Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Death of All-Ages

Wherein Mitch laments the state of CBS All Access and other streaming offerings...

Last night Jamie and I were very excited to watch the first two episodes of the new Twilight Zone reboot on CBS All Access.  We signed up for the streaming service and were very excited to see what Jordan Peele would do with the series.

And to say we were excited is a bit understated.  I believe Serling's Twilight Zone is perhaps the best scripted television show ever created.  Likewise, we are both huge fans of Jordan Peele's storytelling.  Get Out and Us are both amazing movies, using horror to relate a social message.  This last part made him a key fit for The Twilight Zone in our minds, because The Twilight Zone always works best as parable, relaying heavy social messages through science fiction.

We've even gotten Avalyn to enjoy the Serling Twilight Zone.  She knows the music and has seen several episodes.  That show is a perfect all ages show.  No objectionable content.  It can discuss mature themes, but remain accessible to everyone.

So, we all settled in to watch the premier episode of the new series.

Then, within the first five minutes, the show dropped its first f-bomb.  Off it went, with us having to say the episode said a back word and Avalyn determined for us to tell her what the bad word was, though promising not to say it.  And after checking, of course, the episode is rated TV-MA for language.

We looked up the second episode to give it a try.  The second episode is rated TV-MA for language and violence.  That's the re-imagining of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

Upon further research, it seems this is not uncommon to programs premiering on CBS All Access.  The new Star Trek Discovery likewise has had swearing and even alien nudity, in a scene that was described as "more disturbing than anything."

I'm not a prude.  I appreciate a good film laden with profanity that would make a sailor blush in shame.  My Blu-ray library has many films from Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, and Quentin Tarantino.  One of my favorite films from last year was BlacKkKlansman, and it needed every word in that film.

Plus, I understand that the rules are off in streaming.  There's no need to comply with the network censors anymore.  These streaming programs can be created to meet what ever time and content requirements that the story demands.

I am, however, not a fan of gratuitous content.  Of doing something just because you can.  That's often the exact reason why you should not.

I don't understand the purpose of a TV-MA or R rated Star Trek.  It seems so antithetical to what Star Trek represents.  I can understand a higher rated Twilight Zone, but we already have that.  It's called Black Mirror.  And Black Mirror can tell you about what happens when you push a boundary just because you can.  Most recommendations for the series come with a tip to skip the first episode.  Apparently an episode about blackmailing a Prime Minister into performing a version of animal husbandry on live television wasn't the best idea.  At least people were willing to overlook that pitfall and move onto the other episodes to see what the series could be.

We will eventually watch the series; it's just going to take a lot more coordination to accomplish.  And I'm slightly disappointed.  The Twilight Zone succeeded in the 1960s because of restriction.  Serling wanted to write stories about racism, about greed, about corruption, about McCarthyism and the Cold War paranoia, but he could not get financing for anything that tackled these topics head on.

I listen to a lot of interviews with creatives.  And the one thing that they reiterate is that magic most often comes from restriction not complete freedom.  Because restriction requires creativity.  It's what makes Fred Astaire dance on the ceiling or Gene Kelly dance with Jerry mouse.  It's what has Alan Moore create the Watchmen because the Charlton characters are no longer available.

Hopefully, they'll get the excess out of their system and return to a more network friendly show.

Or maybe, the days of all-ages, all-quadrants, intelligent programming is really over.

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