Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Breadwinners" Is Nickelodeon's Limp Hail Mary

Nickelodeon is in the shitter. They have managed ratings increases over the course of the past year, but are still far below their ratings of a few years ago. Their money-making goliath is still Spongebob. Their new shows are flopping with both audiences and critics. And if the resistance to Legend of Korra is any indication, their executive ranks are filled with the sort of borderline-retards that one would expect of executive ranks at a company that sells ADHD-addled retrograde social concepts to children who are slowly being turned into diabetics by the breakfast cereals that are Nickelodeon's primary ad buyers.

It reminds me of the scene in Big, where Tom Hank's character is in an executive meeting for the toy company at which he has managed to get a job, and he dismantles the stupid idea of another executive, an idea to compete with Transformers with buildings that turn into robots. It is a shockingly stupid idea, and yet the executive doesn't realize that. Even when faced with the simple question of "why is this fun?" he is unable to answer. He is the perfect representation of an executive that doesn't actually have any abilities. All he can be is an "executive." As such, he can be the "executive" of anything. Why bother learning about it?

And so we come back to Nickelodeon. They are executives who can be executives and that is it. They don't understand their shows or their market. They understand charts and numbers and believe, with all the weight of their degrees and breeding behind them, that this is somehow real. They are the ones who truly understand things. Not these foolish artists. The people who actually create things are nothing more than interchangeable grunts.

Media executives are the money-sucking parasites of the media industry. No one is paid more to do less aside from investment bankers.

But I digress, as I'm known to do. This is about Nickelodeon's attempts to not be horrible.

I have to admit, I was expecting something different considering all of the hype Nickelodeon has been churning up. I was expecting something of Spongebob or Korra caliber. Instead, I got a show that was obviously animated with a Wacom tablet, Illustrator, and Flash. At least this helps to explain the strongly negative reviews of the show. This is some crazed, spastic, hyperactive shit. I don't mean shit in that this show is shit, I mean that this show is some shit. And I have now seen it.

As I mentioned, the show is getting very poor reviews. I'm not surprised. This is a web short. It was intended to be a web short. It feels like a web short. It wasn't even a terribly successful web short. But Nickelodeon damned the torpedoes and ran full speed ahead with it in a desperate attempt to find... anything. It is manic in a way that Spongebob could only ever hope to be. If children today are truly riddled with ADHD, shows like this are causing it. Hell, this show cannot slow down because it is set to a beat that is inspired by electronic music such as dubstep.

The funny thing is that this reminds me of old Fleischer shorts — a noble pedigree indeed. Just as with Betty Boop, the characters of Breadwinners bob up and down at all times to the music. Everything is alive. This should be a good thing, but instead the show just appears unfocused and manic. Importantly, even the Fleischer shorts were never intended to be seen in quick succession. They were four-minute doses of madness that showed before feature films.

The above video is a comparison between the original video and the Nickelodeon version. In case you wanted evidence that Nickelodeon is still just as moronic as it has always been, look no further than the changes made. For example, when Swaysway smacks Buhdeuce around, in the Nickelodeon version, he is using a piece of bread. That may seem like a random change, but it fits in perfectly with Nickelodeon's bizarre and idiotic conservativism; with the toast, no direct, violent physical contact is taking place. Similarly, both uses of the word "die" and its variants have been removed. "Die a fiery death" was changed to "end up roast beef." And "We didn't even die once" was changed to "we're still alive still."

While these don't qualify for the pantheon of great examples of television censorship, they reveal a company so utterly crippled by idiotic, corporate tampering as to be barely functional. No wonder Homestar Runner repeatedly rejected Nickelodeon's entreaties.

It reminds me of an episode of Behind Closed Doors With Joan Lunden where she profiled Domino's Pizza (trust me, I'm going somewhere with this). Amazingly, the shake-up of the company that was to come in a few years was presaged by the show. In one part of the episode, she sits in on a meeting between Domino's marketing executives (the worst kind of executives) and the team from the advertising company that is producing a television commercial.

In the commercial, a very small dog is attacking a man's leg and making over-the-top sounds, as though a bear were mauling a couch. After the viewing of the prototype commercial, one of the executives leans forward at the table and says "are we sure we want to have that level of violence in the commercial?"

Uhhh... what?

My father worked in corporate America for a long time. One of the things that he noticed is that people sitting in a meeting will lean forward, produce words, then lean back, place their hands in their lap, and relax, confident that they have just done "work." Of course, they haven't. Only someone with an MBA could ever believe that this was work. Work requires actual work, not simply asking stupid questions like some over-paid, wannabe Socrates.

In these meetings, sometimes actual work would get put on the table, be it a project, simple task, or something requiring actual insight and research. When this happened, those surrounding the table would physically push away from the table. The idea of real work was literally repulsive and caused actual, manifest behavior.

I saw this in the video of the Domino's executives. I actually saw it. They did it on camera. It blew my mind. I honestly did not believe that people this useless existed in the real world. But exist they do, and they get their fingers into everything.

As such, when you see changes that seem bizarre and pointless, that is their handiwork. The executives make these changes because they are hard to argue against because they make little sense and yet can be couched in terms that make them appear rational. It also lets them make changes without spending too much time or energy, thus allowing them to run about, infecting projects.

Changes for the sake of changes to appear as though they are doing work. It's the raison d'être of the media executive.

This show does nothing but confirm what Marc Summers said about Nickelodeon: the network is going into the dumper. Just as with Symbionic Titan's cancellation at Cartoon Network, all that Nickelodeon cares about is selling garbage. They don't care about quality. They don't care about positive change. They care about selling junk based on terrible shows. All they want to be is a mechanism to suck up money from a population.

In its current state, Nickelodeon is destined to die.

In late January, the CEO of Bayer said that "We did not develop this medicine for Indians. We developed it for western patients who can afford it." He is an executive in the truest American sense. Compare that to George Merck, then CEO of Merck, in 1929.
We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
One chases quality, and expects that profit will follow; the other simply chases profit. One is a leader, innovator, and pioneer; the other is an overpaid bean counter with a fancy degree. One is worthwhile; the other should simply be euthanized.

It's time to euthanize Nick. Time to make way for something better.

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