Tag: Bones

Bones About It

Last week, the Hollywood Reporter Hollywood reported on a $179 million ruling against Fox for underpaying the creators and stars of Bones.

There's a lot of typical self-dealing stuff here -- Fox the studio selling the show to Fox the TV network, insisting it was for a fair market value, but being unable to produce evidence that it actually did due diligence in determining what a fair market value was. But on top of that there are some more egregious examples of fraud. In one instance, when Fox sold the streaming rights to Hulu, which it owns a 30% stake in, the same executive signed the contract as both seller and buyer.

And here's one particularly jaw-dropping grift:

During the show’s run, Bones' profit participants were continually rebuffed in their attempts to argue for more money. [Executive producers Barry] Josephson and [Kathy] Reichs signed releases barring them from challenging license fees for the fifth and sixth seasons upon Fox's word that unless everyone signed these releases, Bones would be canceled. According to [21st Century Fox president Peter] Rice, though, Fox already had committed contractually to keep the show on the air and knew that [stars David] Boreanaz and [Emily] Deschanel would never sign such a release. Nevertheless, Fox kept up the impression the stars would sign, even going so far as to include blank signature spaces for the actors in the releases sent to the producers.

Studios do this sort of Hollywood accounting all the time. And they get away with it, because most creators -- actors, directors, producers, etc. -- choose not to sue. Most don't have the money, and of the ones who do, many don't want to run the risk of pissing off the studios.

This suit was decided in a private arbitration court, so it doesn't set any legal precedent. But it does show everybody that the talent can sue the studio and win -- and I expect that will mean more suits like this.

Unfortunately, I don't expect it will cause the studios to change their behavior. One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, John Berlinski, says, "What we have exposed in this case is going to profoundly change the way Hollywood does business for many years to come." I'm more inclined to agree with arbitrator Peter Lichtman's more cynical opinion:

Slamming the company with a punishment that includes $128 million in punitive damages -- or five times the amount of compensatory damages -- Lichtman points out that the award is 0.6 percent of 21st Century Fox's stipulated net worth.

He muses whether it's really enough.

"In fact, one could question whether a five to one ratio given Fox's financial condition and lack of contrition serves to deter the wrongful conduct at issue here, or whether it will be considered part of the cost of doing business," writes the arbitrator.

I think he's right. This won't make the studios stop ripping off the talent; it will merely mean that the studios will continue ripping off the talent while pricing in the risk of the occasional lawsuit.

Meanwhile, there's another Hollywood accounting lawsuit I've been keeping one eye on: Century of Progress Productions v. Vivendi S.A. et al, more popularly known as the Spinal Tap suit.

In 2016, Harry Shearer sued Vivendi over profits on merchandise and music sales from This Is Spinal Tap. From the filing:

... according to Vivendi, the four creators’ share of total worldwide merchandising income between 1984 and 2006 was $81 (eighty-one) dollars. Between 1989 and 2006 total income from music sales was $98 (ninety-eight) dollars. Over the past two years, Vivendi has failed to provide accounting statements at all.

The other three creators, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner, have since joined the suit. There don't appear to be any updates since August 2018, but the litigation is still ongoing.

Century of Progress could be the suit that finally sets some legal precedents regarding Hollywood accounting. Other artists who have filed suits like this have either wound up in private arbitration, as in the Bones case, or agreed to settle. This is different. Shearer, Guest, McKean, and Reiner don't want to settle. They don't need the money. They're in it to set a legal precedent to make it harder for studios to rip off their artists.

I look forward to hearing more from that case.

This Week on "Nobody Involved with Bones Gives a Fuck Whether Computers Behave in a Remotely Rational or Coherent Fashion"...

...somebody gets an E-Mail -- "probably spam" -- and it allows Angela to decrypt every encrypted E-Mail she's ever gotten.

This somehow manages to be the stupidest thing in an episode about a mutant virus injected into a blogger with a microneedle that, still attached to her skeleton, then manages to jab one of the interns and infect him too.

Well maybe next week's episode will be less stupid.

...wait. Season finale? Fuck. That means another Pelant episode.

Well, maybe they'll finally just fucking shoot him and next season's premiere will be less stupid.

A Wizard Did It

As soon as this week's episode of Bones opened with the word "Previously," I knew I was in for something really, really stupid.

I like Bones. It is a workplace comedy disguised as a police procedural; it has a good cast and often features the best gross-out humor on television.

But god damn I hate its sweeps arcs.

I get what they're trying to do with the Pelant arc. He's the nemesis. He's Moriarty. Hell, they even cast a guy who looks like the guy who plays Moriarty on Sherlock.

But -- Sherlock spoiler warning -- at least Moriarty's big "I have a secret code to hack every computer system in the world" plot built up to the resolution that nah, he was just fucking with you guys, there's no such thing, he just bribed a bunch of people.

Now, Sherlock has done some legitimately stupid things with technology -- Irene Adler's acid-equipped cell phone springs immediately to mind -- but it's never approached the sheer inanity of Pelant's first appearance, where he encoded a virus into a skeleton that caused the computer that scanned it to catch on fire. And, to be fair, Bones hasn't reached that level of stupidity a second time either -- though God knows it's not for lack of trying.

The latest featured the "Your bank account is being slowly drained!" trope, which I recently commented on in Insufferable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause. But -- Insufferable spoiler warning -- at least the guy draining the account in Insufferable was actually the guy who was in charge of Galahad's accounts. It is entirely plausible that he had talked Galahad into signing documents that gave him the right to take all his money.

In Bones, that is quite clearly not what happened. And, funny story: banks can't just let other people steal your money, even if they have your password. There's this thing called FDIC, plus various fraud protections -- but hell, let's not let that get in the way of a good story.

Only thing is, all this bullshit really is getting in the way of a good story. The game of cat-and-mouse between Pelant and the Jeffersonian would be enjoyable, if it weren't for the constant distractions of Pelant doing crazy impossible shit because the writers can't be arsed to come up with something evil for him to do that's actually remotely plausible.

If the show's going to make the bad guy a wizard, it should just drop all fucking pretense of being set in the real world where logic and rationality apply. Just have everybody discover that magic actually exists and now they're going to have to deal with it. It wouldn't be any more hokey or less plausible than what they're already doing anyway.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm really looking forward to the City Watch TV series.

And more Sherlock.

TV Computers are Stupid

Last night I watched the first episode of Alphas. It's a decent enough setup; there's potential there despite its heavy reliance on an Idiot Plot.

But there was this one scene -- okay, they're watching a video. And then it cuts out. And the autistic computer expert kid goes and fiddles with some stuff behind the TV and fixes it, and then explains "It was the VGA display port."

Okay, first of all: nobody computer-savvy, least of all somebody with autism, would use the phrase "VGA display port". Because while VGA is technically a port for a display, DisplayPort is the name of a completely different interface.

Second: How the fuck could it be a problem with the VGA port if the video was working fine and then cut out? Did somebody step on the cable and accidentally yank it out of the TV? If so, how the hell come we don't see that happen and nobody makes any reference to it?

Third: VGA is only video. If the VGA cable got unhooked, why did it cut off the audio, too?

(The one thing that is perfectly plausible: a room full of people who are so dumb that they need a computer genius to check whether a cable is unplugged. That, sadly, is perfectly true to life.)

It's a little thing, and not really important to the story. But it's just so damn weird. Why is it in there? And why is it nonsense? Why couldn't it have been something that actually made sense? "You changed the channel instead of turning up the volume; you have to switch it back to VGA In." Something like that. Easy.

Here's the thing: fact checker is an actual profession. There are dudes whose whole job is to make sure that the physics on Big Bang Theory or the biology on Bones is more-or-less plausible.

And yet Bones clearly straight-up does not give a fuck whether its computers behave plausibly.

Last year had an episode where the new Moriarty character booby-trapped a skeleton so that when Angela scanned it into her computer it would load a virus onto it and make it catch on fire. (In last week's episode, Angela could not even pronounce "parameterized" correctly.)

Now, I get that, for a variety of reasons, TV shows and movies may not want to actually show Mac or Windows interfaces, and instead do some kind of MofOS mockup. That's fine and understandable. My complaint isn't "That's a fictional computer interface", it's "That computer interface does not seem to operate on any kind of rules or logic." Indeed, it's entirely possible to design a fictional computer interface that looks and behaves more or less like a real computer should; my recollection of last season of Dexter is that they did a pretty solid job of this, with only a couple weird moments.

Another thing I don't get is how they still get away with this nonsense in an age where everyone has a computer.

It was one thing in the '80's and '90's when you could pretty much bullshit computers doing absolutely anything and most of your audience would be none the wiser. But in this day and age even your most out-of-touch viewer most likely owns a computer and has used Facebook.

And knows that when you look for a person, your computer does not say "SEARCHING ..." in a giant stupid angular font that takes up half the screen, then start cycling through black-and-white photos at a rate of several per second while making stupid deet-deet-deet noises until it finally finds the person you're looking for, then make more stupid beeps in time to the giant red flashing "MATCH FOUND" text across the screen, then pull up a page with white all-caps text in the Spider-Man font against a black background.

People own computers. They know what computers do and how they behave, at least on a basic, cursory level. So how come TV shows still depict computers as these flashy magic boxes?

I'd kinda like to write an episode of some TV show where a guy comes into one of these offices and then starts turning around with a quizzical look on his face every time a computer makes a stupid noise. And eventually starts asking people what the hell is wrong with their computers. "Why does it keep making that noise? Ugh, how can you stand being in a room with that all day? Jesus Christ, how can you read that all-caps, weirdly-spaced font?"