Sunday, November 13, 2005

Why Duckman Should Be More Influential Than 24-Hour News Channels

I used to work on a show called Duckman, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We had a great time and I like to think we had a lot to say. We had a loyal audience of just over a million people, no matter when we were on. Not very many, right?

Well, that's twice as many as Fox News has. Twice as many as Paula Zahn gets. Twice as many as Wolf Blitzer or Rita Cosby or Hardball. It's about three times as many as Anderson Cooper or Joe Scarborough or Nancy Grace.

That's the dirty secret of TV news: no one watches it.

Arrested Development
just got cancelled with the same rating the O'Reilly Factor gets on its best night, and more than twice Larry King Live's. Meanwhile, according to the TV Newser, FNC ratings have been in a "free fall"...and at a symposium last week (quoted in B&C) NBC Universal President Bob Wright admitted that cable news viewers are "not a very large group."

So the question remains, why do the million people who watched Duckman -- or the millions and millions who watch Survivor and The Simpsons and Lost and all the rest -- not matter, not set the national agenda, not set the national tone... but the one million people who watch Anderson Cooper, Joe Scarborough, and Nancy Grace combined do?

What national inferiority complex allows this situation to continue? How long will we let it go on before we take our country back?

This becomes important because that small cabal makes really stupid decisions. Like remember when they decided to spend an entire July and August investigating whether or not John Kerry was a coward and a traitor during the Vietnam War? Would the Duckman or Lost audience have sanctioned that? Of course not.

And then that September, they decided that every single media outlet should investigate the authenticity of some documents in a CBS story about George Bush's National Guard service... but not whether the story was true or not.

One more time: the story was true.

One of the documents was not genuine.

The media focused on the fake document, not the big, true story.

How long will we put up with the kind of idiots who would do that?


Lisa said...

AMEN!!!! You are more right than I ever thought possible.

Michael Markowitz said...

Paul, you're clearly a great guy, and a bright guy. I mean the first paragraph you wrote proves that.

I will only ask a couple of things:

Please accept that the Swift Boat smears -- which you wave away as "vulnerabilities" -- are not yet stipulated as true by all, okay? They are still up for debate. is that fair enough?

And many of us -- myself definitely included -- didn't care about the Senator's Vietnam service. We cared about his Senate service.

And finally, let's not be disingenuous: the Swift Boat ads came from Rove, as did the forgery story. Just like the McCain smears and the Cleland smears. They might have come from GWB himself. He is the man who came up with the Willie Horton ad. So let's not make him an innocent bystander in all of this.

I'm only saying that it is a familiar gambit of the Bush family, dating back to the Bush Sr. - Dan Rather debacle: when you are confronted with a media message you don't want to deal with, make the media the story. (And if you doubt that was a tactic that day, read Craig Crawford's "Attack the Messenger")

Meanwhile, your guy won, he's filling his suitcases with all the ashtrays and towels. You should be thrilled. Can we get back to gadgets, girls, and reality TV?? :-)

Paul Israelson said...

I agree that much is still up for debate...on both sides.

There is a blurry line between "real" facts and "alleged" facts. Rove may indeed be the Machiavelli you claim. Maybe the Bushes did "fight" dirty. Maybe Kerry really is a genuine war hero. (My voting decision was also based upon his Senate record, not Vietnam.)

We all tend to accept as truth those "facts" which best suit our beliefs.

It's sad how the Media pursue a story. Facts are secondary to sensationalism & scandal. Those who report the news cannot help but inject the news with their biases. (O'Reilly, as well as Rather).

At the end of the day, the Media is no better than any other business. It's not about reporting facts; it's all about making a buck -- to be "nipple deep in greenbacks." (My favorite DM quote) Dan Rather sure didn't work for minimum wage!

But, as you suggested, and to paraphrase Uncle Jimbo (South Park's favorite redneck), let's get back to "titties and beer."

More importantly, any chance of you and your fellow Duckman writers ever collaborating again? Television is desperate for the great writing you guys did on Duckman.

Michael Markowitz said...

Thanks, Paul, that's kind of you to say. We have all drifted off to different projects, so you might say we are spreading Duckmany goodness everywhere we go.

As soon as Duckman closed shop, I devised a plot for a straight-to-DVD movie for Duckman we would all do together. It would have picked up his career two years after his show's cancellation and had him going to a film festival -- he believed to revive his career -- but actually as a patsy for international terrorists or spies or somesuch.

We tried to convince Paramount that if even a fraction of the loyal audience bought the DVD, they'd make money. They were having none of it.

So we said, well, at least put out the episodes on DVD. The attitude at the time, of course, was "TV on DVD? You must be insane!"

So I said, "Well, okay, then let people download them online for a dollar or two an episode. That way, there's no overhead for you, no manufacturing costs. Pure profit. And if there's enough interest, and enough profit, we can start making more and distribute them online instead of on TV."

Everyone looked at me as if I'd grown a second head.

To quote a great man: D'oh!

Though we hear rumors every year that this is the year Duckman will be on DVD. Maybe this will be the year.

Then I'll really be insufferable with the stories! :-)

Paul Israelson said...

Oh, those morons in the suits! Bean counters with no love or appreciation for the Art of Satire.

Meanwhile, Brendan Small is earning some good, supplemental income selling "Home Movies" DVDs at the video store in the local mall! (Small & Benjamin cracked me up.)

Ah, well. Until the DVD royalties start rolling in, you should congratulate yourself in the knowledge that (a) you were smarter than the Paramount bozos and (b) your instincts were correct. TV on DVD has become a very profitable business.

Meanwhile, the million-or-so remaining fans of DM will continue to scan the shelves at Best Buy and Target for the soon-to-be-released DM series.

And now that I've discovered your blogsite, I'll check in on you from time-to-time. I wish you the greatest success in your career.

Best regards,

Your #1 fan from the Baby Boomer generation (born 1953)

Michael Markowitz said...

Thanks, Paul. You know what they say: the pioneers get all the arrows.

As for the royalties, sadly, none of the Duckman writers have ever seen or will see a penny. Animation wasn't a part of the Writers Guild then. If I'd been paid for all these years of reruns I'd be a very lucky man.

But I was paid in satisfaction, right?

Anyway, glad you found the blog, hope we still have the lights on when you check back. Don't be a stranger!

Anonymous said...

Duckman rules, I watch them at VIDLIST.NET