Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 315: Smack The Pony

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and as such sparked questions about how far women have come –- particularly in the especially visible media of television.

A lot of people in creative circles shared around an item from Indiewire entitled “The Golden Age of Television is Really White and Really Male”, a regurgitation of a piece by Huffington Post critic Maureen Ryan.

And that one’s a pretty damning indictment of the current television scene, revealing that a very small percentage of TV’s iconic shows are created or run by women.

To which, my completely politically incorrect response is –- “If it’s good who cares who created it”.

But such think pieces always lead to those recurring debates on whether men can write truly complex roles for women or why white guy Aaron Sorkin keeps getting hired instead of more talented writers like (your name here).

All of which, at least for me, is mostly about intentionally missing  the point so we can appear to be concerned with weightier matters.

A few years ago, readers of the Toronto Star were stunned one Saturday morning to see mug-shots of the entire roster of their MLB Toronto Blue Jays baseball club filling the front page above a headline suggesting the team might be Racist as most of the faces were White or Hispanic and only a small percentage were Black.

Somewhere in the editorial suites of the newspaper it seemed to have been determined that rather than having a team made up of the most talented players, Toronto needed one that better reflected the diversity of the city in which they played.

I assume because we’d then at least feel better when they couldn’t pitch or couldn’t hit.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I make my viewing commitments based on what sparks my interest, often checking out the name of the writer, director or showrunner AFTER I’ve decided “this is some good shit”.

Think of me (and I’d wager a massive percentage of the audience) as one of the judges on “The Voice”. I believe we blind audition everybody, seldom if ever changing our preferences based on sex or color or lifestyle choices.

I was hooked on “Ray Donovan” 45 minutes before I saw Ann Biderman’s credit, already knowing full well that I was in the hands of a master story-teller.

And I’d honestly never heard of Nic Pizzolatto until I rewound episode 1 of “True Detective” to find out what talented sonovabitch had just laid claim to my Sunday evenings for the duration.

It would further never cross my mind to think that HBO might have hired the director of that series, Cary Fukunaga, less for his abilities behind the camera than the diversity he provided by being half Japanese.

The inconvenient truth of our business is that even the most capable among us don’t catch lightning in a bottle, find ourselves in the right place at the right time or turn a success into a successful career.

Which brings me to “Smack The Pony”…

“Smack The Pony” was easily the funniest thing on television a decade ago. A British female centric sketch comedy show which won an International Emmy and Banff TV Award in the Best Comedy category in 2000 and ran through 2003 largely writer staffed and directed by women.

The success of the series bought its creators a second series entitled “Green Wing” which lasted two seasons.

That was followed by a single season of “Campus” which failed to find an audience. And finally a film called “Gladiatress” described as a “painfully laugh-free vehicle” by one critic.

The point being that male or female, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. So make the most of the opportunities you get and realize that what they like today is not necessarily what they’ll want tomorrow -– or maybe ever.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

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