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When Californians vote this November, they’ll face the usual candidates for president and senator and other local offices, but they’ll also be weighing in on seemingly dozens of measures and propositions. The hefty voters guide offers insight into how to determine the fate of such issues as legalized marijuana, the death penalty and condoms in the adult entertainment industry.
But wouldn’t it be fun if TV critics could add a few props of their own to improve the ever-shifting landscape of television today?
Here are 11 that come to mind. I’d vote YES on all. Remember: If you disagree, that’s what democracy is all about!
The Fallon/Meyers Prop: There’s a time for funny singing impressions, grown-up versions of fraternity games and general inane giggling, but it turns out that election year is a really bad time for that. This proposition would require that every four years, from the New Hampshire Primary through Election Day, that NBC move Seth Meyers up to 11:35 and shift Jimmy Fallon to…some other time. (Opponents of the amendment believe that not everything has to be political and sometimes, especially in moments like this, there’s tremendous relief in entertainment that’s utterly brainless.)
TV Favorites Return Tariff: This proposal will establish a simple opt-in box on tax returns contributing a dollar to a fund to bring established television favorites back to the medium that’s already home to all of entertainment’s best writing and directing. Initial beneficiaries will include (but not be limited to) Jennifer Garner, Dennis Franz, James Badge Dale, John Goodman, Betty White, Jennifer Aniston, Connie Britton (assume she’s leaving Nashville) and the entire cast of Bloodline. (Opponents of the tariff argue that if Dennis Franz wanted to return to TV, he would have returned to TV already and if Jennifer Aniston is happy with the quality of work that movies are offering her, she shouldn’t be forced to team up with an actually talented writer to revitalize her career on TV just because we think she’s better than what she’s doing.)
Tax Credits for Opening Credit Sequences: Look at Westworld. Isn’t it amazing the difference a great opening sequence makes when it comes to pulling viewers into the world of a show? Why are so many shows eschewing credit sequences? Even Mike Schur, who got great credit mileage on Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, skipped credits on The Good Place. This proposition would provide tax write-offs for original title sequences with additional write-offs for expositional songs in the Patty Duke Show/Brady Bunch/Gilligan’s Island vein. (Opponents of the tax credit say that opening credit sequences take away valuable programming time and that credit sequences are not integral to the branding or mood of a TV show.)
Recall the Netflix/Marvel 13: Isn’t the great thing about Netflix supposed to be that it doesn’t play by the stinking rules and orthodoxy that have governed TV for so long? Then why is it that Netflix’s deal with Marvel has forced all of its New York vigilante hero shows to come in with the same bloated 13-episode running length? The first seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil were all really good, but how much better might they have been at 10 episodes? The second season of Daredevil could have been six or eight episodes. And don’t even pretend that Punisher, a character who started strong in his Daredevil incarnation but was already spread thin in the weak second half of that season, needs 13 episodes. He doesn’t. This recall won’t forbid writers from going to 13 if they have enough story to do so, but it also won’t require them to do 13 if they don’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Marvel/Netflix show that maintained its early momentum and didn’t star spinning wheels or dropping bottle episodes between hours eight and 11? Consider it. (There are no opponents to this proposition. Vote Yes.)
The Kiss-off Prohibition on Rock and Roll in Primetime: No matter how much Tim Goodman likes it, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is strike one. Vinyl was strike two. And Roadies was strike three. Showrunners: If Denis Leary, Terence Winter, Martin Scorsese and Cameron Crowe can’t make rock music play on TV, chances are good you can’t either. (There are no opponents to this proposition. Vote Yes.)
Proposition 21: Granted, Zoey Bartlet was occasionally cool on The West Wing, but she also got kidnapped when Aaron Sorkin ran out of ideas. This proposition requires that in political and political-adjacent shows, if characters have children, they must be of legal drinking age, at a minimum. Nothing good can come from meeting the teenage sons and daughters of presidents, Congressmen/women or government agents. A codicil to this law is the Leo Provision, named after characters from Smash and Designated Survivor, stating that if you’re intending to name your teenage character “Leo,” that character really should be written out of the script entirely. (There are no opponents to this proposition. Vote Yes.)
The JonBenet Rule: Celebrating the anniversaries of gory child murders as a means of getting cheap ratings bumps even when you have virtually no additional information on the killings and no insight to help grieving friends and families is just ghoulish, and if you’re the 10th or 15th network to schedule your special commemorating the anniversary of a gory child murder…just don’t. This rule merely requires that those who are thinking of exploiting a child murder for ratings sit down in a corner and contemplate their actions for at least 15 minutes. If, after 15 minutes, they feel comfortable with what they’re doing…well, that’s on them, I suppose. (There are no opponents to this proposition. Vote Yes.)
The Netflix Proliferation Rule: Netflix knows what we watch and how quickly we watch it, but there needs to be regulation on the dissemination of product. This proposition permits Netflix to continue to avoid releasing ratings in exchange for instituting a policy wherein no new series can be released until at least 51 percent of the viewers who started the previous series also finished it. (Opponents of the rule insist they’ve just been waiting for the right weekend to binge on the second season of Marco Polo, darn it.)
Statute of Makeup Limitations: Too many shows this fall, and in recent years, have been hampered by comically bad old-age makeup. Offenders have included Old Oliver Queen on Legends of Tomorrow, Old Esposito From Castle on This Is Us and Old Nearly Everybody on Frequency. [Game of Silence on NBC did the reverse and tried having the actors play themselves in flashbacks with very little backwards-aging makeup, and that was ridiculous as well.] The sad reality is that while writers are ready and eager to do shows that span generations, makeup artists are not ready to deliver on anything more than 10-ish years of aging. This rule will require that writers doing decade-spanning stories either make the span tight enough to be achieved by makeup or wide enough to require recasting. (Opponents of the limitations argue that Mandy Moore’s makeup on This Is Us was close to adequate.)
Halloween TerrordinanceL This ordinance would outlaw the mandatory carpet bombing of holiday episodes on any particular network, be those episodes Halloween or Christmas or Passover. The proposal is a direct response to a week in which every ABC comedy did a Halloween episode, many of which came across as essentially identical. No matter how good the show — and Fresh Off the Boat and Speechless are both very good — somebody has to step in and say that families learning the true meaning of Halloween and going out trick-or-treating together well after traditional trick-or-treating hours makes for a [candy] corny episode of TV. The exception to this rule is Black-ish, which can do absolutely anything it wants to, as long as nobody ever makes the show go back to Disney World.
Referendum on Scandinavian Originals: Cable networks love remaking Scandinavian crime dramas, but does anybody exactly know why? It’s clear that savvy viewers and development executives love the originals, but these remakes keep either failing hard or just vanishing in silence. If nobody’s going to watch Feed the Beast or Eyewitness or Those Who Kill, why not just cheaply acquire American rights to the original shows? Nobody would watch them either, but at least that second group of nobodies would get to watch a good show and the cable networks would probably save millions of dollars. This referendum would up the import of Scandinavian native-language crime dramas while limiting the ability for American networks to even acquire remake rights. Bring on Den som draeber, Oyevitne and Bankerot! (Opponents of the referendum argue that they don’t like to read TV shows.)
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