Archive for the TV Culture Category

May 2020

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Americans watching British TV, Behind-The-Scenes, Internet TV, Reality TV, Reviews, TV Acting, TV advertising, TV channels, TV Criticism, TV Culture, TV History, TV News, Uncategorized, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2020 by Tom Steward

Outlander Season 5 2020

Outlander is now re-purposing Little House on The Prairie episodes.

Because the first thing you want to see when you turn on The Disney Family Singalong is Ryan Seacrest’s kitchen.

The Homeland Series Finale took full advantage of The Americans being off the air.

I had to break it to my son B that conglomerate capitalism was the driving force behind the absence of Mickey from Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures.

Ryan Murphy specializes in making television about fascinating subjects with nothing new to say about them.

Someone is close captioning Outlander phonetically.

A game to play while watching the American Experience on George W. Bush; drink every time someone says “He set the bar so low … “

90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days should offer de-programming to all its participants.

I wish commercials would go back to selling stuff.

The Good Fight’s writing of production limitations into its visual style will make it an interesting archeological document in future years, if nothing else.

Outlander trumped The Lord Of The Ring’s record with a full hour of goodbyes.

The problems encountered by the cast of 90 Day Fiance have now become global norms.

The Lego versions of recent blockbuster movies are embarrassingly better than their live-action originals.

The 90s animated Spiderman series that B has me watching may have just done the origin story of Tiger King.

There’s a lot to love about the CBS All Access Star Trek series but a lack of self-censorship is not among them.

New Blog 11.2

Is there a character left in Outlander that hasn’t been raped?

This is not a good time for TNT to advertise Snowpiercer by making it look like the TV signal died.

When the quality of streaming dips during CBS All Access shows, they start to look like 90s movies and it’s adorable.

The veteran cast of Vanderpump Rules are growing their replacements from loose skin on their elbows.

Are there any Netflix shows not about money-laundering husbands?

Outlander is in the half-episode dream sequence stage of its existence.

Old episodes of The Simpsons in the original 4:3 ratio is my idea of new TV content during lockdown.

Late-night talk show hosts are now all essentially Rupert Pupkin from The King of Comedy.

While its viewers are quarantined with only three episodes of TOTS on a loop to show to our kids at lunchtime, Disney Junior tried slipped an Australian dog parenting satire under our wet noses.

Top Chef just did an episode where the prize was a trip to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It should be taken out of syndication like the New York episode of The Simpsons or Seinfeld’s The Puerto Rican Day.

If Barbara Cartland novelized Highlander, you would get Outlander.

Netflix was found to be streaming a censored version of Back To The Future 2 that somehow still left all the white supremacy and incest intact.

I don’t know who in the Netflix Fyre Festival documentary I hate more. I just know that I hate more.

Discovery is more a reboot of Futurama than Star Trek.

I thought Jimmy Fallon’s absolute ineptitude as an interviewer and/or his free propaganda for Donald Trump would have put an end to his late-night talk show career but I’ll take Blackface.

The Outlander series finale had no titles so technically it was an hour-long cold open.

The Original Series characters in Discovery seem to have wandered in from the USS Mad Men.

New Blog 11.3

Breaking Good News: John Krasinski criticized for selling news to the news.

Amy Schumer Learns To Cook is nothing of the sort.

With its closing image of Jeffrey Epstein’s penis suspended in a tank, no wonder the producers of The Good Fight were anxious about ending their season at Episode 7.

Outlander has all the nuance you might expect from Doctor Who slash fiction.

I wonder if television composers ever get mad when their themes are randomly replaced by pop songs.

I want Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe to go viral.

The trajectory for most contemporary TV series seems to be “2 seasons and a spin-off.”

There’s too much focus on the half-wives in The Real Housewives franchise.

I’m not going to say anything derogatory about Sam Heughan because there are women on the internet who would literally kill me for it.

CBS All Access announces a new Star Trek series set between the Pilot and Episode 1 in TV’s first ever Prebootsequelpinoff.

Ducktales is this month’s “The Sopranos of [insert genre here]”

Every day is a Jerry Stiller marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2020

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Americans watching British TV, Behind-The-Scenes, BiogTV, British Shows on American TV, hiatus, Internet TV, Reality TV, Reviews, TV Acting, TV advertising, TV channels, TV Culture, TV History, TV News, TV Sports, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2020 by Tom Steward

New Blog 10.1

Before I started watching Ozark, I didn’t know what it was about. I still don’t know.

The best part of Netflix’s Virgin River is the TV movies on Tim Matheson’s IMDB.

The Real Housewives of New York City is all crescendo and no build.

My son B chose a 90s Spiderman animated TV series over Frozen on Disney + so we can skip the DNA test.

Deciding what to watch first of the abundance of TV you have access to is a skillset not that dissimilar to playing the stock market.

Was Ozark an Arrested Development rewrite that got out of hand?

There is no international crisis that 90 Day Fiance won’t exploit for the sake of good television.

So, was the twist of Star Trek: Picard that Seven of Nine is actually Buzz Lightyear?

Inside No. 9 is proof of what is possible when you do genre fiction by the numbers.

The Good Fight is ashamed of its roots in network television and make artistic blunders because of it.

Was Ozark the product of playing Breaking Bad backwards?

The line separating corporate commercials from PSAs has evaporated in recent months.

New Blog 10.2

Last month I made an offhand remark about Armando Iannucci’s television being “accidentally prophetic.” Since then, the BBC has used scenes from The Thick of It to advocate for coronavirus lockdown and Bill Withers is no longer “with us.”

In 2016, I read an interview with Michael Sheen where he announced he was quitting acting to become an anti-fascist activist. The last I heard he was impersonating Chris Tarrant in a British TV docudrama about the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Scandal. It’s been quite the four years for liberals.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing is everything I love about British TV and everything I love about Britain.

I’ve taken to watching Netflix series in instalments which span the last five minutes of an episode and everything but the last five minutes of the following one.

Was Ozark pitched as Northern Exposure if Fleischmann was in the Cartel?

When you see all of CBS’s shows together in one place on All Access, they look like parodies of network shows. And not very imaginative ones.

Thank you, Joel McHale, for not pretending that this public access Hollywood Squares aesthetic is normal for television.

Can’t we just let Andy Cohen spend time with his child and show Rockford Files re-runs until this all blows over?

Take a break from cat videos on the internet and watch Red Dwarf: The Promised Land on Dailymotion.

Outlander chose to experiment stylistically at the worst possible moment and diminished its own power.

TV networks are lining up to make quarantine versions of shows that won’t ever count in the long run.

Maybe Ozark is a Curb Your Enthusiasm story outline that never saw the light of day?

New Blog 10.3

We’re all acting as if our haircuts aren’t going to look like Joe Exotic’s when we come out of quarantine.

ABC Mouse TV is the mad cow disease of early learning websites.

“Dinotrux? What happened to Ambient Mode?” Actual dialogue from my home.

I appreciate all the sidewalk chalk illustrations but it doesn’t make me feel like we’re living in The Walking Dead any less.

Whomever in The Good Fight’s Writer’s Room is pushing science-fiction storylines need to stop.

The Esurance “That’s not how any of this works” woman just turned up in Ozark.

A Fear The Walking Dead DP compared images from the Columbus Stay-At-Home Order protests to zombie horror. Isn’t this about the time they started nuking cities on the show?

Breaking News: The Rolling Stones retire from touring after learning they can perform from their homes and not be the same room as each other.

At Home editions of ongoing TV shows are a useful reminder of how much content is actually being offered. Currently only Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is passing muster.

No f—s or butts on Disney +

I always thought I could play Young Sipowicz in an NYPD Blue prequel. I’ve just learnt that there is only a ten-year gap between my age and Dennis Franz’s when the show premiered. Fox, the ball is in your court.

I never understood the animosity towards Breaking Bad’s Skyler White but whatever the shortcomings of her characterization, Better Call Saul’s Kim Wexler has absolved the original’s sins.

The drawings in each of the quadrants of the circle logo that change with every episode of Ozark remind me of educational children’s television.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2020

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Americans watching British TV, Behind-The-Scenes, BiogTV, British Shows on American TV, hiatus, Internet TV, Reality TV, Reviews, Touring TV, TV Acting, TV advertising, TV channels, TV Criticism, TV Culture, TV Dreams, TV History, Uncategorized, Watching TV on April 2, 2020 by Tom Steward

New Blog 9.1

I’m escaping quarantine by watching lovers separated by walls, animals in cages, people trapped on a cruise liner, and the after-effects of a deadly global virus.

Maybe U-Verse should re-consider using the word “cowering” when talking about the characters in Day of The Dead given the current state of things.

McMillions raises the question of how weather ever makes the news.

The quarantine edition of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was effectively a crossover episode with Black Mirror.

Avenue 5 confirms that Armando Iannucci only makes accidentally prophetic television.

If I’ve learned anything new about Trump from his televised Coronavirus press conferences, it’s that he says “contagion” like Kevin James’ Doug in The King of Queens.

Curb Your Enthusiasm may be the handiest guide to social distancing in the whole of media.

With an ABC sitcom, Disney cartoon and Bravo reality show on the way, this is Indian-Americans’ TV year. Let’s hope networks don’t pull it away from them as fast as they did with Mexicans and South-East Asians.

Homeland is trying to break 24’s record of Presidential turnover before it ends.

Netflix doesn’t need to add a button to remind you that you’re alone.

My Samsung TV is recommending movies for me to watch while I’m working at home. Either it knows I’m a critic or thinks we’re a nation of liars.

Inside No. 9 just El Camino’d Psychoville. If you don’t get those references now, you will after months of quarantine.

New Blog 9.2

Isn’t now a good time to reboot those CNN election coverage holograms? I don’t think I can take another home news report on an iphone.

We’re all now basically the BBC News interviewee whose children burst into the office during broadcast.

Whomever was responsible for closed captioning of Top Chef Allstars LA did well to add a question mark to Padma Lakshmi’s opening assertion that Los Angeles was “one of the best food cities in the world?”

Vanderpump Rules needs to omit the skits and cartoons. Anyone watching already knows the show is cheap, nasty and artless and doesn’t mind a bit.

Breaking News: The Walking Dead reboots as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

With its stolen memoir and culinary school plots, the finale of Fresh Off The Boat was an apology letter to its estranged subject.

If you want to know what TV is going to look like for the next few months, check out a 90-Day Fiance Tell-All.

There’s been a staggering number of new series about people facing global crises in the past few months. It seems that Coronavirus was in our art before it found its way into our lungs.

HBO missed a golden opportunity to re-launch its 1970s science-fiction remake as Westworld in The City.

There’s never a good time to do an entire episode about penicillin, but if there was Outlander nailed it.

Korean animators must be working 24/7 to get those Disney Channel and Nick Jr. Coronavirus PSAS out.

One wonders if Game of Thrones could have salvaged its reputation by crossing over into the Westworld universe before it ended.

New Blog 9.3

Picard is like a version of Star Trek where your parents and schoolteachers make out in front of you.

G literally prayed for a Netflix show like Tiger King to come along. Be careful what you wish for.

Jeff Goldblum’s commercials for Apartments.com are bringing out the lighter side of illegal data mining.

I’m starting to think I should have paid more attention to those episodes of The Sopranos where Uncle Junior was under House Arrest.

TV networks are giving away more content for free than a theatre major with an iphone.

I’m sure the female guests on Talking Dead feel safer now that they don’t have to share a room with Chris Hardwick.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey filled a time capsule entirely with items that future archeologists would need to know their 2019 activities in order to understand.

I generally prefer that documentary directors be fly-on-the-wall observers but I wouldn’t have been averse to Eric Goode or Rebecca Chaiklin opening the cages at any point during the filming of Tiger King.

The person who accidentally broadcast a MyPillow.com infomercial during a televised White House Coronavirus briefing must be in serious trouble.

Love is Blind is proof of what dating shows can achieve when they don’t have to remind viewers of the concept every twenty seconds.

Better Call Saul is The Sopranos of legal dramas.

Mickey Mouse’s guide to the Internet is no Mickey Mouse operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peak Hours (Part 6)

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, TV Acting, TV Criticism, TV Culture, TV History with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by Tom Steward

peaks 8

Strictly speaking, Twin Peaks was not teen television. But while the majority of nineties quality TV for adults focused on the lives of thirtysomethings (like the show … um … thirtysomething), Lynch and Frost’s series had teenagers at its core and made an effort to address issues facing young people in America. Iconographically, the teenagers of Twin Peaks harked back to the fifties but were mired in drugs and violence in such a way that they spoke to contemporary anxieties. The Return shows some of these teenagers as adults but the relaunched series did not ignore the youth of today.

The difference in approach from the original’s depiction of American youth is crystallised by Michael Cera’s cameo as Wally Brando, the son of Deputy Andy Brennan and receptionist Lucy. A mere foetus in Twin Peaks, in The Return a young adult Wally is living out a Marlon Brando fetish, parodying with grotesque comedy the anachronistic depiction of nineties teenagers in the first incarnation of the show. If ever there was a sign that The Return would observe its young in context, it was the sight of Cera dressed as The Wild One mumbling about honor codes inherited from The Godfather.

For the first time in the series, we see young people suffering from the socio-economic deprivation of small-town life. Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) is first shown losing out on a white-collar job (after interviewing with cougar-loving former jock Mike, no less), spiralling downwards in a coke-fuelled nightmare before a suicidal stand-off in a neighbouring trailer park. The drugs were always there in Twin Peaks but whereas previously they helped peel away a veneer of wholesome family values in the town, here there seems to be no alternative lifestyle, either real or imagined, for the young. It’s a wholly systemized decline.

peaks 9

A tangent from Part 1 of The Return seems to suggest something of the dehumanisation young people suffer in the Amazonized workplace. Watching a glass box and changing out the cameras in a bare loft at the behest of an unknown billionaire benefactor, Sam (Ben Rosenfield) has the kind of remote and menial service job performed by most young people in the contemporary economy of casual corporate labour. As soon as he deviates from the banal protocols with heavy doses of coffee and sex, Sam is eaten alive by a demon passing through a wormhole just vacated by Agent Cooper.

Not that all the young adults in The Return are victims, but it’s pretty certain they will become so. Some occupy a vacuum of morality that seems ingrained in their generation, or is at least a mutation of previous ones. Take Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), Audrey’s son and Ben’s grandson, who thinks nothing of abusing women in bars, fleeing the scene after mowing down a child in the road and victimising his grandmother and disabled uncle. Richard is Ben and Audrey’s ambiguity multiplied to the point of sociopathy. His cruel demise is less of a comeuppance than a tragic cycle.

The interplay of generations in The Return is what makes its portrayal of youth so multi-faceted. While condescending to Becky (Amanda Seyfried) for dating Steven, Shelly (Madchen Amick, who was frozen in time since the last one) gleefully dates weapons-grade psychopath Red, after having been with bad-boy (turned Sheriff’s Deputy) Bobby in the original series. Wally Brando is as much the product of Lynch’s self-parody (or Frost’s parody of Lynch?) as he is of his kooky parents, who channel the simplicity of an earlier era in American life. Richard seems to be all that the Hornes have hidden about themselves.

peaks 10

There’s admiration for the younger generation too. At least Lynch digs their music. Most of the young people we see are the fun-loving, hard-drinking clientele of The Roadhouse, who have turned this backwater dive into the nexus of American alternative music, as long as it is somewhat retro in style. Most of the young people we meet simply flesh out the climactic musical numbers set in the bar, and never blossom into fully-fledged characters. But there’s an uncharacteristic warmth (at least where younger characters are concerned) to the way they’re presented, which betrays a discordant note of optimism towards youth.

The young people in The Return are not the mid-century archetypes that we saw in Twin Peaks. They’re informed by them insomuch as their parents and predecessors have shaped who they are. But The Return’s generation are more recognizably contemporary, though the teenagers of Twin Peaks were hardly shrinking violets.

 

 

 

Stage Set

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Behind-The-Scenes, Internet TV, TV Acting, TV Culture, TV History on March 29, 2017 by Tom Steward

Stage 1

I’ve spent a lot of time away from this blog because I’m building a career in theatre. However, I’m finding that the playwrights I come across when I’m reading plays or looking for audition monologues are many of the same names I’m seeing in the writing credits of the TV shows I watch. In a previous career as a TV historian, I observed many instances of theatre artists crossing over into American TV – or vice versa – and each time emigres were brought in to help shape or re-define the medium, carrying with them the necessary cultural cache to do it.

And here they are doing it again. Louis C.K’s web experiment Horace and Pete used the internet to deliver a fusion of TV and theatre which was hitherto unseen in the US, and he enlisted the help of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker in the process. While Baker declined the offer to be a staff writer on the project, the author of The Flick and The Aliens was instrumental in bringing her trademark edge of masochistic naturalism to the third episode of the mini-series (which begins with a 12-minute monologue by Laurie Metcalf), where she is loosely credited as consultant.

Louis C.K. eventually succeeded in getting an award-winning playwright to join his writing staff when he hired author of The Whale and A Bright New Boise Samuel D. Hunter to pen episodes of Baskets, a dramedy starring Zach Galafianakis that he produces for FX. Though far more conventional than Horace and Pete in form, Baskets nonetheless confounds expectations of tone for a series which led strongly with broad physical comedy before existentially breaking down each of the absurd characters. Hunter’s episodes go a long way towards this analytical deepening of the (sometimes literally) massive stereotypes established in the opening episodes.

Stage 2

Orange is the New Black writer Jordan Harrison is also a renowned playwright, with Pulitzer Prize finalist Marjorie Prime under his belt. It’s interesting that a playwright concerned with digital technologies which change human-machine relations should be involved with a series that’s at the cutting edge of the electronic televisual experience. Having seen the play along with his Amazons and their Men, I can see how (for better or worse) the clipped art of TV writing has affected his theatre pieces, with both feeling like they cut away from a scene too early or, more importantly, that they need follow-ups.

Gina Gionfriddo is the playwright of Becky Shaw and Rapture, Blister, Burn. She also wrote for Law & Order and Cold Case. Given the obscenity and offensiveness of her plays, it’s a safe bet she had to self-censor when it comes to satisfying the still-draconian standards of network television, at least where words were concerned. However, if you follow John Mulaney’s thinking (and who wouldn’t?), the two procedurals with their graphic depictions and explications of heinous crimes would be the perfect dwelling place for a writer concerned with the underside of human behaviour. But these are by no means pioneers.

The play format of early American television resulted in the employment of writers who both came from and subsequently went to the theatre, including Horton Foote, Tad Mosel, Paddy Chayefsky and Reginald Rose. Much of the immediacy we still associate with television came from it being written as a live, continuous experience by theatre-savvy artists in those years. Even when TV eschewed theatrical trappings, playwrights continued to enter the medium, such as Neil Simon, who worked on comedy vehicles for Phil Silvers and Sid Caesar in the late 1950s. Simon would later theatricalize this for Laughter on the 23rd Floor.

Stage 3

While we’re used to talking about writers from the movies coming to TV, we’ve traditionally overlooked stage playwrights who moonlight in the medium. In the 1980s, another Pulitzer Prize-winner David Mamet, author of American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, was ahead of the game when he penned an episode of the transformative cop show Hill Street Blues, before following this up decades later with military drama The Unit, which he co-created with Shawn Ryan of The Shield. The Hill Street Blues episode was before Mamet made the jump to cinema and well before great writers flocked to US quality TV. It’s easy to see playwrights who come to TV as Greek Gods who deign to push us mere mortals in the right direction, but the truth is much messier and speaks to exchanges of ideas between the two art forms which have always been around and are still in development.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: