waynepygram.com: Mike's Update

waynepygram.com: Mike's Update

I've disappeared and reappeared so many times at this point, I think it's becoming a cliché.

The last time you heard from me, I was trying to figure out how to approach the last remaining episodes of The Thundermans. I had not watched the episodes yet and I didn't want the review to be garbage, or less than my absolute best effort, so I put it on hold for a few days. Then a few days turned to a few weeks, and then......well, we're only two weeks away from August. The Thundermans ended in May.

So here's a spoiler alert: I still haven't seen any of the episodes. They're still on my DVR taking up space, and honestly, I don't know if I even have a desire to watch them at all. You would think it's weird how much I wanted to write this review and now there's a possibility of me never doing it, and it is. It's really bizarre. The question right now is, why? Why haven't I written anything?

I honestly don't know. I love writing and I love sharing my thoughts on TV shows here. But I can't figure out why I've always had an issue with writing more reviews of shows. Maybe it's a case of getting old?

When I was younger, I was always heartbroken when it came to shows ending, especially ones I really liked. It often meant that one generation was ending and a new one was beginning. But if a show ends today, I really won't feel anything. I guess since I'm not a part of the target audience, and I've never developed any attachment to these newer shows, series finales mean nothing to me at this point. The last show that might have given me that feeling of heartbreak was Good Luck Charlie, as it started when Nick and Disney were still interesting to me and ended right around the time I started seeing both networks for what they really were. Girl Meets World didn't give me the same feeling because it was more like me being happy that it was finally being put out of its misery, and disappointed because it could have been so much more than what it was. Jessie and Austin & Ally were just decent at best, and the former fell off a nasty cliff so I didn't feel anything when either was gone. And even though A.N.T. Farm was one of my favorite shows at some point, it ate itself up and became something completely different in season three for reasons I'll never understand. To this day, I have never watched the series finale and I don't think I ever will. Man, thinking about season three just makes me want to hurt someone.

The point is, I don't feel any connection with the shows out right now. I mean, it's not like I should. I'm just getting older and these shows will continue to be at the same level of quality unless both Nick and Disney have major creative overhauls. But I'm still here to be a reviewer and express my opinion on what kids are watching today. No one wants to discuss live-action shows for children because there's really nothing to talk about anymore, and both major kids networks haven't put together a consistent quality lineup since the early 2010s. This blog gives me a chance to say what the average critic never would, so why waste that opportunity?

This update is to let the two or three people who post here (Spongey included) know that it's time for me to step it up and see how much more I can contribute to this blog. Ray has maintained it almost entirely by himself, and sometimes I feel bad because I can't be the partner he deserves. There was a time earlier this year where I felt like things would change for the better, and then I took another extended break away from writing. I don't want to keep making this same post every few months because if I continue, I'll have to leave the blog entirely. And that's just it. If I go, I'll miss it because I will always have unfinished business. And I'm not ready to go.

Here are some ideas I had for future blog posts:

-Thundermans finale review/post on what it ending means for Nickelodeon. That should probably be the first thing I write, and I don't know when it will come out or what I'll have to talk about, but I can't just not try.

-Nick at Nite Reviewed. I think I mentioned this before, but one night, I'm just going to review an episode from every show on the lineup that night. It will be an episode of my choosing and they will all be mini-reviews. They swapped out Two and a Half Men for Mom, which I'm not really happy about, but at least now, I won't be in a situation where I'll have to review any Ashton Kutcher episodes. You want to know how I feel about the Walden era? He starts off pretty good with his childlike charm, but after a while, he just turns into another Charlie. It's like the person we meet at the start of season nine and the person wanting Alan to get out of his house in season eleven are two completely different characters. Also, Alan becomes the worst character of the series. It's to the point where most of the time, I just wanted to punch him in his face. And the series finale was just.......I don't know. It ended, and it was a finale. You know what? Just don't go past season eight and you'll be fine.

-An analysis on how working on both iCarly and Victorious at the same time had a negative effect on both shows and caused  Dan Schneider's writing to fall off. I want to say things changed sometime in 2011, because that's when Victorious started having genuinely bad episodes and iCarly decided to have Sam and Freddie date. I could talk about that now, but it can wait.

-Maybe something on Star Falls or Knight Squad. Both pretty decent shows that don't waste my time. I had my doubts about Knight Squad, but it works for me.

-Something on season two of Raven's Home. I'm hoping they got over the jitters from season one and the show doesn't feel like a TGIF throwback anymore. I was going to watch the first couple episodes last weekend, but my DVR does this thing where it will keep up to five episodes of a show and then start deleting earlier ones unless you modify it. Now I have to find the first two episodes of the season. They're probably on the Watch Disney App.

That's it. I don't have any more ideas. What are you looking at? Go home.

Wait wait what are you doing don't go home yet!!!!!!!

But seriously, before I say anything else...to hear how meaningful this blog's become to you is literally one of the most meaningful things someone's ever said (or at least written) about me. I mean it.

The other thing is...it's actually really funny because I feel exactly the same as you do. On exactly what, you may ask?

...pretty much literally everything.

Let's start with your opening paragraphs because that really gets at the heart of why I even started this blog in the first place, and I'm glad someone not only actually figured out the words I've been looking for for now three years, but it just happened to be the other guy who writes for this blog.

When I was younger (really young, I'm talking at an age when say Bridgit Mendler and Debby Ryan were just being born...man I'm old) I had a tendency to be heartbroken when shows ended too (although the type of show I was watching at that age doesn't tend to be the one that gets a proper send-off, it's just one day the production order dries up and that's it, and all the big-draw network shows that everyone from the youngest to the grandparents would watch like Family Matters, Full House, Home Improvement etc. would still be churning out episodes for years to come...man I'm old) but for the few shows that appealed to my demo that did get proper send-offs...it was literally an event. And when I grew a little older, a little wiser, and most importantly a little more articulate (or a lot more, yay highest AP Language score in my entire high school's history, bam-what!) that didn't necessarily change. I remember the series finale of Full House for example, with Uncle Jesse's wedding, that was an event

I think part of it is that, at that age, three years seems a lot longer than it does at my age now. It's practically an eternity when three to four years represents about a third of your entire life span so far. So when a show like that ends, it really is a big part of your life.

But of course Mike's not necessarily talking about that age, and certainly I'm not when I'm talking about the first time I've regularly watched Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, at a time when the grade I was in at school was effectively post-graduate. But also at that time House (or House M.D., I've seen it either way and I'm convinced the network can't make up its mind) was ending, and let me tell you, that was an event. Namely because it had been running for so long and had become at least somewhat a cultural phenomenon, working its way into the larger pop culture picture not unlike say Full House. And what really helped is that...it was one of the few shows on broadcast at least I considered truly worth watching at the time. Now, the show itself ended up punking out with its finale, but still, just because of the huge goodwill the show had managed to build up, it at least didn't fizzle like a few certain other shows that I'll be getting to soon.

...and it just occurred to me that it's already been eight whole years since House ended, and this is the most I've actually given thought to it since. Wow.

And honestly, especially nowadays it's exceedingly rare for shows to avoid the fizzled whimper of a finale. Another show that was going on fairly strong at that time was Burn Notice on USA Network. It was a fun romp and highly entertaining, but due to the show's very premise it was hard for the show to rise above that without making really silly if not downright stupid compromises that killed its enjoyability and failed to deliver on drama - but that didn't prevent the show from doing just exactly that in its last season or two, and it ended about the same as...yeah, Jessie.

But let's focus on specifically the zeitgeist of myself (I can't speak for Mike of course, but I'd love for him to join in), the world/pop culture in general and especially Disney Channel and Nickelodeon themselves in what I consider to be the New Renaissance of those networks (after the Miley/First Raven/Cole and Dylan/Jamie Lynn Spears/Amanda Bynes era), 2010-2014 (or about when Disney Channel switched to hi-def to basically the premiere of Girl Meets World) especially focusing from summer 2012 to December 31, 2013 which was a personally important time for me. Barack Obama was still in the White House, ISIS was still just a girls' name, and I don't think the world was as crazy a place as it is now. And don't get me wrong here, it started getting crazy before The Orange Toupee occupied the White House. The Orange Toupee being in the WH is a symptom of this craziness, not the other way around. But I don't think there's any argument that things were different and calmer back during that last trimester of 2012.

And as for me, well...I've wrote about my cancer and dis-engagement with my ex at that time before, and Disney Channel and Nickelodeon were really good reflectors and barometers of the culture and zeitgeist of that time, exactly what I needed at that time. It was about having fun and bubblegum pop. There wasn't any need to worry about the LGBTQ+ community, or Muslims, or immigrants having anything to worry about in turn. Yeah, 9/11 was only a little over ten years ago, gay marriage was still three years in the future, and immigration is always a hot topic, but we didn't have the constant attacks, division and hate speech being passed on as legitimate news back then as we do now (and again, we didn't have to wait for The Orange Toupee to occupy the White House for this to happen - symptom, not the cause).

So what you had as themes (or even just as zeitgeist reflection - yeah I'm sorry for overusing that word) on both networks emphasized friends and family - hence Good Luck Charlie, Liv and Maddie and even like Austin & Ally, Jessie, Shake it Up, heck even Gravity Falls and Phineas and Ferb. And if there was any subtext just below that surface, it was having fun and adventure with them. Interstitials, bumpers, filler commercials, whatever you want to call them reflected this as well - this was when Disney Channel still bothered to push for music careers for their actual stars with Bridgit's songs being all over the network, for fun Re-Micks'es (remember those?) and other pretty entertaining content. And the DCOMs - from Lemonade Mouth to Sharpay having her own movie to Teen Beach Movie to what in effect is a multi-cam Shake it Up movie, not to mention the Wizards special.

Oh, and actual specials. Like the Friends For Change Summer Camp Challenges and the Shake It Up: Make Your Mark specials (which ran exactly twice). I wouldn't say Disney Channel was pushing boundaries or boarders but they were really rolling out their A-game at least in terms of effort concerned. There wasn't a lot of reason to be bored on the network, provided you pretty much liked everything on it. And there was a lot to like, even down to ANT Farm as Mike mentioned. Heck even down to Fish Hooks

Now compare that to what's on the network today - Andi Mack is drowning in its own on-screen drama, Bizaardvark's undergone a radical change due to off-screen drama, Bunk'd continues to wear out the same paint-by-numbers feeling that Jessie was coasting on in Season 4 and Raven's Home underwent a staff change for the inevitable worse, because Disney Channel learned exactly zero lessons from I Didn't Do It. Big City Greens feels like something scavenged from Cartoon Network (no that is not a compliment). Big Hero 6 is...there? It feels like a throwback to the movie-to-cartoon show adaptations that were hugely popular when I was a tween, so if you're into that that's good news for you but again that's not necessarily meant as a compliment.

...and that's it. I'm pretty confident that that's all the network has running right now. Stuck in the Middle ended this week. KC Undercover and Star vs. the Forces of Evil ended this year. Tangled in its re-vamped season has so far been MIA. Come to think of it so has Big Hero 6 for the most part. I have seen exactly one episode of Bug Juice and...aside from the real main event, which of course is going to be DuckTales, it's actually the one bright spot on the whole dang network.

...entertainment-wise. Ratings-wise it's a freakin' smokin' crater.

And as for DCOMs well...we have Freaky Friday coming in a few weeks.

That's literally it.

It's even worse than last year when they had to cheese and pass off the premiere of Tangled as a DCOM just so they can claim more than one. They didn't even do that with, say, Big Hero 6 (which premiered last year anyway, come to think of it?) Yeah we just get the one. Granted the same thing happened in 2013 with Teen Beach Movie but 1.) that movie ended up being, again, an event and kinda proved worth it and 2.) Disney Channel had lots of other stuff going on - millions of Jessie hour-long specials (if you're into that show, like me), crossovers (mostly with Jessie so, again good news if you happen to be into that) and...and...ok, so Nickelodeon despite starting their slump that year did pick up a bit of slack with Nicky Deuce...ok, but they also had Jinxed at least and...

...I am not making a great case for 2013 being a great year for Disney Channel.

Anyway where the heck was I?

Either way the shows of 2013 and into 2014 were at least engaging - Jessie and ANT Farm was at its best, Good Luck Charlie and Shake it Up even at its worst can hit with the best, we still had Phineas and Ferb and Liv and Maddie were the new kids on the block. Plus we did end up with an excellent DCOM, to this day remains one of my favorites. On Nick, we still had Victorious more or less, the Thundermans ended up being Nick's Liv and Maddie and...we had half a year of hype to buy into Sam & Cat before we found out the truth. And we still had very recent history with what turned out to be a very excellent year for both networks, 2012.

I know I'm sounding repetitive with the details but there's where you'll find the difference between here and now. Both networks tried, and not just with their shows, although that's certainly a big component. They actually had events, and not just with hour-long episodes or crossovers or DCOMs/NOMs - but on that note they also did a better job promoting those as events too. Hell they did a really great job promoting regular episode premieres as events, especially in 2013.

They dropped the ball on that even with GMW, now that I think about it. And no, premiering the episode early online doesn't have much to do with that earlier, that was routine back in 2013. Teen Beach Movie premiered online a whole week early compared to its network debut. I know this because I watched it online early.

If you go follow @NickAndMore on Twitter, you'll see a big reason why both networks stopped caring - it's pretty clear that Disney is promoting DisneyNOW as the future, especially now that it'll likely migrate to Hulu with huge revenue potential. Nickelodeon is struggling to find a Hulu-like outlet but believe me that's a top priority (it's possible Viacom will just build their own, although that's very much less than ideal). They've kinda hit upon a half-solution with some Netflix deals although that's just the thing, it's just a half-solution. Viacom buying out AwesomenessTV with its online legacy might end up being a path towards another, more long-term solution.

But the thing is, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are dying.

Long live DisneyNOW on Hulu and...whatever the hell Nickelodeon finally finds.

Monetizing ad revenue along an entire network doesn't work anymore. That model is dead. You need to monetize ad revenue along individual episodes to even survive anymore.

That's called the YouTube model, and you can do that easily with streaming, not even confined to just YouTube itself. You can't do that with this thing called a Television Set that just plugs into a thing called a Cable Outlet or into something called a Satellite Receiver. No, you need it plugged into this thing called Netflix now. 

But it also means that the old model of "they'll watch pretty much what we throw at them" is dead. Hopefully that means a return to the glory days of 2010-2014 when we actually had events, because guess what events are super-easy to monetize under the per-episode model.

But, we'll see.

And as for me as an individual, well...I think I have to recognize that I've changed and grown as a person, too. There's still a big part of me that's still there at the end of 2012, with a broken, cancer-ridden body and a broken heart. I haven't moved on from my ex. But, I've moved on nonetheless.

I've read over 1,600 books since I've had my tumor surgically removed.

I've gone to graduate school in the past year (actually, one year ago exactly, both when I originally joined in on this post with Mike and now as I'm finishing up).

I've gained a paraeducation position with the local school district.

I've met a lot of people who have been real nifty friends and fountains of knowledge and wisdom, from book lovers to people who just love book stores to STEM fanatics who have literally designed their own cars and planes and opened up just my raw, factual knowledge of the world away from just reading books and watching TV.

I've written a book myself. Yeah, really. More on that in a follow-up post.

But...and I had a feeling this was coming all the way back in 2012, I mean, how could I not? This is just a kiddie network after all. But I've come to recognize that, while I still watch the network, I've outgrown a lot of what I needed from the network back then.

Yeah, those 1,600 books I've read? That's been my Disney Channel replacement. In the half-decade, now going on 6 years since I've taught myself to speed read. I can read up to 700 words per minute, sometimes faster. I've recently hit a record of like 7 pages per minute. That book, which was 307 pages long, was finished in exactly 49 minutes. That speed reading thing was a big thing that got my application through to graduate school, actually.

Also I blame my friggin' DVR. It's given me an excuse to just go, oh, I can watch it later.

TL;DR: something something event.

Extra Thoughts:

 - What do you mean Jessie was just decent? Well, I recognize that I'm like the only Jessie fan on Earth and that's only because of my particularly colored tastes, and even I have to recognize it fell off a cliff (in fact I proudly maintain I'm one of the loudest advocates pointing out Debby just phoning it in by the end of S3).
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