Sunday, May 8, 2011

What were they thinking?

"The best laid plans of mice & men often go astray."---Robert Burns

The WWE had a feel-good story unfold over the last month after Edge (Adam Copeland) was forced to retire after 13 years on the active roster due to spinal injuries related to a neck injury he sustained 8 years ago. His former tag team partner and best friend, Christian (Jason Reso), defeated Alberto Del Rio to win the WWE World title at Extreme Rules on May 1. Heck, the creative team had the first feud for the title lined up for Christian in the form of 1996 Olympian Mark Henry, who had turned heel on Monday Night Raw mere days before the PPV. All they had to do was connect the dots.

Vince McMahon, unfortunately, had other ideas. It came out in the wash following the taping for the May 6 episode of Friday Night Smackdown that regardless of who won the title at the PPV, be it Christian or Del Rio, Randy Orton, who had been drafted to Smackdown, was the next in line for the title. The oh-so-inspiring story of Christian becoming World champion didn't matter to McMahon, whom internet scribes say never really took much of a shine to Christian in the first place, and never saw him as "main event material". Oh, please, give me a break! The internet fans can see where this is going, with the prospect of Christian turning heel himself. In all honesty, if McMahon wants to do right by his audience for once, he can avoid doing the predictable, and set things right. He won't, of course. His selfish, myopic vision won't allow it. His loss, as usual.

That wasn't the only head-scratching decision I encountered on the tube last week.

Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated has had a bad case of rerunitis on Cartoon Network all winter, and some sources claim that there was a contract dispute (what a shock) between the network and corporate sibling Warner Brothers Animation, which produces the series, which caused a delay. In the meantime, audiences outside the US were seeing new episodes up to two months ahead of us. While there has existed an internal feud within Time-Warner between CN/Boomerang and WBA over the last few years, according to reports, the viewers are the ones who have to suffer the most, just like in the labor disputes in sports.

Anyway, SD:MI writer-producer Mitch Watson didn't do his homework in preparing the episode, "Mystery Solvers Club State Finals", which had its American premiere on May 3. Watson used an old plot device made popular by Sherwood Schwartz on Gilligan's Island back in the day, and built the episode around a fevered dream that Scooby (Frank Welker) was having while fighting off the effects of the flu.

In that dream, Scooby teamed with the Funky Phantom, Captain Caveman, Jabberjaw, & Speed Buggy, along with Angel Dynamite, the Crystal Cove DJ who's been aiding the MI team so far, to battle Infernicus. As it turned out, Infernicus was in fact the Phantom himself, who would then reveal that Jonathan Muddlemore wasn't a ghost after all, but an out-of-work actor pretending to be one, which renders the 1971 Funky Phantom series rather obsolete. And therein lies the problem.

This is Funky Phantom's 40th anniversary, and how do they mark it? By completely deconstructing the character such that his whole existence is now irrelevant. It is an insult to any fan that actually cared about the series during its initial run in 1971. Yeah, it was a cookie cutter comedy-mystery in the mold of the original Scooby-Doo series, but it has also languished in CN's vaults all these years, ignored when it could've gotten some use, especially around Halloween. I am reminded of one of CN's lamest stunts of all time, a parody of the "Blair Witch Project", "The Scooby-Doo Project", which was a Halloween stunt in 1999, which, if used right, would've led to the CN debut of the 2nd Scooby DTV, "Scooby-Doo & the Witch's Ghost".

If CN's programmers had any sense, they'd have put Scooby on the shelf for about a month to sell the "Project", and subbed in Phantom and other series. Instead, being obsessed with Scooby as they were, they stayed the course, and refused to give the other shows a chance. Nearly 12 years later, they perpetuated that mistake by deconstructing the Phantom. Then again, [adult swim] has made a habit of warping Hanna-Barbera characters for their own twisted needs (i.e. turning Birdman into a lawyer and Mightor into a judge), showing not a whit of respect to the fans of the older shows. What it tells me is that the staff at CN, and this includes [as], while they may profess to have an appreciation for what came before them, they have an odd way of showing it. I'm sorry, but that snarky, so-called "attitude" went out with the last century.

The common thread? Vince McMahon routinely underestimates the intelligence of his audience. He still believes they have a "sound-byte mentality" and will forget things rather quickly. That's not entirely true. CN's staff of court-jester-wannabes don't seem to realize that their target demographic isn't confined to tweens, teens, & young adults. It expands to include older people who can fondly recall their favorite cartoons from their youth. I'd say the demographic range actually goes from 5-55, regardless of what they think to the contrary.

To paraphrase George Santayana, those who fail to research the characters they use, fail their audience. A hard lesson that apparently is harder to even learn.

No comments: