Our Lovely Weekend of Flops

It’s no secret I love a good bomb. I salivate for it. So yeah, I was like a pig in crap this weekend:

the vaunted trifecta

When a movie gets pulled from a summer release and is moved to the winter, you can be pretty sure of one or more of a couple of things: 1. The studio knows the movie is a very hard sell. 2. It’s not very good. 3. It wants to own the market for at least a couple weekends so it can try to sell that movie. Jack and the Giant Slayer, welcome to the trifecta! Hard to do, gotta hand it to him. And that trifecta landed it in the annals of wuh-wuuuuhhhhh mistakes, a $200 million idea that will be lucky to make half of that back. This was always going to be a movie of extreme box-office performance — either people would embrace it or they’d hate it, and now we know the answer for the movie originally slated to come out in June, but got shelved for … was there ever even a reason? Probably not. They just knew what they were up against. In the last few years, March has been pretty good to “event” movies not named “John Carter” with Alice in Wonderland (#26 all-time domestic box office) and The Hunger Games (#13 all time domestic box office) the biggest benefactors. So maybe it made sense to re-position Jack when it had time to claim an audience and when the studio didn’t have to be gobbled up by all the other movies of last summer. It almost lost out to Identity Thief. How do you think it would have held up to Avengers? Anyway, just a perfect storm of bad scenarios all coming together.

"get off me, ed. don't you know how much this movie sucks out loud?"

Did you know there was a movie starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny opening last weekend? It’s OK, neither did anyone else. The distributor hasn’t released the box-office figures for Phantom yet, which points to someone at the studio saying, “Holy crap, we need an extra day to figure out how to spin this so that we’re not all looking for jobs tomorrow.” But the industry estimates are that the movie has a chance to beat out the Oogiloves for the worst opening weekend ever for a movie in wide release. Somewhere, Chazz Palminteri is crossing his fingers. At least no one from Phantom promoted it. I saw poor Chazz on Good Morning America the weekend it opened showing off some lame tap dancing number from the movie. The fact that this couldn’t even crack the headlines under the weight of the Jack and the Giant Slayer bomb is nothing short of impressive.

We don’t even have to stick in movies to find bombs this weekend! ABC is S-M-A-R-T-I-N-G smarting after this weekend, first having to cancel Zero Hour, then watching as Red Widow bombed in its Sunday premiere. I’m starting to think networks should just stay out of cable’s niche of finding tense, envelope-pushing drama series that draw ridiculously loyal fans. Whether they’re good or not, they face the immediate hurdle of being a tense, envelope-pushing drama that people think might have a better place on cable. By sticking with bland, formulaic, ratings-driven middle-of-the-road slop, networks have ceded almost all good drama to cable. A quick look around at some of the reviews for Red Widow threw out quotes like this:

never had a chance

“(f)eels a lot like someone tried to turn a very dark cable series into a very lighthearted cable series” –Entertainment Weekly

“Is ABC’s new drama “Red Widow” the network TV answer to “Breaking Bad,” or just another serialized flop?” –Zap2It headline

“(s)eems to aspire to “Weeds”-meets-“Breaking Bad” territory” –St. Louis Post Dispatch

“‘Red Widow’ EP Departs From Dutch Format, Aims for ‘Breaking Bad’ Darkness” –Hollywood Reporter headline

Those took me about five seconds to find. So if you can’t make a truly great drama series, that you slam dunk KNOW people are going to love, why bother doing it at all? Just make another Castle, or make a new NCIS spinoff, keep your bottom line somewhat intact, and stay on the air. From now on, cable will have the benefit of the doubt in producing drama series when it comes to both reviews and viewers. The one exception is The Following, which easily is my favorite new drama of the season and is managing to keep its viewers intact. 24 and Lost will no longer be found on network TV. If they’re found at all, they’ll be found on cable. At least they should be, if the networks know what’s good for them.

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