Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Angels Bombs in America

For a while it seemed like there was no escape from the rave reviews for the HBO adaptation of “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s pretentious drama of the 1980s and the advent of the AIDS plague.

Well, now that it was been broadcast over and over on cable television it seems no one has seen it.

The New York Times and HBO are at pains to explain how “Angels” has been a success worthy of its ostentatious promotion.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to mask the truth that the film bombed. But that hasn’t stopped HBO from trying to revise history by trotting out some obsequious PR guy to wrap this dead fish in the newspaper of record.

A spokesman for HBO, Quentin Shaffer, noted that HBO measured success in three ways, beginning with critical reaction, which in this case was enormously favorable, and then number of viewers. Mr. Shaffer said that HBO would fully assess viewing figures when all the numbers from the second part were accounted for. Over all, he said, they "look really good right now."

The third element comes at award time. There the film should prove to be dominant, Mr. Shaffer said, pointing to last week's Golden Globe nominations. HBO received seven for "Angels," a showing that tied the record set by "ER" for the most received by any television production in a single year.

Of course, success in broadcasting is measured in only one way . . . ratings.

And how long does it take to count all those numbers anyway? I suspect they are pretty much instantaneously available. I also suspect if they were worth bragging about, Quentin Schaffer would be jamming them down the reporter’s throat.

Fortunately, the truth is out there. In fact, it’s right on the facing page.

The Times says that “Angels” was seen by just 3 million people on December 14. On the following page there is a share listing of the top ten cable broadcasts of the week and an explanation that each share point counts for about 1.1 million viewers.

Do a little arithmetic and you’ll learn that Thursday’s episode of SpongeBob Sqaurepants was seen by more people than “Angels in America.”

Granted, SpongeBob is better written and more historically accurate than “Angels”, but it’s also on at 8am rather than primetime.

Kushner certainly deserves an award for “Angels in America.” Allow me to suggest a category: best attempt to force feed American viewers with warmed-over, revisionist, Hollywood-liberal, Reagan hatred while ignoring that fact that tens of thousands of people needlessly contracted a deadly disease because people like the producers insisted on making a political point rather than explain that certain lifestyle behaviors had a direct impact on ones’ likelihood to contract HIV..

A bit of a mouthful . . . to use an oddly appropriate expression.

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