Did you hear? The world as we know it is about to end. Very soon economies will crash, dogs will mate with bears, doctors will discover that break-dancing is the cure for cancer, and Christina Aguilera will win an Oscar for singing like a wounded bison in “Burlesque.” So, put your affairs in order and make peace with those you have wronged, for this world’s egg-timer is about to ding.
Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you should suspend your disbelief until you hear my proof. Yes, there is proof. And it comes in the form of the news that on-the-rise cable network AMC has announced the cancellation of the wonderfully intelligent intelligence drama “Rubicon” after just one season.
I know, I know. Calm down. Take the loaded pistol away from your temple and pull the children out of the oven. A murder-suicide will get you nowhere. We must all face this inevitable end with dignity. Plus, this week’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” looks fucking amazing, so there’s that.
Back to “Rubicon.” Citing lagging ratings, the cable network was forced to pull the plug on the widely acclaimed drama less than a month after the season-one finale aired. With innovative and popular series such as “Mad Men,””Breaking Bad,” and “The Walking Dead” drawing both viewers and critical acclaim, AMC can hardly be criticized for making appalling programming missteps. This latest cancellation, however, feels premature and seems to reinforce a theory that has recently become a mainstay in my wrinkly brain — America is finding new ways everyday to dumb itself down.
Although I can not verify this assertion with a scientific study of any sort, I’m willing to wager my modest paycheck that more teenagers in America know more about Kanye West than they do about Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m also willing to take to Vegas the bet that the vast majority of American men age 18-35 know more about Tiger Woods’ affairs than they do about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
What’s my point? I’m not quite sure. I lost my train of thought with the whole Pearl Harbor vs. Tiger Woods comparison. Oh, yeah…television and the dumbing down of America.
With cancellation of “Rubicon,” AMC executives have succumbed to the increasingly common reality that IQ need not (or should not) apply where American television viewers and their money are concerned. It’s a cowardly reaction to this sad reality, but when millions upon millions of dollars are on the line, it is understandable, if not forgivable.
Whether you were a fan of “Rubicon” or not is not necessarily the point. We all have different tastes. Some people like rap, some people like rock. Some couples enjoy a romantic candle-lit dinner, while others prefer to wrap their naked bodies in plastic wrap and throw wooden troll statues at one another. To each his/her own. That the disappearing few Americans who actually enjoy intelligent drama and comedy are being force-fed nauseating reality TV and sitcoms overwhelmingly short of laughs, however, is the point.
As an example, “Two and a Half Men” is in it’s eighth season. Not two or three seasons. Eight. That is approximately the same number of genuine laughs the show has produced in its entire run on CBS. It is also the number of Budweisers I’d have to drink to make it through the show’s opening song. Yet, America loves the show to the tune of multiple Emmy awards and huge per-episode paychecks for Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, and the awkward fat-ass who plays the “half” man. Meanwhile, the hilarious “Arrested Development” — a comedy that was stupid and smart at the same time — was killed by pathetic underachiever FOX after three hard-fought seasons, and lives a meager existence on IFC one night a week. Ughhhhhhhh!
I don’t mean to take cheap-shots at Charlie Sheen and crew (although it feels like heaven on a cracker to do so). The sad fact is that the landscape of television history is littered with the rotting corpses of sitcoms and dramas that refused to pander to the mouth-breathers, while daring to combine intelligent writing, great acting, and a direction not focused solely on Nielsen ratings. The latter, of course, being the nail in their proverbial coffins.
In the end, I guess we are what we consume, whether it be the Angus Wraps at McDonalds or “The Jersey Shore.” Americans watch way too much TV, myself included. Complaining about how intelligent a television program is or isn’t is like asking whether blue cheese or ranch dressing is the healthier option to pour on your Captain Crunch. I guess I was just hoping that as I slowly wasted my evenings in TV land, I would be able to pretend that “Rubicon” was stimulating my last fourteen brain cells.
Thanks to AMC, that dream is dead.