News of the Week: Tinder, Trumbo, and the Tooth Fairy

This week in pop culture, thoughts on the rants from Tinder’s Twitter feed, a 2015 biopic pick, and the latest tooth fairy survey results.

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The Problem with Tinder

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Algorithms. That’s what everything runs on these days, algorithms. It’s why you only see certain posts from your friends on Facebook, why you get the Google search results you get, and why you see the news stories you do on your news page. It’s also why you see the people you see on Tinder.

I’m not on Tinder, and I’m not even going to “try it out” in the name of journalism. It’s where you “swipe” and meet random people, right? But the more you use it the less random it gets. I was watching Today the other morning and they interviewed the CEO of the company. One thing I didn’t know is that the service learns from the way you use it. For example, if you are consistently interested in women who ski, that’s what Tinder will show you a lot of. And this is where technology is changing the way we live our lives, and not in a positive way.

Do people really want to get together only with a partner who has the same exact interests as they do? I hope not, and I don’t think they do. Think of how our parents or grandparents met and maybe even how you met your spouse. Did they fill out a questionnaire to see who was most “compatible”? Did you not want to date people because they weren’t into football or weren’t interested in cars or because they were vegetarian and you like pepperoni on your pizza? Of course not.

That’s where I think technology has messed things up. We only interact with people who have the same interests, and we live in echo chambers politically and socially. Serendipity is gone, but we can fine-tune our news and social pages so precise that they reflect only the stuff we’re interested in (based on what has interested us in the past).

But back to Tinder. The company had a meltdown on Twitter recently that — surprise! — looks to be a planned PR stunt.

Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo was an acclaimed screenwriter and novelist. He was also one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of film industry professionals who had alleged Communist ties and were eventually blacklisted. The ten were sentenced to one-year in jail; Trumbo served between 10 and 11 months. When he got out he couldn’t find any work. So he wrote screenplays under pseudonyms. This November we’ll see a big screen biopic on Trumbo’s life, titled Trumbo. Bryan Cranston plays the writer, and he has a fantastic supporting cast including Diane Lane, Louis CK, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, and Helen Mirren. Here’s the trailer:

And if you’re wondering if Trumbo ever wrote for The Saturday Evening Post … he did! Trumbo wrote several short stories and articles for the Post in the 1930s and ’40s. He also wrote the screenplay for the 1950 film noir Gun Crazy, which was based on the MacKinlay Kantor story published in The Saturday Evening Post story in 1940. Kantor and Millard Kaufman were given credit for the screenplay because Trumbo was blacklisted at the time.

Hopefully the film — which I’m sure will be well-represented come Oscar time — will spark renewed interest in Trumbo and some of his out-of-print books will be released again, particularly Additional Dialogue, a series of letters he wrote between 1942 and 1962.

The Tooth Fairy Has Fallen on Hard Times

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Every year there’s a list of the best and worst careers. I don’t recall “tooth fairy” being on the worst list, but maybe we’ll see that in 2016. For the second year in a row the Tooth Fairy isn’t paying as much as he used to. Kids are only getting an average of $3.19 under their pillows, and that’s 24 cents less than last year.

Wait … $3.19 per tooth? And that’s less than kids used to get? When I was a kid I think I got at the most a dollar.

By the way, this info comes from Visa’s annual Tooth Fairy survey. Yes, really.

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to HBO?

Here’s another splash of financial cold water to the face: The makers of Sesame Street have struck a deal with HBO to air the classic children’s show on the premium cable network first. It will be shown on PBS too, but kids will have to wait nine months to see new episodes there.

Is this a good move? As Jessica Winter of Slate says, it might be good practically but not symbolically. It’s fine because a lot of kids stream the shows online these days and the money will certainly help. On the other hand, one of the reasons Sesame Street started was to give kids access to education and other information on public television. Seems odd that parents are going to have pay to get HBO for their kids to see it right away, and under the deal, the streaming that kids used to see on Netflix and Amazon will go away too because HBO gets the exclusive (though reruns of the show will still be shown continuously on PBS). The show will also eventually go from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. I guess this is a nod to the attention span of kids these days and video games and entertainment getting shorter shorter, faster faster!

The Web is having fun with the news though. Approximately 27,000 people made this joke, but it’s still funny:


The Return of Johnny Carson

Late-night talk show reruns are weird now. Years ago, when The Tonight Show or Late Night with David Letterman had a rerun, they would dip into their vast archives and pick an episode from years earlier. Now if Jimmy Fallon or Conan O’Brien or Jimmy Kimmel runs a repeat, it’s something recent. Often it’s something very recent, like a week or two ago. Seriously, this is what late night repeats are like now. They repeat episodes from just a week or two ago, and if they want to go way back they’ll air something from a month ago. It’s almost as if the shows don’t trust their audiences to understand that an episode might be a couple of years old and the references might be old or the jokes not as timely or a guest might not even be alive anymore.

But there’s hope! Antenna TV has made a deal with Carson Entertainment Group to show whole episodes (not just clips) of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. It will be called Johnny Carson (NBC still owns rights to the Tonight Show name), but we’ll know what it is. The shows will air every night at 11 p.m.

This is fantastic news. I’ve always wondered why the broadcast networks don’t air more classic shows. Instead each fall we get new shows we know will only last half a season or shows that are retreads of other popular shows or reality shows. Every year CBS airs I Love Lucy specials, and it gets great ratings. Wouldn’t it be great to see one of the networks air The Dick Van Dyke Show every Thursday night at 8?

It will never happen, and that’s why we have cable channels and DVDs.

The “New” New Colonel Sanders

Did you finally get used to seeing Saturday Night Live’s Darrell Hammond as the new Colonel Sanders in recent ads for KFC? Well, hopefully you didn’t get too used to him because he’s gone already! For some reason, Norm Macdonald, himself an SNL veteran, has taken over for Hammond in the latest ads for the chicken chain.

Maybe they’re going to do this every few months, replace the person playing Sanders with a different cast member from SNL’s past. I’m looking forward to Kristen Wiig’s interpretation of the advertising icon.

National Back to School Month

When I was a kid — and I find myself starting many sentences with these words since I turned 50 — school always started after Labor Day. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that a big chunk of the U.S. goes back to school in August. How can kids go back to class and lug all that homework home in the hot, humid dog days of summer?

August is National Back to School Month, and it seems cruel to me that they’d make kids go back so early. Or maybe National Back to School Month is supposed to be celebrated more by parents. Sorry kids!

Reminds me of this classic ad from several years ago:

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

The Wizard of Oz premieres (August 25, 1939)
Did you know that Warner Bros. has an official site for the classic movie?

Paris liberated (August 25, 1944)
Wikipedia has a detailed account of the military battle that lasted from August 19 to August 25.

First televised Major League Baseball game (August 26, 1939)
How James Thurber and The Saturday Evening Post changed baseball.

President Lyndon Johnson born (August 27, 1908)
The White House site has a detailed biography of the 36th President.

Protests at Democratic Convention (August 28, 1968)

SEP Archives Director Jeff Nilsson on 1968, a truly violent year in U.S. history.

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Comments

  1. More than likely the people who DO make a connection on Tinder will most likely be texting each other in person also. Why talk to someone only feet away when you can text instead?!

    ‘Trumbo’ looks really good, and has a lot of excellent co-stars. I honestly had never heard of him before. Thanks for the film trailer and the You Tube clip at the end.

    It’s great Johnny Carson will be back at 11 pm starting in January. Not only Johnny’s great comedy sketches, but seeing all the guests and great conversations will be all new all over again. There’s one with Zsa Zsa Gabor I’d really love to see again, Bob.

    I actually had NOT gotten used to the KFC ads with Darrell Hammond as the new Colonel. I’ll have to look those up to compare with Norm’s. I can only wonder how good Phil Hartman would have been if HE’d been able to get the chance to portray Colonel Sanders.

    The Staples ad of Happy Dad and his forlorn youngsters facing school again is a modern classic. I think the ad is from 2006 and was run in August for several years until 2010. It was bad enough having to go back in the heat right after Labor Day, but August?

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