I was watching the Emmys this evening with my parents and I have to say that, other than Kat Dennings*, it truly was the most negative and depressing three hours of television I have ever seen. The pitch of pop culture is at an all-time low, it seems. In an interesting and otherwise possibly encouraging trend, it's now dominated by women--but if we include the commercials (and why wouldn't we) it's a crass, cynical view of women, with chocolate-induced orgasms and sex-crazed fat ladies. Where 25 or 30 years ago, TV brought us professionals with heart and idealism among the hedonism, we now have the cold and calculating world of The Good Wife.
*In possibly the most Freudian slip ever, I mistyped her name as Kat Demmings in the orginal version of this post.
Before I get into too much of an uproar, it's important to remember some of the surrounding conditions. Television is now all too conscious of its uneasy alliance with the Internet. It must offer big, bold spectacles that can be fodder for the viewer to take back to the water cooler or the digital tribe. What fills that bill is a heaping helping of the outrageous and insulting. Even a show like Desperate Housewives was allowed to die, perhaps because it drew the viewer too much into the lives of its characters. Though it definitely tapped in to what I consider to be today's megatrend par excellence--women who are hot moms and girlfriends--it also offered a fair amount of sincere human appeal. It would seem that little space remains for that on today's airwaves.
More to the point, Hollywood fancies itself the dream machine, but in reality it's a mercantile machine. It's selling commodities that are known sellers and keeping a close eye on the till. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that pursuit. But as a model for the entertainment industry, it is such a relic--of the day when a movie was an actual reel of film that had to be transported to the theater to be viewed by relatively unsophisticated Milwaukeeans (or whoever). Hollywood had better hope that it has the best and brightest minds on board in the coming decade or two, as its old models become less effective. It's already had to shift from the star system to the franchise system, and other changes are sure to come.