Friday, April 27, 2012

10 FAVORITES (56): Jumping Sharks

Television is a vast landscape with shows that are around for all of five minutes to shows that seem to go on forever (and ever...and ever!).  For the ones that go on too long, there is a name for that.  It is a delightful little trope that has made its way into our cultural lexicon: Jumping the Shark.  There is even a whole website devoted to figuring out exactly when TV shows (past and present!) indeed "jumped the shark."  This year, a couple of the shows that would have been considered shoe-ins for this category announced their impending departure (House M.D. and Desperate Housewives).  And some of the more popular "bubble shows" have been announced for renewal but with the caveat that next year will be their last.  But there are several other shows that are currently airing on Network TV that deserve a good reprimand.  They have waded their way into Shark-Jumping Territory and they should take a page out of Fringe's notebook and think about calling next season their "Swan Song."  This week's 10 FAVORITES are devoted to that group of shows that have, in effect: Jumped the Shark.  (QUICK NOTE: I have not ranked this list, as that might cause too many heated discussions. So they are listed somewhat alphabetically.)


When the show first started, there was clear sexual tension between Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth (perfectly played by Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz).  But now that the two characters have finally hooked up and it has resulted in a child, the tension is not as good as it used to be.  The cases are still "fresh" (excuse the term when referring to dead bodies!), but the changing dynamic is quickly getting old.  The two are now literally a married couple (without actually being married!) and they have now gone into the territory that shows like JAG and The X-Files did by diffusing the unspoken sexual tension with actual sex.  Plus the revolving door of "squinterns," which once breathed new life into the show, has now lasted longer than most normal internships. 

The original has already been renewed for next year, but CBS is beginning to hem and haw when it comes to its two spin-offs.  Both shows have now suffered from abnormal hiatuses this year and original CSI has gone through almost as many cast changes and departures as the original Law & Order (the NBC franchise that inspired CBS to have one!).  While Ted Danson may be playing completely against type and Elizabeth Shue weekly shows why she was an Oscar-nominated actress, CBS might want to consider next year the last for one of their flagship procedurals.

I'm going to rant a bit here, folks.  Because this one is definitely on its way to shark-jumping territory (if its not there already!).  The first season was too phenomenal that nothing they could have done would have lived up to it.  So a less-than-stellar second season and an all-over-the-map third season has made the show more disconnected and out-of-touch from what the audiences really want.  And, as far as I'm concerned, they still haven't done the worst they could do.  Yes, this year's Christmas episode was one long "WTF!" and that mid-season jumble filled episode with an attempted suicide and a climactic car crash were definitely over-the-top.  But all of that will pale in comparison to what the creators seem to have planned for the McKinley High students post-Graduation (all the charming Disco or Whitney tributes and cameos by Whoopi and LiLo aren't helping!), since rumors abound that its "senior" stars including Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith have 7-YEAR CONTRACTS!  Seriously, who hires an actor to play a High School student for 7 YEARS?!?  Apparently FOX does.

The show has definitely made its stamp on the culture (when President Obama references you in a speech, I think you've made it!).  But after 5 years, stars Blake Lively and Leighton Meester are exploring their burgeoning film careers.  And once you lose your sexy stars, the show will completely fall off the radar (which is something this fifth-place Network cannot afford for one of their flagship shows!).

For many fans of this medical soap opera, the show "Jumped the Shark" last year with its mega-musical episode that centered on the tuneful delusions of the near-death Dr. Callie Torres (the fabulous Tony-winner Sara Ramirez).  Now, with rumors that stars Patrick Dempsey (aka McDreamy!) and Ellen Pompeo (who just happens to play the Grey in Grey's Anatomy!) might not sign on for next year, the show might just lose the strong storylines and heartwarming characters that once brought female audiences in droves to the show a few years ago.

My father religiously watched this show.  He even loves catching this show in its many reruns on USANetwork.  He was very pleased back in 2006 when star Mariska Hargitay won an Emmy Award as Best Actress in a Drama Series (and my father NEVER cares about the Emmys!).  But this year's big cast change (re: the exodus of Cristopher Meloni's stone-faced and complicated Detective Elliot Stabler), has made him abandon the NBC procedural he once championed.  After almost 15 years, maybe creator Dick Wolf should let next year's "Special Victims" be the last ones of the Peacock's profitable franchise.

It has already been said by many others...and I'm gonna repeat it: Steve Carell's departure was a blow to this show's dynamic.  Now, it seems that Ed Helms (who was "promoted-from-within" to replace Carell) is eyeing a similar departure (or at least threatening to behind-the-scenes!).  The show has won awards.  It has taken over a prime spot on TV (once owned by the likes of Cheers and Seinfeld!).  It has made comedic all-stars of most of its cast.  It is time for Scranton's Dunder-Mifflin office to close its doors and that "mockumentary" crew to pack up and go home.

Let's just face it.  The luster is gone.  The bloom is off this rose.  There are really just too many reality shows to say which ones have passed their prime (Idol, DWTS, ANTM, Celebrity Apprentice...just to name a few!).  Most of these shows are in their 8th or even 12th season and they keep using the argument that "Reality TV is cheaper than Scripted TV."  Well, that argument is wearing really thin when promotions for Idol and DWTS cost as much as the budgets on New Girl or 2 Broke Girls.  And then you see the hosts, trainers and judges of these various shows signing on for ├╝ber-million dollar contracts that would make the casts of Seinfeld and Friends jealous.  Time for these shows to hang up their mirrorballs, stop "firing" celebrities and live with the "Idols" and "Top Models" they've already given us.

Even MacFarlane himself has stated that his landmark sitcom (Family Guy) should have ended years ago.  Now he could be saying this to get people to focus on his other two shows (which, let's face it, are often not as good as Family Guy) or to promote his other projects (his upcoming film Ted or his proposed reboot of The Flintstones).  No matter what his motives are, Family Guy and American Dad! are beginning to show their age and without the original, spin-off The Cleveland Show would just not make sense.

The show was already on "hollow legs" when Charlie Sheen was drunkenly slurring his way through scenes between angry diatribes aimed at creator Chuck Lorre.  Now with Ashton Kutcher, though the show is still extremely popular in ratings, that can be likened to how people love to watch the beginning of a car accident.  I think the viewers are just hanging in there until the show fails completely (if Kutcher doesn't sign on for next year, we may suffer through a revolving door of "Men" getting paid way too much to take Sheen's place!).

Sunday, April 22, 2012


When I was little and it came to Broadcast Television, there were ONLY 3 networks: The Alphabet (ABC), The Eye (CBS) and The Peacock (NBC).  By the mid-to-late 1980s, each of "the big three" had cornered their own niche audience.  ABC aired several family-friendly shows (like The Wonder Years and Full House) plus other more mature fare for their 10PM time slots (see Moonlighting or thirtysomething).  CBS seemed to have a wider audience but with special attention to both older demographics (especially with their Sunday schedule: 60 Minutes and Murder, She Wrote) and female audiences (with primetime soaps like Dallas and female-led sitcoms like Designing Women).  And then NBC, who also had a wide audience, aired shows that were especially popular with both the critics AND the Emmy Awards (sitcoms like CheersThe Cosby Show or The Golden Girls and dramas like Hill Street BluesSt. Elsewhere or L.A. Law).

But there seemed to be one audience that was being ignored, at least as far as the powers-that-be at the 20th Century Fox studio were concerned.  Several people (who were around college-age), were looking for programs that catered to their humor, to their style or even to their subversive nature.  And so, a fledgling network was born.  And now 25 years later, "the big three" have expanded into "the big four" (technically "the big five" when you count The CW, but it's not their anniversary!).  In honor of FOX's 25th Anniversary, I would like to take you through their brief history by sharing with you what I believe are the 25 shows that have shaped FOX into what it is today.  Some of them you could probably name right off and others are more like afterthoughts, but all 25 of them made their mark in the network's landscape and helped to re-shape what modern Television is all about.

Married...With Children
21 Jump Street
The Simpsons
These are the shows that birthed FOX.  Married...With Children first aired on April 5, 1987 and 21 Jump Street aired a week later.  The Simpsons first aired as animated shorts between the sketches on Tracey Ullman's comedy-variety show (which aired after Married...With Children) before gaining their very own animated sitcom two years later (a show that is still running today, by the way!).  Married... was especially different as its humor was extremely controversial and graphic showing the complete dysfunction of the Bundy clan.  21 Jump Street, which is now more famous for launching the career of a man named Johnny Depp, was compared in its gritty style to NBC's Hill Street Blues but had a younger appeal.  And as mentioned earlier, the history of The Simpsons is in some way the history of FOX itself.

America's Most Wanted
With a subversive sitcoms (both live and animated) and gritty cop dramas, FOX wanted to jump-the-gun (no pun intended!) before the reality show blitzkrieg.  With both the FBI-led America's Most Wanted and the police docu-series COPS, FOX really was a forerunner before the other networks decided to produce cheaper (and more popular) reality shows.

Beverly Hills, 90210
Melrose Place
When Johnny Depp left 21 Jump Street to have a film career, FOX needed some shows that had the same youth/teen appeal.  Enter Aaron Spelling (who had massive hits with ABC like Charlie's Angels, Dynasty and The Love Boat).  He was also looking to market programs to a teen audience (and one that could feature is young daughter in the cast!). With the original 90210 in 1990 and Melrose Place two years later, Spelling seemed to define teen viewing in the 1990s.

In Living Color
By the early 1990s, NBC had cornered the market in comedy-variety with Saturday Night Live (which by then had been running over 15 years!).  FOX began with a variety show starring Tracey Ullman, but when that show's animated shorts eclipsed it in popularity, Ullman found herself without a job.  But a few years later, comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans and his pals (including his brother Damon and sister Kim) created a sketch comedy series that appealed to a different audience...a multicultural audience.  With its brash style and SNL-like sketches, the young cast of In Living Color became comedy superstars (especially Jim Carrey, then known as "James Carrey").  They even had hip-hop dancers known as the Fly Girls that personified their show's style (one of them was a young Jennifer Lopez!).  In Living Color's popularity inspired FOX to try their hand at late night variety (to compete with SNL) and thence MADtv was born.

Living Single
Fresh off the success of In Living Color, FOX wanted to have more comedy shows that appealed to African-American audiences.  Comedian Martin Lawrence, with his many different personalities, had a very successful sitcom that centered around his in-your-face style.  To follow that, Living Single focused on the lives of 4 single African-American women (which included rap star Queen Latifah, former Facts of Life star Kim Fields and In Living Color regular Kim Coles).  Both shows are still quite popular in syndication on various cable networks and are fondly remembered by those of us who grew up with these shows that helped change the face of sitcoms in the '90s.

The X-Files
Ally McBeal
As I said above, NBC seemed to have the Emmy market covered with shows like Cheers, L.A. Law, Seinfeld and E.R. throughout my growth into adulthood.  But FOX was fearless in trying to gain support from audiences and critics when it came to getting awards.  With the sci-fi drama The X-Files, FOX had a major contender.  Audiences took to it with rabid fascination and soon the awards followed.  Emmys finally recognized it with a Best Drama Series nomination in its third season (1995) and two years later star Gillian Anderson won Best Actress in a Drama (making it the first major Emmy for FOX to win!).  To follow that, David E. Kelley's romantic-dramedy Ally McBeal caused a pop culture fervor with its short skirts and dancing babies.  The show became the first FOX series to win the top prize in 1999 when its second season received Best Comedy Series over the likes of Friends, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond.

King of the Hill
Family Guy
The Simpsons opened so many doors for FOX and they knew it.  In the late 1990s, the network started to build around the flagship series by creating an entire night of animated shows.  Of the many animated sitcoms that have popped in and out around The Simpsons' popularity, two of them seemed to stick with audiences (and even some critics!).  King of the Hill,  from Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge, had a homespun humor and was more sitcom-oriented than even The Simpsons (with lessons learned at the end of every episode for both conservative propane dealer Hank Hill and his march-to-his-own-drummer son Bobby).  Then there is Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane's raunchy and even-more subversive sitcom with its cutaway gags and ten-times the dysfunction of anyone in The Simpsons' hometown of Springfield.  Both shows seemed to strengthen The Simpsons' popularity (and quality!) and therefore made themselves more prominent in the minds of those wanting a break from typical live-action fare.

That 70s Show
Malcolm In the Middle
Not to be completely dominated by animated sitcoms, FOX wanted to branch out with ensemble-heavy live-action comedies.  With a nostalgic throwback (like its inspiration Happy Days), That 70s Show made stars out of its young ensemble which included Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.  The show, which ended its run in 2006, is still extremely popular in syndicated airings.  It is one of FOX's most popular shows in syndication (third only to The Simpsons and Family Guy).  FOX's other popular live-action sitcom was Malcolm In the Middle.  Similar to Married...With Children by showing the chaos of a semi-dysfunctional family, the show was very popular with audiences and garnered several Emmy nods for the two actors playing the parents Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston.  Both actors have since shown their character-actor mettle on various projects from sitcoms to dramatic series to films (with Cranston winning 3 Emmys - so far! - for his dramatic work on AMC's critical hit Breaking Bad).

Arrested Development
In the 2000s, bolstered by the major Emmy wins The X-Files and Ally McBeal garnered in the previous decade, FOX was not going to let it lie at just those two.  With the action-packed spy-thriller series 24, FOX had a series that grabbed the critics' attention with its fascinating hook.  The entire season of the show (24 episodes) was one hour of one day, constituting the series to basically flow in "real time."  Season 5, known as "Day 5" in show's lexicon, was the highest rated season and won Best Drama Series (over major contenders like NBC's The West Wing and HBO's The Sopranos) as well as Best Actor in a Drama for star Kiefer Sutherland.  As for Arrested Development, the short-lived but critically-beloved sitcom, the show put FOX back on Emmys radar after Ally McBeal ended.  In 2003, Arrested Development's first season beat out Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond to the Best Comedy Series prize.

The O.C.
American Idol
In the 2000s, the youth culture that FOX first appealed to back when it first began was now what you would call middle-aged.  To grab that younger market that has since become an all-important demographic in the ratings race, FOX went back to "square one" with an Aaron Spelling-style teen drama.  For four years in the middle of the decade, The O.C. became a pop culture phenomenon especially with teen audiences as the show centered around rich teens in Orange County and their bitter rivalries.  But FOX's major hit with younger audiences was a little show that was basically a singing competition.  American Idol, which was the U.S. version of the European hit Pop Idol, has dominated FOX Broadcasting over the past decade.  With its crazy judges (Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul!) and star-making eliminations (from Kelly Clarkson to Carrie Underwood!), the show's power cannot be denied.  Even with new judges (including former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez!), the show still manages to garner the attention of a massive audience that craves reality competitions.  Idol even has its copycats from NBC's The Voice to FOX's new Simon Cowell-import The X-Factor.

House M.D.
Who said CBS could be the masters of procedural Television?  FOX, thanks to both The X-Files and 24, have built part of their current reputation around shows that solve the case within the hour, the procedural.  And they went beyond the typical police procedural that CBS was so good at (see CSI or NCIS).  They branched it out into medical science and forensic anthropology.  Led by a more dramatic Hugh Laurie, House M.D. was about a grouchy and people-repellent diagnostician who could solve any case put before him no matter how strange.  After 8 years, Laurie is hanging up his cane and stethoscope as Dr. House after garnering 6 Emmy nominations (with a possible 7th to come!).  Bones, House's sometime partner, centered on the genius-like mind of forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperence "Bones" Brennan and her knack for solving crimes with her FBI partner Sealy Booth.  The character was loosely based on a lead character from the books by noted anthropologist Kathy Reichs (Brennan being a character she loosely based on herself!).

Like The X-Files did in the 1990s, Fringe is once again re-defining what a sci-fi drama can be about.  Part procedural (like Bones) but also part soap-opera drama (with its romantic entanglements and familial estrangements), Fringe is a complete original with its exploration of parallel universes and Roswell-ian creatures.  The show has a large and vocal fanbase that has kept this "bubble show" going for four years and may very well get it a fifth season renewal.  And like they did with Ally McBeal in the late '90s, FOX is once again re-defining the modern dramedy.  Let us not forget Glee!  Ryan Murphy's uber-popular (at least in its first season!) mega-musical comedy-drama has garnered so much attention that people have gotten sick of it fairly quickly (teen suicide storylines don't help either!).  But the series has made its impression and will probably stick around for a fourth and maybe even fifth season (that teen market has money to burn people!).  It also has pioneered (or at least co-pioneered) the use of other media when it comes to promoting the show (particularly iTunes and YouTube!).

You have made TV life very interesting for the past 25 years!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

10 FAVORITES (55): Strangest Award-Winning Characters

Let's face it, some characters are just strange!  When I think of the many performances that have won Oscars, Emmys and Tonys over the years, I see that there is a wide array of characters from the very rich (Colin Firth in The King's Speech or Gwynneth Paltrow in Shakespeare In Love) to the working class (the casts of All In the Family or Cheers) to the struggling to survive (Nikki James in The Book of Mormon or Frances Ruffelle in Les Miserables).  But there have been several characters that have won these awards that would fall under the category of "strange."  Now when I say "strange," I am not referring to the circumstances surrounding the actor or actress' win (like when Marisa Tomei won for My Cousin Vinny!).  I am also not referring to characters who have a disability or are diagnosed as mentally ill/psychotic (sorry Hannibal Lecter!).  I am referring to characters whose eccentricities are a part of who they are and make the character that much more memorable.  So this week's 10 FAVORITES is devoted to...


Guido Orefice, Life Is Beautiful
Roberto Benigni - Oscar for Best Actor, 1999
This is partly because the actor who won the award came off to the public as very very very strange.  He wrote and directed himself to an Oscar as a poor Italian man who woos a wealthy woman (whom he calls "Principesa") and goes on to have a son with her.  His clowning antics come in handy when he tries to shield his beloved son from the dangers and horrors of a Nazi Concentration Camp.

Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins
Julie Andrews - Oscar for Best Actress, 1965
Who says a strange character can't be one of the most beloved from my childhood?  Yes, we delight in her "practically perfect" eccentricity.  But on face value, two kids brought up in strict Edwardian ways see a woman literally fly to their doorway and slide up the banister to greet them...I think eccentric is the "nice" way to put it.

John (or Jean), Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros
Zero Mostel - Tony for Best Actor in a Play, 1961
Comic actor Zero Mostel played a man turning into a Rhinoceros in one of Ionesco's most unusual plays ('Nuff Said!).  He repeated that Tony-winning performance 13 years later in a film alongside his Producers co-star Gene Wilder.

Truman Capote, Tru and Capote
Robert Morse - Tony for Best Actor in a Play, 1990 and Emmy for Best Actor in a TV Movie, 1993
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Oscar for Best Actor, 2006
As a writer myself, I have to admit that we all are a little bit eccentric.  But genius author Truman Capote took eccentricity to a whole new level.  Just his very personality put some people ill-at-ease.  Robert Morse won both a Tony and an Emmy for Jay Presson Allen's play about the legendary writer (Tru) and almost 15 years later Phillip Seymour Hoffman wowed critics with his performance in Capote (the dark film about Capote's research for his infamous novel In Cold Blood).

Dr. Dick Solomon, 3rd Rock From the Sun
John Lithgow - Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, 1996, 1997 & 1999
One of the best dramatic character actors (Terms of Endearment, Footloose) channeled his friend John Cleese when he took the part of an Alien assuming human form and studying our life habits.  John Lithgow won 3 Emmys for his stellar work as quite frankly one of the strangest college professors anyone has ever met (and judging by the average college professor, that is saying something!).

Howard Beale, Network
Peter Finch - Oscar for Best Actor, 1977
We all know the catchphrase: He's "mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore!"  With that phrase Peter Finch's dynamic and all-over-the-map performance of a news anchor who goes from beleagured to god-like won almost every award of the season.  Finch, unfortunately, passed away before he could obtain that elusive Oscar.

Cosmo Kramer, Seinfeld
Michael Richards - Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, 1993, 1994 & 1997
When it comes to strange characters, Kramer has to make the list.  It helps in this case that Michael Richards won 3 Emmys for his work during Seinfeld's 9 year run.

Dr. Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
Jim Parsons - Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, 2010 & 2011
Bazinga! With his back-to-back Emmy wins, Jim Parsons' performance as Sheldon Cooper is one of the reasons for this list (he was one of the first ones I thought of when I devised the category!).  His anal-retentive nature and his constant need to be right all the time makes it very hard for his friends to be around him and also makes him one of the funniest characters on Television today.  Just remember, don't sit in his spot!

Edith Bouvier Beale & Little Edie Beale, Grey Gardens
Christine Ebersole - Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, 2007
Mary Louise Wilson - Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, 2007
Jessica Lange - Emmy for Best Actress in a TV Movie, 2009
The documentary about the mother and daughter (related to Jackie Kennedy!) and their dilapidated East Hampton home has been beloved by many fans of underground cinema.  Their fascinating life story has been turned into a critically-acclaimed musical (which won Tonys for its leading ladies!) and a critically-acclaimed HBO TV Movie (which won Jessica Lange an Emmy and co-star/producer Drew Barrymore a Golden Globe!).

The Master of Ceremonies, Cabaret
Joel Grey - Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, 1967 & Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, 1973
Alan Cumming - Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, 1998
When it comes to strange, I don't believe anyone can touch the oddity that is the Emcee from John Kander and Fred Ebb's most enduring musical.  Joel Grey enlivened this character to full effect (both on Broadway and on film) and the metaphor for Hitler and the Nazi party is quite prominent.  At times the character can be very over-the-top with his excessive garishness, but that's how he's supposed to be (just ask Alan Cumming, who winningly played him in the darker and more disturbing revival in the late 1990s).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: What Will Be Remembered?

Over this past weekend, I was on a little trip for a family gathering and a very interesting question was posed that I felt just had to be the topic of my next post: What media works of today will be remembered in about 50 years?  Now initially the question was referring to Television programs, but I decided to expand it into Movies, Music artists and (being a Broadway Baby!) Broadway shows.  In order to answer this question, I had to think of what (in each of those categories) is considered the most memorable and compare contemporary works to the legacy of those most memorable (it seems a bit unfair, but it is the best way to do it!).

Let's begin with Television.  When it comes to TV, no show will probably ever have the legacy that I Love Lucy has had.  Thanks to years of constant reruns and a multitude of people (especially women) singing the praises of Lucille Ball and her comic antics, the show has gained an iconic status that really no other TV series (sitcom or drama) will ever touch.  When you think of other shows over the years that can even come close, the "usual suspects" crop up: Bonanza, All In the Family, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld and even The Simpsons.  And of all of those, only the latter still has new episodes currently airing.  So what other shows of today even have a shot of being remembered in even 20 years?  Two of the first shows that popped into my mind (basically because of their unique qualities that are now trying to be copied on rival networks!) are the critically favored cable drama Mad Men and the extremely popular musical dramedy Glee.  But because of behind-the-scenes drama (on both shows!) and sagging storylines, the shows are showing signs of  trouble living up to their earlier successes and therefore may just end up becoming footnotes in the history of early 21st Century TV.  The same can be said for shows like 30 Rock or Modern Family (each universally considered two of the best sitcoms on Television today!) as they have had some trouble keeping the same "fire" they had in their respective first seasons.  And when it comes to dramas, most of the shows that are popular are police procedurals or part of a "franchise" like Law & Order or CSI.  Of the Reality TV contingent (cause let's face it, Reality TV will be remembered in some way or another!), the one with the clearest shot at memorability is American Idol as it has spawned a number of copycat shows which have become equally popular (re: The Voice or The X-Factor).  Only time will tell if any of these shows will even come as close to Lucy's legacy (or even Seinfeld's!).  The thing that has had a bigger impact on TV in the last ten years and will most definitely be remembered will be the advances in online viewing, in particular YouTube.  But that is probably a topic for another day, so on to the Movies!

When it comes to the classics in film, Oscar-winners like Gone With the Wind and Casablanca are two of the biggest icons.  In the late 20th Century, they were joined by films like The Godfather and Star Wars.  But of the films of today, the ones that make money are the surefire fan-based blockbusters like Avatar or the Harry Potter films or current box-office champ The Hunger Games.  And the ones that win awards lately have tended to be more charming or poignant independent fare like The Artist or The King's Speech or The Hurt Locker (the latter has the lowest box-office take of any Best Picture winner!).  Like I Love Lucy above, Gone With the Wind was a game-changer.  And when it comes to film, the game-changers get remembered.  Too many of the ones I just listed from the last 10 years are copying the same trends in which Hollywood studios just love to take part.  And when it comes to trends, just take a look at the Music business!

Elvis is the first name on a long list of Music icons we will never forget.  Among other members of that list include Michael Jackson, Madonna and, of course, The Beatles.  Like in movies, game-changers get remembered.  But does Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber count as game-changers.  Lady Gaga has the multitudes of Twitter followers, Bieber has the legacy of YouTube in his backstory and someone like Taylor Swift has the love and support of millions of little girls (despite the accusations of using auto-tuning!).  Compare them to the likes of more talented performers like Adele or Rihanna.  Or compare them to more controversial (yet still talented) artists like Kanye West or Bon Iver.  When it comes to Music these days, critical acclaim is taken into account as much as popularity.  And with so many possibilities, its hard to decipher which group or artist will be remembered with the likes of Elvis, MJ or even The Beatles.  

And on Broadway lately, money seems to be the all-important factor in being remembered.  Hell, its even the all-important factor in getting the big awards (Tony voters tend to chose the shows that will have the best chance of touring well!).  So the question becomes: Will a big hit with critics and audiences like The Book of Mormon ever be remembered in the same way as landmark musicals like Oklahoma!, West Side Story, Fiddler On the Roof or even long-running (and still going!) champ The Phantom of the Opera?

The ultimate point in all of these cases is that the shows, films and artists of today may never have the iconic status that their respective predecessors have had, but you can tell which ones have the best shot at getting into the proverbial "Time Capsule."  And trends are important.  Without them, pop culture would not be what it is.  However, it does seem to be the work that steps away from the trends (or perfect them in a way!) that get their place in the Pantheon of Great Media.