Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Kim Basinger metaphor

Ever see the Bruce Willis movie BLIND DATE? It’s from so long ago he still had hair. In this very funny film (written by Dale Laudner) Bruce accepts a blind date with Kim Bassinger. But she comes with a warning: if she gets drunk she becomes bat shit crazy. Still, it’s the 1987 Kim Basinger so warning be damned! What happens of course is that she does get plastered and hilarity ensues.

Why do I bring this up? Because for broadcast networks Twitter is Kim Basinger. And Facebook is her tipsy twin.

ABCNBCCBSFOX has clearly embraced social networks. They desperately need young viewers and that’s what those damn kids are preoccupied with. There are hash tags in front of show titles in the bottom of the screen, interactive online games, fan pages, and discussion groups.

And they’ve discovered social networks can be used to promote their shows for free! Series stars have Twitter accounts and are followed by millions. Even the showrunners have large numbers of followers. And the great thing is, you’re reaching the people who like your show… and I don’t just mean clicking “like”. So they’re inclined to turn on your show when reminded.

Contrast that with NBC that runs banners for WHITNEY on practically every single show all week and the numbers are still shit. America has voted, peacock!

So these are some good things. There are also mixed things. Fans Tweet observations while your show is airing. This is unprecedented. And frightening. Your show is being judged second by second. And basically, what the whole world can now read is merely all the snarky shit you used to just say in your living or dorm room. Much of this input is hurtful.

Now writers read these Tweets and generally just chalk them up to being written by fucking idiots who still collect string. But actors read them as well. And some of them take the comments very personally. Especially the “he’s fat, she’s ugly, her tits are tiny, and you suck” observations. Can you blame them? And here’s the thing: there will be haters for everybody. I’m sure the babies on GUYS WITH KIDS get ripped weekly.

Which brings me to the downside to these social networks. Now ABCNBCCBSFOX has to deal with a new phenomenon – their stars and showrunners potentially Tweeting damaging remarks or airing dirty laundry in public. This is like leaving Kim Basinger in BevMo and saying you’ll be back in an hour. Remember Dan Harmon of COMMUNITY railed against Chevy Chase earlier this year? And supposedly, David Krumholz, one of the former stars of the recently cancelled PARTNERS Tweeted: "Anybody who doesn't watch my show can 'eat a dick.'" That’s lovely, by the way. Very eloquent. (That charming post has since been deleted) and he also Tweeted:"listen, you bastards, my show is funny." Although I admire his strong support of the series, antagonizing viewers and embarrassing CBS is not the optimum way to boost ratings.

These rants put the network in an awkward position. In the case of Harmon, he was fired (although his cyber soapbox was only one of their many complaints I’m sure). And CBS can’t fire Krumholtz because they already did. But the next time he’s up for a part, the producers, studios, and/or network could think: “loose cannon. Not worth the risk.” And for what? The satisfaction of telling 99.99% of America to eat a dick? Hardly what the Man of La Mancha would call a noble quest.

Stars speaking out is not new. But there were always publicists and handlers and toadies to muzzle them. Now the only way to silence a celebrity is to tape up his or her thumbs. (Can you imagine if Bette Davis was on Twitter?  Strap yourself in for a bumpy ride!)

I don’t know how the Bind Date will eventually play itself out. Hopefully Kim Basinger can be cut off before she meets the folks. But the potential upside is so high, she is so gorgeous, that it’s worth everything just to put another # on your bed post.

31 comments:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Actually, I hated the premise of Blind Date because I know too many alcoholics. Giving someone a drink after being warned not to isn't a funny premise for me; it's a sign that the guy who then gives her a drink is a destructive, dangerous jerk. (I also think the comedy trope of giving someone a drink (or drug) against their will is assault, and I wish shows wouldn't do it for laughs.)

However. Yes, social networks cut both ways. The most interesting show-related Twitter feed for me is @goodwifewriters. They don't reveal much, but every so often you get a glimpse of the process. Bill Prady (BIG BANG THEORY) also occasionally is kind of fun.

The trend I find kind of weird is the one where actors/writers/producers tweet live *during* the show's broadcast. They are, of course, perfectly right that lots of people (mostly, but not all, younger people) do have computers handy while watching TV (something to do during the ad breaks), but it is a little odd that they're willing to risk diluting their audience's attention in that way. I remember last year, for example, Simon Helberg tweeted live during the episode where he proposed to Bernadette, and I think the GOOD WIFE writers did the same during the final episode of season 2. Sort of like warm-ups for the DVD commentary. :)

And, er, just a small point: the lady's name is Basinger.

wg

Jeremiah Avery said...

Perhaps Krumholtz should have also said "Listen, I know my show is funny because it rips off a better show that aired back in the '90s."

When the fallout from Angus T. Jones happened, some mentioned that there may be a clause in his contract which prohibited him from insulting the show and that could be the way out for WB, CBS, whomever in terminating his contract. Perhaps some productions, in view of the points you addressed, Ken, also have similar clauses in the contracts of their performers?

Honesty can be refreshing when, for example, a show is declining in quality and a writer starts intimating that it's network meddling causing the mess. Not the best for the writer's career but also not as bombastic as someone denigrating people for not watching the show or those that do but don't like it.

I can usually separate the work from the person but when the person is being a jerk, even by Hollywood standards, I certainly feel less inclined to be supportive of anything that keeps said jerk still employed.

Total said...

Basinger, not Bassinger.

Mac said...

"listen, you bastards, my show is funny."

Yeah, that sort of charming wit tells me this is a guy whose show I must watch.

Greg Jones said...

Ken,

First off, I have really enjoyed your work over the years. The episode that you guys wrote for M*A*S*H where Hawkeye is blinded is one of my all-time favorites.

Contrast that with "Whitney". It is probably one of the shrillest, dumbest, most inane shows of all-time. "My Mother, The Car" was more thoughtful than this show.

Whoever is in charge of marketing for NBC needs to be fired. Remember the show "Mercy" from a few years back, starring the young actress, Taylor Schilling? To quote my wife, "Why would I ever watch this show after they have shown so many promos that I know what it is completely about?" NBC, specifically, must think that the viewing public is really, really stupid. They have bludgeoned the public over the head with shows for the past 15 years. Jerry Seinfeld is not coming back, NBC! Quit trying to make another Seinfeld!

Jerry Peters said...

I'm still not giving up...any thoughts on the passing of Larry Hagman? (a perfect Friday question)

McAlvie said...

I neither tweet nor FB so it's all wasted on me. I don't quite understand the need to tell so many details of your life to complete strangers on the spur of the moment.

It seems to be like an addiction - it's there and people can't stop themselves from using it even when they are well aware of the consequences. They say things they never would if they had to wait until they got home.

The ultimate downfall of modern civilization won't be war; it'll be Twitter and Facebook.

Toby Bannister said...

CBS loves its most controversial stars. What do you do when Mandy Patinkin drops his pants at an Up Front? Hire him next season! They were the first (only?) network to give Robert Blake a job after he killed his wife. Krumholtz started trouble before his first CBS show even debuted: he called the President of Development and RAILED into her voicemail about how they could at least spell his name right on an early, early edit of the Numb3rs pilot - to the tune of "It's not that hard!" Charlie Sheen got a pass for way longer than he deserved. The culture there, being led by a crazy person, is join the crazy or get out.

Tim W. said...

I think you meant Facebook is like Kim Basinger and Twitter is like her drunk alter ego.

I hate Twitter for two reasons. Inane comments and the fact that I rarely speak in 140 characters or less.

RG - Bay Area said...

Maybe a Friday question... maybe just an idea that may be coming soon... but last night I was discussing with my wife that soon I imagine a show will go interactive with Twitter. For example, a character may say: hold on, I need to text a friend, and the next thing you know a live tweet will appear on your own phone (the viewer is "the friend") and maybe it is something funny for a comedy or a clue for a drama on how the case gets solved. Could make for some interesting and almost fourth-wall viewing if not overused. Of course, it would be over-used, but in the right hands I could imagine this working. Parks and Rec and the New Girl would seem the best format to try it with. The viewer would now feel a real connection to the show itself. Perhaps this has already been done and I am not aware of it. If not, any thoughts if this is the future of TV programming?? Would it actually work or do you think it would be a total dud?

Anonymous said...

If you have to SAY your show is funny, it's not.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

RG: That sounds like the kind of thing that would work as a promotional thing like bidding on a walk-on part. But as a mass thing...it would cost real money to send SMSs and manage the database of who'd opted in and the complaints from people who get annoyed.

McAlvie: the people I know who use Twitter don't use it to post inane things about themselves. More links to interesting stuff to read, jokes, etc.

wg

John said...

Even below the celebrity level, I'm amazed at the people who will get on Facebook and Twitter and post things about people even tangentially within their own local social circle, apparently oblivious to the fact that:

1.) You aren't just telling a few friends what you think, you're telling the whole world, if they want to know (and, in the .000000001 percent instance where you have a Facebook/Twitter post that leads to violence/murder/suicide that people outside your own little social circle give a damn about, you have now branded yourself a national or even world-renown a-hole);

2.) Even if you limit it to just a private message, the Internet is forever. That snarky/hurtful/mind-blowingly stupid thing you said last week is gone into the ether unless someone's there with a recorder or a cellphone camera. There are people who devote a large part of their knowledge sill set just to tracking down and recovering embarrassing web posts by other people. Think before you hit 'send' and lose all options at plausible deniability.

Johnny Walker said...

RG: That's quite a good idea. Which is to say, I think it's a gimmick that people would quickly tired of, but that a Network might actually try because, well, you never know.

How about this? Each character has a "thoughts" Twitter feed. So @JoesThoughts and @MandysThoughts and they're hooked up to automatically Tweet at certain moments in the show. Think the subtitled scene in Annie Hall. The characters say one thing, their "thoughts" say another.

Yes, this could obviously be done (better?) through subtitles, but they're not "hip" and "now".

Inbetween shows the characters could keep on having "thoughts", keeping the show in fan's minds, and building up anticipation for the next episode.

I could honestly see someone taking a nibble on this because of all the free press you'd get from doing something new... Even though, as I say, I imagine it's something that has a novelty value that will wear off quickly.

Johnny Walker said...

Heh, maybe this idea could be a modern reboot of "Herman's Head"? (Anyone remember that? :)

Tom Quigley said...

The mere mention of the name Kim Basinger sends up red flags for me -- not because of any perceived notions I might have about her acting ability or her personal life and the battles between her and Alec Baldwin. No, it's because when she was filming the THE MARRYING MAN which was written by Neil Simon, and she just didn't or couldn't get it as far as grasping Neil's humor, she managed to blurt out "Whoever wrote this sure doesn't know how to write comedy," on a day when Neil happened to be on the set. Reportedly he walked out of the studio and never returned to the production again. I don't blame him a bit.

Wan Dolner said...

# on the bedpost: very clever. You knew it when you wrote it, too.

benson said...

RG, et al...

Please remember FB and Twitter are not social networks, they are marketing tools. It's another tool to sell, sell, sell. From the producers/networks perspective, it is a simple and effective way to not only promote their product, but also to harvest P1 (and more) viewer information. And as jaded as younger people are about old media, etc, they are bordering being lemmings when it comes to some of the new media.

YEKIMI said...

Maybe Ken spelled it BASSinger 'cause he was "fishing" for compliments......



Terrence Moss said...

Celebrity tweets are overly reported. So he told people to "eat a dick"? Big deal. He didn't call anyone a faggot or toss out a racial slur.

At best, he was being silly. At worst, he was being dumb. He's a great actor and a funny one at that -- "Partners" notwithstanding; the writers couldn't figure out what to do with his character. I went to a taping. Between takes, he was hilarious. The writers should have used that.

If a casting director points to that tweet as a reason not to cast him for a role he's perfectly suited for, then they can eat a dick.

Andrea said...

To me, Krumholtz is always going to be that crazy guy who stabbed Carter. Am I alone in that? Eh, probably so. I'm not embarrassed---that was when "ER" was good.

In any case, any actor who is really funny ought not to be held back by a tweet like that. He wasn't tweeting really offensive stuff, more like he was trying to be edgy. Maybe he really is funny, just not in print. He's not a writer, so that's okay, then.

Johnny Walker said...

On second thoughts, I've gone off the idea.

A Non-Emus said...

I stopped reading after "very funny film".

D. McEwan said...

What an odd thing to say to encourage people to view a show intended to pull in gay viewers and which was about gay-straight relationships. To make such a - well - homophobic remark shows he missed the point of his own show, along with missing that it was not funny but only annoying.

What worries me is I did watch his show though I was about to abandon it when it was canned (But what was wrong with it wasn't Krumholz, it was his partner, who was terminably annoying rather than funny), but I also like to eat dick. Are only non-viewers of the show allowed to eat dick? And why does anyone need Krumholz's permission anyway?

slummingitforthelord said...

@Tom Quigley. Let us not give Neil Simon too much credit... The Marrying Man is one of the worst comedy scripts ever written...by anyone. (This of course applies only to produced movie scripts of course. Had it been written by anyone other than Neil Simon it would have as it ought to have been rejected outright by every studio in town.)

Anonymous said...

Kim Basinger is by far one of the worst people (not just actors, crew too) that I have ever had the unfortunate luck to work with. What a miserable person. She's almost rates as the biggest number one c**t actor with the exception that it just so happens that Bruce Willis edges her out by a nose.

Mike Barer said...

I'll give my thoughts of Larry Hagman, remarkebly talented actor. From what I read, extraordinary person as well.

Tom Quigley said...

@slummingitforthelord:

I wasnt't offering any judgment on how good or bad Neil Simon's script was. I know it was bad in regard to Neils' usual work, and the movie was a bomb. My point is that Ms. Basinger both didn't show any inkling of awareness of Neil Simon's track record nor offer her "criticism" at a time and place that would have been more appropriate -- not to mention the fact that, after Neil broke things off with the production, who knows how much tinkering with the script may have been done by others just to satisfy a diffcult star's ego?

Mike said...

@Jerry Peters: Ken lunches with Mark Evanier, who has a fine Larry Hagman story. Which, no doubt, you've already read.

Dale said...

I watched I dream of Jeanie episode when I heard he had passed. I was a little kid when I watched that show. Those characters and those who played them are with me for life.
Vale Larry Hagman. And thank you.
Dale

Greg Ehrbar said...

@Andrea: To untold millions, Krumholtz will forever be Bernard, the curly-topped elf-who-would-be-DeNiro in the first two "Santa Clause" movies. They're likely to run endlessly, every holiday season.

Those movies star Tim "I don't wanna be Dean Jones" Allen, whose fate seems equally sealed. There are far worse fates, though.