An Amusing Idea Without Any Depth
Attack of the Hollywood Cliches
I am not generally much interested in documentaries. I'll buy boxed sets for movies and shows not so I can watch all the special features but so I can get the best quality version of the movie available -- the best transfer, the best color and crispest picture, and, if available, alternate cuts of the film itself. While I do find some value in learning the behind-the-scenes workings of the industry I prefer to read about that at my own pace instead of sitting through however much drivel the production team wanted to put together about what they did.
The thing about Hollywood is that it loves to pour out drivel about itself. Hollywood loves nothing more than to talk about Hollywood and it's not hard to find talking heads that will spout off (sometimes in an amusing way) about the industry itself. VH1 found that out perfectly when it came up with the "I Love the..." series of shows (with multiples-seasons focusing on the 1980s, 1990s, then 1970s, and back around again, plus other topics as well) all with funny talking heads discussing the media and subjects of the moment. It's really easy to find people that will talk about anything, whether an authority on the subject or not.
I thought a lot about this when watching Attack of the Hollywood Cliches, a NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). special that basically took the format of I Love the... and focused squarely on Hollywood itself. It's a narrator (Rob Lowe) introducing each "cliche" (the Renegade Cop, the Meet Cute, Watching Your Own Funeral, etc.) before letting talking heads discuss the subject, and what it clearly illustrated was that it's a lot harder to pull off this kind of format and do it well. The original I Love the... shows nailed it perfectly while this unfunny special did not.
Part of the issue with this special is that it has a decided lack of focus. Any one of these subjects -- "Cops in Film", "Love in Film", "Dogs in Film", etc. -- could have been the topic of a single, hour-long episode. That would allowed the special to get in deep on any one idea and really explore all the cliches around it. Does a dog really make someone more relatable on film? Do audiences really expect the dog to always survive? Finding clips from movies and then letting a group of funny talking heads skewer the subject matter could have made for some insightful, and incisive, commentary on the matter. That's not what we get here, though.
Most of the segments of the special gloss over just about everything on the subject. The Renegade Cop gets two clips, two people discussing it, and then it's own to something else. Sometimes a subject is introduced, such as the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl", and we barely even get a definition of what the cliche means before we're off to some other subject. There's nothing informative about it, and the special certainly doesn't find anything funny to say about it. We all know that Garden State is a cringey movie that hasn't aged at all well (if it even was good to begin with), but showing us one clip of Natalie Portman in that film being weird does not count as "comedy".
It's worse though because the special doesn't have any voice about anything it's saying. Noting how Black people are poorly treated in Hollywood due to the double trope of "White Savior" and "Magical Black Man" doesn't count as actually discussing it doesn't really count as a discussion on the matter as the show cuts away before a real conversation can be had. The point was to say, "man, Hollywood sure is shitty about this," but the special comes across as just as tetchy about it as your average white person. "I acknowledged there is a problem so that solves it, right? Lets move on."
If the show didn't want to have a conversation about it then, at the very least, it needed to bring in funny people to heckle the bits. I Love the... didn't bother with subject matter experts when it talked about the 1970s -- the closest it got was Kermit the Frog who was a character during the 1970s, but even he was just there to make fun of stuff -- it just had funny people saying funny shit and it worked. I watched through four or five seasons of that show because it was fun to just hang out and watch this stuff get skewered. Whether the show glossed over a subject or not, you were at least laughing.
Laughs, though, are few and far between in Attack of the Hollywood Cliches. Many of the people brought on for the special are subject matter experts -- actors, producers, critics -- and they aren't there to crack jokes but to actually seriously discuss the subject. That's fine and dandy if that were the point of the piece but it's then contrasted against Rob Lowe (who was obviously brought in for a single day of shooting) telling corny jokes as he jumps us from one bit to the next. There's no balance, no rhyme or reason to anything in the special. Things just happens, subjects are raised, and then its time to move on.
I started this by discussing documentaries because I feel like most of the people interviewed for this special thought they were dealing with a serious documentary on whatever topics they were discussing. "Oh, you want to talk about Manic Pixie Dream Girls, well here's how they're a white male fantasy..." Despite not really liking documentaries I found myself actually wanting to hear more about this, to see a whole long segment on the subject because the people they had in to discuss it were well informed and interested on the matter... for the all of two minutes we got to look into it. And then the sugar-powered ADHD editing took over and we had to move on.
If this special had been done as a season of TV, based on the model of I Love the..., I think that could have been great. Take an idea, like Love Stories in Media (the Meet Cute, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and all the rest) and focus an episode on that. You'd get four to five minutes on a subject, some information, some laughs, and everything about it would flow better. I think there's real merit in that format and it could work well as a series of episodes that did poke fun at Hollywood while highlight all the trends of the industry.
But that's not what the producers wanted. Instead they wanted a few easy targets, get in a couple of quick laughs, and occasionally be able to say, "we acknowledged this thing exists and that means we're better for it." It's nothing more than Hollywood loving to hear Hollywood talk, but it doesn't actually want to listen or learn. Attack of the Hollywood Cliches is shallow and joyless and, worst of all, not funny at all.