Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #99: An Embarrassment Of Rich?

The HBO network is struggling to recapture its glory days when shows like The Sopranos and Sex & City were critical and commercial successes that created new trends in edgy drama and comedy that captured the public imagination.

To help recapture the public imagination HBO has hired the New York Times' former theatre critic turned political op-ed writer Frank "Butcher of Broadway" Rich as a "creative consultant."

Which raises a question.


HBO has lost a lot of viewers, it's original programming isn't making that all-important emotional connection with the mass audience the network needs to stay on top and competition from other channels is fierce, so what do they do, they make a deal to tap the mind of a columnist that, outside of Manhattan's pied a terre set, is either unknown or un-liked.

Rich, and his often inflammatory opinions, are cited by many as one of the many reason's why visitors to the HQ of The New York Times can hear the ghosts of Titanic's dance band playing "Nearer My God To Thee." Sales of the venerable newspaper are down, as is advertising revenue, and there's an entire cottage industry in cyberspace dedicated to criticizing it for bias, inaccuracy, fabrication and other journalistic bloopers, bleepers, and boners.

So why would a network, through this partnership, attach itself to an organisation whose corporate life story would titled Gray Lady Down?

Well, the only answer I can think of is isolation.

You see, the upper management of HBO is part of that same elite Manhattan crowd that still thinks the New York Times has some relevance to people who don't spend their summers in The Hamptons, and their winters skiing with P. Diddy in Aspen, or with John Kerry in Sun Valley Idaho. In fact, when I read the story I had a vision that the idea for the partnership came in a conversation over golf at an elite country club:
HBO GUY- Our shows just aren't catching on with people, and we don't know why.

WEALTHY NEW YORKER- You should hire Frank Rich as a creative consultant. He has his finger on the pulse of the common American.

HBO GUY- Really?

WEALTHY NEW YORKER- He must, I and my friends agree with everything he says. Now if you don't mind, I'm flying to the France to pick up some wine for dinner.
So I must say that I don't have much hope the success of this creative consultancy. In fact, I think it just might make things worse, which is why they must choose...
You can't blame me for trying.

1 comment:

  1. I never got HBO, and this makes me want to keep not getting HBO.

    I think the problem is that when you put too much stock in being "edgy," that when "edgy" becomes normal, you're left behind. I hate that word. It's merely a synonym for "vulgar and nihilistic."

    The whole of Time Warner seems to be struggling because each sum of its parts is having problems. Before they bought AOL it didn't have this problem.