A holiday wish list for Hollywood
Gift ideas for studio execs.
The holiday season, as my perspicacious readers have no doubt noted, is upon us; and as you go about your daily routines, pausing only occasionally to brush a bit of tinsel from your collars and to resolve never again to do karaoke at parties in these days of cellphone video cameras and YouTube, your thoughts may turn, as thoughts this time of year inevitably do, to presents.
Presents to buy, of course, and to bestow upon those less fortunate, more deserving, or bound to us by awkward and by now long forgotten social obligation; but also about presents to receive.
In that spirit, I turn to the studio heads and television executives who provide me the gift of entertainment each year to tell them what I want for the holidays. Let me stress to them in advance that my people have informed me that I have been extremely, off-the-charts, good; I can produce sworn affidavits and notarized documents to that effect, if necessary or desirable.
1. Please give the gift of laughter – to "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." The show as a whole has actually been picking up over the last few episodes, but the show-within-the-show – the sketches we see that ostensibly go out live to America – are still remarkably unfunny (an improvement over their dreadful unfunniness in the first episodes, but still). The good news is that the show's been given a full season to find its footing; a little more laughter would help. A lot.
2. Please offer Zach Braff anything you can to stay on "Scrubs". Despite the fact that the folks at NBC have treated the sitcom like a red-headed stepchild in recent years, moving it all over the schedule and waiting until mid-season to bring it back, it's one of the funniest shows on television; and Braff's departure – to focus on a movie career – would do the same thing to "Scrubs" as Topher Grace's did to "That '70s Show": eviscerate it, despite the undeniable strength and appeal of the large supporting cast. "Scrubs" still has a few good years left in it, and I'd love to see them.
3. Please limit the number of animated movies featuring wisecracking animals who act like immature humans to one a month, at the absolute most. I mean, I realize I'm not exactly your target audience, but you're killing me here.
4. Please make more smart movies about fairly current events. Movies like "United 93" and "The Queen", even when they bring up uncomfortable recollections and memories, are conversation starters, they're thought-provoking, they're well worth the price of admission. I'm not asking for "2006 Tax Code Revision Omnibus Bill: The Movie", but the stories we're living through are the ones we need –and want – to talk about.
5. Please make more stunningly realized, smartly researched, luxurious series about the past. HBO's decision to bring back "Rome" for a second season is as commendable as the decision to cancel "Deadwood" isn't. (I realize this might be a bit of a contradiction with the last point about current events, but as Walt Whitman famously said, if I contradict myself, well, it's the holidays, so I can do what I want.)
6. Please have each of the networks dedicate one new drama this year to chronicling the life and work of someone who is neither a doctor, a lawyer, related to the entertainment industry, or a policeman (detectives and forensic investigators included in the latter category). Bonus gift points if the shows are set in neither Los Angeles, New York, nor Miami.
7. Please don't ruin great movie franchises by extending them past their sell-by date. I haven't seen "Rocky Balboa" or "Live Free or Die Hard" yet, and they may both turn out to be masterpieces, but we look upon what George Lucas hath wrought to his most magnificent creation, and we despair; or, to put it another way, it's pretty hard to paint the "Mona Lisa", and it's pretty easy to ruin it by painting a mustache on top of it. In this metaphor, the mustache is "Live Free or Die Hard." Or Jar Jar Binks. One of them.
8. Please replace all nightly network news broadcasts with episodes of "The Daily Show." You'll have more young people watching who'll be better informed about events of the day. And with the way things are going in the country now, America's citizens need someone with a finely honed sense of irony to tell them what's going on.
9. Please give Martin Scorsese an Oscar for Best Director already. There's other great work this year, true (like Paul Greengrass' work in the aforementioned "United 93," to give just one example) and "The Departed" is not the finest movie he's ever made. But when you've made "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas," that's a pretty harsh criterion to judge someone by. Sure, this may be a matter of sentiment over hard-headed consideration – the kind of choice that I normally avoid, Scrooge that I am – but if you can't champion sentiment in a holiday column, when can you?
A modest list, I think you'll agree, but I wouldn't want to look selfish or anything. I have to run now; someone has posted my office party rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" online, and I have to try to get it taken down. Wish me luck.