My first brush with abject failure came during college. As arts editor of the college newspaper, I was stalked by the oily pedant who owned the small rock club down the street from our offices, who craved publicity for the unending stream of hopeless bands he showcased. After attempting to appease him by sending cub reporters to gigs by an 8-year-old guitar prodigy and "the Honduran Philip Glass," I drew the line when he begged me to see some random grunge band that had just completed its first record. Like every other act that graced the club's stage, this band was supposedly "getting pushed hard by the label guys in New York City." I passed. Instead of hanging out with the band and covering the show, I got drunk and ate nachos.
That band was Pearl Jam.
As I've matured into a sporadically functional adult, I've gotten much better at brushing myself off after such knockdowns and arising to screw up anew. For instance, I now glance out the window before leaving the house for a long run, lest that I find myself bombarded by hail the size of tennis balls. The point is: I learn from my mistakes.
Which is more than can be said for many of our prominent content monkeys. To them, an idea that failed isn't a bad idea; it's merely one that was ahead of its time or simply too brilliant and idiosyncratic for the mouth-breathing masses to appreciate. These people summarily reject rejections and haven't ever met a creative corpse that can't be exhumed. They don't get it. They won't hesitate to stick their keys into an electric socket minutes after they've done it a first time, even if they're still loopy from the voltage jolt and inhaling the acrid stench of singed nostril hair.
I think we have to stop their everything-old-is-new-again thing in its tracks. So let me play my small part by weighing in on two such efforts, ABC's "Cupid" revamp and Time Inc.'s 724th attempt at resuscitating its remembered-fondly-by-fogeys-who-can-still-remember-things Life brand.
What does America have to do to rid itself of "Cupid" and Life? How many times do we have to say "I do not like this" before their backers take the hint? My God, I've had scars that have proven less resistant to elimination.
Originally aired by ABC for a single season back in the late 1990s, "Cupid" gained new life when creator Rob Thomas rose to tele-prominence with "Veronica Mars." It probably didn't hurt that former series lead Jeremy Piven hit it big on "Entourage" with a similarly cocky-but-lovable character. Whatever the case, "Cupid" got assigned to the brilliant-but-canceled file, even as it became clear that most such series would be more accurately characterized as clever-enough-but-really-not-all-that-superior-to-"Manimal."
The new version, airing on ABC on Tuesdays, will nuke whatever warm feelings may linger for the original. The central premise remains the same: Banished from his cushy armchair on Mt. Olympus, obnoxious sum'bitch Cupid has to unite 100 mortal couples before he can return, and he has to do it alongside a skeptical, love-tarred relationship expert who just happens to be single and adorable. Cue the jazzy bickering and the painstakingly manufactured sexual tension.
The premise lends itself easily to any number of self-contained adventures, most of which involve two fetching white heterosexuals uniting in romantic bliss at precisely 52 minutes after the hour. If you're into exasperated eye rolls and stilted repartee between bland urbanites, the new "Cupid" will set your heart aflutter. If you have a brain or an operational BS detector, it won't.
Life.com, on the other hand, is pleasant enough. The pictures are purty and the interface is easily navigable. There are many pandas.
I just don't see why anybody would make it a regular destination. See, there are lots of photographs on the internet. It is what the experts call a "visual medium." The wealth of material on Life.com, culled from both the magazine archives and Getty Images, doesn't rise above the clutter, at least not as currently presented.
All Life.com does is plop down a bunch of photos and say, "Browse away, kids!" as if Google Image Searches hasn't yet been invented. The site may boast 7 million available photos, including an impressive arsenal of baby ducks, but so what? Until somebody curates the glut of material in a way that makes it feel fresh, it's just another attempt to mine cash from a bunch of stuff that happens to be laying around.
I'm not a big schadenfreude guy. If something bombs, I take no particular delight in its detonation. At the same time, I don't merely want "Cupid" and Life.com to fail. I want them to fail spectacularly, brilliantly, seismically. I want the message to be sent loud and clear: Stop recycling crap that didn't work the first time around. Stop trying to breathe new life into dead or decaying brands. Just stop.
Somewhere in a dimly lit kitchen nook, somebody's prepping a pitch for a circa-2009 remake of "Moonlighting." Somewhere, in a building with expansive views of the backside of another building, somebody with more money than sense is angling to bring Creem back to newsstands. These people must be stopped, with tasers or threats of deportation if need be.
Please, media people who read Media Reviews for Media People, join with me in preventing them from taking another twirl on the content merry-go-round, whether by withholding ad support or by ignoring their recycled contrivances. This is no less than our civic duty.