jump to navigation

Can MTV Translate ‘Skins’? April 15, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Note: The following post is filled with enough spoils to excite even the most conservative of pirates.

Three years after the British and a few hip Americans, I have finally started watching E4‘s Skins, the salacious drama about naughty teenagers in Bristol, England. MTV is bringing Skins to the U.S., following a five-decade old tradition of importing British TV. No release date is set, but we’re already getting some hints as to what changes are in store.

The perennial problem with U.S. television importing foreign programs has been one of watering down. Will Skins suffer the same fate? (more…)

Advertisements

The ‘Ugly Betty’ Finale: Wilhelmina, Betty and American Success April 8, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
7 comments

UPDATE (What happens!): Amanda gets her dad! Marc gets Troy and a promotion! Betty gets a career! Daniel gets Betty? Sure, I’ll buy it. And Wilhelmina (finally) gets to be editor-and-chief of Mode — and a boyfriend (Connor Owens)! More on the finale below.

(more…)

On Cable, Long Live the Anti-Hero March 29, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
9 comments

Originally posted at SpliceToday. Comment there!

When The Sopranos concluded in 2007, a number of media critics signalled “the end of an era” where television shows looked for complicated “heros,” or “anti-heros,” to helm television dramas. Of course, many more critics credited The Sopranos with the revival of  serialized, “quality television,” television as cinema, full of complex characters and morally ambiguous plot lines; this remains true today.

More than ever, the anti-hero, in specific Tony Soprano-esque ways, is very much alive.

(more…)

Will ‘Treme’ Fall Into the ‘Caprica’ Trap? March 26, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
10 comments

Even the best television shows live or die by plotting and drama. Yes, The Wire, could be the greatest show in history (at least the last decade) and did push the boundaries of television narrative to new places, forcing us to slow down, pay attention and think. In terms of plot, it was hardly 24, maybe it’s the anti-24 (or maybe that’s Mad Men).

But new series need to get audiences excited about something and fast. Even the smartest audiences have little patience (and time). Let’s not forget the the first few episodes of The Wire teased us with a simple, bracing conceit: the police need to take down the drug ring. It took five or six episodes for audiences to realize resolution wasn’t coming soon and the narrative would grow slowly and operatically, thus making it more interesting. Even a sloth-paced series like Mad Men had the “who is Don Draper?” story in season one. Friday Night Lights had the “will this team make it without Jason Street?” question.

Treme is going to be different from The Wire (see this post from a new blog about Treme) . It probably won’t be as good — unless David Simon & Co. are truly the most brilliant people in television history. If it isn’t as good, what could go wrong?

(more…)

White Supremacists Are Back (On Television)! March 20, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
5 comments

Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!

This post suffers from a disease characteristic of most lifestyle/entertainment news: two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend.  Blame it on my past as a reporter. It’s an illness not easily cured.

I don’t know precisely what caused it, but white supremacy is back on television! Of course, by “back” I mean white supremacists have returned as villains in several cable dramas, most recently on FX’s new drama Justified, another FX series Sons of Anarchy and in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming – and extraordinarily expensiveBoardwalk Empire, premiering this fall.

Color me naïve — it’s a color I’ve worn before — but I always thought serious consideration of white supremacy was a no-go for television: it would alienate liberals and minorities and wouldn’t win anyone else. But the search for more provocative programming to cut through the TV clutter, along with the general tendency among certain cable networks – the premium channels, along with FX, TNT, AMC, etc. – toward “cutting edge” narratives, has allowed some room for the KKK and their ilk.

Heather Havrilesky at Salon contextualizes it well: “Since these shows revolve around likable but deeply flawed, not-very-good guys, the actual bad guys have to be very, very bad, indeed, straining during most of their time on-screen to embody pure evil.”

(more…)

USA to Broadcast: We’ll Take Your Leftovers… March 15, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

…and make a great meal!

Seriously, can USA keep up its winning streak? The network announced today a new 11-episode legal series Facing Kate, starring Sarah Shahi (above), who is beloved by fans of The L Word for her role as Carmen and has made a name for herself doing sidekick and co-star roles on NBC’s short-lived Life and USA’s Psych. Shahi is staying in the NBC family with Kate, and thank God! We love her.

NBC’s cable subsidiaries — USA and Syfy chief among them — continue to generate more buzz and rising revenue (fueled of course by the 18-49s) than the company’s flagship NBC.

It looks like Kate is another addition into USA’s tried and true formula: taking leftovers and making tasty meals.

(more…)

‘Lost’ Alum Finds His Way on the Web with ‘Valemont’ March 10, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

Valemont writer Christian Taylor with the cast. Original posted at Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy

Television matured by coaxing workers away from the Hollywood film system and onto the small screen. Today even smaller screens are enticing writers and producers looking for new opportunities, more innovation and less bureaucracy.

That’s certainly true of the creative team behind MTV’s mobile and web series, Valemont, whose co-creator Brent Friedman and writer/director Christian Taylor have roughly three decades of film and television experience between them. Last week Valemont pulled in six nominations at the second annual Streamy Awards, which honors original Web video. Valemont’s nods included best writing and best drama series, joining such series as The Bannen Way and The Guild.

For Taylor, whose past credits include Lost, Six Feet Under and an Oscar nomination for his short film The Lady in Waiting, writing for new media was far from easy.

(more…)

“How to Make It in America:” Betting on the Decline of New York March 4, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

One of many still photos of New York from the opening credits. Originally published at Splice Today; Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this.

Dude comedies have become a staple of the American media diet, though they probably always have been in some form or another. Slacker dudes are particularly popular—the successes of Judd Apatow and Seth MacFarlane’s most popular fare are evidence enough.

HBO, in its perpetual effort to not be television, has taken this formula and turned it on its head. (more…)

Web Series Remix “Sex and the City” February 17, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
5 comments

Anyone who’s looked into web series knows most shows are marketed like traditional television shows are. Pitching a show to Hollywood, you come up with an easily digestible equation: Glee = High School Musical + The Simpsons (or some other “transgressive” show) or Flash Forward = Lost + Heroes (Season 1). You get the idea. If they aren’t hybrids, most shows are pure derivatives (Cashmere Mafia = Sex and the City, basically), or slight variations (Parks & Recreation = The Office + female lead). This doesn’t mean they’re bad, but, as Todd Gitlin argues in Inside Primetime, in an industry with so many unknowns, relying on past success is key. Shows that stand out entirely, like Arrested Development, are rare.

Same with web series. I just did a write of a show that was Twin Peaks + funnier. Or how The Crew is The Office + Star Trek. I’m surprised at how often Dallas and Dynasty get mentioned as influences by web series creators. As with TV, it doesn’t mean the shows are bad; all culture relies on variations of known stories.

Still, I’m amazed at how important Sex and the City has been to web video. It strikes me that, aside from perhaps The Office, no mainstream show has been as influential to creators.

So what’s the deal and how have producers worked with the canonical series?

(more…)

Graduating from YouTube Hard Without Big Media Support February 3, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Increasingly as the supply of content online rises, getting your work and/or yourself noticed is a major challenge.

Graduating from a site like YouTube, even after gaining a high profile, is even more difficult. Suddenly producers find they can’t push their products/themselves alone. They need the big media.

The big media wasn’t there for out YouTube star William Sledd.

(more…)

Lost About “Lost,” YouTube Tries to Help January 30, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

Fine Brothers - Lost Video
Original at Ronebreak

I don’t follow Lost. I don’t mean I can’t follow it, as in I watch it but don’t understand. I mean I’ve completely given up trying to watch the show. Around season three I tried once again to get into it. No go. Too complex. Too many peculiar things happening. What is up with this show?!

Let’s say you’re better than I and you’ve managed to keep up. Maybe you played the Lost ARG years ago (the Lost Experience) and stopped watching for a bit. Or perhaps you’ve watched passively and largely forgotten about the plot over the show’s hiatus.

Good news! (more…)

What Can U.S. Series Learn From Telenovelas? January 28, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
3 comments

Thanks to The Atlantic and Racialicious for linking to this post!

Gawker has a post about the cancelation of Ugly Betty, lamenting the end of a “once-great” show that, they say, lost its punch and became de-camp’ed and Americanized as it progressed (Betty glammed up, became good at her job, got a promotion, a man, etc., American myth of success, etc.).

They then make an interesting argument about the cycle of American television shows, and how many shows do not benefit from the U.S. “series” model: where shows go on ad infinitum until the ratings plummet, once everyone hates the show.

Gawker’s suggestion? (more…)

Television and Abortion: Two Shows, Two Different Paths January 22, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
5 comments

Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!

Two broadcast television series this week featured prominent narratives on teenage pregnancy and abortion. A rare coincidence, indeed — or perhaps not, giving it’s the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In Private Practice (“Best Laid Plans“), a rich black family’s 15-year-old daughter, Maya, gets pregnant and grapples with having the procedure. In Friday Night Lights (“I Can’t“), Becky, a minor but regular character, is a working class sophomore in high school also dealing with the same issue, albeit with much less parental guidance (her single mother).

Both shows, in my opinion, feature good storytelling and try to do justice to this difficult issue, in ways that suggest networks are finally moving forward on an issue still most famously explored in 1972 in an episode of Maude (later again on Roseanne).

Television (film too) is infamous for its silence on abortion. If a character gets pregnant, it’s an easy bet she’ll have it. So ironclad is the pregnancy rule it ruins all the drama from the plot point. Pregnancy = baby. Major characters rarely even discuss it (Sex and the City, season 4 did); “abortion women” leave shows quickly. Even adoption is rarely broached. So both Friday Night Lights and Private Practice deserve credit for even using the “A” word, several times, and actually dealing with the issue head-on.

The shows take two different paths. Yes, unbelievably, on broadcast television, a character actually goes through with the procedure.

(more…)

Did “The Wire” Presage Politics Post-2008? January 20, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!

Get ready for reason #573 why The Wire was the best television show of the aughts. In the wake of Scott Brown’s upset in the Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cycle of politics. I’ve been a pretty steady proponent of the politics of idealism and, borrowing from Tony Kushner, the ethical responsibility to hope, but the aftermath of Martha Coakley’s defeat may test my resolve. Where can I find the blueprint for my incipient cynicism? The Wire, of course!

The Wire‘s central thesis was simple: short-term politics and the quest for power kills long-term progress and social justice. From gangs to government, the media to schools, the same rule applies. Everyone, sadly, violates the rule. They think about themselves and the system never gets fixed. This is the fundamental cynicism of The Wire: it perfectly diagnoses how groups and institutions kill hope.

But it appears Washington has few Wire fans. (more…)

Why Has Showtime Abandoned Gays? (Death of the “Gay Show,” Part II) January 19, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
7 comments

Showtime went from the Queer as Folk channel to the home of such butch programming as The Tudors (however awesome it is). This essay was originally published at SpliceToday: comment there!

I’m continuing my discussion of the state of gay representations on television with a look at Showtime’s evolution in original programming. (UPDATE 3/23: On last night’s premieres of Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara, Showtime showed a bit more gay: Marshall, Tara’s gay son, started dealing with politics at school; on Jackie, the narrative suggests Thor, the other, uglier gay, might take Momo’s place as “gay best friend.” Signs of change or too little too late?)

We only need to look at Haaz Sleiman, television’s hottest gay character, who is on the job hunt, cast off Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, to see what has happened to the network.

Showtime once was the gay network. Remember five years ago, during that brief period when it housed the two most sexually explicit gay dramas ever—to this day—on television, Queer as Folk and The L Word? Bravo was also a gay network, with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Logo was starting up, but Showtime was where the action was.

Not anymore. (more…)

Where Did The “Gay Show” Go? (Part I) January 16, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

I’m assisting my advisor, Katherine Sender, on an undergraduate gay media course here at Penn, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of gay representations, particularly on television, for decades the chief battleground for gay media advocates.

Right now, gay characters are in abundance, but series focusing on sexual minorities are a dying brand, relegated to gay networks of lesser quality, Logo and here!.

We live in an odd time. (more…)

Best TV of the Decade! (Top Three, For Me) December 19, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
17 comments

I normally dislike “best of” lists. I don’t read them and dislike writing them. But I’m writing a chapter for a book on a very solid television series, and I thought: I have to give this some praise.

So instead of doing a “Top 10” I decided to keep it simple. My top three television series of the 00’s. (UPDATE: Here’s a great compilation of “best of” TV lists by Chris Becker…Thanks for linking to mine).

Warning: Not on this list: The Sopranos, The West Wing, Mad Men, Lost, 24, Six Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, The Comeback, and probably a dozen other critical darlings. There was too much solid television this decade to be comprehensive. The following shows are not only emotionally meaningful to me — my television habit matured in the aughts — but also revolutionized, in my opinion, what we think of as “television.”

In general, these are three shows, which, I think, proved television is in fact better at storytelling than film.

Here we go!

(more…)

What is “Television”? Broadcast, It Is Not December 13, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
3 comments

TVbytheNumbers recently published the chart above, numbers crunched by Turner using Nielsen ratings. The graph shows the share of the 18-49 demographic received by cable networks vs. broadcast networks (pay-cable is excluded; and, of course, a reminder that 18-49 is all that matters). As you can see, in terms of where ad dollars are going to go, it’s cable.

I wanted to post this so scholars, web series producers and everyone invested in television can take note that, when we speak of “television” we need to place equal if not more importance on cable. It sounds obvious — especially post-Oprah — but it’s surprising how often popular culture assumes the implicit cultural dominance of broadcast (the diminished economic dominance of broadcast has been well documented, though I’m not sure how aware Americans are of this fact). (more…)

“Kindred,” A Spirited Web Series On A Mission November 29, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , ,
4 comments

Living Single and Girlfriends exist today in nostalgia, firmly in the annals of television history but only occasionally as a rerun on a niche network.

Who are their children? Certainly cable networks have tried to pick up the torch by giving Jada Pinkett Smith, Jill Scott and Sherri Shepherd their own shows, each of which (HawthoRNe, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and Sherri) have had varying levels of success, most of it good.

But television currently lacks a show by and for “sistas.” Enter SistaPAC productions. The five-year old independent production company, having explored theatre and short film, has released what may be their most ambitious effort yet, a web series: Kindred.

(more…)

“V” From Fascists (1983) to Obama (2009) November 24, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far


V airs its winter finale tonight before resuming episodes in March 2010.

If you haven’t seen ABC’s V yet, I’ll spoil it for you: the Vs symbolize President Obama. Countless articles have spelled it out: io9, Chicago Tribune, BreitBart, and Entertainment Weekly, among many others, have already foregrounded the debate.

It’s very obvious. In the first episode, we learn that the Visitors bring hope and promise change; they’re all attractive; they have a sleekly designed spaceship (and probably a nice website too); they’ve got young people excited about the movement; they are of peace in a world racked by war; they come at time when we need them most; they’re a global phenomenon; the press is in their pocket; they are God-like and pose a serious threat to Christianity; most obvious of all, they want to bring “universal healthcare” and “clean sustainable energy.” This should all sound painfully obvious, unless you slept through 2008.  What’s the problem, then? Well, underneath it all, the Vs are reptiles who want to eat and destroy us!

There’s just one wrinkle in this theory: V is a series based on a NBC miniseries of the same name written and released during the presidency of conservative icon Ronald Reagan!

If we see V as an anti-Obama series now, what was it back then?

(more…)