Recently, the Lorraine Theatre in Hoopeston, Ill., closed its doors for two weeks because the owner felt the only current movie he was being offered to show on his screen was "lousy." Owner, Greg Boardman is not just interested in art films. The Lorraine often shows big-budget, popular movies. But he just couldn't bring himself to showing "Jackass II."
The 84-year-old theater was once a vaudeville palace. Boardman repaired it and installed a state-of-the-art sound system. When he closed down temporarily because he decided not to show "Jackass II," he did it because he just didn't feel that the beautiful theater and the wonderful sound system should be used to show "someone vomiting on screen." Tough to argue with the guy.
Boardman said that the studios have every right to make and release whatever films they want, but he has the right to not show them if he thinks they are "crummy." He was perfectly content with having his screen blank. He took the financial hit and even paid his manager for the two weeks. Then he reopened the theater with "Invincible" and "Open Season."
His stance on this got me thinking about television. What would happen if television executives, affiliates, or station owners followed in Boardman's footsteps? I know it's not very likely, but if you can't fantasize about the improbable or even the impossible, why bother fantasizing?
For the most part, I'm willing to admit that declaring which TV shows are good and which are "crummy" is pretty subjective. But I'm talking about the shows that just about everybody thinks are no good. I mean, for example, the last show on each network to make the schedule — shows about which executives said something like, "Well, we've got to put something on at that time, so let's go with this one."
Here's my rule of thumb for this fantasy of mine: if those who are responsible for the show can't talk about it proudly to their parents and their children, don't show it.
I know that those who run television will say they can't just have a blank screen for that time period. OK, instead of a blank screen, put up a sign that says, "This might be a good time to read a book, talk to your family, or take a walk." If that's too radical, put some old classic TV show on in that spot.
Or maybe, as with Boardman and Hoopeston, Ill., it should happen at the local level. If station owners don't want to run a show, they don't have to run it. I know this happens every once in a while with some "controversial" programs, but maybe it should happen more often with ones that just stink.
In this fantasy of mine, television news doesn't get off the hook. To use Boardman's words again, there are a lot of "crummy" and "lousy" things they throw at us and call "news." That's because there is the ridiculous assumption that every day there is exactly enough important news to fill the scheduled newscasts. Not a minute more, not a minute less. That's just silly. Obviously, on some days there is more important news than on other days.
On those "slow news" days, Boardman's Rules should apply. Just because you want to fill that time, don't give us stories about the latest diets, which celebrities might be pregnant, or what breed of cat is the smartest and call that stuff news. Start the broadcast, and when you run out of real news, stop.
If that blank screen is a problem again, this would be a great opportunity to show some important news event from history whose coverage was prize-winning — instead of a story on how to organize your garage.
But as I said, much of this is a fantasy. There will always be movies that some people find "crummy" or "lousy," and there will always be TV shows that some people will put into those categories. But what is not fantasy is that those with the ultimate TV programming power can do something about it. And that's us — the people who can turn the set off if we don't like what they're showing. And you know something? When I do that, like Mr. Boardman, I'm perfectly content having that screen blank.
Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for SportsLine.com. He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
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