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Even When It's Bad, Entertainment Is Good

Despite statements made in the original theatrical trailer and promotional material that such a production would never be repeated, That's Entertainment! is one of the few documentaries to spawn official sequels—either two or three, depending upon one's criteria.

Many people usually think that the entertainment age just happened but the truth is there was a lot of serious planning that was involved behind the games and fun. This can be traced back to the early decades but was later fuelled by Alfred Cornelius Johnson who wrote a suggestion to the congressman stating that the US government should allocate funds that would be used to hire comedians to perform in the public functions. The comedians were supposed perform for free and get paid by the government. This idea was borrowed from public libraries that are funded by the government where individuals can borrow books without having to pay a cent.

This was a great idea as people were tired of cowboys' shows. The idea however never passed as no one in the government was interested in the proposal. This however changed with time when power changed hands as some leaders saw that it was a worthwhile project. This however had to be done as a secret in the begging where the president at the time ordered people to be trained to tell and write good jokes. With time, the joke industry grew leading to the hiring of more joke writers and training of comedians.

This was a good move as individuals got relief from the jokes they heard and some sick people also claimed that they felt better when they laughed at the jokes. As the comedians and writers were becoming more famous for their jokes they decided to explore their talents to produce the material in masses so that many people would get to see and appreciate their work. This is where books and movies were produced in masses. At first, the equipment used was substandard but with time thanks to technology, these were improved to high tech equipment that produces top notch materials.

It is evident that the entertainment industry is one of the most thriving industries with lots of people pumping in money to produce great materials that individuals use for their amusement. It is also one of the industries that are likely to remain relevant for a long time as there are many creative minds that are introduced to the industry on a regular basis to come up with material that is received well in the market. People also need to be entertained mostly due to the challenges they have to go through on a daily basis thus they need a breather to remain sane as they go through their daily activities.

I support the idea that there are some amazing and obvious examples of pop culture which are mentally challenging, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to call these instances of mental acuity either a general trend or an absolute sum greater than the instances of less than rewarding pop culture. There is more money spent on "mental fluff" movies every year. There is more money spent on "mental fluff" music every year. There is more money spent on "mental fluff" books every year, too. In sheer numbers, the country is choosing stupider and stupider entertainment.

TV over the Internet

Imagine a world in which the producers of buggy whips and the distributors of buggy whips are engaged in a vicious fight over who gets what percentage of whip-sale profits--even as more and more of their customers trade in horses for cars. That's a lot like what we've seen lately as CBS, the U.S.'s most popular broadcast network, has faced off against Time Warner Cable, the nation's second biggest cable company, over retransmission fees, the money paid by cable operators to ESPN, A&E and other channels for programming. While the giants have been busy arguing about how much pipe owners should pay content creators for top shows, viewers have begun unplugging. They are increasingly watching TV over the Internet, where they can get what they want for free (or for a lot less than the $100 or more some shell out for cable and satellite).

It's a phenomenon known in the business as cord cutting, and it signals the biggest change in media consumption since the Internet began killing newspapers over a decade ago. The nearly 1 million households that have cut their cords in the past 12 months represent a fraction of the overall television market, according to a new report by Moffett Research. But that's double the number that bailed the previous year. What's more, pay-TV subscriptions, which have fallen for the past few years, had been expected to rebound as the housing market improved, since people often order service when they move into a new home. But now housing is up, and pay-TV penetration is still falling. "Cord cutting used to be an urban myth," says telecom analyst Craig Moffett, who is advising clients to sell a number of cable and telecom stocks, including Cablevision and Verizon. "It's not a myth anymore."

It reminds me of the tipping point several years ago when people realized they no longer needed a telephone landline and would do just fine with their cell phones. According to Forrester Research, 32 million consumers are already getting video over their televisions using Internet devices--including game consoles like Microsoft's Xbox, connected Blu-ray players and smart TVs made by electronics giants like Samsung and LG, and set-top boxes from companies like Apple. As these devices proliferate, the pace of cord cutting will accelerate. A recent study by the Diffusion Group found that consumers with Internet-connected TVs were twice as likely as other consumers to cancel their pay-TV services. Even those of us who have bundled TV and broadband-Internet subscriptions from telephone or cable companies increasingly use them to binge-watch Netflix shows like Orange Is the New Black on an iPad (in bed while enjoying a pint of salty caramel ice cream--not that I would know) rather than flip through 500 channels to find nothing on. As we've seen for decades, media-consumption habits evolve much faster than old media do.

Television is now being disintermediated by the Web, just as print was. The transition has taken longer; television was starting from a bigger, richer base. But now that the technology is maturing, the shift will speed up. Already, you can see players like Liberty Media's John Malone scrambling. They hope to consolidate the cable industry and hold on to pricing power in negotiations with broadcasters and new players like Netflix that require Internet access for streaming. But analysts like Moffett believe that the window is closing and that federal regulators won't allow mergers that threaten the viability of streaming-video firms. None of this means that cable companies will go out of business. Indeed, they are still the only option for broadband Internet in much of the U.S. But unless they can begin to charge broadband customers on a usage basis, they will have no mechanism to recoup lost revenue as their video businesses erode.

This transition will also create new pressures--and opportunities--for content creators. When CBS wants to double what it charges for shows, it won't be able to hide behind Time Warner Cable anymore. If you click on Dexter and have to pay more, you'll know exactly who is charging you. New content creators, like Netflix and the YouTube production studio in L.A., are adding to the competition. As the click-to-watch model becomes ubiquitous, the real winners may be technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon that operate across entire ecosystems, selling content and also designing devices and controlling lots of consumer information. Amid all this disruption, it's worth noting the other Big Media story of the moment: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post for a song. If cord cutting is any indication, the story of television and the story of newspapers may have very similar endings.

There is a flipside to this, and it is probably the one to which some of us have been more exposed to than the majority of the population who are the ones contributing the most to America's decline. There are the fringes which have become more and more intelligent, questioning, and challenging than any society since antiquity and the renaissance. These fringes are becoming more challenging every second, but numbers wise, they are insignificant. If they were significant, they would be the ones bringing in advertising dollars, not the ones who have to have campaigns to save them from being cut even after they win major critical awards. There are a small and slowly growing number of fringe entertainment outlets which are intelligent, challenging, and creative.

The domination of the media by entertainment conglomerates has a corrosive impact on journalism, blurring the line between news and entertainment to near-invisibility. "Profit pressures produce a dumbing down of journalism," writes former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson. "The media choose content not to educate or inform but to pander to the consumers advertisers most desire." As always, there are exceptions. In the music industry popular demand for edgy, stimulating fare exerts a positive influence on the decision-making of white, middle-aged executives. But by and large, the corporate media have failed spectacularly when it comes to nurturing a democratic and humane society.

Most people learn behavior and language by observation. Conscientious creators of popular entertainment realize that they have a responsibility to broaden and deepen the audience's understanding of themselves. Differentiating between good and bad models is part of that responsibility. The greatest authors, playwrights, and directors have interpreted the world for the audience, helping the public not merely absorb but understand. Unfortunately, a recent desire to depict concrete phenomena has stripped popular culture of its insight into abstract reality. Characters' facile behavior is indistinguishable from responsble conduct. A young person can watch a screen for hours a day without becoming enlightened about how people choose to do what they do, and what other options exist.

We have a tendency to look back and reflect. We look back on what was good, what we hope never happens again and what we were lucky to get away with. With any luck, the good outweighs the bad. In the world of entertainment, it's all good, even when it's bad. In recent days, the news has been full of horrible accounts of tragedy and destruction, making much of what we cover in entertainment meaningless. And while it may be trivial and unimportant in the day-to-day lives of us all, it does provide a respite. A place to point and laugh and shake our heads and forget about the troubles the world throws at us.

Like every year in entertainment, there are highlights and lowlights. But one man's highlight is another woman's "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me." There's something for everyone and hopefully we've all found something that brought a smile to our lips and put a skip in our step. Life can be cruelly short. So enjoy your family, drink in your friends. Take the time to say hello to your barista. Walk the dog. Thank your co-workers for their hard work and collaboration. Get your bucket of popcorn and settle in to watch that movie or TV show. What pleasure life can bring us is worth enjoying.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Entertainment section had turned into the Police Gazette. Sure, celebrities and misbehavior are not a new coupling. Movie comedian Fatty Arbuckle was the subject of a celebrated trial in the 1920s. (He was found not guilty, but his career was ruined.) Lana Turner and her daughter mixed it up with the rough Johnny Stompanato, who ended up dead at the hand of the daughter. And you could fill a book with the list of rock stars who have wrecked automobiles, been busted for drugs or fooled around with the wrong partner.

Gossip rags (and, for that matter, much of the news media) make their living off these peccadilloes. Celebrities do stupid things; the rest of us ogle the fallen famous like rubbernecking speeders. Too often the transgressions become the butt of jokes, whether due to schadenfreude or there-but-for-the-grace-of-God.

Art Attacks

Ten more ways culture can not only bore, but actually kill.
  1. The Agony and the Ecstasy
    After reading Irving Stone’s account of a dissection by the artist Michelangelo, Herbert Mullin took Mary Guilfoyle and sliced her open.
  2. The Bible
    The Good Book has encouraged maniacs from the preacher Benjamin Franklin Miller (he strangled hookers) to John Wayne Gacy, who recited the 23rd Psalm to his victims.
  3. The Catcher in the Rye
    In addition to being a favorite of John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, J.D. Salinger’s classic is read by the madman in The Collector. (He doesn’t like it.)
  4. “Exit”
    Robert John Bardo claimed that U2’s eerie Joshua Tree track (“The pistol weighed heavy”) inspired him to gun down My Sister Sam star Rebecca Schaeffer.
  5. “Polly”
    After two men raped a girl while singing Nirvana’s “Polly,” Kurt Cobain noted it was difficult “carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience.”
  6. “Better By You, Better Than Me”
    Violence doesn’t always have to be inflicted on others. Two Reno, Nevada teens attempted suicide after listening to this Judas Priest tune.
  7. Black Dahlia Paintings
    Not just a musician, Marilyn Manson’s portraits of a 1940s murder victim allegedly inspired a Scottish 14 year-old to butcher his girlfriend.
  8. A Clockwork Orange
    After the ultraviolent film was blamed for a wave of copycat crimes, director Stanley Kubrick decided to pull it from distribution in England in 1974.
  9. “Helter Skelter”
    Charles Manson thought the Beatles’ song warned of an apocalyptic race war (and the Beatles were angels). The Tate murders were his attempt to start Armageddon.
  10. Taxi Driver
    Martin Scorsese’s movie spurred John Hinckley’s attempt to kill President Reagan, which severely injured Jim Brady… yet failed to impress Jodie Foster.

But the crimes Jackson (sexual molestation) and Spector (murder) are accused of are no laughing matter. Indeed, given their talent and their accomplishments, if they are guilty, their fates reach the level of tragedy, sad codas to the lives of people who have given so much joy.

Joy, in fact, was often in short supply in the entertainment world, which is not at all what entertainment is about. To be sure, art reflects the times, but it's as if the anger, misery and cynicism of the world at large had overflowed its channels, leaving escapism a little less worthy of escape.

Political bitterness spilled over into entertainment in the form of the Dixie Chicks, who were pilloried for the criticisms of the Iraq war and President Bush leveled by lead singer Natalie Maines. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor of California and won, which was as much an expression of political dissatisfaction as it was a triumph for the Terminator.

Bob Hope and Johnny Cash - titans both - died. Talented performers are beloved by the public and influential across genres and generations. Madonna and Britney Spears shared a kiss. This gave a thrill to the prurient 14-year-olds of the world, but for two women who have built their careers on shrewd marketing, the act smacked of desperation, given that the pair's record sales are down (and Madonna's new career as a children's book author has met with generally poor reviews). Could make-out sessions on the Home Shopping Channel be far behind?

The biggest-grossing movie of 2003 was "Finding Nemo," a delightful tale from the wizards at Pixar that proved, once and for all, that all the best writers are working in animation. (TV already knew that: "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "South Park" are witty testimony to that fact.) At its best, entertainment provides joy and transcendence, a sense that humans can achieve great things and that we're all in this together. Sometimes the world isn't a pleasant place, but there's always the hope that the story can have a happy ending.

Rana Foroohar. The End of TV as We Know It. TIME . Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
Denise Hazlick Lead Entertainment Editor. Even when it's bad, entertainment is good. MSNBC. 10:14 a.m. ET Dec. 31, 2004.
Todd Leopold. The year celebrities went bad. CNN. Tuesday, December 30, 2003 Posted: 10:17 AM EST (1517 GMT).


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