Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
"Oscar, Oscar, Oscar."
No, I'm not quoting a line from one of Billy Crystal’s opening medleys at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
I'm quoting the great Felix Unger (Tony Randall) as he so frequently shrugged his disappointment to roommate Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on The Odd Couple.
That encapsulates my feelings regarding the Academy Awards.
The 93rd annual ceremony airs this Sunday on ABC, and I cannot think of a time where this marquee event had any less hype or excitement.
Can you name three Best Picture nominees? The comic relief Best Supporting Actor/Actress contender? Any of the Best Songs? Two animated films?
What in the name of Irving J. Thalberg is going on here?
It wasn't all that long ago that The Oscars were the pop culture event of the year. Next to the Super Bowl, nothing generated ratings like this three-hour presentation of golden statues to big screen stars and those responsible for putting them up there.
Like so many others, I would plan my Sunday around this broadcast. Sure, part of it was about being right about who would take home the awards, but more of it was about the thrill of the movies! A peek inside Hollywood in all its finest decked out to give and receive awards and celebrate themselves.
In 2000, over 46 million people tuned in to the Academy Awards. Last year, it was 23.6 million. The quality in filmmaking hasn't dropped off that much. There are other key factors contributing to this steep decline…
Accessibility - Back in the day, The Oscars were one of the few times you could catch a glimpse of your favorite star off screen. Today the Hollywood elite are always at our fingertips. And it's not just social media that’s to blame. Those wonderful magazines have lined registers for years showing how our favorite celebs "are just like us!" Movie stars should not be just like us.
Films - People go see blockbusters, which almost never win these awards. It's the more "artistic" films that often take home the golden statuettes. You know, the ones hardly anyone besides film critics see. I'm one of those critics, but an award-winning performance should not be limited to small budgets or limited distribution.
Choices - The random number of Best Picture nominees is a cop out. Make the tough choices. Select the five best films, and that's it. No more "up to ten" movies making the final list. Controversy is a good thing. Getting nominated for the most prestigious Oscar is not as big of a deal as it used to be.
Hosts - The Academy decided we don't need one. It’s always been a thankless job, but a completely necessary one. No one wants to stumble around on Hollywood's biggest night. Provide a master of ceremonies - it's really all that people remember about this awards show anyway.
Red Carpet - Thanks to E!, this night has become more about the fashion than the film work. Apologies to you fashionistas, but I do not care who is wearing what on Sunday night. The big show should be about the movies, and there is way too much attention paid to the fashion designers. Focus on the films and the stars and not the clothing on display.
COVID - Can't blame the Academy for this one. A non-existent box office delayed countless films and left the others for us to watch at home. Quality films are now just good TV.
It's not too late for the film industry to clean up its act and make this night more special. It's a situation where less is actually more and exclusivity matters.
Then we can all be happy and peppy and bursting with love on Oscar night.
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
The Secrets She Keeps (AMC) – Edith from Downton Abbey stalks a fellow pregnant Aussie in this psychological thriller. Airs Monday (already premiered on Sundance Now).
Deadliest Catch (DISCOVERY) – It's season 17 for those who love to fish up in the cold, cold north. Premieres Tuesday.
Hustle and Tow (A&E) – The one-time Arts & Entertainment network premieres a series about tow truck drivers. Golden age of TV, huh? Drops Tuesday.
Cher and the Loneliest Elephant (PARAMOUNT+) – This one’s about animal rescue - which means no unplugged version of "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." Thursday.
Shadow and Bone (NETFLIX) – Welcome to the Grishaverse in this fantasy thriller with a title that conveys imperial Russian darkness. Airs Friday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Bigfoot, a summer kidnapping and a problem causing statue…
Tuesday, April 20th
I know what you're thinking. No one has cared about Bigfoot on TV since Lee Majors ventured into that cave on The Six Million Dollar Man. (Great episode, by the way.)
This Hulu series offers an interesting take. In 1993, a journalist hears the story about three men torn limb from limb in a savage attack. 25 years later, he's back to find out what really happened.
As Primetimer’s Sarah D. Bunting writes in her review, this latest docuseries from the Duplass brothers is a worthy successor to their earlier projects Wild Wild Country, The Lady and the Dale. Nessy will be watching from a Scottish loch (they get Hulu there).
Cruel Summer (FREEFORM)
Tuesday, April 20th
You're likely to dismiss this new series just from the title and the network, but that would be a mistake.
Once nerdy Jeanette becomes her high school’s new "it girl" after queen bee Kate goes missing. Fingers point to Jeanette who rides the roller coaster of high school popularity. Heard it all before, right?
In Cruel Summer, each episode depicts the same day in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and its effect on all who are involved. Compressing these years into a couple of days is a unique way to cover this ground and worth the watch. Watch trailer.
Rutherford Falls (PEACOCK)
Thursday, April 22nd
The creator of Parks & Recreation and The Good Place brings his latest comedy to NBC (sorry, I mean Peacock). This show screams NBC Thursday night comedy, but the network doesn't do that on Thursdays anymore (mistake).
Ed Helms stars as the town founder's descendant who does not want an ancestral statue removed. This is an issue, because cars keep crashing into it. The local Native American population gets involved and the small story turns into a very big deal.
Creator Mike Schur has earned my trust. The comedic sensibility of his previous creations are all over this show. Plus it's nice to see Ted from Schitt's Creek as a bearded reporter on the scene.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.