Thursday, 8 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1208: Prestige/Mid-Reputable/Good/Bad.

The gist of the piece, if you're too lazy to click the link, is that while shows like Mad Men, The Newsroom, Louie, and Girls get all the prestige and award nominations, there are shows like Arrow, The Flash, that have dedicated fan-followings, and get all sort of critical praise, they're just not considered as "classy" as their cousins.

This reminds me of something I saw on a travel show.

It was a food-centric show, and the host was visiting Paris, and he was looking into what many were calling the decline of "fine dining" in the famed City of Lights. 

Fine dining is where you make a reservation, dress up to the nines, wait in line, slip the maitre'd a c-note to get to sit at the table you booked within your lifetime, the table has a silk tablecloth handwoven by Hopi shamans, then you look at a menu hand-calligraphied by a master artist in squid ink that has no prices on it, because if you have to ask how much, you shouldn't even be there. You get the picture.

What's taking the place of fine dining in Paris was the rise of what are called "casual dining" establishments. Places with no reservations, no dress codes, and reasonable prices printed either on the menu or on a chalkboard over the main counter.

But there's a twist.

These casual restaurants are owned & staffed by chefs who would have been top names in the fine dining business ten years ago. They deliberately eschewed the fancy decor, the prestigious awards like Michelin Stars, the ritualistic serving style, and the crippling financial overhead and put all their energy into the food they're selling. Which means the quality and innovation found in casual restaurants is not only catching up to the prestigious high-brow joints, but will probably soon leave them in the dust.

Does this strike you as familiar?

Not every fine-dining, star-rated prestigious restaurant, gives the customer a satisfying experience. That's because to them it's not about the food they serve, it's about the importance and prestige of the people selling it to you.

This happens in television. Mad Men lost me a few seasons ago when the show stopped being about Don Draper, his family, friends, and lovers, and became about Matt Weiner and just how brilliant Matt Weiner really is. The enjoyment from the show died, at least in my eyes. The Newsroom was never about the news business, it was about Aaron Sorkin telling you how he thinks the world should be because he's smarter than you. I've met people who watch The Newsroom, but none seem to enjoy it.

Breaking Bad never fell into this trap, and stayed being all about Walt, Jesse, Skyler, and the rest, and not about Vince Gilligan. That's why it will probably be considered a touchstone of quality for years to come.

Anyway, back to the so-called "mid-reputable" shows.

Who cares if some critics and award voters don't consider them prestigious?

Prestige is no guarantee of quality. Critics and awards voters can bestow "prestige" onto a show for reasons that have NOTHING to do with the quality of the show's writing and presentation.

Which is why when I check out a new show, I always ask these questions about it:
How well is the story written?
Am I interested in the characters, whether I like them or not? 
Am I entertained?
Note, I do not ask if I think the show will make other people think I'm smart for watching it, because I don't have time for that shit anymore.

So I say, let the "mid-reputable" keep getting better, because in the end, they'll probably be the shows we look back on the warmest when we think of this television golden age.

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