Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 04/07/21

A warning for the ages. The above programming warning aired at the start of early All in the Family episodes in 1971. It was a time when a largely apolitical TV prime time schedule included the likes of Nanny and the Professor, The Doris Day Show and Marcus Welby, M.D.  In those days social issues on television were usually addressed by news programming and the occasional TV drama. Sitcoms almost totally avoided politics. That all changed with the classic landmark series developed by Norman Lear. Lear (and those who tried to emulate him) followed up with a flurry of other socially-conscious series during the seventies. They all tilted toward a liberal view of the world but, IMHO, they were often great shows and a breath of creative fresh air at the time.

Flash forward to today and almost every show on the air (broadcast, cable or streaming) goes through great pains to push a Woke brand of politics that sees the idealistic liberal aspirations of the seventies as inadequate. All in the Family itself is criticized for humanizing Archie Bunker as opposed to simply (and simplistically) presenting him as an evil racist. If produced today, he wouldn’t be described, as he was then, as prejudiced (which suggests ignorance) or even with the harsher term “bigot.” He would be categorized as a “hater” (about as lacking in nuance as you can get). And I’m not just talking about comedies and dramas. Sports programming and even children’s shows are bathed in both subliminal and direct messaging from the left.

Conservatives, who these days are in many ways are more like traditional liberals, for the most, have responded mostly via op-eds, blog posts, the occasional super-serious documentary or talking head debates on cable news. All that’s fine and may help in winning over some minds. But if you want to reach the heart you need the tools of comedy and storytelling and you must reach out to kids as well as adults. Because, as much as I don’t like the term Culture War (which serves the purposes of those who would divide us), the truth is there is a battle going on. President Biden sees it as a fight for “the soul of America.” It’s not. Your soul is a gift to you from God. Government can’t take it, doesn’t control it and should not aspire to. But it is a fight for how free and, yes, fair our society is to be.

All that is my long-winded way of pointing to some promising signs on the cultural landscape. American traditionalists – those who reject America shaming as a governing philosophy – are finally getting in the game. I’m pleased to read, for instance, that the premiere of Gutfeld!, the alternative late-night comedy show hosted by Greg Gutfeld on Fox News, reached 1.69 million viewers and 318,000 in the adults 25-54 demographic trouncing his CNN and MSNBC competitors. My prediction is that the pent-up demand for comedy that actually takes on the government/media establishment will catapult Gutfeld! to a position of competitiveness (if not outright dominance) against the cookie-cutter comedy of Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon, Meyers Noah and Oliver. My second prediction is that the leftstream entertainment media will do their best to ignore his success.

BTW, I’ve watched the first two editions of Gutfeld! and the show is clicking right out of the box. A good number of the jokes actually land and the conversation is enjoyable and moves at a fast pace. My only real suggestion is perhaps replacing the “PERIOD!” pronouncement that follows Greg’s opening monologue be replaced with “EXCLAMATION POINT!” to better match the show’s logo.

Moving beyond, Gutfeld!, how about a sitcom from the perspective of a black conservative? It could, for example, be built around the real life of SiriusXM/Fox Nation host David Webb who was once infamously lambasted on-air by a CNN analyst about his “white privilege” (a potentially great opening scene for the series). Or, for a more Friends-like vibe, there’s the POV of Lawrence Jones, the young African-American Fox News contributor. Either way, it could work.  In any event, a well-written sitcom that takes on issues from a modern conservative/traditional liberal African-American mindset is a hit waiting to happen (perhaps for the Fox Broadcasting Network). Of course, the early episodes may have to start with a warning similar to the one once presented on All in the Family.
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Meanwhile, Tuttle Twins, the #1 crowdfunded animated kids project in the US, is today announcing a second round of investment. The series will be distributed by Angel Studios, a new movie and TV studio platform with the goal of putting the power of Hollywood into the hands of everyday Americans. Tuttle Twins is looking to raise $2.7 million in 35 days to create additional episodes.

According to Tuttle Twins showrunner Daniel Harmon “The demand for this show has surpassed our wildest expectations, and we are moving production along as fast as possible to get an episode out to kids this summer. In our latest funding round, we’re aiming to raise enough to fully fund Season 1, and then we’ll look toward the next season.”

Tuttle Twins is based on the award-winning, bestselling book series that has sold more than 2 million copies to date. The show follows the quirky time-traveling siblings on adventures that reinforce the foundational principles of America, including free markets, personal freedom, common sense economics, and more. The Tuttle Twins creative team includes talent from Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age) and artists who have worked on shows for Netflix, Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers and Apple TV+.

Here’s a look at a rough cut of a pilot demo.

Tuttle Twins Campaign Facts (as provided by Angel Studios)
● To date, Tuttle Twins has raised over $1 million USD in crowdfunding
● The crowdfunding campaign is using same approach that The Chosen used to raise roughly $10 million for its series, making it the #1 crowdfunded media project in history.
● There are 11 children’s books in the Tuttle Twin Series. The series has sold 2 million books to date and has been translated into 10 languages.

Angel Studios is a crowdfunded studio platform that presents itself as a “home of stories that amplify light” and “serve(s) audiences that have been overlooked by Hollywood and other media conglomerates.” If you’re interested, you can learn more at AngelStudios.com.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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