Archive for golden globe

The Finale

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Behind-The-Scenes, BiogTV, Internet TV, Reviews, TV Criticism, TV Culture, TV History, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2021 by Tom Steward

New Blog 15.1

Ten years is a long time for a show to be on the air. I don’t even know if blogging still exists after ten years.

I started this blog to connect better with the woman I was going to marry and the country I was going to live in through the medium I knew best – television. I was already a US TV scholar by the time I began, but I had never lived in it. I had looked at it through binoculars. After seven years from the inside looking out, I now don’t know any other way to watch television except with Americans.

I’ve been fighting the redundancy of this endeavor for some years now. That’s why the blog has changed so much recently. I experimented with “Watching TP with Americans” – an 18-part series about Twin Peaks: The Return that was as strange and incomplete as the program itself, though far less brilliant. I knew the format had to change and had to match what it was talking about, hence the popcorn-style blogging that took us to the present day. My hope was this could accommodate the rise of social media. I didn’t clock that this was a tacit admission of blogging being too broken to survive.

Every good Pilot has a trigger and all good Finales need a button. For me, this is divorce. When the Seinfeld cast got imprisoned, there could be no more Seinfeld (except as a Curb Your Enthusiasm meta-world). There were enough reasons for it to end – not least the end of the nineties – but this was the point of no return (the end-credits version of Jerry in jail is enough for me). American TV is no longer a mystery to me and blogging is an anachronism, but I could conceivably carry on in that knowledge. Cable and Outlook are supposedly dead in the water too, but I still have both of those. I can’t go further because I’m no longer married to the woman I started this blog with and for.

New Blog 15.2

I always wanted to end the blog by writing about The Sopranos. I will, but I’m really writing about my marriage. David Chase said The Sopranos would end after four seasons. At the end of the fourth season, Tony and Carmela were separated. Two worthwhile if imperfect seasons followed. Then the series ended in a way that pleased no-one. There was no therapist in the finale. As time passed without The Sopranos, we stopped focusing on the final scene and began to appreciate what there was in the episode we liked. Stories were worked out sadly but well. Time was spent with the family. I don’t know where Lilyhammer fits into this analogy. Maybe that’s my bachelor future.

Finales are never good. They are often bad, occasionally transcendent, and invariably passable. I think of Justified, which ended as it began, which is to say perfectly. Six Feet Under broke all the rules of what makes a good series ending in that in offered on paper nothing but errors and on screen nothing but joy. I respect the finale of Breaking Bad because it refused to end any other way than it possibly could, but it was already a story told. Steven Bochco passed while this blog was live and I admired the finales of NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues for trying to be normal episodes for as long as they could get away with it. Let’s face it, most shows aren’t intact by the time they get to their finale. They’re in a slow limp with a false leg.

This blog too ends far removed from whence it came. One look at the Zoom-fatigued faces of awards show attendees will tell you that TV itself is also a shadow of its own interconnected liveness. It remains a fascinating object in the best and worst of TV times, and providers will soon hold the balance of corporate power over movie studios as they did in the 1960s. I’ll keep my social media accounts open and comment when and where I think it is deserved, but not regularly. I still keep a Creed’s Word Document Blog in my mind of what I want to say about American TV. But, even for the internet, it’s … pretty shocking.

My life was shaped by American TV. Now my life is American TV. I lost a lot in getting here. I still have “Cosby’s sex smirk and Roseanne’s sarcy liberal mum laugh”, but they are forever tainted.

New Blog 15.3

Good (Late) Morning America!

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by Tom Steward

Waking up is hard to do. I always thought this was because of my sedentary lifestyle but apparently it’s because the TV in my country was never worth getting up for. Whereas in the UK, I’d be swilling cereal with bothered-looking hospital patients and those in the auction trade, here in the USA I’m champagne breakfasting with living legends and soap stars with heads so big they eclipse the painted moon backdrops they are so frequently mounted against. TV crumbles into the ashes of interest about 9am in the UK once the breakfast magazine and sitcom cycles are over but in the US (California time) this is when it starts to come alive. The stalwart of late morning TV is ABC’s Live! With Regis and Kelly, a talk and magazine show hosted by Bob Hope impersonator and male version of Blanche from The Golden Girls Regis Filbin and his co-presenter cum carer Kelly Ripa. A fairly mundane roll call of deathly dull competitions and perfunctory celebrity interviews are made immensely likeable by Regis’ endearing ineptitude and Kelly’s brusque-but-funny ushering that makes you want to purr ‘oh, she’s so good with him’. The top and tail of the show where the banter between the two hosts is allowed to flow freely is genuinely hilarious and frequently smart and witty, especially when Regis is irked by Kelly’s sarcasm and his latent insult comic lets rip. What’s more the show does skits and spoofs incredibly well, much more so that the cringingly appalling attempts at tomfoolery by other breakfast programmes like the Today show. This is mostly thanks to the arresting comic talents of the pair. Regis has that air of a hobbyist about him that distinguishes so many of the great TV presenters (Richard Whiteley and Terry Wogan would be the British TV equivalents) and is a walking argument against slickness and competence in TV hosting.

I have to admit I’m rather fond of The View, a flagship all-female fronted talk and magazine show that comes on after Regis and Kelly, which sports some pretty big cheeses in the world of news and entertainment like veteran comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and heavily medicated queen interviewess Barbara Walters. The format was plagiarized by ITV’s Loose Women and occasionally it’s just as banal and clichéd in its attitudes towards gender and reductive, applause-driven mwah-mwahs about politics. But The View is tons classier than its British mutant and sometimes it’s pretty challenging. In October of last year, Whoopi and co-host Joy Behar walked off in protest to Fox News’ Bill O’ Reilly’s badger-baiting bollock-mongering claim that ‘the Muslims got us on 9/11’ and the show is consistent in offering viewers a balance of liberal and conservative opinion, from the punchably swan-necked WASP Republican Elizabeth Hasselbeck to Behar’s fart-smell-faced social liberal skepticism. The interviews often take the form of grueling interrogations to the point that guests often bring gifts with them to try and pacify their inquisitors. Ricky Gervais had a remarkably tough time the other day with the interviewers scrutinizing every word of his Golden Globe jokes, a much rougher ride than he could ever expect from chortle-faced Graham Norton or celebrity chum Jonathan Ross.

The next couple of hours are dominated by soaps. Whereas British soaps tend to attempt social realism and end up peddling melodrama, American soaps seem much more in control of their ludicrous and overblown plots and characters, almost to the point of complete self-awareness. Nothing is too much, be it ghost, alien, dream or coincidencis-in-extremis. And they seem happy, nay even proud, to recycle the same old stories. In the episode of The Bold and the Beautiful I saw, a man was heard to say ‘You’re not the first women to come in here in a trench coat trying to steal me away’. I, for one, believe him. Thought of as drearily sentimental, what struck me was how completely nasty and Machievellian these soaps are; an impure celebration of conniving and conspiracy. What really stands out is how the soaps are (all identically) shot. Extreme close-ups on faces are the base line which, depending on your level of cynicism, could either signify budget-cutting in background set design or an almost schizophrenic immersion in the emotions of the characters being watched. It’s probably a combination of both and like all good TV is equal parts thrift and intimacy. The morning to lunchtime schedule on US TV is almost pathologically entertaining, and doesn’t make me feel bad for not appraising my attic space.

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