Archive for ryan seacrest

Oscar The Couch

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Internet TV, TV Acting, TV Criticism, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by Tom Steward

Last Sunday was the first time I’ve watched the Academy Awards ceremony on TV live and continuously from start to finish. In Britain, the time difference means that if you want to watch the Oscars you have to stay up all night, which sounds fun but in reality resembles an inventive form of torture designed to give the re-opening of Gitmo some Hollywood pizzazz. In recent years, the ceremony hasn’t even been broadcast live on any of the UK’s free-to-air channels but rather on subscription-only cable movie channels as if it were an experimental art film where people open envelopes for five hours.

This year’s Oscars were so chocked full of embarrassing gaffes and faux pas that I was able to see the value of watching the ceremony as it went out. Not that the cringing diminishes upon repeat viewing after the fact, far from it in the case of John Travolta, whose creation of an entirely new name for singer Idina Menzel was prefixed with ‘one and only…’. But there’s something uniquely thrilling about seeing these disasters as they unfold in front of the world in the knowledge that they cannot be taken back or censored (even though anything truly provocative would be edited out with delayed transmission).

But this year TV wasn’t just the relay of the Oscars, it was part of it. Host Ellen DeGeneres is a creature born of television, with her celebrity coming entirely from talk shows and sitcoms, and Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey (not a typo, time travellers from the 1990s!) was awarded as much for his part in the celebrated HBO cop series True Detective than his underwhelming (in every sense of the word) performance in The Dallas Buyer’s Club. TV’s assured standing in America both culturally and artistically seems to be getting harder and harder for the Academy of Motion Pictures to ignore each year.

‘I’d like to thank television’

2014 also marked the year that the Oscars took note of the long-standing links between TV and the internet. Of course the web has been reporting news from the Oscars as it happens for decades now, but the Academy’s publicists are finally coming to realise that this is happening in tandem with the live TV coverage and not necessarily in a vacuum from it. This was the first year that Oscars’ coverage was offered as a live internet stream on the ABC website, a long overdue acknowledgement of how TV can be watched without a TV. DeGeneres’ Twitter-breaking celebrity selfie perfectly complimented the live-tweeting of the TV broadcast.

Even with the slightly more sociable option of live-pausing – for those that have a cable service – the five to six hours of television that the Oscars eats into can still be a slog if you’re going all the way to the Governor’s Ball. Television is medium of repetition to be sure, but even it cannot contain the mechanical monotony of the ceremony and the grinding formula of its acceptance speeches. The land of series marathons and genre channels is still not able to cope with the conformity that the Oscars produce. TV’s unending transmission is about the only way a bloated ceremony like the Oscars could be brought to the world but they’re still pushing at the limits of what even the most entrenched TV viewer can handle.

Oscars Admits Internet Exists!

TV gets its money’s worth either side of the ceremony as well. Hours of broadcast prior to the official start time of the Oscars are taken up with reporters transmitting live from the red carpet-lined entrance as stars rotate their bodies more slowly than a Virgin Trains toilet door and answer existential questions like ‘who are you wearing?’. Following the ceremony, various incarnations of Ryan Seacrest try to get the clearly traumatised Oscar guests to talk about what they witnessed before they repress it forever. Then there are the Oscar-themed talk shows and post-show analysis programmes. It’s past midnight before anyone in TV admits there is a world outside the Dolby Theatre. It’s surprising that politicians aren’t block-booking venues for press conferences on embarrassing indiscretions all day on Oscar Sunday.

Despite these torments, I’d watch the whole thing through again next year. It certainly beats trying to piece together fragments of information about what happened from rolling news stations the next day, which tends to take the same amount of time as the live coverage anyway. And now that TV is playing a far bigger role in the Oscars than ever before, it’s the obvious place to start.


Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, British Shows on American TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by Tom Steward

In the last few weeks I’ve been viewing events in my country through a telescope. I don’t just mean that I’ve been watching from a distance but also that I’ve been seeing them filtered through another nation’s television. I’m speaking of course about NBC’s coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. In some ways it’s been a cultural revelation. It’s evident from how our ethnically mixed population was depicted in the coverage that the majority of Americans don’t recognise us as a land of diversity. This was demonstrated most strikingly when two Asian (our definition not yours, US readers) spectators-who to a native’s eyes were clearly British citizens-were picked out by the camera to signify the lengths people have travelled to get to the games. I never thought Dizzee Rascal’s presence at the opening ceremony needed an explanation but apparently-even in the post-Iris Elba era of US television-it does.

Black people in Britain: who knew?!

But this culturally out-of-touch tone to the coverage was not reserved for Brits alone. W. Kamau Bell’s comedy news show Totally Biased re-played some extraordinary footage of NBC’s Olympic anchorman Bob Costas rhapsodising about African-American gold medalist Gabby Douglas. Costas’ rhetoric made Douglas sound like a student at Little Rock in the 1950s and at a time when the demographic of young African-American girls includes the President’s children! Others in US TV were patently embarrassed about how NBC treated British culture and history. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show reported that an opening ceremony tribute to the victims of the July 7th London bombings was cut to make way for a Ryan Seacrest interview with Goldfinger-of-swimmers Michael Phelps. Insensitive, yes, but with such ceaseless spectacle it would have been difficult to know what to cut. I probably would have lost the 10 minutes of Mr. Bean dicking around to Vangelis, but that’s just me.

A fitting tribute to the dead?

Not that I’ve been particularly sensitive to the country hosting me. G wanted me to high-five every US Gold Medal, and why shouldn’t she? Team USA had some shit-hot performances this time round-well, if that kind of superlative commentary is good enough for NBC it’s good enough for little old me. It’s excruciatingly difficult to congratulate the USA for the same reason that people don’t generally root for the Empire in Star Wars or Man United in anything. It’s also hard to explain this without seeming spiteful, or a Communist. Lending my whooping voice to Team China simply because they threatened to topple the US in the medal stakes probably didn’t help my cause, especially when goading G about China overtaking the US in manufacturing. It might seem like post-imperial bitterness (also known as ‘Britishness’) but good things come out of rejecting the prevailing empire, the United States for one.

Go China!

Seeing the Olympics in America is a timely reminder that over here success is unquestionably a good thing. From what I’ve seen of the British media’s coverage of Olympics, ambivalence about the jingoism of commentary on Team GB’s medal victories began to seep in after a while. Some observers were perturbed about the propaganda uses of such rhetoric at a time of political failure while others, such as TV sports anchor Gary Lineker, vigorously defended the national media’s right to admire their athletes’ achievements. No such dilemma in the US. In fact, NBC coverage was so patriotic it even suggested that the USA helped other countries reach their Olympic glory. In a report on the rise of athletics in Grenada, it was heavily implied that the country couldn’t have won a medal in this sport were it not for the US’s intervention against Communism occupation forces in the 1980s.

Brought to you by the USA

In the same red, white and blue vein, I was struck by how little of the other countries competing I saw in NBC’s coverage, particularly in primetime slots. I realise each nation has to privilege its own participation but I expected an attempt at portraying a rounded view of the games, which never came. Isolationism is an accusation frequently levelled at US newscasting, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It certainly wasn’t surprising that the US won a gold medal in all the segments leading the coverage. Other notable tendencies of NBC Olympicasting included the pointless post-event interview in which reporters tried to brainwash the oxygen-deprived athletes with pre-prepared soundbytes which they were made to repeat,  as if they were victims of a lobotomy. Another was the Olympic-branded franchise of teaser trailers for NBC’s Fall schedule in which every cancellation-fodder sitcom was rendered in slow-motion as though prestige is somehow contagious.

Animal Practice: disqualified from the tournament


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