Nick Rogers: We the people deserve a few things

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

In honor of Independence Day, there are some truths I hold to be self-evident in the entertainment world where a pursuit of happiness takes a slight precedence over life and liberty.

The only inalienable right we have as consumers of arts and entertainment is that what we take in should enlighten us and/or provide enjoyment. But sometimes, tyranny rises up amid the tangents. Namely, is what we’re paying more for relative to an equal increase of joy in return?

To that end, I submit that two money-draining monarchies in entertainment be eradicated:

Founding fathers would’ve loved sequels. They’d even have been down with reboots (“Batman Begins,” “Casino Royale”) and the re-quel (“The Incredible Hulk”). But the prequel has got to go.

The only man behind good prequels is George Lucas, and, even then, those movies tend to work despite his involvement. Episode One of “Star Wars” overcame Jar Jar to work on sheer anticipatory energy alone. Episode Three finally dealt with the emotional aspects of Darth Vader’s evolution rather than its stilted politics. And “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” took such a different, and dastardly, approach that it alienated many but enervated the series.

The way prequels suck out dramatic energy is simple: How tense can life or death really be when we know, by what we’ve seen already, the hero will make it? Another problem is over-explanation: How effectively evil is, say, Hannibal Lecter, when his entire formative years are over-analyzed?

Prequels won’t so much be a problem in 2008, although there is yet another money-grubbing “Star Wars” prequel (this one animated) coming in August. But they will be in May 2009, when top-price movie tickets in Springfield just might hit $10 and two prequel blockbusters both are coming.

Other than learning the source of Tom Hanks’ hideous haircut in “The Da Vinci Code,” what thrill could there possibly be to “Angels and Demons”? And then “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” in which the colon suggests a prequel franchise. Wolverine is a soldier who had experimental metal placed in his body, and now he heals quickly. He’s also ill tempered.

There. That was Wolverine’s “origin” in two seconds, not hours, and you’re not out $10.

Such has been the patient sufferance of HBO subscribers who also are DVD purchasers, and such now is the necessity which constrains them to alter their former system of buying DVDs.

Today, HBO subscribers pay about $168 a year for the pay-cable channel. Formerly, it was the go-to place for exclusive series such as “The Larry Sanders Show” or “Tales From the Crypt.” Then, there wasn’t DVD. There was HBO. No channel, no shows.

In the DVD era, though, every HBO series eventually hits that format … often with a price tag of $90 for only 10 episodes. The cost is understandable on one front. The network needs to get its money somehow from those who want one of its shows, but not the continuous cable-bill expense.

But what of the long-time customers, the ones who stuck it out through insufferable crud like “Lucky Louie,” “The Mind of the Married Man,” “Tell Me You Love Me” and “Arli$$”? Would a small subsidy for DVD purchases be such a hit to the wallet?

Surely, anyone who’s endured Robert Wuhl for even a half-hour deserves that much.

Make it loyalty-based, by years of subscription. HBO has been around since 1981. If someone can prove on paper they’ve subscribed since Ronald Reagan was president, they should get a percent off for each year. Then, cap that system at, say, 35 percent off the retail price in 2016 — a year in which DVDs likely will have gone the way of the VHS tape.

For example, if a 27-year subscriber with receipts to prove it bought a $400 list-price “Sopranos” box set coming in November, they’d pay only $292. Even Tony would appreciate that basic C-note economic lesson.

Whenever any form of entertainment becomes destructive of its ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and effect their safety, happiness, bank account and blood pressure.

Here’s hoping everyone has a great, safe and entertaining Independence Day weekend.

Nick Rogers can be reached at (217) 747-9587 Read his blog, Unpainted Huffhines, at