Tag Archives: Television

Hollywood is for introverts

I used to think my introversion was a cosmic practical joke ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

“Stand against the wall. Now shout your pitch—as loud and fast as you can. Louder. Faster. LOUDER. FASTER.”

I’ll never forget it. I was in North Hollywood, learning how to “do” television from Clint Arthur.

There were about ten of us in the class. A dentist to the stars, bloggers, fitness and beauty experts, a woman who describes herself as America’s favorite lesbian grandmother.

The first day we worked on our pitch, and the second and third we pitched—over and over and over—to daytime television producers across the US, ten hours a day, on Skype.

It was exhausting. But no way was I going to show weakness. I did what I was told, how I was told to do it.

It was a valuable experience, but still it felt ridiculous. And I knew exactly why.

“I’m an introvert,” I said.

“So am I,” Clint replied.

Show business is filled with introverts. Comedians, musicians, motivational speakers—it’s amazing how many of them prefer silence and solitude. Introverts have conquered the world, time and again.

And afterward, they’ve gone home for some welcome peace and quiet.

I used to think my introversion was a cosmic practical joke. I’ve known for a long time that I want to leave my mark on the world—that I want to do something useful and meaningful that makes a difference. I’m driven. It’s what the Greeks called a “daimon”—an inner spirit that compels you to live your life a certain way.

But really I just want to stay at home and read a book. When I say I am an introvert, I mean I am extremely introverted.

I’ve also been on radio and television and on many stages, giving speeches or leading workshops or performing music and plays.

The truth is I couldn’t have done any of these things without reading and introspection and thinking and silence and solitude.

Introversion is another word for “we’re busy getting ready to take over the world.”

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Seeing a movie once, and only once, forever

Before the mass adoption of video home systems (VHS) in the early 1980s, the only place you’d see a movie was in the theatre, and the only time you’d see it was at the time of its release. Sure, you could go back to the theatre during the two weeks it was playing, and see it again and again. If the movie was unusually popular, it might be held over for as long as a month. Eventually the screening would end, and the movie would disappear into a black hole with no plan or expectation of a re-release. There was no option of renting or streaming. And since sequels (and prequels) have become commonplace only in the last couple of decades, chances are there would be no revisiting of the story, ever. You’d move on to the next movie, and your recollections would be the only thing you’d have.

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Looking Back At 500 Episodes of The Simpsons

AMONG MY earliest encounters of The Simpsons was an animation festival in Philadelphia, in the Spring of 1989. I was doing some work with Habitat for Humanity and decided one night to take in a movie. The first episode of The Simpsons proper was months in the future: in early 1989, the rough and amateurish output of Matt Groening which I saw that night (and which didn’t much impress me) was recognizable only as the interludes of the Tracey Ullman Show. Ullman then was known as an accomplished impersonator and a sharp witted Brit, but within a couple years she was eclipsed by this inauspicious cartoon team constituted of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Who knew? From such humble beginnings came what is arguably the most successful animated series of television history.

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The Dick Cavett Show

I dislike as a matter of course the plaintive themes of decline and decay, but stumbling upon some YouTube videos over the weekend, it did occur that the business of over-the-air talk has been cheapened. The occasion of this thought was a collection of episodes of the Dick Cavett show, some of which I had seen their first time around but had forgotten. Watching these programs again, years later, I can’t but notice how much the talk show format has changed, and how much for the worse.

If you doubt me on this, go through the archive yourself. You will find lengthy (in some cases seventy-minute) interviews, well-paced with twenty minutes or more between commercials and with (apparently) unscripted, spontaneous, and intelligent talk on a wide range of topics. Rather like a conversation in the real world. Note also that none of the guests whose interview I watched had a product to push: the conversation, for its own sake, was the thing.

Compare these facts to those of the current talk shows and I think you will readily discern the differences. The pace has quickened, the conversation now consists of rapid-fire and scripted question-and-answer organized around the selling of product, and the range of topics is thereby restricted. Get them on, push the product, play the commercials, show the guest the door — such is the current formula. Not quite a dumbing down, so much as a distillation of the medium to its industrial-capitalist quintessence.

Mr. Cavett has not left us, and I was gratified to find that the sharp old man keeps a blog on a website at the New York Times. He is and has always been a specimen of largeness, both in soul and in mind. His work is also unfortunately dated, and it’s difficult to watch those old broadcasts and not feel the distance between the now and the then. Could a program paced and executed as his was even be contemplated today? No, I don’t think so, and what a shame that is. The Dick Cavett show is wholly a matter of the past. I say this as an admirer both of the show and of the man, and as someone who understands well there is no going back. Usually I am at peace with this, but not tonight.