Battle of the Hollywood Franchises, Week 1— GAME OF THRONES vs THE WALKING DEAD vs WESTWORLD

Right now, you can fire up your phone, computer, 4k television or seven other things with screens to binge upon amazing movies and television shows that make the classics of the ’70s and ’80s look like high school art projects.

The list of viewing choices is incredible: WESTWORLD, a Marvel superhero movie every time you sneeze, THE WALKING DEAD, a new STAR WARS movie once a year, GAME OF THRONES, BREAKING BAD, BROADCHURCH and the SHERLOCK series starring Khan/Dr. Strange and his hobbit friend.

It’s an embarrassment of quality. And meta-story is the key reason why.

Because it’s not just the quality of special effects, sets and acting at work here. It’s how well that meta-story is told that affects whether you (a) stay up until 3 a.m. binging the entire series or (b) keep flipping through shows and movies before you give up and watch YouTube clips of animals being bros.

I can’t remember any TV shows or movies back in the day that told a fully story, start to finish, with a concrete end to the series, except for the original three STAR WARS movies. (Note: the prequels are dead to me.)

Back in the ‘80s, the shows I watched and loved had the same hero and sidekicks and a Villain of the Week, unless it was a sitcom.

A-TEAM, REMINGTON STEELE, AIRWOLF – all these shows you could watch in any order, unlike the meta-stories of today, where if you miss 15 minutes, you might get lost.

It seemed pretty clear that showrunners back then were content to keep making new seasons until the ratings went south.

They kept going until the network ended the money train, which was reflected in the sudden demise of most TV shows where loose ends tended to stay loose.

So where are the new giants of meta-storytelling doing it right, and where are they tripping up?

Week 1—GAME OF THRONES vs THE WALKING DEAD vs WESTWORLD

All three of these are sprawling adventures with ensemble casts and no clear hero or villain.

But they are true meta stories. There’s nothing episodic about either show. Things constantly change and both are building up to a climax versus the old model of “petering out when they cancel us.”

A big strength for all three? Constant surprises. Anybody might die in any episode, except for Rick Grimes, who never dies for some reason, while Westworld reserves the resurrect any character as a robot and Game of Thrones can’t part with Captain Good Hair Who Lives Among the Snow.

All three series are full of deadly betrayal and high stakes. There are no cartoonish white hats and black hats. Each character tends to be a little good and a lot of bad.

You also don’t have to find a new job if your big star, the hero, decides to leave the series to try movies, or gets drunk and slams his Rolls Royce into the side of a cliff.

HOWEVER: The lack of bedrock heroes and villains can make the audience confused and scared off from getting attached to characters they like, seeing how at any minute they could get stabbed in the back, nom-nom-nommed by a zombie or shot by the Man in Black.

This sort of story also has problems with villains, because they tend to die off and need to get replaced.

GAME OF THRONES and THE WALKING DEAD have the advantage of known their destination, since the original authors mapped out the story in printed form using these things I like to call “words” placed inside these archaic, beautiful things they call “books.”

WESTWORLD will have to find its own way to the climax, since it’s based on a single movie from the ’70s. However: Season 1 was a brilliant start.

Verdict: GAME OF THRONES is the odds-on champion here, with a huge audience and a definite climax in the cards. THE WALKING DEAD feels a bit too uneven and small scale at times. How can they top Negan?

WESTWORLD is the hipster choice of these three, the one that feels most like a movie. Each episode shot and scored beautifully. It’s just harder to see where it goes after Season 1. But if they can pull it off, WESTWORLD will live forever as a classic.

Next week: D.C. versus Marvel, also known as ‘D.C. just can’t win’

Week 3—STAR WARS vs STAR TREK

Week 4—JAMES BOND vs JASON BOURNE

Week 5—HOUSE OF CARDS vs BREAKING BAD

Week 6—HARRY POTTER vs LORD OF THE RINGS

Why TOO MANY COOKS blew up the interwebs

too many cooks

There is no shortage of funny or strange videos on the Series of Tubes, and it takes no great talent to find them.

HOWEVER: It takes some talent to make something as long, and interesting, as TOO MANY COOKS.

Before you watch it, listen: this thing starts out slow, and if you’ve never watched bad TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s, because you weren’t born yet, or have a rule about never watching the Glowing Tube, some of these parodies will fly over your head like a B-2 bomber.

I don’t believe there are any bad words or anything other than cartoonish violence and creepiness, but be warned that it does get weird, though I think in an interesting way. This really is something for people who grew up watching reruns of The Brady Brunch, TJ Hooker, Airwolf, Battlestar Galactica, Wonder Woman and about seventeen other shows. Funny stuff. Watch, then we’ll dissect it.

So: there’s no way to name every single genre and show that video just parodied. The list is ginormous.

From a big picture, though, the secret seems to be how this is different from Saturday Night Live skits from the bad old days, where writers took one funny idea and beat that dead horse all the way to the glue factory.

TOO MANY COOKS is the opposite. Despite repeating the opening song again and again (though they twist it), they’re actually cramming five metric tons of funny ideas into one parody skit, constantly changing their target to different genres and specific Bad TV Shows We All Used to Love.

Love is a big part of this. You can’t film a video of this breadth and style without loving those shows, and knowing them incredibly well. I could write a pretty good fake Airwolf script, and completely skewer it, because as a pookie, I watched that show religiously and adored the thing. Jan Michael Vincent FTW! And yeah, that thing was terrible when you fire up an old episode on YouTube now. But we loved our TV trash, and part of us will always love it.

Here’s why: entertaining trash, however trashy, is still entertaining, while pretentious nonsense, however well done, is still pretentious.

Well done, crazy makers of this parody.

GAME OF THRONES as a cheesy ’80s TV show

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

game of thrones

Now, having only seen bits of GAME OF THRONES doesn’t stop me from loving this video, and wishing they could make an entire episode like this.

Nailed it, didn’t they?

For comparison, here’s the most epic ’80s synthethizer music intro ever, from AIRWOLF:

Let’s chat for a second about why GoT is such a huge hit. It’s not like he invented something brand new, and no, J.R. Tolkien didn’t, either. He borrowed from Nordic myths.

GoT seems to have become huge not despite the fact that major and beloved characters might die at any time, but because of that fact.

It’s completely unlike your typical TV series, which is based on one or two major stars and a cast of bit players. The stars never die, though if a major star leaves the show to give Hollywood a shot, the series often goes kaput.

Think of STAR TREK except Kirk dies in the third episode and Spock gets eaten by a salt-monster on some desert planet in episode five, leaving Bones in charge until the Klingons destroy the Federation in episode seven. Crazy, right? But you’d watch it.

As a special bonus: here are all kinds of intros to crazy ’80s TV shows. Enjoy.

 

Insane ’80s show MANIMAL returns to the Glowing Tube

MANIMAL is coming back to TV, rebooted and such.

If you are a child of the ’80s, or even alive and conscious during that decade, you remember some nutty TV shows that — at the time — we thought were cool.

THE A-TEAM is unwatchable today. Go fire it up on Netflix or whatever. The fourth time in a row that (a) Mr. T says “I pity the fool” as (b) bullets spray all over the place and (c) bad guy cars jump in the air and do that half-flip, you’ll do a facepalm, and right in the middle of that facepalm, Col. Hannibal will light up a cigar and say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Other things we watched and thought were cool: AIRWOLF and that show where some American guy thinks he’s a ninja because he has an old wise mentor and is constantly fighting some actual ninja who actually should be the hero, seeing how he was the only real ninja within 100 miles.

Anyway, the point is, they’re rebooting one of the nuttiest relics from the Glowing Tube back in the ’80s: MANIMAL.

This is great news for America, and for bored college kids looking for something watch and dissect, as a group, when they’ve had too much Pabst Blue Ribbon to write that term paper about dialectical materialism as it relates to Madonna’s early videos, the ones before she’d married Sean Penn.

Here’s the classic MANIMAL intro.

Watch the hero as he trasforms, and no, they didn’t get this idea when they hired the special effects guy who turned Michael Jackson into a werewolf.

Special bonus: SPACE SHERIFF triple transformation

Note that I have no idea what this show is, aside from a possible father of POWER RANGERS, but it is awesome.