Friday, January 9, 2009

2008 In Movies and TV

Okay, I'm going to just come out and say it: 2008 was a pretty bad year for movies and TV.

Except for when it wasn't!  The stuff that was good was actually great.  But, at least in my opinion, there weren't too many of those good things.

Box office sales were down overall; yet in the same year, we had the highest grossing movie since Titanic.  Summer movies, notorious for being loud, flashy and brainless were instead loud, flashy and intelligent.  I'm speaking, of course, about Space Chimps.

Roger Ebert, bless his optimistic heart, was enamored with so many movies this year that he insisted on creating a top 20 list instead of a top ten.  But as he himself notes, "distribution has reached such a dismal state" that most of these movies never played in general theaters and you probably haven't heard of them.  If most of the greatest movies of this year were unavailable to audiences, is it still fair to say that it was a great year for movies?

Meanwhile over on TV, things have taken a downward turn.  I agree with Jeff Jensen's evaluation of 2008: the spectacular run of quality television we've been enjoying for quite some time now has officially come to an end.  Most of the best shows have finished their runs; the remainder are due to end soon.  Once-great shows have turned into the biggest disappointments.  And audiences are disappearing.

Don't forget that when 2008 began, the writer's strike was still ongoing.  The audience left.  When shows resumed, a lot of the audience felt no need to return with them.  Even the almighty American Idol was down an average of 3 million viewers last season.

Without a doubt, the writer's strike of '07-'08 will be remembered as the point where everything changed.  It's still unclear what the entertainment landscape will look, but change is happening nonetheless.  My prediction has long been that broadcast networks will end up running mostly reality shows, game shows, talk shows and news; most scripted shows will end up on cable.  NBC took a dramatic leap toward that conclusion when they donated their nightly 10 o'clock time slot to Jay Leno.

If this sounds bleak, then allow me to be reassuring.  These things are cyclical.  If 2008 was a great exhale, then we're due for an inhale soon enough.  But by then, you probably won't be running to the TV to watch it.  You'll be running to your computer.