I'm not sure that I will have a lot of time to post today, and for the rest of the week I'm going to be on lovely Cape Cod with limited internet, but I wanted to take a moment to mention my continued and growing disappointment in IFC's new show Ultimate Film Fanatic. I decided to write an open letter to IFC and the producers of the show. Knowing how my blog must be required daily reading throughout the cable television and NY film universe (I assume my three readers print and distribute all my posts, duh!), I'm sure they will respond in due time. There it is, after the jump.
Dear IFC and UFF Producers,
You are not helping me in my mission to convince people (yeah, I'm talking to you cinetrix) to get cable, let alone digital cable or DiVos (that one's for Karen). I'm trying to do your work for you; really I am. On a word-of-mouth basis, telling people to watch one of the few channels that I consider absolute must-haves, along with, obviously, TCM, HBO, and -- no offense -- your rival The Sundance Channel. But you've got to do better here. When you come on with a game show that should be so perfect for your channel with a host who for nearly 20 years (more?) has been the closest thing to a media personification to indie and underground film (I still miss the actual magazine!), why the hell is the show so relatively boring, and why do I feel the need to call "bullshit" again? Is the fix in?
I'm going to help you fix the show for your next season. First, more trivia. I know I said it before, but I'm really serious this time. The sudden death thing is crap. If someone gets it wrong, he/she shouldn't be eliminated right away; at the very least, make the other person answer the question right. Of course, I'm still astounded that any of these people are actually getting any of these questions wrong. Every round should hit the ninth question, a/k/a tiebreaker. But aside from them being so easy, has the show forgotten that it's on the Independent Film Channel. I should think not since the official program title is IFC's Ultimate Film Fanatic. So then why are all the questions focused on mainstream movies? These are questions I would expect to see on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or Beat the Geeks. I'm sorry, but even Quentin Tarantino related topics don't really count. If you're looking for real film fanatics, people who came just short of qualifying for participation in Cinemania, why not have some questions about actual indie and cult films? And foreign films? And films older than the 70s? Like, I don't know ... the films IFC shows. I'm not saying you can't include any mainstream or studio topics, but come on. Two shows in, and this is getting ridiculous.
I did notice you made some changes to the show since the first episode, but they're just window dressing. (And since the show isn't exactly live, I'm not sure why you didn't figure these things out beforehand so there wouldn't be such a conspicuous difference between episodes 1 and 2.) Giving the individual rounds names like "attitude" (the debate section) and "obsession" (the memorabilia section) is cute, but ultimately meaningless. And the little light bulbs that suddenly appeared to help the contestants know how much time they have left in the debate? I'm a little surprised that someone didn't realize before the first taping that it might help the contestants to know they only have five seconds left.
Which brings up another complaint: 20 seconds for an argument and 10 seconds for rebuttal is just too short. Ironically, since each person has no time and just spouts adjectives without any actual insight, maybe getting off one or two good lines, the segment feels very long and is relatively boring. You should give them each 45 seconds to a minute to argue and 20-30 seconds to rebut. Spend less time on your haunting music and black & white fade out when someone gets booted and more on creating more interesting content. The losers of both debate rounds also lost both of their individual debates because they couldn't say anything intelligent. Based on watching, I'm guessing it was mostly because they were frazzled. And I'm not even going to get into the nitty-gritty of how stupid it is for the other person's time to start immediately after the other one's ends.
But the real travesty in this show once again falls to your "obsession" round. Are you fixing the show? Are you telling your C-List panel of celebrity judges who to vote for? There is absolutely no way that some guy's (I'm blanking on the contestant's name right now) freaky fixation on Cynthia Stevenson (and while I think she's a perfectly good actress, sorry, she's no Judy Holliday) is anything more than proof that he's a stalker and Stevenson should file for a restraining order. Big deal, he has videotapes that he's made himself with every episode of Oh Baby, Hope & Gloria and Bob. That just proves he's a glutton for punishment.
Again, just like in the first episode, the memorabilia war seemed somewhat arbitrarily decided in order to let each contestant win one item so it would come down to the third comparison. What did the Stevenson-collection of bad TV show tapes beat? A poster of The Wisdom of Yoda that the losing contestant, a high school English teacher, keeps in his classroom and has his students read from when they complain that they're trying or it's too hard. This guy uses a movie character to teach his students morality. Right or wrong, you're telling me that's less "film fanatic" than some unmarried geek who likes to whack it to crappy sitcoms featuring an actress with no better than Hey-it's-that-guy status? His tapes were all TV shows, for that matter; not her movies! Judges, are you high? (Jason Mewes, don't answer that!)
I'm sorry IFC, but this is just wrong. I know the winner was a more "interesting" character because he's older and far more geeky and pathetic looking; plus host Chris Gore made sure we knew he was never married by giving him the leading question of what his wife thinks about his Stevenson obsession to which he answered he doesn't have a wife. And no, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't all that important. But the things that would make this show infinitely more fun and interesting aren't that hard either, so stop taking the easy way out, because eventually, even I will stop watching.