I have a few specific post ideas in mind, but I can't tackle them right now. Not that they're so complicated or hard or will take any research or be better written than any of the other tripe on this site. But still -- just not in the mood yet. Maybe later, or tomorrow. But I'm trying to do the whole discipline thing and write something every day, so here goes.
Yesterday a bunch of items popped-up and caught my eye, but as I am technically "working" (today's my last day at this short job), and then I got started on my little reading screenplays post below, I didn't have a chance. So, a day (or two even) late;p many dollars short:
Monday's Filmmaker Magazine blog turned me on to this post by David Poland about the fantastic documentary Street Fight. Aside from getting the name of the director wrong (James Baxter apparently wrote the music for the film, but the director is Marshall Curry), Poland makes some great points about why Street Fight is one of the best documentaries of 2005. The film won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and I was lucky enough to see it early. (In fact, I enthusiastically wrote the program notes for the catalog.) It's a fascinating look at the 2002 Newark Mayoral race, a contest that was as politically bloody as they come in modern America. It aired on PBS' P.O.V. over the summer, and hopefully it will find a DVD distributor and/or air again soon. I imagine it will since the main participants are likely to go head-to-head again in May for the next election.
(Robert Iger and Disney, NBC on iTunes and the network news after the jump.)
I feel like I saw this somewhere else as well, but as Cinematical noted, the Wall Street Journal has been providing newly crowned Disney king Robert Iger with plenty of press recently regarding his desire to shrink (and really just eliminate) the the window between the theatrical and DVD releases of major movies. I've been fascinated by Iger's rise for well-over a decade. If anyone has managed to fail upward, it's Bob Iger. Back in March when he was officially named Michael Eisner's successor, I wrote this post in which I suggested Disney stock owners sell. I would reiterate that suggestion now. It's absolutely amazing that the very first thing he's doing in placing his stamp on Disney is pissing off exhibitors and saying (per the WSJ story), "But I think in the end, it's going to have to be more by force than through negotiation or diplomacy." Jackass. First of all, compressing the window further than it already is would potentially kill the exhibition industry. I don't mean to overstate things, but theater owners have a bit of a point. If all major releases came out on DVD just weeks after the theatrical release -- if not the same day -- a majority of people would likely stop going to theaters. They might spend more on a home theater system (or not), but they'd figure why spend a ton on a night out when they can do it at home. Now on one level, who cares, right? I mean, the studios might make more money; it doesn't really put out the consumers. It's just exhibitors who would be hurt and they charge too much for Junior Mints anyway, right? However, I believe that this would actually have an aesthetic impact on the films released. Exhibitors would only start booking films that the studios withheld from home release or that might be guaranteed big hit blockbusters. Smaller indie films or even studio product released on 1000 screens rather than 3000 may not get booked because no theater can afford to not fill the house. Besides, why bother seeing a movie like that in a theater, audiences might say. Who needs a big screen for The Squid and the Whale? (Actually, everybody, but many people might not think so.) A smaller window can also be valuable to indie films, especially those that don't get out to more than several or even a few hundred theaters and don't make it to most non-metropolitan areas of the US. (HDNet Films/Magnolia Pictures/Landmark Theaters all owned by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Entertainment are about to experiment with a distribution model in theaters, on DVD and satellite the same day, but the films will only come out on a couple dozen screens, I believe). But those midlevel films aren't going to get big production money as much. At least, that's my brief view.
Iger was a failure as a programming chief at ABC and directly led to their years in third place. He kept hiring the wrong people to run ABC once he was promoted, and then he fired those who set the development of ABC's current resurgence into motion before the results could really be seen, so I don't exactly give him credit for ABC riding high. The deal with iTunes to sell a la carte episodes? I'm shocked that arrived under his watch. So who knows, maybe he's picked-up some things over the years. But it's still baffling that he would take such a hard line so quickly about something like this, and it's also obvious that he's a full-fledged businessman -- quality will not be as important at an Iger-run Disney as the bottom line. I still say sell.
Speaking of television programming on iTunes, I think this whole thing is a fantastic idea, and I was so excited earlier today to see that NBC has formed a partnership with Apple too. As a total TVaholic, and one who has been struggling for the past month since moving because I do not have a working DiVo or my usual ability to record up to three programs and watch a fourth all at the same time (when necessary), having a network show OnDemand system whether it's via cable or online is a fantastic backup. I'm so happy NBC is starting with The Office, which has been brilliant this season. Hopefully they'll add My Name Is Earl to the selections. I actually haven't bought any programs yet, but I probably will need to in order to catch-up on some Desperate Housewives and Lost.
On Monday, the extremely prolific and comprehensive TVNewser had two posts that caught my eye. First this one referring a Howard Kurtz WaPo story which asks if NBC's Brian Williams is "the last traditional anchor?" I'd certainly answer with a resounding yes, and I kind of said as much last November. Granted, at the time, Peter Jennings was still alive, working and not even known to be sick, so the end of network news as we know it with the traditional anchor may be coming sooner than expected, but it has still been expected. And even if Katie Couric does wind-up over at the CBS Evening News, I sincerely doubt she'll act as a traditional anchor. Or if she does, it won't last long before they rejigger the broadcast to work better with her personality. That's not a criticism of Couric's abilities as a journalist; she may or may not have the chops to be a "trusted anchor." But it is a statement about what an audience might want out of a Couric led broadcast, and after all these years on Today and even Dateline, I don't think people who like Couric and might choose to watch CBS because of her are going to want a staid, constantly serious personality. I'm sure CBS isn't planning on just bringing her over and sticking her in the anchor chair, especially since they've been talking the most about rethinking the entire format of the show anyway, but whatever she would be doing, she won't be a "traditional anchor."
The other post that was as interesting, if not more so, was this one: "The 11 p.m. Network News." The post provides a little bit of broadcast history I never realized -- the traditional network evening news time was established because during World War II, dinner time was when people would listen to the radio for news from Europe. At 6 PM, it would be 11 in England and obviously later the further East you'd travel, so the days from the fronts would basically be over. TVNewser points to this TVWeek.com commentary by former NBC News President Reuven Frank describing why a network news cast at 11 PM rather than 6:30 makes more sense, and I wholeheartedly agree. Who among today's modern urban dwellers, at least, is home by 6:30. And 6:30 on the east coast is only 3:30 on the west -- there's a whole country out there that hasn't had all day to make its news yet. As Frank says, people want their news in the morning after waking-up and at night before they go to sleep -- bookends to their day. Of course, how this would affect local affiliates and news would be an interesting issue. My guess is affiliates wouldn't want to give up their personal night-time broadcasts which bring them 100% of the advertising dollars and obviously have loyal followings. (The Fox affiliates consistent balking at losing their 10 PM news broadcasts is proof of that.) And the networks probably wouldn't want to post-pone their late-night franchises (i.e., Leno and Letterman, particularly) in order to still leave time for both national and local broadcasts. Still, if anyone cared about the health of a somewhat traditional network news show, 11 PM could be one way to answer that call. Of course, with the cable nets the reality is nobody cares.