Overrated Media in 2006?
Regular readers of this space know I'm not above nicking a good idea for my own use -- with fair credit attached.
So I'm announcing upfront that my notion to pick the most overrated subjects in TV/media for 2006 came from local alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing, which kinda hampered a great idea with some questionable choices last month (Wizard of Oz and M*A*S*H as most overrated? In a world where Madonna, Paris Hilton, Colin Farrell and CSI still reign supreme?)
Here's my list. Please, please, please feel free to leave comments here with your own choices. Even if you pick me, I'll still let you have your say. To a point.
The Sopranos -- This one is tough to write because, like so many TV critics nationwide, I really want this series to be so much better than it often is. And what most often ails The Sopranos is what has also hobbled a wide swath of HBO series, from Deadwood to Big Love to Rome and beyond: lack of a coherent story. You need more than compelling characters and an amazing setting to make a quality TV series. You need a compelling story to pull viewers through episode after episode -- which the Sopranos, these days, does not.
MySpace -- Sure, this social-networking site is an amazing collection of cyberspace junkies -- from high-schoolers hanging out online to the middle-aged men who hope to meet them. But despite all the networking, blog creating and emailing going on, no one has yet figured out how to turn some 140 million different free user pages into cold, hard cash. Owner News Corp has tried to create its own MySpace-based version of YouTube, but the system doesn't have many videos and hangs up often. It's tried to promote films and TV shows such as Nip/Tuck and Failure to Launch -- only to find users who clog promotional web sites don't necessarily buy movie tickets or have Nielsen boxes stuck on their TVs. This service keeps Rupert Murdoch's media empire from looking totally behind the times, but it's a little like having a way-cool stereo receiver you don't know how to operate.
The Simpsons -- More TV critic sacriliege! Yes, there was a time when Fox's animated series was the coolest cultural commentary around. But that time is long past; now, the show's rapid-fire pace and sprawling voice cast is just an excuse for humorless non sequiturs and increasingly vapid storylines (one-eyed aliens invading Springfield as a allegory to Iraq? Yawn.) Unfortunately, Comedy Central's South Park long ago snatched the mantle of shocking, groundbreaking social commentary. But TV critics, loathe to admit they stopped watching years ago, keep up the charade (runner up: the never-funny Family Guy)
Blogs (and Vlogs) Producing the Next Wave of Big Names in Media -- Much as I personally love the idea of bloggers becoming the next Thomas Friedman or Andy Rooney, the decidedly unimpressive efforts of ex-Wonkette queen Ana Marie Cox (Time.com columnist) and former Rocketboom video blogger Amanda Congdon (ABC.com commentator, seen at left) leave little hope. This stuff also serves as a fateful reminder -- blogs are about inventing new forms of media; excelling in that world doesn't mean you're any more prepared to acheive in the old system.
Rachael Ray and Rosie O'Donnell -- I just can't pick one. Do I skewer the over-leveraged pixie with the grating voice and limited talent, or the obnoxious diva who is so busy inflicting her opinions on others she hasn't noticed what a gigantic drag she's become? Granted, they're both successful -- Ray's new daytime talk show is the brightest spot, ratings-wise, in a fading field and O'Donnell's senseless feuds have boosted The View's viewership by about 20 percent. But Ray's limp show is also real-time proof that TV chefs should never be allowed to do anything but cook on camera, and O'Donnell's inconsistency (railing about homophobia one minute, shrugging off stereotyping Asian people the next) only makes this occasional View watcher's head hurt.
There lots of others, of course. But I would rather hear your picks (and again, be more original than picking me or the St. Petersburg Times. That's a really old joke).
And, as always, click on a photo to enlarge...