- David Bianculli notes Gov. Chris Christie is in news for "Jersey Shore" decision
- Christie denied show tax credit because it fed "misperceptions"about state
- Bianculli says pols have weighed in before, but why "Shore" and not "Sopranos"?
- Bianculli: Maybe new policy should be tax credits for quality shows, fines for tacky ones
The name of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie surfaced once again in the national news this week, floated by some as a possible new entrant in the ever-widening, fickle field of Republican presidential contenders.
But Christie got even more attention on his own by heading straight to the "Jersey Shore" -- the TV show.
On Monday, Christie vetoed a $420,000 tax break previously granted to MTV's most popular program -- the highly viewed and just as highly derided reality series featuring Snooki, The Situation and other often inebriated free-range narcissists. In denying the show's producers the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's 20% tax credit on TV shows filmed or produced in the state, Christie said it was unjustifiable "for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens."
Like a rain-slicked Atlantic City boardwalk as it snakes its way to the shore, that's some slippery ground on which Christie is treading.
It's difficult, maybe even impossible, to disagree with him on the position of being anti-"Jersey Shore": Anything that slows the spread of that video virus is, almost by definition, a good thing. But what if the same logic and political tactics had been used on, say, HBO's "The Sopranos"? Even if that sort of concern amounts to fiscal responsibility, it also amounts to artistic irresponsibility.
Politicians have attacked TV before, but the attention they draw rarely has them getting the last word, or being awarded the final victory. Dan Quayle vs. "Murphy Brown"? The CBS sitcom won that one, handily; the single mother about whom Quayle was so upset was, after all, a fictional TV character.
George H.W. Bush, in 1992, campaigned by promising to make American families "a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." Bart, one of the animated characters on "The Simpsons," retaliated almost instantly in a quickly dubbed opening credits sequence, replying, "We're just like the Waltons. We're praying for an end to the Depression, too."
Christie, by pulling the state purse strings tighter and refusing to hand over rebate tax credit money to TV productions that make New Jersey look bad, is wielding a heavy club. Where else, after all, could "Jersey Shore" film its reality-show escapades? Italy? (Actually, yes. They've done just that. But MTV and "Jersey Shore" haven't yet gone to the original Jersey shore, nestled in the English Channel and part of the United Kingdom. Maybe next year.)
Or maybe, if CW's "H8R" lasts another season (which is doubtful), Christie could come on as a Snooki "hater," as a nonfan did to confront the "Jersey Shore" standout star in this month's season premiere, and take away her show's tax credits on camera.
But really, the biggest media storm he could generate here, and the one that would score him even stronger political points, would be to make the tax credits, or the denial of them, qualitative as well as quantitative, and thus support the arts in the most measurable way possible.
Bear with me here: Christie could make it a policy to give tax rebates for the quality shows, and levy fines -- tackiness taxes, if you will -- for those that besmirch New Jersey in particular and the lively arts in general.
Make good TV and movies, you get money back. Make bad TV and movies, you pay a surcharge.
Under such a system, the better the TV show or movie, the higher the tax incentives. (This works for the other arts as well: Bruce Springsteen could do whatever he wants in Jersey, which is kind of the way things are now anyway.) Conversely, the lower a visiting TV or film production sets the crassness bar, the higher the state should set the additional taxes for filming in Jersey.
That way, when something as outstanding and artistic as "The Sopranos" shoots on location in the Garden State, it gets a break.
The "Real Housewives of New Jersey," on the other hand, gets broken.