Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, December 6th, 2021

Now that The AV Club is leaving Chicago, AllYourScreens might be the last Midwest-based entertainment site left standing.

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, December 6th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is trying to walk the line between just enough caffeine and involuntary jitters.

FX TAKES THE BRAND GLOBAL
I tend to think of most large media mergers as being a bad idea. In part, because they tend to take two successful businesses and turn them into one business with about the same level of success. Mergers don't just bring reduced head counts and cuts in expenses. They also mean that otherwise thriving businesses are left to wither because they don't fit into the new post-merger business model. 

One of the biggest consequences of the Disney/Fox merger is that most of the 20th Century Fox assets have been ignored since the merger. There have been a couple of notable exceptions and one is the cable news channel FX, which Disney is now planning to take globally:

FX announced Monday that its two-year-old hub on Hulu, known as "FX on Hulu," will be rebranded as just “FX” with the network’s logo now appearing above the titles on all of its programming. The change, which begins this month, includes new scripted originals as well as library titles developed by Landgraf and company.

The FX brand will also be used internationally as programming makes its way to Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ in other territories that aren’t age gated because of their adult content.

NO, IT'S NOT TIME TO PULL THE PLUG ON CABLE NEWS
Media types passed this Jack Shafer piece in Politico
around over the weekend, in large part because there are few targets more fun to whack like a pinata than the cable news networks:

Well, I would notice, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, as I frequently write about the medium. And my colleagues in the press would notice, too. A whole cottage industry of media commentators and activist groups like Media Matters for America that monitor and respond in real time to cable outrages has taken root. If Tucker Carlson expresses the slightest nativist sentiment, you can count on a rapid response to your inbox. Modern newsrooms keep the cable fire burning in the background all day. At Politico, almost 30 TV monitors hang from the ceiling and are screwed to the walls, and they’re tuned 24/7 to cable news and C-SPAN. And that’s not counting the TV monitors in the top editors’ offices, the commons areas, conference rooms, the office canteen, and the lobby. At some point, I expect to see screens in the bathrooms, too.

Shafer is Politico's media critic and I'll just lightly point out that Politico's business model literally is built around the idea of providing "insider" access to readers. So the Politico media critic arguing cable news networks are pointless because they mostly provide inside baseball coverage of politics shows either a painful lack of self-awareness or that Shafer is mostly just writing a piece he knows will get a lot of attention from....wait for it...media insiders.

I'm also struck by Shafer's disdain for the people who watch cable news:

Obviously, some devoted viewers of cable news would notice if their channels disappeared. Its “being there” ability to report from disaster sites, war zones, polling precincts, political demonstrations and Cape Kennedy lift-offs is unmatched. Or is it? Broadcast networks do a decent job getting rain-lashed during hurricanes and they rarely have to resort to the filibustering that cable hosts engage in during lulls in the news. Likewise, Republican talking points would have to find a new means of transmission if Fox went missing and gullible Democrats would suffer if Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes weren’t around to dispense their political nostrums.

If you have read this newsletter for any amount of time, you know that I am a frequent critic of cable news and the ways they decide to fill time. But I think it's fair to say there is a lot of difference between Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow. And "gullible Democrats?" Apparently, anyone who watches cable news is only a small step above a mindless couch potato who simply sucks up the point of view of whichever cable news network they are watching.

Shafer isn't the only person throwing around bad takes about the state of cable news. Television industry legend John Malone has discussed his belief that CNN has become "too political," and given that he will play a key role in whatever form the upcoming Discovery/WarnerMedia merger takes, his opinion matters.

CNN has some serious structural issues, but being "too political" isn't one of them. I'd argue that CNN would have better success being more political in primetime and spending less time trying to be the home for wayward political consultants and former Trump Administration officials. Malone is smart guy and I trust his judgement on a lot of things. But programing consultant is not one of them. 

Although given his age, Malone certainly fits into the prime demographic for cable TV news.

HOW THE METAVERSE LOOKS FROM INSIDE 'GRAND THEFT AUTO'
I am very skeptical about most of the hype surrounding the supposed Metaverse we are expected to inhabit in a couple of years (or decades). Most of the predictions are ludicrous, but it's also true that the online world is going to provide ways to connect that are both more intimate and harder to control than real life. 

If you want to get a small glimpse of what that future looks like, this profile of a user-controlled world that lives inside the game "Grand Theft Auto" is a really fascinating look at something I had no idea even existed:

Fans choose their favorites and follow them through the winding streets of Los Santos, oftentimes every day for years. They can also toggle between different characters’ channels, watching the world through the character’s eyes. They just can’t “meta,” which means telling a player something the player didn’t learn through their own gameplay. This is the strictest rule for viewers.

The events are so realistic, so true to form, one might forget that they’re fictional, especially when the real human streamers’ faces appear in the corner of the video game. The players inhabit their characters so completely because they have to. Breaking character is grounds for suspension. While anyone over 18 with a microphone can apply to play a character on NoPixel, the application process is strict, and entry is exclusive. Once accepted, characters go through specialized training for their roles, run by other role players. The Personnel and Training Division, to take one example, is the administration that recruits, hires and trains aspiring police officers on radio codes and proper conduct. Players can only attend “the Academy” after in-character interviews. When NoPixel launched, a meme circulated on Reddit proclaiming: “It’s harder to become a cop on NoPixel than in the U.S. Change my mind.”

One of my criticisms of the Metaverse idea is that tech companies have shown they consistently underestimate the willingness of users with bad intentions to purposely bringing chaos to any online platform. And despite the long successful run of NoPixel, even that community is facing its own existential crisis:

Earlier this month, Summit1g, another popular streamer who plays as a gang member, stated his own exasperation with the cops’ behavior. “The cops are in this position where I don’t even want to get into gunfights with them, because it’s just fucking stupid.” As he spoke, he ripped down the freeway in a black sedan with tinted windows. The city dissolved into desolate wasteland, bringing with it a thick fog.

Soon Summit1g’s frustration would come to a climax: His car flipped after being T-boned. The officers who arrived on the scene verbally abused him from behind their assault rifles. They faced no punishment — or even a lawsuit. “The whole server seems to be getting into this sweaty state, you know.” “Sweaty” is the term for gamers who go too hard, taking their play way more seriously than ever intended.

But while GTA itself was never meant to be anything but escapism, an action-adventure criminal-laden video game, NoPixel was always different. It sought to mirror reality. Beneath the most recent shooting video, a comment reads: “Cops don’t get punished. It’s like real life.”

ODDS AND SODS
* You don't want to lost weight:
Will Smith Edition.

* HGTV's White House Christmas 2021 will premiere on Sunday, December 12th.

* Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival is taking over LA starting April 28th. Tickets available Friday at http://NetflixIsAJokeFest.com

* A media executive left his career behind to help donkeys and save them from slaughter.

* The AV Club tells staffers they must move to L.A. or lose their jobs.

WHAT'S NEW FOR MONDAY
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:

A Very Boy Band Christmas (ABC)
David And The Elves (Netflix)
Hip Hop Family Christmas (VH1)
Homicide For The Holidays Season Premiere (Oxygen)
Joe Pickett Series Premiere (Spectrum)
Landscapers Series Premiere (HBO)
Michael Buble's Christmas In The City (NBC)
NOW Tonight With Joshua Johnson (NBC News Now)
Our Beloved Summer (Netflix)
Secretly Santa (Lifetime)
The Big Leap Season One Finale (Fox)
The Forever Prisoner (HBO)
Under The Vines Series Premiere (Acorn TV)
Voir (Netflix)

SEE YOU TUESDAY! 

If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.


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