Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, although it's been said many times, many ways: Holy shit we're all going to be out of a job and living on the streets soon, clinging tenaciously to our Snuggies and burning our DVD collections to keep warm. In a way, it's kind of like one of those heartwarming holiday stories where people learn to let go of all the materialist trappings and rediscover the true reason for the season is love and togetherness–except at the end you don't have any fucking presents and everybody's broke. So where to turn in these holly jolly, deck-the-halls-with-boughs-of-pink-slips times? To the winter wonderland of mindless entertainment and tabloid journalism, of course, where all of your problems are obliterated by a beautiful blanket of purifying white irrelevance, and you can flop on your back and make little schadenfreude angels until it's time to come in for some cocoa. Doesn't that sound nice and distracting? Come sit on Friday Buzzkills' lap and we'll tell you a story…
- Oh, except we forgot to mention that the world of entertainment is hemorrhaging nearly as badly as every other industry, with thousands of staffers worldwide getting their "Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year (somewhere else)" cards in the mail this week. Among the many casualties: Viacom cut 850 workers–including 500 who toiled in the Super Sweet Salt Mines of MTV Networks–after realizing that its business plan of "staking our company's future on the chance that Lauren will sleep with Audrina's ex-boyfriend and then they will totally go at for at least a couple more years" might not be as ironclad as you'd expect. Adding to the lines full of wide-eyed people trying vainly to translate their "development directing" skill-sets into something that might impress the dude conducting interviews at H&R; Block, NBC Universal jettisoned 500 employees and Paramount announced plans to dropkick another 100 through the goalposts of real life in the coming weeks.
- As studios tighten their belts and slash costs and cut chaff everywhere they can on the production side of things, naturally the Screen Actors Guild has banded together to discuss how they can best address the growing economic crisis. Their well-reasoned solution? Strike! Strike! Strike! Yes, excellent timing, SAG. Except for the part about the whole economy being in a tailspin, and the fact that compared to most people who work for a living, you are fucking children playing dress-up who float from charity function to after-party to luxury hotel on pillow-y clouds borne aloft by farts of your own self-satisfaction, we can totally sympathize with you not getting your fair share of Internet royalties. You get out there and give 'em hell.
- As always, the Evil Empire of Hollywood has a plan for combating the perfect storm of an economic crisis and a possible work stoppage: More crappy reality shows, like a new "supersized" version of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice that will stretch over two interminable hours in the coming months, which means you won't be shortchanged a single moment of shticky kvetching from Joan and Melissa Rivers, awkward, tension-filled silences surrounding Andrew Dice Clay, or any of the many stilted hair-related quips exchanged between Trump and Dennis Rodman. But while simply allowing Apprentice editors to take another J-break and let the footage roll a bit longer is a safe bet for NBC, other networks have chosen to take the proverbial bull by the horns (and guide them directly into their spleens) by gambling on original content, such as TV Land's new unscripted reality show starring celebrity couple Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Hamlin is known for Clash Of The Titans and L.A. Law–egregiously omitting his powerful turn in 1998's Like Father, Like Santa, we must say–but most people under the age of 30 recognize him as the leather Muppet hovering awkwardly in the background while Rinna answers questions about collagen. "Ever since I started here, I've been out in the marketplace looking for a celebrity couple with dynamic stories to tell, and when I met Lisa and Harry, it made sense," said Keith Cox, TV Land's executive VP of development and original programming, adding, "What could be more dynamic than watching two people whose lives have been defined by vanity be slowly eaten out from the inside by growing public indifference and the ravages of age, sort of like of one of those time-lapse videos of squirrels rotting only with lots more lip jokes?" (Actually, we added that last part sarcastically, but hot damn, when we put it like that it actually sounds kind of awesome.)
- Another way to scrimp and save in troubled times? Recycle, recycle, recycle. No need to blow money on new ideas when there are perfectly mediocre films sitting around the vaults that can be dusted off, spit-shined, reshingled, given a fresh coat of paint, and other euphemisms for lazily inserting cell phones and modern pop culture references, right? As your smug high school English teacher liked to remind you, there are really only seven original plots in the whole of literature, so it's only inevitable that we've already come back around to the age-old "novelist gets lost in the Colombian jungle and rescued by a horny soldier of fortune then they get chased by Danny DeVito for some reason" plot of Romancing The Stone and the "drunk English asshole gives up his inheritance for Liza Minelli after getting caught between the moon and New York City" skein of Arthur, both of which are currently being readied for remakes–the latter with of-the-moment star Russell Brand in the lead. (Because nothing says "posh millionaire playboy" than a dude who looks like a cross between Jim Morrison and that Williamsburg guy who gave you HPV.)
- Neither of these films are particularly sacrosanct, of course, but then someone had to go and pluck They Live from the employees' picks shelf at the video store. Seriously, did we learn nothing from The Wicker Man? (Other than the fact that Neil LaBute should go back to systematically destroying women psychologically rather than just punching them in the face.) Remaking cult films on a large scale never works out–because it flies directly in the face of everything that made it a "cult film" in the first place. Congratulations, Universal: You've forced me to stridently defend Rowdy Roddy Piper. Why couldn't you just update Hell Comes To Frogtown?
- Speaking of sequels we specifically didn't ask for, Candace Cameron-Christ-Bure recently told OK! Magazine that John Stamos is reportedly working on a "semi-remake" of the show he and Bob Saget have spent the last decade publicly ridiculing as a means of trying to maintain cultural relevance, Full House, that would reunite her with Jodie Sweetin and "revive [their] characters, but today as young women." So, basically it's The Bradys minus the poignancy? And fanbase? And any prevailing public interest in watching it, except among rubberneckers curious to see how well they cover up Sweetin's meth scars? Then again, "demand" is but a trifle when considering whether or not to reboot a property that was briefly popular years ago but which has since devolved into a universal punchline: How else to explain the fact that Creed is getting back together now that Scott Stapp is in "prime physical and mental condition" (which means he's not going to be doing any fun stuff like passing out on stage or trying to kill himself, so why bother)? Or the 15th anniversary "relaunch" of Los Del Rio's "The Macarena," complete with a sexed-up video, a forthcoming TV special searching for the new "Macarena girl," and a Jon Secada-helmed remix that crams in everything awful about modern music (unnecessary rap breaks, cheesy 808 hand-claps, reggaeton) in an attempt to poison yet another decade? It must be karmic retribution for something you did! Ay!
- Of course, perhaps no celebrity-related story was more tragic this week than the attempted murder of Scott Ruffalo, brother of actor Mark Ruffalo, who was shot in the head Monday and has remained in critical condition and clinging to life ever since as authorities try to piece together why. But then, did you hear about the totally unfair way Kid Rock has been told that his recent USO performances won't count toward his community service? Still working off the 80 hours he racked up after last year's infamous Waffle House incident, Rock has done practically everything to give back–including throwing a large, headline-grabbing charity concert and posing for photo ops with the troops—but he recently complained on his blog that Georgia State Court Judge Alvin Wong has denied his request to allow those to count toward his penalty, something Rock has termed "a slap in the face." It's like, what does the judge expect him to do? Pick up trash on the highway? Work at a soup kitchen? Do something that doesn't involve playing music on stage for thousands of fans? Clearly this fascist has a very narrow definition of "community service," and he's cruelly chosen to make some sort of example out of Kid Rock. Kind of puts things in perspective, no?
- As one of the fathers of modern radio, Bill Drake scraped away the remnants of folks like Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack by instituting a new regime of "Boss Jocks"–high-energy DJs who chattered less and played more of the hit songs that Drake believed audiences were tuning in to hear. The result was revolutionary: Drake's vision of radio as a streamlined, standardized machine that stuck to market-tested playlists of singles and delivered the news, time, and weather efficiently became the model for thousands of stations across the country, and it continues to influence most Top 40 stations today. True, it also homogenized radio, and one could argue that it robbed it of personality and turned it into a slick delivery system for advertising and predestined "hits" selected by Drake and his "protégé." But then again, anyone who's ever listened to the unfettered prattling of your local college radio DJ knows that Drake's credo of "more music, less chatter" isn't totally a bad thing. Drake died this week at the age of 71.
- With his outsized lower jaw (the result of his suffering from acromegaly as a young man) and slightly stiff demeanor, Paul Benedict was a natural for playing stuffy eccentrics like the quirky buttinski "Bentley" on The Jeffersons. But although that role–and the slight English accent–would follow him forever, Benedict also had a long, successful career in films and on stage, often as oddball authority figures in movies like Cocktail, The Freshman, and The Addams Family. Children also knew him as "The Mad Painter," who couldn't resist painting numbers everywhere on Sesame Street. Of course, most A.V. Club readers will no doubt recognize Benedict first and foremost from his many appearances in Christopher Guest's films, from This Is Spinal Tap (where he delivers the immortal line, "I am just as God made me, sir") to A Mighty Wind to Waiting For Guffman, where he played the very crucial role of "Not Guffman." Sadly, Benedict was found dead this week at the age of 70 of causes unknown. (Here he is in his memorable turn opposite Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl.)
Have a super weekend!