Goodbye, O.C.

Does wishing for the demise of a show set in my home town make me a bad person?  I hope not, because I was glad to read this:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — “The O.C.,” the once-hot teenage soap opera that saw its ratings plummet like a delinquent student’s grades, has been canceled.

Based in the affluent Orange County, California, city of Newport Beach, “The O.C.” caught fire in its first season, 2003-04, as the top-rated drama among advertiser-favored young adults and with a total audience of nearly 10 million.

“The O.C.” didn’t sustain its momentum, dropping to about 7 million weekly viewers during 2004-05 and then to fewer than 6 million last season. This year, returning in November after Fox wrapped its postseason baseball coverage, “The O.C.” has only drawn about 4 million viewers.

Somehow, the real Orange County became a magnet for producers of bad television over the past few years.  “The O.C.” scraped the bottom of the 90210-esque barrel from day one, yet somehow found enough of an audience that it spawned two Orange County-based reality shows:  The Real Housewives of Orange County and Laguna Beach.

I’ve seen all three shows, just out of curiosity.  There are definitely people who live that way, but they’re a relatively small number.  TV show fans do weird things sometimes; I wonder how many folks have moved here because of those shows, and what they think of the place after living here for a while.

The true reality of Orange County life goes down two seperate paths.  The high-life that everyone associates with O.C. is frequently a person with a $100,000 income living in an overpriced, rented apartment and driving a $150,000 car, leveraged to the hilt in order to finance an lifestyle they cannot afford.  That’s not going to last.

The other reality is comprised of ordinary people living normal, sensible lives.  I’d say that accounts for 95% of the county’s residents.

What you don’t see on TV is the sense of entrapment the real estate values place on homeowners here.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who say that they couldn’t move even if they wanted to because the high cost of real estate and the step up in tax basis on their home would make even a downward move unaffordable.  They’re wealthy on paper, but that’s it.  There are homeowners with multi-million dollar homes on Balboa Island who couldn’t even afford to pay the property tax on their place if it wasn’t for Proposition 13.  They’ve simply owned the place for 30 years and bought when it was affordable down there.

I suppose these nuances don’t make for good television, but I dislike the reality shows because there’s a segment of the population that expects and wants Orange County to be as vapid and shallow as what ends up on screen.  It’s perplexing.  When shows like “Dallas” were on the air, nobody thought it represented the real city of Dallas.  Of course, that was twenty years ago; the definition of “reality” has undergone some plastic surgery since then.  I hardly recognize it.

I like Orange County.  I just don’t like the way it’s portrayed to the world on these B-roll TV series.  The sooner they go, the better.  Let the glare of Hollywood’s reality craze warp someone else’s community for a change.

Stealth

Anyone who knows me is aware that I love just about anything aviation-related. If there’s a film, book, documentary, magazine, or web site that promotes or involves flying, I’m all for it. It takes a lot for me to turn my nose up at anything with an airplane in it.

Nevertheless, the trailers for the new Sony film Stealth look truly abysmal. It’s a shame, because I want to be excited about this movie. But I end up secretly hoping it bombs at the box office. Something tells me my dream will come true.

The best thing Stealth has going for it appears to be the special effects, and those seem about on par with something Fisher-Price might have packaged for sale to the public. The aircraft movement, cinematography, dialogue, and attitudes of the pilots are annoying as hell to watch.

I’ve seen the full length trailer and always come away thinking that I’d be more likely to part with $10 if they’d never created the trailer in the first place. It’s almost as if they were trying to make the worst movie possible.

Stealth. Yeah, right.

The Aviator

A&E aired an fascinating documentary about Howard Hughes today.

Well, it was half documentary. The other half seemed to be a combination preview and advertisement for the latest Martin Scorcese film, The Aviator. The program interspersed clips of the real Hughes with commentary from the cast and excerpts from the motion picture.

It’s obvious that the cast did their research, and I enjoyed the program — right up to the point where Scorcese himself jumped the shark by first waxing nostalgic about Hughes’ pursuit of aviation greatness and then claiming that “the word ‘aviator’ is meaningless to us today because there are no aviators anymore.”

Excuse me?

Try telling that to Steve Fossett, who in less than a month will takeoff from a midwest airport in the GlobalFlyer in a bid to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unrefueled. He’s a rich guy, just like Hughes was, and has set just as many records. Fossett currently holds ten world records, including the distinction of being the only person to have ever circumnavigated the world nonstop and solo in a balloon.

Tell that to Burt Rutan, who designed the GlobalFlyer and the first airplane to circumnavigate the world nonstop/unrefuled, Voyager. Or to the guys who piloted Rutan’s SpaceShipOne into space two months ago, becoming the world’s first commercial astronauts.

Tell that to Jon Sharp, Richard VanGrunsven, the Klapmeier brothers.

Tell that to the guys who funded the X Prize, or shoot past 500 mph at the Reno Air Races in 50 year old airplanes that weren’t designed to go anywhere near that fast.

Scorcese may be a brilliant director, but he’s so dazzled by the legend of Howard Hughes that he misses the incontrovertible fact that these and many other modern aviators have eclipsed Hughes’ achievements, and in every case done it with far fewer resources. Films will be made about those people, too, though probably not for a long time.

If Scorcese was truly visionary, he’d at least be able to step away from the camera long enough to see what’s going on all around him.

“No aviators”? Please.

Ocean’s Twelve

Looks like Ocean’s Twelve is going to be a success. Hey, it could happen.

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) — “Ocean’s Twelve,” the heist caper that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and their A-list pals shot in their spare time while living it up in Europe, stole the No. 1 slot at the North American weekend box office.

According to studio estimates issued Sunday, the Warner Bros. film sold $40.9 million worth of tickets in the three days since opening December 10. Warner Bros. and CNN are units of Time Warner Inc.

It marks the fourth-biggest opening for a December release, after the “Lord of the Rings” movies, and narrowly surpassed its 2001 predecessor, “Ocean’s Eleven,” which opened with $38.1 million in 200 fewer theaters and finished with $184 million.

I can think of at least a few sequels that met the standard set by their predecesors: The Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back, Rocky II, Terminator II, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Hell, sometimes a film goes on to become a full-fledged franchise, a la the James Bond flicks. Most of the time, however, sequels are mediocre at best.

Remakes have an even worse track record.. Which is why I wasn’t expecting much when the remake of Eleven opened in 2001. Thankfully, Steven Soderbergh was smart enough to know a) not to mess with a classic, b) the storylines and pacing that satiated a 1960’s audience would not be well received by a 21st century theatre goer, and c) third rule of fight club: there was only one Rat Pack, so leave it alone. So beyond a vague similarity in the storyline, the two films are independent of one another.

One of the few films I was really hoping to see a sequel to was another remake, The Thomas Crown Affair. It didn’t set the box office on fire, but it’s been my favorite movie since the day I saw it.

Anyway, I’m glad to be in Las Vegas during the premiere of Ocean’s Twelve. Not only was the original filmed here by Sinatra and company, but the remake of was set at the Bellagio, my favorite hotel. I’d probably be staying there right now were it not for the fact that it’s about five times as expensive as Texas Station.

Speaking of which, there’s a large cinema complex here in the hotel, and they had some sort of special event going on for the opening of Ocean’s Twelve yesterday. I’m hoping to see the film while I’m here, but with the ATP course schedule, it may not be possible.

Goodbye Discovery Wings

I had a feeling this was coming.

Bringing viewers compelling, real-world stories of heroism, military strategy, technological breakthroughs and turning points in history, Discovery Communications, Inc. will transition its Discovery Wings Channel to the Military Channel on Monday, Jan. 10, 2005.

Despite the fact that D-Wings had an annoying habit of playing the same shows over and over again, it was still better than much of the stuff on television. From a marketing perspective, the switch to a military channel is shrewd. Many folks either have friends or family serving abroad or know someone who does.

There were some interesting series on D-Wings: Learning to Fly, From the Ground Up, Aviatrix, and so on.

I hope Discovery will spread new and existing aviation programming around rather than drop it completely. Few people outside of general aviation appreciate its usefulness or contributions to the economy. Anything that educates the public about GA is a plus, and the Discovery Wings channel was at least a step in the right direction.