I used to joke that Bernie Madoff was "The Man of Steal" but my newest title pun is the above and after watching Disney take a $150 million bath, I gotta say I have mixed feelings about it. Being a baby that once upon a time went boom, I grew up on "The Lone Ranger" and while I could never figure out why he had to tilt back his horse in the beginning of the show (did he run out of room?), the idea of silver bullets, a faithful Indian companion, the white hat, the cool tight like tights outfit and that Zorro mask just made the whole thing five-year old cool. These guys never seemed to have to shower or eat. They seemed to run on pure high-octane heroism. And by virtue of the fact that every dame in the west batted her eyes at the Lone Ranger, he, and for that matter, his horse, Silver, emitted no western odor. This was the life! You got to sleep by a camp fire, never deal with snow (I lived in NY) or scalding summers (the man literally had no seasonal reason for ever having to take that mask off). And the fact that no one could recognize him, despite his voice and body, made it seem totally possible that I too could disappear into myself and some might even mistake me for a superhero.
Now I was also an idiot when I was young and used to wear my Superman costume underneath my clothes to school. I remember being on "high alert" wondering if there was any danger out there that might require my services. After school, I would run, George Reeves style, into the school alley, strip off my clothes and "fly" home---only to be pulled back by my mother, by my ear, back to the alley to get my hastily dispensed of wardrobe. This, unfortunately, was a fairly regular event. TV had that kind of mesmerizing effect on us in the day. I didn't want to be like a superhero or simply admire them...I was them almost by osmosis. I WAS Batman. I WAS Napoleon Solo. I WAS Davy Crockett. I WAS Bat Masterson (in fact I had the official cane and derby hat). There was no messing around here. No time for pretense. I just absorbed the whole persona and went off and did my hero work. Imagination fueled me like a magic potion. I drank that entire pitcher of Kook Aid and morphed in flawless seconds. So it is with a very heavy heart, that I am not going to see The Lone Ranger simply because it is not the Lone Ranger. It is Jerry Bruckheimer's Lone Ranger and that is a whole different kind of P.T. Barnum show. Simplicity worked for us in the day and you know what? It still does. Today my Lone Ranger is Dexter Morgan. Alright, no, I'm not a serial killer lover. But I'm a lover of gorgeous writing, subtext and fascinating character. Now being a long time employed TV writer (18 consecutive seasons of sitcoms after 8 years of exclusive studio deals) I may seem to be prejudiced, but I've also been a movie lover since the days of "The Million Dollar Movie" on WOR in NY where I used to watch "Yankee Doodle Dandy" seven hundred times a week.
So here is the thing: TV is better written and more intelligently produced than movies today. Hollywood, despite youthful appearances, is nothing more than an old man's genital measuring contest that loves to celebrate it's own machismo. It actually thinks that bigger is better. Guns and bombs are entertaining. When I grew up movies were made for America for Americans and everybody got the movie a year later, in the "paperback" version. Not anymore. Movies are for everywhere else but America now and so witty banter and intelligent films have officially gone belly up. Myth travels. Broad comedy travels. So welcome to endless superhero stories and Hangovers. That's all that Hollywood wants to make. They are no longer in the film business, they are in the carny business just like the WWE (I worked there once too: there is no difference between Vince McMahon and Jerry Bruckheimer). The fact that bombs are blowing us up at finish lines or guns are gunning down children in Connecticut means nothing to Hollywood because they are totally out of touch with who we are today. Once upon a time, Hollywood invented us: they created a world to escape to, with manners and behavior and sometimes elegance....dance...music...that we emulated. Okay, it was the dream factory of self loathing Eastern European Jews (my people) but it was something other than the life we knew and we were happy to escape. But escape is over. Even the Wizard of Oz of today was full of bluster and big. When I grew up there were just three networks who operated like the great American circus: it was "Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages!" entertainment depending on the time of day you got what you signed up for...for as long as the vertical and horizontal picture held steady. I was on the Howdy Doody Show (where I panicked in the Peanut Gallery because I thought that the puppets could not breath and became an overnight national disgrace when I was escorted off by the not so patient Clarabell).
I also grew up enamored by Rod Serling and to this day I watch every single episode of the Twilight Zone from beginning to end once or twice a year. I loved Rod Serling. I loved his torment, his fears, his politics and his writing. To this day they inform me. He will always be my hero--and he didn't even need a mask---not a visible one anyway. We are hungry for understanding in this country. We crave the same kind of answers that they wanted in Biblical times. People don't change. Time does. And if you really want to get an audience, dig deep and they will come. The King's Speech did it. So do Frances Ha and The Way, Way Back. We are all walking cosmos full of a vast network of fears and contradictions and we do not need to be thrust into the Coliseum on a daily basis for the next Gladiator show. And don't get me wrong: a lo of TV plain sucks. For me reality TV is the new carny freak show where we can act like cocky Romans and decide who shall live and who shall die. It gives us the illusion of power and control, when in fact, you are being used and manipulated every single step of the way. I have worked on reality shows and it was a disgusting experience. It was all about pain and public humiliation for sport and if they didn't get what they wanted, they brought contestants back and made sure that they got it. So TV is far from perfect---but it does offer brilliance. There are documentaries on HBO and PBS that are just thrilling.
I worked as a publicist years ago at United Artists so I remember Paddy Chayefsky's Network. In fact somehow, when I wrote on the Emmy's years back, I convinced Steve Binder to have the speech that condemned TV in "Network" to be read by Peter O' Toole and Rod Steiger! Ha! Insane! Talk about calling the kettle black and white. So I leave you with this: Demand your rights. You are paying thousands of dollars for hundreds of cable stations like the Badminton Channel--not even The Goodminton Channel! A family of four is shelling out close to $100 for a night out at the movies to watch big bloated crap! So all I can say is expect more, demand better and stop accepting this level of mind numbing junk as your standard of entertainment. Hollywood does and has never cared about you. You don't exist. They care about numbers. You are a number to them. An Orwellian number. Demand more. Turn your back on stuff that dehumanizes and embarrasses and humiliates for sport. Because if you don't, well...you do remember what happened to Rome, don't you?