Monday, August 29, 2011

Gay Star Trek

There are plans for a new Star Trek TV series. Among the tidbits, two gay leads. Is there a problem with this plan? Sure. As William Goldman noted, in Hollywood "nobody knows anything." But ... in Bar Rescue, a reality series on Spike-TV, bar consultant John Taffer knows quite a lot. With demographic profiles, surveys, even aerial photos of nearby bars and identification of what kind of establishments the competitors are. All that for a reality show. The great "Moneyball" revolution has begun, with ordinary bars, restaurants, and every other small business discovering that computers and simple stat programs (often just spreadsheets) can offer meaningful statistical analysis to make their business a success while others fail. How long can this sort of idiocy, ala "Gay Star Trek" go on?

Not long. Because sooner or later one Hollywood studio will gain dominance by adopting a Moneyball approach.


Goldman believed no one knew anything, and that moreover, no one could know anything. This belief pretty much approximates Baseball management before Bill James and the Moneyball revolution proved this wrong. Making "gut calls" on both players and moves (stealing bases, giving up outs to move a runner up into scoring position, going for "good body" guys who can't hit instead of "ugly" guys who can) is no longer supportable. The same way that trading by big firms has moved away from "gut calls" and instinct to program trading, computerized searches for micro-advantages in mis-pricing, so too has sports management. Besides baseball (the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, and other teams have adopted all or part of the Moneyball approach), the NFL (particularly the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints), NHL, have adopted a method of statistical analysis to overturn long-held but erroneous assumptions about proper strategy and player selection.

Only Will Smith and his agent have really applied any rigor to figuring out what movies are successful, and which ones are not, and identifying common elements. Such as a Sci-Fi theme, action, comedy/humor, and so on. Early in his career, Smith and his agent sat down and did such an analysis, and came up with a set of criteria that he has mostly stuck to, in taking roles or declining them. Such a discipline has led Smith to become one of the all time box office champions, in terms of leading men. And it was not really that hard to figure out.

So too with TV. TV breaks down into female-oriented (which is most of it) and the few scripted shows that guys still watch. Star Trek, the original series, was famously just a Western set in space. Creator Gene Roddenberry pitched it as "Wagon Train to the Stars" and it even had regular Western character actors such as DeForrest Kelly as one of the leads. The original series garnered so-so ratings on NBC during its run, upon cancellation running for decades with great ratings. Various film revivals made lots of money, and series attempts even with living room sets (Star Trek Next Generation) or female captains (Voyager) or looming angry Black guy leads (Deep Space Nine) did acceptable ratings. The secret to the original series repeat success in syndication was being just a Western in space. That was it. The whole point. Nerdy White guys watched in droves, imagining they were Captain Kirk. A guy macho, but not too much, whom they could conceivably become. Those nerdy guys first started balking at imagining themselves the patriarch of some living room in space (Next Generation), then as some Looming Angry Black guy (lead Avery Brooks, a fine Shakespearean actor, for some reason played the character of Commander, later Captain Sisko like Othello). The last straws were Captains as inept female middle managers (Voyager) and milquetoast nebbishes (Enterprise). The final Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, was canceled in February 2005.

Who watches Star Trek? Gays? Nope, only 2-4% of the population is gay. What about the revival of BattleStar Galactica, which had prominent gay characters? That show was mostly watched by ... women. And it had fairly miserable ratings, as it went. Witness the swift cancellation of "Caprica" the follow-on show. Much of the TV business either is too stupid (always a possibility) to realize press and media coverage do not equal popularity (Gossip Girl dominates the media, yet barely ekes out a million in viewers). Or producers and such don't care, they won't share in financial success and just want to raise their profile in the industry for their next job.

Nevertheless, a professional management would have on hand:

1. What is the target audience, how much of them can we realistically expect to get, and how much will advertisers pay to be on our show?
2. How much will the show cost, and how expensive will it get over the years?
3. How long will the show realistically run?
4. How much can the studio sell other areas of revenue, DVDs, merchandising, etc.?

A professional management, would know much indeed. It would know the success rate for each type of show, and each type of audience intended. Women are not fond of action-mostly shows, and men don't watch night-time soaps. It would know how much money would be spent, and how much money would be expected in return.

Proposals such as a Gay Star Trek, would be laughed out of the office. Writers and producers would not even pitch them, for fear of looking stupid. This seems like a monumentally stupid idea, therefore it is almost a lock to go into production.

No one knows anything because they are less motivated than a bar consultant to find out about their business. Who their customers are, what they want, and how much money each type generates. It is astonishing that Warners/DC has not copied Marvel's formula for exploiting, what must be admitted is second-class super-heroes. With a rich pantheon of demi-gods and mythological heroes, DC is making ... Deadman the series, on CW. Along with a flop-tastic Green Lantern, and Jonah Hex. With all that money, why hasn't there been a plan to have Christian Bale's Batman, a Superman, a Captain Marvel, a Doctor Fate, a Hawkman, a Green Lantern, a Flash, a Green Arrow, a Wonder Woman, and a Martian Manhunter team-up in a Justice League Movie? Or two?

Why? Because Warners/DC are run by a bunch of idiots. Meanwhile, Disney has largely left Marvel alone, to make decent to good superhero movies. Thor, Captain America, and the second Hulk movie were all acceptable to good comic book movies. Captain America may be the best of its genre. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury shows up in all of them, along with the Iron Man movies, and fans are excited. Marvel is not doing anything difficult, and the formula is pretty cut and dried. Stick to the comic book origin and basics of the character. Choose an actor over a physique, and strike a long-term deal. Use good actors in all the roles, don't skimp on support. Treat the script with respect, don't camp or joke it up. Deliver meat and potatoes and the fans will show up -- there is a reason these characters have lasted for in some cases more than half a century. Their creators knew what they were doing -- just don't screw it up.

Nope. Instead we'll get a Gay Star Trek. To match the Gay Christ Allegory of Superman Returns. It will fail, miserably. And execs will say, no one watches sci-fi on TV anymore. Let's do another soap opera.


34 comments:

Jeff Burton said...

I think you are right but it will take a disruptive outsider to do what you suggest. Think of the Fox News model.

Anonymous said...

You mention baseball as using money ball in selecting players. As football fan, I'd like to remind you that the Dallas Cowboys were doing something similar in late 60s and 70s under Tom Landry with computers. There similar policies regarding the draft and acquisition of players is one reason they earned the moniker "America's Team". Your also right that more businesses of any type should be doing money ball analysis to aid in success.

Anonymous said...

BSG II had prominent gay characters? I can't think of any at all, much less prominent ones. Of course, there may have been some, but the tone of the series was definitely heterosexual.

Gendeau said...

ON topic

BBC receives complaints that Torchwood is ‘too gay’

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/10/bbc-receives-complaints-that-torchwood-is-too-gay/

A spin off of Dr Who that is said (by friends who care about Dr Who) to have become sex-positive..

The gay writer has been adding (his preferred flavour of) sex to what had been a (geeky) family suitable sci-fi series.

Since the original Dr Who until the last few years (so 50+ years of shows), sex was not relevant, not interesting, but hey get a gay writer and all of a sudden you get naked gay sex scenes as a necessary part of a kid's sci-fi show...

I know Kirk had a liking for a bit of exotic action, but somehow they managed to make a clasic series with any visible sex.

Leave 'it' out, 'it' is not relevant.

Thrasymachus said...

There was a Justice League movie, to be directed by George Miller of Mad Max fame. It was cancelled, apparently over concern for high costs.

People in Hollywood- even or especially the producers- think they are srtists, and would die before they tried to figure out and make what people wanted to see.

map said...

What exactly is "money ball" and where can I read up on it?

map said...

What exactly is "money ball" and where can i get more info?

DaFarmer said...

what exactly is 'google'?

Jules said...

I was a huge fan of the BSG revival in its early days, having never seen one episode of the original. I thought it was something original and fresh for its time, even though it seems to have copied The Shield's camera style. The movie and the first 2 seasons had great storylines. As the series went on though, they moved away from the series original military, sam peckinpah influences as Ron Moore started hiring writers like Jane Espensen who were more interested in character arcs that went nowhere, bullshit political rent seeking and overacting that just drove the series into the ground.
The first 2 seasons were good precisely because they contained character arcs nestled within a storyline: Attack a heavily defended base without the aid of an aircraft carrier which gives the characters their own mini-triumphs and defeats.
None of that in the later seasons, just soap opera weepy boo hoo poor me storylines.

Professor Hale said...

Remember that Torchwood was a gay extension of Dr Who because hte producers wouldn't let the main line development of Dr who be killed by it.

Same thing happened with the stargate series with Universe. The only "healthy" stable relationship in the series was the lesbian and her "wife". Even in one of the alternate future universes, when everyone is settling down and pairing up for the long term, the Lesbian seems to have plenty of hotties to date, but just doesn't "click" with any of them.

In both, the story was a home run. The writting, acting and production was top rate and the homosexuality did not contribute to the story, but had to be included anyway for some reason.

While we are at it, lets not forget the other gay attempts in star trek. In Deep space, you had the dax's still loving previous partners. In Next Gen you had Riker putting the moves on some kind of "third gender" thing with customary tut-tutting about sexual morality being totally arbitrary.

Go ahead and kill another promising series before it even gets off the ground.

Jules said...

If the object of the story is to attract male hetero viewers, you can forget the gay storylines. Blame it on whatever you want, homosexual stories don't jive with young male viewers because they can't place themselves in that character's shoes. They won't watch it by themselves or with their girlfriends or wives, no matter how much pizzazz and edginess you insert into it.
They want james bond, superman and batman, not the midnighter and apollo.

Jules said...

One last word on BSG, since I'm watching NatGeo's 9/11 interview with George Bush. Notice the first season's no nonsense military/civic dynamism like the hugo award winning first episode where Lee Adama blows up a civilian ship giving off radiation alarms on the orders of the president. He has issues with that later with both his father and the president that he resolves with the successful mission on the asteroid and the season finale. His father the commander tells him he's not interested in navel gazing, "leave that to the historians"
Compare that with the absolutely boring, navel-gazing soap opera courtroom trial in season 3 of the pseudo-saddam hussein, pseudo-jesus, pseudo-petain..zzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Anonymous said...

Did anyone care about any non-Ferengi, Changeling or Cardassian characters on Deep Space Nine (except when they were love interests or sidekicks of Ferengi or Cardassians)?

I've never met anyone who did? It's all "Odo that," "Quark this," "Plain Simple Garak" that, "Gul Ducat this" or even "Rom that." All the other characters were bit players.

Well, except for villains like Weyoun, everyone likes him too.

Polichinello said...

"Gay Star Trek"

Sir, you repeat yourself.

josh said...

Like the original wasnt a screaming gay fest??

Anonymous said...

The gayness of Star-Trek, like it's jokes, were always best when understated to point of barely perceptible.

i.e. "Take my rod and eat it"

jerry said...

The last straws were Captains as inept female middle managers (Voyager) and milquetoast nebbishes (Enterprise). The final Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, was canceled in February 2005.

This whole post kind of pisses on your oh-so-oft repeated theme that Hollywood only gives its audiences what they want. The reality is that Hollywood has an agenda that they push as much as they can, even at the risk of financial failure. They don't put these things on because there's been a failure at bean-counting, they do it because they seethe with a racist hatred of traditional white America and want to destroy it. That's what attracts them to the business in the first place, and if they can make a little money off their holocaust victims while destroying them, well so much the better.

Anonymous said...

transformers series, michael bay movies in general, star wars 1-3, jurrassic park series, all seem to have been made specifically with money in mind, we know they make more money off of merchandising from a lot of movies. I think there is moneyball style thinking more than you let on, but they cripple themselves by insisting on pc preaching

Anonymous said...

The problem with Torchwood (and other BBC series such as Dr Who, Spooks, etc) is not the gay sex but the emotional incontinence of the characters. You know they're about to kick off as soon as the minor chords come in. Instead of having commercial breaks the BBC has emotional beakdown breaks where the characters start crying and talking about their feelings. And they expect us to pay a license fee for this drivel...

Anonymous said...

The reason it won't take off is because as campy as the original Star Trek was the characters displayed noble qualities, were for the most part selfless and they all had a higher purpose that was direction of the story telling. People like Captain Kirk because he was(acting opinions aside) a great captain and leader of the enterprise, Spock, regardless of being a Vulcan, was a great 1 st mate and loyal officer and friend to Kirk, same with Bones, same with Scotty, same with the rest of the main crew. The point is, each episode always dealt with an issue the Enterprise experienced as a whole and figured out how to resolve it together. Drama and emotional stuff was always experienced as part of the problem that needed to be solved for all of the Enterprise as a whole and every one on the ship put it first. You didn't have 30 little over emotional, over dramatic little character side stories that constantly pulled away from the main story. When someone watches a fantasy story, its precisely because they want to be pulled away from reality, drawn into an intriguing story, with heroes, villains, problem, solution. Not over developed characters that do nothing to enhance the story. If people want that kind of drama then watch reality television. The all about me in every show on television has created character based writing instead of great story telling. I would say people want to see characters that add to a central plot, theme. NOT character stories, that's for day time soaps and drama TV. I could care less about gay characters, straight characters that are only focused on themselves, and bring on the great captains, the great aliens, the great confrontations, the great plots. Then they will have great shows again.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey,

Please see the current celebrity cast of Dancing with the Stars.

Talk about ratings killer.

But it will get the producers of the show a GLAAD Award!

Anonymous said...

Will Smith is gay.

Anonymous said...

"Gay Star Trek"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vqvH4mr2M8

How about "Liberalism Star Trek"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsy4mjSHtcE

1. guaranteed universal healthcare, housing, food, education
2. elimination of wealth disparity
3. worldwide central government
4. equal life outcomes aka "equality"amongst race


The most implausible aspect of Star Trek is not the warp engines or transporters. It's the part where Black people have the same networth as Jews and the science department at the Star fleet acadmemy has a 50% / 50% distribution of male and female students.

DaFarmer said...

Will Smiff be gay? Damn!

Anonymous said...

Scotty!!
General order 24 in 2 hours!!
In 2 hours!!!!!!!!!!

Svigor said...

This whole post kind of pisses on your oh-so-oft repeated theme that Hollywood only gives its audiences what they want.

It's a stupid theme. How TF is Hollywood supposed to be ad-driven? There aren't any ads, for Chrissakes!

Yet Hollywood pushes PC-multiculti at least as hard as TV does. TV has to be more family-friendly.

If Hollywood is as concerned with giving people what they want as Whiskey pretends, where's the Christian entertainment? Where's the follow-up to Passion? Why'd they try to kill Passion? Where's the follow-up to 300?

The simple fact is, Hollywood has money-making as a primary agenda, and Ashkenazi interests as secondary. Sometimes secondary interests trump primary interests. Sometimes they're indistinguishable. E.g., how do you separate the two when considering whether to give control of Hollywood to another ethnicity? Kinda hard to make money when someone else takes over your business.

The reality is that Hollywood has an agenda that they push as much as they can, even at the risk of financial failure. They don't put these things on because there's been a failure at bean-counting, they do it because they seethe with a racist hatred of traditional white America and want to destroy it.

Indeed, though I'd characterize the motivation differently. They want to pass Hollywood on to their grandchildren. Kinda hard to do that if you don't keep indoctrinating America into submission, into fearing looking behind the curtain.

Svigor said...

The most implausible aspect of Star Trek is not the warp engines or transporters. It's the part where Black people have the same networth as Jews and the science department at the Star fleet acadmemy has a 50% / 50% distribution of male and female students.

Absolutely not. Science aside (anybody who pays attention to innovation knows that medicine & genetics will yield results over the coming centuries that make Star Trek look really silly in hindsight), the most implausible aspect of Star Trek is the demographics.

Given several centuries of fully-embraced kumbayah PC (impossible, but that's Star Trek's premise), NO, the demographics of Starfleet will not resemble the demographics of 1960s-2010 America. They will resemble Brazil. No, the crew of the Enterprise would not be 65% White. Hell, they wouldn't even be 65% human.

The demographics of Star Trek show perfectly that people don't want you telling them they'll be race-replaced out of existence by your policies. The demographics of Star Trek are an outright lie, a dose of morphine to get the patient on the table for his vivisection.

Whiskey said...

Svigor, Hollywood in TV is very much ad-supported, excepting HBO/Cinemax/Showtime. The TV studios subsidize the movie-making (most of the profitability of the studios comes from TV production, sales, syndication, and the like).

That's the bread and butter, The WSJ reports that

"Casablanca" was shot at the Warner Bros. studio lot here, as were "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Million Dollar Baby." But while movies may confer glamour and prestige, it's television that pays the bills.

"Movies come in and they're like a rich visiting uncle, but we know where our bread is buttered," says Jon Gilbert, president of Warner Bros. Studio Facilities.

Whiskey said...

Further, I'll add that movies themselves are either male-oriented (cheap horror/slasher flicks, cheap gross out comedies, expensive action/comic book/adventure flicks) or female oriented (cheap, chick flicks).

The need to appeal to a female audience drives a lot of PC. Meanwhile pushing PC is self-defeating. A massive Mexican population with little money means ... well it means Eli Roth finding "Hostel" sold in pirate DVDs outside his Mexico City hotel room for 25 cents. Poor Mexicans don't pay much for entertainment. They certainly don't pay full theatrical price when they can wait six months and get a pirate DVD, and they don't watch much of the films Hollywood likes to make and is good at. Not too many Mexicans at SWPL films like Sideways or Little Miss Sunshine.

Hollywood consistently leaves money on the table. Brad Thor's and Vince Flynns' books both outsell the Dragon Tattoo books (by Stieg Larsson) but Hollywood has not touched them. There have been no feel-good "kill the Jihadi" movies made despite there being an ample audience for it, meanwhile every comic book writer and movie director/screenwriter wants to copy failed "Watchmen" because it hits their own views (Heroes bad, Western society bad, etc.)

William Goldman says in Hollywood nobody knows anything, but back in Mogul Days they did. Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, made picture after picture that made money, because it was their money on the line and they made the profit or took the loss directly. Now, because studios cheat constantly on residuals, no actor, director, writer, producer expects anything less and gets paid UPFRONT. So they care not a whit if the film fails or is a hit. They get paid the SAME either way.

Whiskey said...

The only people who really "get it" and give the audience what they want are the writer-producers in Hollywood like Chuck Lorre who own substantially their own shows and thus profit from it. Other folks are just guns for hire, they don't even own their own shows, and get paid a salary that is fixed, if their show is a massive hit or a big failure.

The blogger Furious D noted this first, that Hollywood's payment structure by not giving honest ownership/action to the creative people guarantees the kind of "make stuff to get your next job from insiders" agenda. Your Hollywood director, writer, actor, and producer are not there to make money by producing a hit, but to get their next job by proving their bonafides to insiders. That means being reliable, dependable, insurable, and having the correct (self-defeating to be sure) opinions of who the enemy is: the audience that buys tickets and DVDs.

Svigor said...

Svigor, Hollywood in TV is very much ad-supported, excepting HBO/Cinemax/Showtime.

I don't even know what that means. Hollywood makes money by selling movies and the associated merch. TV makes money (subscriptions aside) by selling advertisements.

The TV studios subsidize the movie-making (most of the profitability of the studios comes from TV production, sales, syndication, and the like).

This seems to be a weaselly way of saying that movies don't make money. But of course, they do. The fact that movie producers have figured out that opaque accounting practices make them more money is neither here nor there; it is not license for you to make whatever political argument you like.

Svigor said...

The need to appeal to a female audience drives a lot of PC.

Potato, potato. I see the needs of the producers as driving PC. This agrees far better with the slow boiling the frog approach we've seen over the last 50 years than your theory does. It's not about what the audience wants to see (if you want to know what the audience wants to see, look at what remains CONSTANT about the content being produced, not what is CONSTANTLY CHANGING), it's about what they're willing to put up with. It's only possible to "nudge the polls," as it were, a few points in any given direction. Over time, this leads to significant change.

If it were really just about appealing to the female nature, we'd have seen a big correction all at once, years ago, as producers figured out what women wanted and gave it to them. Not a slow boiling of the frog.

Your theory makes no sense. I think it's overpraise to even call it a theory.

Svigor said...

Hollywood consistently leaves money on the table. Brad Thor's and Vince Flynns' books both outsell the Dragon Tattoo books (by Stieg Larsson) but Hollywood has not touched them. There have been no feel-good "kill the Jihadi" movies made despite there being an ample audience for it, meanwhile every comic book writer and movie director/screenwriter wants to copy failed "Watchmen" because it hits their own views (Heroes bad, Western society bad, etc.)

All facts which comport better with my explanation than with yours.

Anonymous said...

Will Smiff be gay? Damn!

I think you meant to say "aw HELL naw!"