The Good Guys

The Good Guys, the new cop comedy from Fox, is showing in my Seattle hotel room as I write this.  A month ago I argued that this show has no place in contemporary culture and therefore no hope of success.  (My assumption, unless you are have made contact with culture, your chances of making contact […]

Calling all CCOs: how good is your gut?

Next week, Fox will launch a cop show called The Good Guys.  (It previews May 19th. The series starts June 7.) Outwardly, things looks fine.  The producer is Matt Nix, who recently triumphed with Burn Notice. Its stars Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford, able actors to be sure. Plus Fox is good at making good […]

Being Human, US and UK versions

I am a big fan of Being Human, the US version, that recently appeared on SyFy.   It’s a wonderful “what if.” What if there was a vampire, werewolf, and a ghost living in a house together?  I have to say that my initial response was puzzlement.  As in, “um, er, I don’t know. What […]

Harry’s Law: flourish or fail?

One test of our knowledge of contemporary culture: can we predict whether an innovation will flourish or fail? For the record, then, I believe Harry’s Law, the show that debuted last night on NBC, will fail. The debut suggests I may be wrong.  Harry’s Law got at 7.5 rating / 12 share, putting it ahead […]

10 questions for world builder Gerry Flahive

10 Questions for Gerry Flahive Gerry Flahive is the creator of a fictional character, Bert Xanadu. You remember, Bert Xanadu? Mayor of Toronto in the early 1970s? Owner of Imperial Six Cinema? And complete figment of Gerry Flahive’s imagination. Gerry tweets in Bert’s name and some of this work is miraculously good. One example: @MovieMayor […]

American culture* in the digital space (case study # 3)

I This is a series of posts that examines how and why American culture matters to American business. The opening post was “American Culture* and the Harvard Business School discovery,” and you can find it here. I promised I’d look at several case studies in support of my thesis which is: American culture matters and […]

Fred Armisen is, like, so mean. So mean.

[this post first appeared in Medium.] A friend told me about seeing a freshman on a university campus in the UK. The kid was clearly in agony. And it was easy to see why. He had made a terrible fashion choice for his first day. Over the course of his first hour on campus, this […]

Ken Burns, an anthropological portrait of an artist and the edge

[This essay first appeared in Medium. It has been lightly edited for presentation here.] In the world of documentary filmmaking, it feels like there’s the era “Before Ken Burns” (BKB) and the one that follows his rise to prominence. In the first, documentaries can be laborious, hectoring and blowzily imprecise, both too broad and too […]

The case for culture in business, as clearly and forcefully as I can make it

This is an abbreviation of talk I gave for the design firm Thomas Pigeon in early April. It puts the “case for culture in business” as forcefully as I can make it. (NB I’m not talking about corporate culture here. I’m talking about culture as in “culture creative.”) Here’s a summary: SECTION 1 00:25 capitalism and […]

Spielberg: 1, Harvard: 0

Hollywood used to know what Americans wanted. Then came the new diversity of moving-going taste and preference. Hollywood was in trouble. In the words of Tom Hanks: “Nobody has any idea why people are going to see a movie. Nobody knows what’s going to be a hit or what’s going to be irrelevant. There are […]

Cultural Leaders and Laggards, the problem with beer ads

I love this ad.  How quickly bashful behavior gives way to full-on performance.  And how this disappears (when the woman enters the store). And then reappears (when it occurs to our singer that there is a small chance the strangers might actually come listen to him.) Funny. Human. With lots of little grace notes. The store is brilliantly cast. […]

Secrets of digital celebrity: how to get famous the easy way

When Guy Kawasaki was asked how to get internet famous, he had discouraging news. There is no easy answer, he seemed to say.  You have to follow thousands of people. You have to reply to all your email and Twitter traffic.  Yes, he said, I’m “internet famous” but it took me 25 years to get […]

The mystery of the “magic moment” in advertising

Grant McCracken and Bob Scarpelli Take a look at this recent AT&T ad.  Notice what the actress does at the 16:00 – 17:00 second mark.  That little thing she does with her hand and her eyes. Here’s a second ad for AT&T from a couple of years ago.  Watch what happens at the very end when […]