Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Get With the Program

In June, NBCU plans a week in which programming will emphasize healthy eating and exercise: The idea is that viewers will watch the shows and then spring into action. "It's about incorporating a marketer's message into a thematic environment," says Mike Pilot, president of sales and marketing at NBC Universal.--
Wall St. Journal, 4/7/2010

For some reason (that frankly I still haven't unpacked in my mind, so bear with me) this mind-controll-y directive bugs me more than NBC's semi-annual "green initiative", which had producers writing environmentally friendly story-lines into their episodes. Somehow, that seemed positive, for the good of the world at large, a community based, "we're all in this together" kind of thing. Watch Liz Lemon recycle! Kind of makes you want to do it too, right? Nothing wrong with that. Recycle away everyone! Let's save the planet!

This though...has a weird tinge of the Mommy Dearest State about it, doesn't it? The wicked, controlling 'parent-eye', knocking a Moon-Pie out of young Suzie's hand and slow-driving the car next to her while she jogs her way into the Little Miss Texas pageant. Probably I'm over thinking this. I'm sure I am. But look; doesn't the very casting of television shows tell us to be healthy, thin, do Pilates and never age? Do we really need them to work entire plots around the idea? Do we need to turn this sub-text into...what's it called?...text?

Moreover, the very roots of drama come from conflict and great characters are borne of specificity and idiosyncrasy. The idea of every character on TV suddenly becoming a vegan, tee totaling, gluten-free, marathon running, backyard composter? Kind of saps them of some much needed humanity, doesn't it? Some of the quirks and flaws that makes a character appealing, engaging, lovable? Watchable? Call me crazy, but I don't so much like "righteous" as a character trait.

Which of course got me thinking: Imagine if some of the all time great TV shows had to deal with shit like this? I mean, save 30Rock (and occasionally--still--The Office, and every now and then Parks & Recreation) there's nothing really fantastic or any particularly memorable characters on NBC right now. So bottom line, they're just slapping "Eat Your Daily 5!" stickers on the deck chairs on the Titanic. But just think what some classic shows would be like if they got this kind of network request...

The Rockford Files; Rockford's doctor tells him that spare tire around his middle isn't doing his heart any good, and his stress levels are way too high (oh, that Rocky! not to mention Angel!), so he starts taking yoga on the beach. After an exaggerated eye roll during Happy Baby Pose, Jimbo suffers a minor stroke.

Kojak; Kojak finds out he has 16 cavaties so he decides to give up the Tootsie-Pops. He starts chewing on celery stalks instead and consequently is so aggravated by gas pain and bloating that he beats a perp to death with his belt buckle.

Mary Tyler Moore Show; Mary thinks everyone would benefit from a daily speed-walking regime. The first morning, Murray and Georgette are the only ones who show up. Lou claims that he "hates walking". Ted tries to make it up to Mary by speed-walking around the set, so Lou beats him to death with his belt buckle.

Cheers; Norm and Cliff make a 'sobriety pact' and both quit drinking. They are written out of the show, which is then renamed, Cheer.

Roseanne; In a cross-network 'stunt', Roseanne and Dan go on The Biggest Loser, Couples. They lose a combined 236 lbs, divorce and send their kids to work on other shows.

The Sopranos; Dr. Melfi suggests Tony exercise and start eating right to deal with his depression. He beats her to death with his belt buckle.

Sex and the City; Samantha decides to quite drinking AND smoking, subsequently gains fifteen pounds and is shocked to find that all the guys who hit on her think she's a tranny. She's even more shocked to find out that they're right.

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