Monday, June 26, 2017

FTT (Somewhat) Off-Topic: GLOWing with quality

Wrestling is the new awesome
A cross-post from the business blog, because I think it kind of qualifies as sports. Besides, the more people watch this show, the better the chance that they are going to make a whole lot more of it, and they really need to make a whole lot more of it. If for no other reason than watching Alison Brie heel it up is the best thing ever.

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This weekend, I binge-watched the new Netflix comedy/drama "GLOW", which stars Alison Brie and Marc Maron. It's a fictionalized version of the creation of an '80s television show for a women's wrestling promotion, and, well, it's great. The writer and director who worked on it honed their craft on the acclaimed "Orange Is The New Black", it hits all of the period notes just right, it does a wonderful job of stretching out and telling the stories over over a dozen people in its ensemble cast, and I hope they make many more seasons of it. Full stars.

But as delighted as I was by watching this, and as much as I'd recommend it to friends, that's not the most striking thing about watching this. What "GLOW" does is prove, not exactly for the first time but in a way that just deepens the conversation while adding more precedent, is provide the viewer with something they hadn't seen before. By doing that, it's just one more moment of long-form/small-audience entertainment that is just so much better than anything you might see in a movie theater. "GLOW" doesn't have to follow the set rules of big-budget stuff, which means it can be, well, so much better than what it might otherwise have been.

This way, you don't need to check the demographic boxes of people who will pay and leave their homes to see a project, and shoehorn in elements that don't really fit. Nor do you have to put the needs of multi-lingual audiences first with big special effects and less than full verbal acceptance. You can avoid having to sand off the very rough edges of your main characters in the goal of making them conventionally likable or attractive. You can also go to deeper and darker places with your plot twists, and not have to worry about de facto censoring from corporate interests and co-promotional tie-ins.

You can, in short, just make art for art's sake, and do so over a far more optimal amount of time. (In GLOW's case, 10 episodes, or the much better part of one day / evening's viewing.)

This is, of course, a dramatic and disruptive change in our world, where movies go from not just cultural hegemony and economic dominance to a much more blunt and narrow place. It also creates the conditions for economic upheaval, since I suspect shows like "GLOW" are going to be part of a retail apocalypse-like meltdown of movie screens, the same way that North America will eventually lose a third of its retail stores from the shift to online and economic leveling.

For everyone who thinks the U.S. is just going to keep growing, I've got a heaping helping of skepticism from the sheer passing of the Baby Boomers from areas of impact. There will be exceptions at the individual company level, of course, but it's not going to be a rising tide for all boats. Which all translates to rough time for the most treasured placement in brand advertising, the 30-second broadcast spot. Now that I'm cord-cut and the NBA Finals are over, I haven't seen one of those in over a week, and probably won't again until the NFL season starts. I can't imagine I'm alone in that group, really.

But all of that, of course, is Not Your Problem as the individual consumer. For us, there are simply great and memorable viewing experiences that stick in your brain for a long time to come, an unprecedented array of choice and convenience, and the desire to share that better way of living with friends and family. Hopefully for many more seasons to come.

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