norman Lear company, Diane English company, Linda Bloodworth company.  And, not coincidentally, no more shows with the groundbreaking - yet  still mass appealing - uniqueness of Mary, All In The Family, Murphy Brown or Designing Women on the networks’ schedules.  Cable retains examples of the old-time tension.  But, as for mass entertainment, Ethel Merman would today warble, “There’s no business, like the business business.” 

It’s wrong, it’s terrible, and it’s over.  Will it ever change back, to a time when the product was at least close to as important as the financial model behind it?

Don’t be styew-pid.

And yet, I keep writing about it.


Frank Paradise said...

I'm so styew-pid I think they made 'Hangover 3' purely for passionate artistic reasons and I hope one day to be able to contribute to make 'Hangover 4' a reality through Kickstart.

agirlcandream said...

You are a very clever writer. I am enjoying reading your blogs. Thank you.