The news that White Collar was to have a Season 6 was not the joyous relief fans hoped for.
Instead it was met with outrage as USA networks idea of a wrap up was only 6 episodes. The fact is Fox network, who owns it, wanted a full season. But USA only wanted a mini series, even though all their other shows had received proper full seasons to tie up the series.
The claim is that it’s expensive to shoot. But Fox was willing to cover some of that cost, and others of its series had also filmed in expensive locales. It’s also hinted that USA wanted to fill up with shows from NBC, their parent company.
Now the question is: are we, the fans, going to take it?
We have nothing to lose by asking for more. What will they do, ignore us, scream at us like Oliver Twist asking for more? White Collar has been a feast. Now they expect us to settle for scraps. Other shows have returned from the dead. Ironically, it is NBC, USAs own parent network, that have suffered serious losses over killing the shows.
Here are some famous return from the dead shows and all of them involve NBC, parent company of USA.
STAR TREK – It was yours, NBC. Fans got it renewed for one season after they wanted to cancel it. Years later all rights go to Paramount and CBS. Movies, Spin off TV shows….all those lost because they let it go. I’m betting someone in NBC cringes at the thought.
JAG – If you’ve already forgotten, was about the Navy’s Judge Advocate General office adventures and investigations of courtroom lawyer Harmon Rabb (David James Elliot) and his colleagues. You are probably familiar with NCIS, that show is the spin off. Now there is NCIS: LA and another yet to come. Guess who cancelled it? NBC. Again. CBS picked it up and turned it into a long running champion.
CHUCK – Another one on NBC, a funny, adventurous spy drama, was nearly cancelled at season 2. Fans rallied and got it back for another season.
I’m sure NBC has cancelled TV and it was never a big deal. But they have been known to make mistakes that at the time probably seemed like good business decisions. I believe chopping White Collar short is another – USA is, after all, one of their networks.
White Collar is a diamond in the rough, and even if Fox owns it and gets the profits, USA gets the glory. They cut and polished it. Now they seem ready to just drop it in the rubbish and replace that diamond with costume kid’s jewelery.
Compromise in art can be maddening. Art can be many things, many mediums. It can be the fine art hanging on the wall of the museum, or even what’s on the front of a cereal box. It can be a play or a movie or a TV show. But all of these things are compromised by the very basic need of funds to create.
Even in the olden days, the famous artists like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo needed patrons. That meant the patron could influence and command what art they were able to concentrate on. Wars stole supplies that would have been used for art and magnificent potential pieces like Da Vinci’s horse waited long after his death to come to life.
Changing demands mean right now photographic manipulation has largely replaced illustration on movie posters and book covers. And once again the artist must choose between money for supplies or changing what they would do. Already one had to fit their creations onto certain products, now they had to alter technique.
Compromise in Storytelling – TV and Movies.
As for TV – oh dear. Television in and of itself has changed. HD is obvious and recent. But what’s more, so has the need for commercials. Those in charge add little pop ups to the bottom or the side, a rather shocking distraction from the main action. Apparently whoever invented them for web browsing decided to take them somewhere without a pop up blocker. Sometimes clever product placements appear in the show – like White Collar’s Ford Taurus and Apple ads or even the fact that HP computers are all thru the FBI office. Some aren’t so clever. But ultimately, commercial time is extended. And it chops into the show, cutting off bits and pieces.
As for movies on TV, that’ s even more of a compromise, because sometimes they just aren’t designed with commercials in mind. They were meant for the big screen of a theater. The end result of adding commercials sometimes seems like they took the old fashioned film reel, put it on the wall like a dart board and threw the darts at it. Then they spliced in commercials where ever they pleased and chopped out however much they needed too.
Changing the Message of the Story
The problem with these compromises is that sometimes it changes the entire message of the art. Take Disney’s Miracle of the White Stallions. As a child, I never understood why it was called ‘Flight of the White Stallions’ on TV but listed as ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’ elsewhere. Then I got the DVD. The message was immediately obvious. For on TV the flight of the lippizans and the Spanish Riding School from Vienna was just that. A run to where they were found by General Patton and offered protection. But the ‘Miracle’ part had been left on the cutting room floor to make room for commercials. The miracle was the many people who braved the Nazi’s wrath to help smuggle them out in spite of orders to keep them there. I had a similar shock with one of my favorite incarnations of a Christmas Carol: called “Scrooge” and starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. It was a musical. The TV version chopped off a whole section where he wakes up in hell. I had no clue it existed until I bought the DVD.
Sometimes these actions seem downright sacrilegious. I loved ‘A Night Before Christmas’ by Rankin Bass (who also animated Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer and the Hobbit) as a child. But when I came back as an adult I was horrified to find that the whole thing was chopped to bits. The whole message of hope and faith was whittled to nearly nothing by commercials. One whole song was wiped out completely. As for Rudolph, I no longer know which is more accurate: the one I saw as a child or the one with the music changed but obviously part of the original show. I prefer either to the whittled down version. I find it rather amusing as well. The rather sexist message of the reindeer refusing his mate’s desire to help search for her son, for instance. “This is man’s work.” Hah. Apparently he failed to realize that disqualified him too, he was a reindeer, not a man!
Who makes these decisions to alter someone else’s story? At least with something like Star Wars and it’s infamous ‘Han shot first’ debate, the change, however controversial, was made by the creator. But who decides it’s okay to shred a children’s classic? Or remove a TV show’s funniest moments to cram in one more commercial? It doesn’t seem to involve planning to work around the original story line or message and leaving it intact. It apparently does not take into account the work of the artists involved, actors, directors or creators. Nor does it take into account the fans. And if it doesn’t take into account these, than surely it does a disservice. For by altering the story, they are diminishing the chance to make new fans. New fans, who would buy those DVDs, or collectibles or in turn support shows like it in the future.
I don’t claim to have a solution. It takes creativity, perhaps, to even work with the commercials, to interweave them into the program without breaking it’s momentum or damaging the story. Perhaps it takes training though if anyone is trained for this (beyond the ‘we need more money’ end) I don’t know.
But if they aren’t, maybe they should be. For television, movies and streaming media are our modern storytellers. They help us know the monsters can be defeated and challenges overcome. They let us escape our own problems to find a new point of view and things to get excited or laugh about. But only if the overcoming and escaping doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor and replaced with another ad for kitchen cleaner. Speaking for myself: I don’t find it inspiring to see one more commercial to ‘buy more.’ I already know how to do that. I really think we all do.
When going to art school or taking classes I note they give a lot of attention to the old masters. Art history and it’s appreciation is often a requirement. This is understandable, for knowing where we come from is important.
But how many of us truly have started art because of them? In my case, inspiration came from elsewhere and only later did it lead me to an appreciation of it’s history.
Art of the Story
My love of horses came from books I read and movies I saw. This means that illustrators, writers and movie makers had an impact long before I realized they were artists in their own right. A peacefully grazing horse or one napping in it’s stall is lovely. But the ones rearing, galloping, leaping and playing are the ones that seem the most alive. To me, they are art in motion in and of themselves. Some films like The Black Stallion revealed this in full glory.
Art of the Movie
As a fan of science fiction I only gradually realized that my beloved Star Wars had to start in an art studio. Without Ralph McQuarrie’s designs, it may never have come to pass. Artists painted backgrounds, built models and invented an entire industry for special effects. Some of these same artists went on to create Photoshop and the modern software that now creates art in 3D. And where would it be without the awesome movie poster art of Drew Struzan?
Art of the Game
Video games are created, in part by artists and I am highly and personally aware they are on target in their ideas about education and games. I recall flunking lessons in how to read music in grade school. Yet I started to get the hang of it playing a video game version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never did finish the game, but I did learn to read music enough to play the right tune on the skulls! Amazing what a difference the approach makes. I couldn’t learn for the grade, I doubt if you offered me money I could get it. Somehow getting Indy through to that tomb helped me learn it!
Art History meets them all and becomes more appealing.
Finally, full circle I’ve come to notice art history, not just through art classes but through TV and the movies. A few odd artists are more intriguing when encountered by a very young Indiana Jones. An episode where Doctor Who meets Van Gogh suddenly makes the man come alive in a way the old school story of ‘he’s the guy that cut off his ear’ never did. Then there is my favorite show White Collar. Take and FBI agent and his ‘former’ art forger criminal consultant, set them loose in New York solving art heists and the like and the whole world of art history and museums has an all new appeal. Their accuracy is questionable: this is fiction after all. Sometimes they use real artists, sometimes they invent them. But the real point is not whether it’s true. It’s the fact that they got my attention and aroused my interest in the first place.
Tapping into what’s already there.
Is it just me changing? I don’t really think so. I think it’s always been true, that if you plug the subject to be learned into what a person is already interested in, it engages in a way that would otherwise be dry and boring. As my growing curiosity about art history leads me around the web I’ve definitely noticed who seems to be tapping in and who doesn’t and how.
Art Galleries Online
Some art galleries have gone highly interactive. A look at the Google Art Project. It can take you to museums around the world many of us will never have a chance to set foot in. Some have podcasts or videos online. Some have interactive games or tools to study certain artworks or artists.
Others still have the most boring, bland websites with tiny print and navigation that certainly doesn’t take account for people who might have trouble seeing it. They may be easier on an older computer in general, but they are definitely a turn off in comparison. The odd thing is the great stuff is usually for kids. Why is it the world thinks adults want a ‘dull’ approach? Why can’t it be fun no matter what your age?
So now I’m gradually coming to know who of the old masters I like and why, what mediums I’d like to try even if I have to imitate them on the computer. I love drawing and am willing to try drawing nearly anything. But I could do horses with my eyes closed and in my sleep. As for my writing, well, it’s no surprise I’ve written Star Wars and White Collar fanfics and I love their websites. I’ve written other science fiction but I’ve yet to try and publish it.
Warning: Creative License may bend the facts.
And then there is that little catch to all this. If you are going to tap into these interests – learning through pop culture can’t end there. Don’t assume pop culture did it’s homework. Pocohantas and Mulan are wonderful female heroes. But Disney’s version isn’t exactly full of truth. The movies, games, TV and historical fiction are a springboard to look deeper. These aren’t flat words on a page or a cardboard picture painted by some guy way back when. They were real people and events with lives and loves, fears, mental illness and physical and economic challenges. That’s the part that’s inspiring. How many of them would imagine our world today? How many would dare dream it’s technology? Would they dare even imagine the prices their work would sell for or the things we would say? Would they be amazed at how much we know or fall over laughing at how far from the truth we had come?
What are your inspirations?
Here are a sites for some of mine that include games, episodes, forums and all sorts of interactivity.
*Note – Remember when doing fan art or fan fiction it is not something you can legally sell. Making money off of it violates copyright law.It makes great practice and can be shared for free fun among your fellow fans. But please remember the actors, writers and artists of these shows too, are out there to earn a living. We wouldn’t want them to stop our favorite show to earn money waiting tables. At least, I wouldn’t!*