Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, June 29th, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by cottage cheese and pineapple.
THE CASE FOR NOT 'CANCELLING' PROBLEMATIC TV EPISODES
Over the weekend, Hulu announced it was pulling an episode of "The Golden Girls" which featured two of the leads having a mud mask on their faces. That led to a cascading series of problems after the sisters worried people would think they were dressing in blackface.
The episode in question, titled "Mixed Blessings," originally aired on NBC in 1988. It revolves around Dorothy, played by Beatrice Arthur, being concerned that her son is marrying a considerably older woman, Lorraine, played by Rosalind Cash. Meanwhile, Lorraine's mother, played by Virginia Capers, is upset because Dorothy's son is white and her daughter is Black.
The controversial scene comes when two of Dorothy's friends — Rose, played by Betty White, and Blanche, played by Rue McClanahan — are trying out a mud face mask and meet Lorraine's family for the first time.
Of course, by the time the story made it to the trades, their stories were claiming the episode featured blackface. But shoddy journalism aside, the big problem is the episode should never have been pulled in the first place. The episode turns out to be one of the few episodes of the show that dealt in any way with racism. And in fact, when you watch the episode it makes a pretty solid case against racist behavior.
But the move by Hulu highlights a big problem with a recent flurry of moves to remove problematic episodes of television shows from streaming services. The moves are well-meaning, but they are also primarily an exercise in corporate ass-covering. Removing episodes of "The Office" that include blackface sounds good on the surface. But it lets everyone associated with the show off the hook. Those episodes of "The Office" were produced 20 or so years ago. And given the number of people who have to sign off on an episode before it airs, I am astounded that no one at the time seems to have said "yes, I know the blackface is supposed to highlight the cluelessness of the character. But maybe this isn't the best way to do it?"
In almost all cases, I think a better approach is to keep the episodes available for streaming, while providing additional context for viewers. The HBO Max video that now precedes "Gone With The Wind" is excellent & really should be made available on YouTube. And Warner Brothers does a nice job with the statement they now attach to some of that company's quite racist early animated shorts. Hiding racism isn't the answer. Explaining why the content isn't appropriate in 2020 is a much better way of teaching viewers how far we've come over the past fifty years.
For that matter, I think Disney should take a similar approach with the feature film "Song Of The South." The movie certainly has some astoundingly racist moments and I understand that its existence is embarrassing to the current group of executives and Disney fans. But the movie was also a major effort by the company and reportedly a film Walt Disney worked hard to get on the screen. If Disney was worried less about protecting the brand and more about highlighting racism and the ways we all have evolved in our thinking, the company would release an extended version of the movie, which included discussions about why specific parts of "Songs Of The South" were included at the time & their historical and cultural context.
It would be the right thing to do. And on a business level, it would also be an extremely high-profile project for Disney+.
PR AND THE TV INDUSTRY, PART 343
As all of you are well aware, we live in a time that is crammed with viewing choices for audiences of all ages. Given that competition, I continue to be astounded by how some network PR departments handle their media sites. It's especially challenging to get a mention anywhere for most lower-tier television shows. So you would expect media relations people would make it as easy as possible for critics and journalists in general to get access to show info and photos.
I mention this today because I went to the Disney Junior press site to find a photo for the kid's show "Chuggington," which is premiering today. I try and highlight kids stuff when I can, because it doesn't get enough attention. And ironically, it's also a genre of programming that is super popular both in the linear and streaming worlds. So imagine my surprise to discover that there isn't a solitary mention of the series on the media site. No photos, no show info, not even a mention in a press release (at least according to the site's search engine).
On one level, I get it. The show isn't a high priority for Disney, it's been on the air for about a decade and it's likely the new season premiere won't rate a mention on most television sites. But still, to not even have a lone photo on the press site seems a bit strange. I mean, you can't get mentions unless you make an effort to remind critics the show even exists.
ODDS AND SODS
Colin Kaepernick & Ava DuVernay are teaming on to produce a limited series for Netflix that tells the story of the controversial quarterback's life.
FOX News Channel has named former ESPN radio host and commentator Will Cain as co-host of "Fox & Friends Weekend." Cain will make his official debut on Saturday, August 15th alongside co-hosts Jedediah Bila and Pete Hegseth.
Producers of major Broadway producers have decided to push back the reopening of their theatres until at least January. They announced early Monday morning that they would begin offering refunds for tickets purchased for performances set to take place before January 3rd, 2021. No reopen date has been decided.
Here is a rundown of the very small number of new shows premiering today....
1) Chuggington: Tails From The Rails Season Season Six Premiere (Disney Junior)
"In the fictional town of Chuggington are young novice railway anthropomorphic locomotives ('trainees') Koko, Wilson, Brewster, Hoot, Toot and Piper. The trainees (and sometimes the more experienced Chuggers) learn the value of loyal friendship, telling the truth, listening carefully, persisting under adversity, completing tasks, resolving conflict without violence, and similar values. The locomotives, called "Chuggers", are intelligent, empathetic, independent and somewhat self-directed. They have mobile facial and body features. Chuggers have no crews, yet some have crew doors that can open. Chuggers regularly interact with other humans such as passengers and maintenance crews."
2) Kids, Race And Unity: A Nick News Special (Nick)
Hosted by global superstar Alicia Keys, the program will amplify the voices and experiences of Black children across the country amid current events. The special will feature the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement answering questions from real kids, offer tools for families to have constructive conversations about race and inclusivity, and highlight teen activists who are fighting racial injustice.
3) The Sommerdahl Murders (Acorn)
Respected detective Dan Sommerdahl (Peter Mygind) loves his job and his wife, Chief Criminal Technician Marianne (Laura Drasbæk), but with a passion for keeping the city safe he tends to forget his personal relationships, including his 25-year marriage. With divorce looming, Dan’s professional and personal lives are tested as he solves murders with not only his estranged wife, but his best friend and partner, DS Flemming Torp (André Babikian), who is also secretly in love with Marianne. The battle between desire and morals flares as the love triangle solves each two-episode mystery.
For a rundown of all the new episodes of television premiering tonight, click here.
TOO MUCH TV REALLY IS A THING
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
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