You know how sometimes you have a bunch of good ideas all jostling against each other, jockeying for position in your mind, trying desperately to work their way through the barest sliver of an opening to explode into the clear? And then, without warning or explanation, something unexpected comes busting through the clutter, silencing some and shaming all the rest?
Yeah, me neither. Here's what I do have, though...
* CBS and ABC are now waist-deep in a legal fight over a new reality-competition series called "The Glass House," a program that ABC has scheduled to premiere June 18. CBS -- which filed suit against ABC and several of the new show's employees on May 10, alleging copyright infringement, trade-secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of contract and conspiracy (among other things) -- has even gone so far as to file for a temporary restraining order to prevent the new show from hitting the airwaves.
The main thrust of CBS' argument -- as I understand it -- is that the new show is a blatant carbon copy of their popular reality program "Big Brother," which endangers the popular and profitable program. ABC's counter-argument is that even though the shows might seem similar, they are not the same; moreover, the elements the two programs share are not unique to "Big Brother," but are standard (and not subject to copyright) materials in the reality show kit: diverse characters living in a house together, competing to avoid elimination and win prizes.
It's rare to see the networks fighting this publicly over anything, particularly a summer replacement series; usually, there's little more than sabre-rattling and a few choice words fired back and forth before the whole thing ends up settled quietly, one way or another. Actually going to court over this must mean that the stakes are a lot higher for both sides than in most instances.
* The success of History's "Hatfields and McCoys" -- the 3-part miniseries starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton -- has supposedly re-ignited TV's interest in the Western as a potentially profitable genre. (Never mind that the Appalachian Mountains are as much "the Old West" as the Island of Manhattan is a tropical paradise; what today's industry sees as "Western" involves pretty much anything set anywhere in North America during the mid-1800s.)
Certainly, the miniseries was a hit, but I wonder how much of that is attributable to the content, and how much credit ought to go to the fact that it was a TV miniseries starring well-known film actors. No, Costner and Paxton are not the draws they used to be at the box office, but that doesn't mean they don't have their own loyal fan bases, especially those who enjoy their work in period pieces.
Factor in that History spent the dollars to market the daylights out of the movie, tying it into the channel's other popular programs such as "Pawn Stars," and I don't think there was any way that "Hatfields and McCoys" was going to be a flop.
Does it open the doors for similar projects? I wouldn't bet on it. Producing Westerns -- either on TV or for the big screen -- requires an infrastructure and support system that simply doesn't exist anymore, which means they're often prohibitively expensive, the big no-no in Hollywood. Unless you're a big-name star or producer who can get a green light just because you like a script (or just the idea), the executive enthusiasm needed to get a project off and running just isn't going to be there once the numbers get crunched -- and without that enthusiasm, it isn't going to happen.
* You know it's summer when FOX trots out another edition of "Hell's Kitchen," the meanest-spirited cooking competition on television. The program is entering its tenth (!) season on American television, and it wore out its welcome with me a couple years ago, mainly because of its now-abject predictability. Contestants who brag about their kitchen prowess? Check. Said contestants falling flat on their face under the slightest pressure? Check. Drunken antics/general jerky behavior by contestants caught on hidden camera? Check. Star Gordon Ramsay flipping out and shouting profanity at the top of his lungs? Bleepin'-double-check.
The strange part about all this is that I actually like Ramsay. If you've ever seen any of his other shows, like "Masterchef," which runs after "Hell's Kitchen" on FOX, or either iteration of "Kitchen Nightmares" (particularly the less-aggressive British version), or even "The F Word" (and no, not that word; this F equals "food"), which airs on BBC America, you probably know what I'm talking about. On every show but "Hell's Kitchen," Ramsay comes off as bright, funny, even warm and congenial. "The F Word" even showed him at home with his kids; who would have thought Ramsay -- the tyrannical boss on "Hell's Kitchen" -- had it in him to be a playful, doting father?
Simply put, that's the person I prefer watching. Ramsay has a great deal of charm and personality when he's not being a taskmaster. I app reciate that the man's claim to fame is being a maniac, but the "Hell's Kitchen" persona he's cultivated is tired and played out, just like the show.