By Patrick Kevin Day, Joseph A. Kapsch, Stephanie Lysaght, Todd Martens, Denise Martin, Jevon Phillips and Rebecca Snavely
Uncle Sam’s been pretty free with his pocketbook in the past few weeks. Banks and insurance firms have already gotten hefty sums to keep their boats afloat in the current economic crisis. Now the Big Three automakers are asking for some cash. It seems everyone has an idea for who should get some green goodness: Can Las Vegas casinos, movie studios and TV networks be far behind?
We surveyed the entertainment landscape and hit upon some other bloated, creaky entertainment franchises that once bestrode the world like Colossus but now are desperately in need of some outside assistance (whether they want to admit it or not). Luckily, our crack team of experts has words of wisdom for each of them. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
The glory days: 2003’s “In da Club” is still stuck in our heads, a dance hit that introduced the world to the drug-dealer-turned-rapper-turned-gunshot-wound-survivor.
Troubled times: Sure, critics didn’t love the movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” but you don’t retaliate by doing a coming-of-age drama that goes straight to DVD. You don’t delay your album. You don’t do a combo-pack of said album with said DVD. And you certainly do not fake retirement. (I won’t even get into stooping to do bland MTV reality shows like “50 Cent: The Money and the Power,” and hawking vitamin water.)
Bailout plan: Retire for real, or follow Jay-Z‘s example. And give up all of your extracurricular activities that have nothing to do with music. Or just give us “In da Club” Part 2 and all is forgiven. (Scott Gries / Getty Images)
The glory days: Depends on who you ask. In its inception, MTV was anti-establishment, just rock ‘n’ roll VJs, ‘round-the-clock music videos and plenty of attitude. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the network reached ratings highs by became a breeding ground of sorts for teeny-bopper franchises from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to Blink-182 and Offspring. Shows like “The Real World” introduced a new kind of documentary series, a look into the lives of young people nearing the turn of the century.
Troubled times: MTV became a victim of its own ratings success right around the dawn of trainwreck TV hits “The Osbournes” and “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” which birthed lesser copycats and a mandate to find similar fare. Meanwhile, “TRL” devolved from a booming interactive music video countdown to just one of several stops on the celebrity promotional circuit. Now, MTV stands for little else than “The Hills.” (Seriously, is there anyone that can name even one other show that airs on the channel?)
Bailout plan: Stop doing cheap reality. Steal “American Idol” from Fox. Come up with a bigger, better version of “High School Musical.” Hire Josh Schwartz or Joss Whedon to come up with a music-centric equivalent of “Gossip Girl” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” (Peter Kramer / Associated Press)
” Law & Order”
The glory days: The long-running NBC legal drama is old enough to vote -- it just started its 19th season. At its height, around the 12th season or so, it was a Top 10 Nielsen hit, racked up an impressive list of awards -- including an Emmy for best drama series in 1997 -- and seems to be playing in reruns somewhere in the world at any given time of day.
Troubled times: The onetime ratings juggernaut has fallen on hard times. Last season it was 38th in the ratings; the season before that it was 73rd (a change of time slots helped it bounce back). But a series of spinoffs -- “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and the swiftly canceled “Law & Order: Trial By Jury” and “Conviction” -- spread the franchise and format a bit thin. “Law & Order” alum Fred Thompson, right, launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States presidency in 2008.
Bailout plan: The interchangeablilty of the titles and the casts has become a burden for the franchise. Either combine the casts into a single sprawling intricately plotted drama -- think “The Wire” -- or start drastically changing the formats. If you can’t immediately tell which “Law & Order” you’re watching, within a minute, then they’re too similar. “CSI” solved this problem by changing the locales: New York, Miami and Las Vegas. (Virginia Sherwood / NBC Universal)
The glory days: “The Simple Life,” when America found it funny watching Paris and her BFF Nicole Richie try out life as average Americans, or Paris go to jail as a pampered celebrity.
Troubled times: Facing a global economic crisis, everyone is cutting out the fluff in their lives. Paris, her extravagant image and her new show “BFF” may be casualties of the cuts.
Bailout plan:Desperate times call for rallies and a run for public office. From a bob to extensions, sweater-sets to sequins, Paris is an agent of change. She has already revealed her presidential platform, her cabinet, and her pick for VP (Rihanna, “She’s hot.”) in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. (Andrew Gombert / EPA)
The Jackson siblings
The glory days:Michael Jackson as the King of Pop ruled (solo) the ‘70s and ‘80s and Janet as the ... princess of pop(?) ruled the airwaves during the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Michael caused folks to faint in the crowds a la the Beatles, while Janet racked up hit after hit from “Rhythm Nation” and subsequent albums.
Troubled times: After relentless court battles and claims of pedophilia, Michael retreated. He has since had to sell his fabled Neverland Ranch, albeit to a company to which he has ties, and has had to settle out of court with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad al Khalifa, the prince of Bahrain, who was suing him for $7 million. Haven’t seen the kids much.
Janet Jackson‘s wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show has escalated the indecency argument and is now being viewed by the Supreme Court. She has recently canceled tour stops that were previously just “postponed” due to illness, and has been talking about quitting the biz to start a family with boyfriend Jermaine Dupri.
Bailout plan: Take advantage of the name, siblings. Ban together to open up Neverland in direct opposition to Disneyland and Universal Studios. Get all of your music buds to kick in. There can be petting zoos and piercing parlors (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)
The glory days: In the nineties, Jennifer Aniston was riding high. She landed the role of superficial-yet-lovable Rachel Green on Friends, an entire generation of women copied her hairdo, and she won an Emmy for best lead actress. Then, in 2000, she married golden boy Brad Pitt in a lavish Malibu ceremony, and in 2002 she gained indie cred with The Good Girl. Who could ask for more?
Troubled times: After Aniston and Pitt called it quits -- and Pitt started dating Angelina Jolie Aniston was painted as a victim. Recently, Anistons on-and-off relationship with John Mayer has come under the microscope, amid rumors she is pregnant. Jens appearance on 30 Rock did little to buoy her falling star; the episode garnered the lowest ratings of the season. An appearance on Oprah and a jab at Jolie in a Vogue interview only provided further fodder for media scrutiny.
Bailout plan: Appealing as it is to cozy up to Oprah and gush, you may want to adopt the phrase no comment with regards to all things Brad and Angelina. And as for your unlucky-in-love image, how about trading in the actors and musicians for a regular guy? Get out of the spotlight and focus on what you love: acting! Why not star in a Broadway play? Added bonus: youll get out of L.A. for a while. (George Burns / Associated Press)
The glory days: The original Beverly Hills, 90210 was an absolute institution. It defined a generation, and kept the drama coming for ten long seasons.
Troubled times: The hit series is back on The CW, and people are watching, but oddly enough, theyre doing so begrudgingly. On our Show Tracker blog, comments are overwhelmingly negative. This show is a nightmare, complained one viewer. This show is going nowhere, said another.
Bailout plan: Two words: Dylan McKay. And if you cant get Dylan back on the show, give Dixon and Silver more screen time. They are the only couple our commenters do not appear to find repugnant. (Art Streiber / The CW)
Glory days: In 1999, Simpson was the fresh-faced, big-voiced virgin alternative to pop princess Spears and the original Good Girl Gone Bad Aguilera. Unfortunately for Jess, America is a two-party system, so her label’s attempts to sex up her image looked set to make her the teen-pop bubble’s first casualty. Still, an impending deflowering from Nick Lachey made her the envy of millions of girls, women and sexually confused teen boys. “Newlyweds,” the last ditch effort to save the couple’s careers, proved an unlikely pop culture phenomenon and jump-started her career to multi-platinum sales, sellout tours, prime-time variety shows and endorsement deals galore. At last, she was America’s sweetheart with a heart of gold, straw for brains and Lachey in the background making jokes for more oral gratification.
Troubled times: Jessica’s headlining gig at VH1’s Divas Live in 2004 sank the franchise like a battleship. The only reason to laugh at her role in “Dukes of Hazzard” were tabloid reports she let Johnny Knoxville tag and bag it. Simpson’s refusal to open up to the media about her split from Lachey cast her as the villain by default, and without the public on her side, her first post-divorce album shifted less units than her line of weaves. Oh, and it was rumored that she was dumped via text message by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. Hooking up with America’s Quarterback Tony Romo and going country have done nothing to help.
Bailout plan: Some things in the pop economy can’t and shouldn’t be saved. The Fed let Lehman sink because ... well, it wasn’t that important. Sorry Jessica, but whether it’s a bull market, a bear market or even a pink wig market, you were always a distant third anyway. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)
The glory days: A flashy new show about regular people with extraordinary powers, “Heroes” dominated the scene two years ago, building from a strong premiere to a ratings powerhouse, averaging somewhere around 14 million viewers (or more).
Troubled times: The flash has dulled since then. Muddled storylines and a very badly timed writers strike caused popularity to plummet in the second season. Hope for the third season quickly fell as record low ratings for the series and critical drubbings from all angles toppled the show.
Bailout plan: It’d be too easy to say write more focused storylines and whittle down the characters, so ... how about making it a musical!? Everybody likes a good musical. Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg were seen beat-boxing and rapping on the NBC commercials, and Hayden Panettiere has an album out, so the groundwork is already laid. Hip-hop horay for “Heroes”! (Frank Ockenfels / NBC)
The summer concert festival
The glory days: Coachella in 2004 brought a challenging mix of new, old and underground acts. Headliners included experimental rock act Radiohead and electronic pioneers Kraftwerk. Meanwhile, that same year in Tennessee, Bonnaroo was making a name for itself for Bob Daylan, Wilco and an up-and-comer called Danger Mouse.
Troubled times: Attendance at festivals may not be hurting -- yet. There was a time Coachella was the West Coast destination spot. But now there’s Outside Lands in San Francisco and Sasquatch in Seattle. There used to be one in Las Vegas -- Vegoose -- but it has ceased to exist. We can run down the list of fests that now populate the entire country, but were on a word count. And what’s worse, each fest is riddled with the same acts, allowing artists to simply play a summer festival circuit, of sorts, and most contracts actually forbid the artists from playing in a nearby market for weeks before and after the event.
Bailout plan: The growth must stop. No more festival additions for years to come, as they’re no longer a “destination” when each fest is loaded with the same lineup. And with acts not allowed to play in the same city for a number of weeks surrounding the fest, music fans are forced to shell out $100 or more to see abbreviated sets in the summer heat. So one fest per state, and no fests in a surrounding state. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Bonus bailout: The Oscars telecast
The glory days: 1998, when viewers tuned in to get one more glimpse of Jack and Rose, a.k.a. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. A box-office success like “Titanic” is sure to be a hit year for the Oscars.
Troubled times: “No Country for Old Men” took home Oscar’s best picture trophy, but, in correlation to the theater numbers, there were few viewers for old Oscar. 2008 was the lowest rated Oscarcast since Nielsen started counting in 1974.
Bailout plan: 2009 nominees should include but not be limited to: “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” “Twilight” and the Roberts (Downey, Jr. and Pattinson). (Bob D’Amico / ABC)