Tuesday, August 24, 2021




A reader asked that I view and comment on the CBS series, Clarice. I intended to do that, but frankly, these days I hardly ever watch much of anything on Network TV. The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah (also on CBS) might help clarify why that is:

Ms. Latifah has authentic star power, as this CBS series so vividly demonstrates. The show is produced about as well as a series such as this can be, and the scripts are fundamentally solid and well crafted. My problem is with the Network’s insistence that everything be wrapped up in 46 minutes.

I understand the Network’s reasons. It is a solid business decision… especially when you factor in the news that The Good Wife… one of the finest Network television shows EVER (also CBS)… has proved to be a disappointment in its Network afterlife because each episode is not “stand alone.”

It is the aftermarket where the true financial reward for any Network series exists, and the admonition to “follow the money” remains a compelling argument for any corporate executive. The aftermarket “explains” why “streaming” has been left to other platforms such as Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime… and why on the Networks there are so many versions of series such as Law & Order and CSI, which do not require following a story line stretching from episode to episode.

In this era of “streaming,” the requirement that one must resolve a complicated well thought out story in a mere 46 minutes is, for me, a real buzz kill. I have only seen two or three episodes of The Equalizer but each of them was rich enough in theme to have easily (and interestingly) been elongated into at least six or eight one hour-long episodes on almost any non-network streaming platform.

Back in the day, things were different. Episodic series (such as my own Cagney & Lacey, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, and Christy, or Steven Bochco’s Hill Street Blues, LA Law, or NYPD Blue) were not serialized, but they moved smoothly from one episode to the next as a novel goes from chapter to chapter. The lead characters “strung their beads” so that the Chris Cagney who lost her father in the penultimate episode of season six, mourned that parent throughout the remainder of season seven and even into the reunion movies we made years later.

The Networks didn’t mess with us very much about stuff like that…oftentimes even encouraging a “two, or three-parter” for certain “sweeps” periods. (Sweeps being those times in the year when advertising rates for each Network are set for the rest of the year based on how shows performed during that limited time frame.)

In those days, the Networks paid no attention to the aftermarket. It didn’t matter to those corporate giants how a show might perform once it was off their Network because they had no skin in the game. This was all because a legal precedent had long been set that separated those who owned this kind of “intellectual property” from those who distributed it.

It has been over 70 years since U.S. vs. Paramount forced the motion picture studios to divest themselves of their ownership in theatres to prevent the monopolistic restraint of trade that had built up in that industry. And ever since that decree, television was under enormous pressure to pretty much follow suit.

That all changed a little over 20 years ago when the government’s Financial Interest and Syndication ruling was changed, allowing the Networks to gain ownership of the shows they broadcast.

Twenty plus years ago, the Networks pledged to Congress that this change would not impact who they picked to make shows or who would own them. Today it is all but impossible to find a television show that is not primarily owned by the Network on which it is broadcast.

So much for promises… as well as a partial explanation as to why I moved to Miami… walking away a winner from what had become a losing game. But that is another story, and perhaps a blog for another day.


Back when I was a Hollywood hotshot, my answer to the question regarding what I watched on TV was always, “they pay me to make shows for television, not to watch them.” Well, they no longer pay me to make them, so here are some of my latest “views:”

Outsider on HBO… a limited Stephen King series…well made on every level. If you like Mr. King’s “thing” (which I respect, but do not particularly care for) then this is right up your street.

The Flight Attendant on HBO is more to my liking and is incredibly stylish. Try it, I think you will agree. One caveat for the semi-reserved: it is very raunchy. Add Hacks, about which I have raved previously, and you have an HBO hat trick that is hard to beat.

Ted Lasso (APPLE-TV) is the current rage… 20 EMMY nominations for best comedy for this series set on what we Americans call the soccer fields of England. My wife loved it. I liked it. You should see it. I chose to watch it without subtitles, thus missing out on a whole lot of what was said. (Please insert here any of the many jokes about England and America being two nations divided by a common language.)

If nostalgia is your mood… I recently cranked up three oldies, but goodies in the motion picture realm: Chinatown, Casablanca, and Body Heat. The first two are simply brilliant (I always cry when they sing La Marseillaise at Rick’s… and I don’t even particularly like the French).

Body Heat is not in that league and did not hold up quite as well as I remembered, but it is still good and features a very sexy performance by Kathleen Turner. If you have seen her as Michael Douglas’ ex in The Kominsky Method, you might want to make a real effort to see her in this film that made her famous.

You should also know that anytime you might be feeling a bit dysphoric, watch Michael Douglas and Annette Bening in the 1995 Rob Reiner production of The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin. Guaranteed to chase all your blues away.

If you are too euphoric, there is Halston on Netflix. A sad… and all too real…mini-series that is very well done and brilliantly performed by the entire cast, led by Ewan McGregor who you might remember as Nicole Kidman’s leading man in Moulin Rouge.

This piece began with a reference to Network Television. A top-flight example of what was once being done on the Networks is NBC’s SMASH. It can now be streamed on Amazon Prime and if you like Broadway musicals this series is a real treat. Season two sags a bit in the first few episodes, but ultimately the show runner, who took over from the originator of the Steven Spielberg production, finds the way and recaptures the pace and style of season one. It is a wonderful series.

Finally, if seeing pretty people in pretty places is to your liking… and you don’t mind shots of swollen testicles or someone graphically defecating right there in your living room… White Lotus on HBO might just be your thing. I am none too sure it was mine… Hawaii is gorgeous, but none of the people were that pretty, nor for my tastes, was the writing smart enough to fully entertain or engage.

….to be continued.

Barney Rosenzweig












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