Friday, October 11, 2013

FTT Off-Topic: Jeffrey Katzenberger Does Meth

Do Not Let These Men Near Kids
Not sports, not spoiling, yada yada, read or don't or go smoke meth. (No, wait! Don't smoke meth. It's bad and stuff.)

In a newsletter that I read for the day job, Dreamworks poohbah and man who embodies all that is wrong with society Jeffrey Katzenberg weighed in on the end of "Breaking Bad" (don't worry, this will be spoiler-free to those of you who somehow have the mind-shattering personal discipline to wait for the DVDs) and how AMC and show runner Vince Gilligan really were, well, chumps.

You see, building a massive opus that speaks to the American psyche and consciousness, one that you will be rewarded for through the creation of a fan base that will follow you for as long as you make anything with even a scintilla of quality, is the loser play. Instead, what you should have done is to take the last few episodes and make them pay per view. Really expensive pay per view.

No, seriously. The end of a show that depended on word of mouth should have burned down the village that it built to collect on the fire insurance. Because, hey, well, money.

I'll leave aside the small but obvious point of how, if making money was the only thing involved here, perhaps Gilligan and crew should just be, well, cooking meth. Instead, let's go into the shadowy world of whether that would have even made them more cheddar. Ten million people watched the end of "Breaking Bad" when it was live, and in all likelihood, many millions more will catch up in their own time through the streaming and bingework. This franchise will pay off in spades for months, and maybe years, on end. Unlike "The Wire", which is walled off in the HBO content garden to wither and fade with age, new people come to "BB" every day; the pilot episode is among the most watched things on Netflix. But all of that pales to the movie studio-centric view of the big score, the monster pay off, the $100 million weekend and the Monday morning knowledge that you, sir, are the Master of the Universe, and the Universe extends no further than your own eyesight.

So, well, Katzenberg does meth, at least mentally.

And this speaks to a far greater truth: movies, which used to be the highest cinema art form there was, are now no more than third on the food chain, somewhere below basic cable and broadcast, because people like Katzenberg have taken their last mile jackpot fever dreams and ruined the business with them. They are made for people who don't need to understand the words to enjoy the effects, they all have to cost $100 million and up to make the expensive seats and screens make any sense at all, and serious people avoid 'em like the plague.

What is Gilligan doing now that he can do, well, anything? Another TV show. One where he won't have to listen to people like Katzenberg tell him to go to pay per view, or to include extra cast members outside of their age and racial demographic to make sure we draw more people into the building. Or have the super-happy ending, or the foreign-friendly plot pace, or any of that other nonsense that we've seen too many times before. Or, maybe, just because, he knows that dealing with short-term meth head-esque thinking will cost him money, rather than make it...

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