Yesterday a nervy idea hit me for an At The Movies type show. I was standing in a hotel room around noon yesterday and listening to critic Marshall Fine talk about having taped a pilot for one of these things, and it came to me in a flash. At The Movies hosted by critics under the influence.
I’m basically talking about a mixture of At The Movies and the Dean Martin variety hour that ran in the mid ’60s to mid ’70s. Martin always pretended to be slightly bombed on that show, and I don’t think viewers cared if he actually was or not. The point is that the show was loose and friendly and convivial, and there’s obviously one way to usher in that kind of vibe.
I don’t know what substance would work better, alcohol or marijuana. But if there was a weekly movie-reviewing show featuring fizzy-headed or moderately stoned critics, people would watch it like they watched Howard Beale in Network. Because they’d know going in that the critics wouldn’t be dispensing the usual-usual. It’s a catchy gimmick — you have to admit that.
Nobody wants to see respected critics make fools of themselves, so the trio we’re speaking of would need to be very careful with the intake. But they’d be just irreverent enough to loosen up and say what they really think about this or that film due to reduced inhibitions and being slightly more prone to using colorful language and…you know, not seeming overly poised and regimented, which is what every movie-critic show tends to feel like. Cold-sober people obviously have stirring discussions every day, but the liveliest ones — admit it — do seem to happen in the evening among friends after a drink or two. Or after passing a joint around.
I realize there are laws prohibiting on-camera imbibing, so such a show would have to be launched online. But you’d probably want your critics doing the show while sitting at a bar on stools. And the show would have to be lighted semi-darkly, like Charlie Rose.
Obviously a thing like this would send an unhealthy retrograde message to viewers, and there would be, I agree, a certain flirtation with public humiliation right around the edges of such a concept. I’m only saying that the numbers for such a show would almost certainly be exceptional because it would be something really different. I’m sure most people reading this think it’s a silly adolescent idea that challenges the already-tarnished dignity of film criticism. But I know something else — the best ideas for new forms of entertainment are often ones that conventional-minded types dismiss at the outset.