Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pop Culture: The 10 Year Rule

I have a theory. There is no science to back it up; it’s only my observations from studying trends in pop culture and trying to figure out what it takes to maintain popularity for more than a decade. From what I’ve gathered, the ten year hurdle is a difficult mark to hit before either the quality begins to wane or it’s replaced by the next exciting trend. Is it better to quit while you’re ahead? Do good things only come in short spurts or is it possible to be eternally relevant? Let’s examine.

Generally speaking, the best TV series typically last anywhere from 5-6 seasons or less. (Case in point: Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Wonder Years). And that’s just the ones that ended on their own terms. The scripted shows that go beyond 10 seasons simply can't sustain the same spark that originally made us want to tune in week after week. I think we can all agree that The Simpsons’ best years are behind it. Waaaay behind it.

When it comes to TV, Jerry Seinfeld was the smart one, calling it quits before the show hit double digits while he was still on top. His must-see TV counterparts, Friends and Frasier should have taken note. Ricky Gervais also seems to have the right idea. He's been series hopping since creating and starring in The Office and hasn't looked back. During The US Office's run, Gervais starred in and concluded two more series and has another one that just started streaming on Netflix. Clearly a man who doesn't intend to wear out his welcome, unlike NBC’s Office. At least Steve Carrell knew when to jump ship.

Time to sink or swim without your captain, kids!

Gervais' music equivalent may be Jack White, a musician who manages to juggle multiple projects with apparent ease and demands that his audience keep up with his every move as opposed to becoming predictable and boring. It's a very safe bet that if there is a 10 year curse, that White isn't going to succumb to it anytime soon.

Internal band strife aside, The Beatles knew when to hang it up too and became the ultimate "leave them wanting more" act as a result. They were active from 1960 to 1970, but the majority of their music was written and recorded during a 7 year period which cemented their legacy and ensured that they would never become a nostalgia act. Talk about prolific geniuses!

Since then, countless bands have come and gone having rode a wave of popularity only to wipe out once the talent can no longer support the hype. Many bands rule a decade. Zeppelin in the 70s, Duran Duran in the 80's, Green Day in the 90's. As a result, the band becomes so associated with that period where they broke out and were at the peak of their success, they are then labeled as such. Sure, the Stones just celebrated their 50th anniversary, but they’re still a 60’s band.

However, trends do tend to resurface when studios have run out of ideas and are banking on nostalgia to turn a quick profit, hence why we're in the midst of an 80's revival that seems never ending but will eventually lead to a full blown 90's resurgence. Definitely looking forward to some revamped Disney Adventures toons and Furbies the Movie.

Artists understandably want to keep working and don't want to let a good thing die, especially not on their terms. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and from what the evidence is telling me, the sooner that end comes, the better.

Nobody wants to watch a good show suffer until a network has to pull the plug just to put it, and the audience, out of their misery. We want tight, driven story lines with a satisfying conclusion that made the time we invested into it worth it. Too many shows get off to a strong start only to drag on to the point of self-parody, Dexter being a recent example. Just end already!

Way past due for a curtain call Dex
On the movie front, Pixar had a good run even despite the Cars misstep, but once they caught sequel-itis, I broke my Pixar streak of seeing every movie in theaters (thanks Cars 2) and have yet to see one since Toy Story 3. But just when it looked like they were going the route of Dreamworks, they now have more original content on the way so hopefully they’re on the path for a welcome comeback.

Tastes change from decade to decade, there’s no stopping that. But is it really that hard to stay relevant or is it best to move on to the next phase before your audience does? Because pop culture is constantly shifting it necessitates that creative people should be one step ahead.

Going back to Seinfeld, it seems the majority of artists are afraid to go out on a high note. But in show business, showmanship is crucial if you want to stay in the game. Now let’s end this blog right from someone who said it best.

“Playing it safe is the most popular way to fail.” – Elliott Smith

Alright, that's it for me, goodnight!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Batfleck or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept a New Batman

This is my first step into the blogging world and so to kick things off I decided to write about something that I'm truly passionate about. There aren't too many things I'm more passionate about than Batman, so let's get started!

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a die-hard Batman fan. I’ve been a fan since I discovered the Adam West show as a kid (and even met him when I was 5) and I’ve remained a fan through each new incarnation of the character through the good and bad times.

I wore my Roger Rabbit shirt for this special occasion
So when news of Ben Affleck’s casting as the new Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel hit, I was flooded with texts from friends reacting to the news and wanting to know what I thought. Pretty much the knee jerk reaction was this was the worst choice they could have possibly made and that WB is killing their chances of competing with Marvel’s movie domination by betraying us loyal fans.

Despite Affleck having made strides behind the camera in recent years, the stigma of such failings as Daredevil and for me personally, Pearl Harbor, (I knew better than to waste time on Gigli), are still fresh in memory. That’s not to say that I despise Affleck as an actor entirely. The Town was a step in the right direction and he was good in State of Play. I’ll even go as far to say that his scenes in Boiler Room was the best part of that movie.

With this unexpected announcement, Affleck joins the club of actors who have portrayed more than one super hero onscreen. Some have had great success at pulling double superhero duty (see Chris Evans who made the smooth transition from Human Torch to another Marvel hero, Captain America) and then there’s Ryan Reynolds who went from bad (Deadpool) to worse (Green Lantern) when he should have been playing The Flash all along and now will never get the chance (probably). The less said about Halle Berry's superhero turns the better. Now it’s Affleck’s turn to leap from a Marvel to a DC vigilante. The only question is, will round two be the charm when it comes to portraying another superhero (I’m not counting Hollywoodland for the record)?

I’ve had a week to process the news. In that time the backlash took Twitter by storm and many journalists who write about this stuff for a living have denounced the decision while a fair amount have come to his defense. Even former Batmen, Adam West, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton have given Affleck their blessing. So far Clooney has yet to break his silence on the matter, which I don’t blame him as I’m sure he doesn’t want to remind everybody about his ill-fated turn as the Caped Crusader, although having picked up an Oscar for producing Argo, I’d be shocked if he’s anything but pro-Affleck. Hopefully he can pass on some lessons on how NOT to do it. I know I'd sure like to erase that movie from my memory.

Batman & Robin never happened. And I was never Two-Face!
I'm slowly becoming convinced that Kevin Smith is moonlighting as Affleck’s agent as he’s probably been the most vocal about the whole thing. Or maybe he just wants to remind everyone that he and Affleck are BFFs. Smith has said in the past that he thinks Affleck could play anything, but he has yet to convince the rest of us. Either way, as much as there was a lot of negative reaction, I’ve been seeing just as much from the pro-Batfleck camp as well.

We get it Silent Bob. You and Affleck are buddies.
As for me, I’m still on the fence. While there are so many other fine actors that I would have chosen in his place, I think Affleck has come a long way since he wore out his welcome as a blockbuster draw and he seems like he’s at the top of his game currently. I’m not rooting against him because I genuinely want it to work and for him to succeed in this role because it’s my favorite superhero, but I also can’t conceive of him disappearing into the role where Bruce Wayne is concerned. That’s the risk you run when you cast a big name, something they avoided with Henry Cavill’s casting as Superman, but whether that will work for or against Affleck remains to be seen. 

So far now, I’ll get on with life knowing it could have been better, but it could have been a LOT worse and will save my final judgment for when I see it in theaters because there’s no way I would miss it.

Until then, I leave you with the exclusive first promo poster for the upcoming Superman/Batman movie. Enjoy!