Tag Archives: TV

Sure it’s good for the game show, but how about the host?

Wayne_Brady_APLA_-_modified

I had a look in on Let’s Make A Deal this morning.

Wayne Brady is the host.  Drew Carey is the host of Wheel of Fortune.  Both are “graduates” of Whose Line Is It Anyway?  Improv has come to day time television

The use of improv comics is a great way to animate a game show genre, now decades old and in danger of becoming formulaic, in spite of all that ingenuity and enthusiasm coming in waves off an extremely “amped” audience.

An improv comedian can turn a split second into something funny and fresh.  Hey, presto, new blood for old shows.  On Whose Line It is Anyway? Brady was fearless.  Clearly, it doesn’t bother him that he was called upon to work without a net.   No script.  No direction.  No advance warning.  He could handle anything the show threw at him.

But here’s the question.  Even as we acknowledge  what Brady gives to the show, we have to ask what the show is taking from him.  What is it like for someone this good at novelty to be stuck in something that is rarely very novel at all?  I wonder if he feels like those World War II aces who were called upon to pilot space capsules in the early days of NASA.  Accustomed to maximum control, they were now, in their language, “spam in a can.”

This is a tension in the entertainment biz.  How do we deliver the soothing samenesses that come from genre and formula without creating something that ends up being stupefyingly dull? As it is, Let’s Make a Deal skews way too far in the direction of formula.  This doesn’t just test the patience of the TV audience.  It must also test the endurance of the host.  For someone who can turn .5 seconds into comedy riches, 60 minutes of predictability must feel like an eternity.  Five times a week.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons and Wikipedia.  Author attribution:  DaniDF1995

Tweeting television (now locked in a box)

spreadable-media-libro-71784I have a friend who believes  every article, post, tweet he needs to read will come to him every day by new media.

And he’s right.  We  act as editors for one another.  We see something, we say something…on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, LinkedIn and elsewhere.

But he’s  wrong.  I bet he misses things.  I know I do.  Plus, some things can’t get into new media.  They just don’t.

Take TV.  We watch a lot of TV.  And my Netflix research winter tells me that we watch this TV with new attention to detail and a deep inclination to talk about it.  We find favorite scenes, brilliant bits of acting, very special effects, but all of this remains locked in the box.  It just isn’t  “spreadable,” to use the language of Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Josh Green.  (That’s their book cover above.  Highly recommended. Forgive the Italian subtitle.  Buy the book here.)

This is a classic case of the old media failing to seize the opportunities opened up by new media.  Imagine how many of the shows that failed this fall season might have made it if their early fans could have got the word out.

What we need is some tech overlay that makes clipping and sharing easy and possible.  Build it into the remote control.  Put on an IN button and an OUT button and a CLIP button and a SHARE button.

I am sure there are legal issues here, but I am equally certain Lawrence Lessig  or Jonathan Zittrain could sort them out over lunch time.  The copy right holders are, after all, deeply incented to permit the passage of small clips.  Permit?  What Jenkins, Ford and Green say about spreadable media, applies especially to every new season of television.  If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.

In the meantime, we can resort to efforts of our own.  Here’s a clip from one of my favorite shows, Being Human.  This is Sally, a ghost, explaining how she intends to protect the house from sale.  (Remember, she’s a ghost and therefore invisible to  mortals.)

I shot this with my iPhone.  Something less that stellar quality.  But good enough for the  internet, as they say.   Some people are put off by Being Human because it’s on SyFy (they don’t like science fiction) or because the show has such a weird premise (the creatures “being human” are a ghost, a vampire, and a ghost).  But I think this scene takes us beyond odd premises into the heart of the show.  Several “barriers to entry” fall.  SyFy wants this clip to click.

God knows, we have quite a lot of content circulating on line.  The numbers are simply breathtaking.  But the fact of the matter is that TV preoccupies us.  And it’s getting better.  As it stands, this part of our culture is excluded from the conversation.  This should change.

Secret messages in Fringe

A couple of years ago, I did a post on a “secret message” I discovered in a show called Fringe.  This show has disappeared from the airways, and so, somewhat less tragically, has my post.

So I am reposting the images in question.  They were shot by me, using my DVR.  The image in question appeared on the screen for no more than a frame or two.

This could have been a technical error, but almost certainly it was a secret message from Fringe show runners, a Valentine, no less.

This sort of thing would have been unforgivably unorthodox in the world of TV just 5 years ago.  Now, it’s possible.  And for Fringe fans, a small treasure.

Here is the screen without the secret image:

Fringe secret message without

Here it is with the message in place:

fringe secret message WITH

Hard to see?  Of course, it is.  It’s a secret message.

Recasting culture (and especially TV)

Ember

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a small trend in the works.  People are daring to recast popular shows on TV.   In the image above, Entertainment Weekly dares imagine the new detectives for True Detective.  Here Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington are proposed as replacements for Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.  (Apparently, HBO and or Nic Pizzolatto had always planned a modular approach for the starring roles.)

Digital Spy undertook the same recasting, proposing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as the new True Detectives.  This would count as irresistible TV, in an era of irresistible TV.

Grantland took the thing a step further, proposing a fantasy league for Hollywood.

Ember

 

 

 
There is a quite wonderful book called Culturematic that suggests a way to recast NCIS.

recasting NCIS

 

 

 

 

 

The idea is everywhere.  Ok, not everywhere, but this is a gusty little trend breezing its way through contemporary culture.

This shows a new order of participation in culture.  It’s hard to imagine this sort of thing happening in the 1950s when people took what TV deigned to give them and were grateful for it too.

But people now new and deeper knowledge of popular culture and they are eager to use this knowledge.  Exactly this sort of thing happened in the case of professional sports.  The inventors of Fantasy Football believed that only sports journalists would want to participate.  What they didn’t see was that sports fans had read so much sports journalism, that they too were itching and able to participate.

This relates I think to yesterday’s post on Pharrell’s Happy video where I suggested that crowd sourcing talent is not always successful.  But here when we ask people to engage not as actors but as critics that the chances of success go up.  Its as producers and directors that we are most interesting, productive, and engaging. 

We should also observe the presumption at work here.  One of the reasons that viewers in the 50s wouldn’t engage this way is that it was presumptuous to do so.   Creative decisions were things made by experts in big cities, people and worlds away from their own.

But now we are, to use the Tudor phrase, “over mighty subjects.”  We take for granted our  right to second-guess creative decisions.   Our knowledge of culture is not passive but active.  This means that even as we consume culture, we expect to produce it.  If only in our heads. If only in the conversation we have with friends and family.   Anyone who finds a way to engage us in this way (we shall keep an eye on Grantland’s fantasy league) is creating value for us and value for themselves.  (Thus do anthropology and economics intersect.)

miraculous ascensions

What are the odds that this actor:

Movie-Stars-Who-Started-Out-TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

would become this actor:

True-Detective-1x05

 

 

 

 

 

And this actor, once a good time Charlie of the first order:

KIKA_Matthew-McConaughey_kika2866967.jpg_26703

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

would become this actor:

BOB.v19-26.March17.Podhoretz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, that, in the larger scheme of things, this show

dragnet_square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

would become this show:

true_detective_ver2_xlg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s almost as if pop culture is becoming culture.

Killer Women, killer critics

Tricia-Helfer-killer-women-1-600x400I am a fan of Tim Goodman’s work at The Hollywood Reporter.

I read with pleasure his review of Killer Women.

It begins, “The ABC drama is killer bad.  No, really, it’s shoot-me-now bad. ”

Oh, delicious, I thought.  There are few things as nothing quite so satisfying as seeing justice done, especially when the culprit is a cynically bad piece of contemporary culture.

Go, Tim, go.

“It’s also one of those shows where, less than five minutes into it, you wonder what the actors were thinking when they signed on and then, immediately after that (perhaps a millisecond), you wonder if they’ve since fired their managers.”

But there’s a problem here.  And that’s that Killer Woman is actually pretty good.  Not perfect.  Not in the class of the very good work of which TV is now  capable.  But it is well crafted, interesting, and likable.

Which raises a question: What was Tim Goodman doing?

I leave it to you, reader, to have a look at the show and the review, and see if you find a discrepancy.  I think you’ll find one.

The second question: how big is the discrepancy?

If it’s a small discrepancy, we can put this down to pilot error.  Even a great critic can have a bad day.

But if the discrepancy is big, more questions arise.

The third question: is this an act of hostility?  Did Goodman seek deliberately to inflict harm on the show?

The fourth question: is this an abuse of power?

The fifth question: should THR take a sober look at the review and ask some tough questions?  Was this an act of abuse?  Is there, in Goodman’s work, a pattern of abuse?

The sixth question: are there grounds for a class action suit?

The costs of a hostile critic are astronomically high.  Careers are diminished, sometimes ruined.  Investments are lost.   Enterprises (networks, production companies for instance) may founder.  Value of the tangible and intangible kind disappears from the world.  If the critic who causes this loss is acting from genuine motives and the honorable practice of his or her profession, well, some harm but no foul.  But if the critic is deliberately inflicting harm, this will not do.

I understand that the come-back here is that reviews are so relative and personal that they cannot be objectively assessed.  There is, in short, no way to criticize the critic.  This may be true some of the time, but there are cases when the review and the  reviewed are unmistakably discrepant.   In this case, we can criticize the critic and in this case I think we must.

Difficult Men. Gifted Women (Young writers, start your engines)

I just downloaded the new book by Brett Martin.  It gives an insider’s view of how cable transformed television with shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield.  (This transformation matters to an anthropologist because as TV goes so goes American culture.)

In particular, this is the story of “difficult men” like David Chase, David Simon, Ed Burns, Matthew Weiner, David Milch and Alan Ball.  The implication is that it takes some unholy alliance of the cantankerous and a deep, enduring oddity to foment a revolution of this order.  

As the publisher puts it on Amazon, these men gave us shows that gave us

“narrative inventiveness, emotional resonance, and artistic ambition. No longer necessarily concerned with creating always-likable characters, plots that wrapped up neatly every episode, or subjects that were deemed safe and appropriate, shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield, and more tackled issues of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race, violence, and existential boredom.”

Well, that and better television.  Way better television.  Helmut Minnow’s “wasteland” is now producing something remarkable, and several intellectuals (below) owe us an apology.  

But Martin’s book raises a question.  Some of the new TV is being written and produced by women. Ann Biderman gave us Southland and most recently Ray Donovan.  Shonda Rhimes isn’t “cable” but with shows like Scandal she takes advantage of (and pushes) the creative liberties the cable revolution makes possible.  And then there is Bonnie Hammer now consumed, one guesses, by administrative responsibilities but in her day a creative force to be reckoned with.  There are many others, I’m sure.  (My memory stack holds three and no more.)

We need a companion piece, a gendered view.  We need a look at the revolution in TV and American culture driven by the rest of the industry.  There may be absolutely no difference between male and female creatives in this industry.  And that would be a fantastic finding. Yes, but what are the chances.  Almost surely there are tons of differences.  And they await the young writer prepared to dive in and phone home.  

Bibliography

Ewen, Stuart. 1976. Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fussell, Paul. 1991. Bad, or the Dumbing of America. New York: Summit Books.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. 1967. The New Industrial State. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Klein, Naomi. 2000. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. Picador.

Leavis, F. R. 1930. Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture. Cambridge: The Minority Press.

Minow, Newton. 1961. “Television and the Public Interest: An Address to the National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, D.C.” American Rhetoric. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/newtonminow.htm (September 27, 2010).

Postman, Neil. 1985. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness. New York: Penguin.

Seabrook, John. 2001. Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture. Vintage.

Sennett, Richard. 1978. The Fall of Public Man. New York: Vintage Books.

Trow, George W.S. 1997. Within the Context of No Context. Atlantic Monthly Press.

The Counter Argument may be found here:

Carey, John. 2002. The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939. Academy Chicago Publishers.

Johnson, Steven. 2005. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. Riverhead Books.

Nussbaum, Emily. 2009. “Emily Nussbaum on When TV Became Art: Good-bye Boob Tube, Hello Brain Food.” New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/arts/all/aughts/62513/ (August 7, 2010).

Poniewozik, James. 2003. “Why Reality TV Is Good for Us.” Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,421047-1,00.html (August 1, 2010).

Steinberg, Brian. 2010. “TV Crime Does Pay — the More Complex the Better.” Advertising Age. http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=147203 (November 23, 2010).
 

Get Difficult Men here at Amazon.  

The Sweetness trend

Recently I was thinking on the possibility of a new trend.  

And I wrote it up here.  

Have a look.

You will see that I rush the conclusion.  These are early days and at the moment we have little more than a suggestive trace of the new trend.  Still, early notice has to start somewhere, as it were.  

Here’s a paragraph from the post.

Why sweetness? Well, we are coming out of an era of some darkness. We seemed almost to celebrate skepticism and snark. We dwelt upon the grimmest aspects of the human experience. TV and movie making were increasingly ghoulish, with new standards of viscera and depravity. Shows like CSI and NCIS dwell lovingly on the crime victim. Bright lights and strategically placed towels protect our sexual sensitivities, but everything else on the autopsy table is enthusiastically examined. Once the standard bearer of heartlessness, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) now looks a little quaint. Since its release, we have seen a succession of werewolves, vampires, serial killers, and human monsters of every kind. If you are 40 or under, you’ve grown up on a steady diet of heartlessness.

This just in (Tuesday, February 26)

Steve Crandall had this excellent datum to add to the post. It turns out he recently had dinner with one of the writers for Big Bang Theory, who “said the show was designed to be “sweet’ … characters who might be considered intimidating due to their skill in math and science [were] brought down to human scale by being socially clueless and quite “sweet”.”  

Thank you, Steve.  (See Steve’s excellent blog here.) 

Reality TV: not as bad as we think?

Here’s a post I recently published on Wired.

I argue that Reality TV might not be as bad as we think.  Notice how ferociously the comments resist this idea.  Talk about provoking the orthodox(y)!

Please click HERE.

Who killed Prime Suspect?

The cancellation of the NBC show Prime Suspect is a puzzle worth working on.

There are three good reasons why the show should have succeeded.

1) It was really good television, with writing, acting and work so good that Pam and I just looked at one another after one episode, and said, “Wow.”

2) It had a British precedent, starring Helen Mirren no less.  This served as a kind of trans-Atlantic proof of concept.  These British shows are not always reliable but they help suggest that a show can work…because it has worked. 

3) It had an American precedent.  The cable show The Closer worked roughly the same territory (female officer endures hostility of male colleagues before solidarity is established) and it won a large and devoted audience.

So why did Prime Suspect not flourish.  Who or what killed it?

There is some suspicion that the problem has to do with our sexism, and more specifically our reluctance to embrace the lead character (as played by Maria Bello).  

One internet observer said that the entire show was killed by Bello’s choice of headgear. In his opinion, the thing that killed Prime Suspect was the hat.  

But I think we have moved beyond this.  Hats may be “unfeminine.”  They be “unflattering.” But they are not a deal breaker.  Viewers, and critics, are larger, less sexist, than this.  

In a nice essay, Melissa Silverstein suggests another reason.  She wonders whether American viewers are not yet ready for “a female character that is not 100% likeable. No matter how far we have come on TV with female characters we still are not there with having women who are not likeable.”

This could be right.  Refusing to be entirely likeable is an act of self authorship.  The sexist model says that women should conform to social expectation whatever that expectation is. To refuse this is to exercise a self determination some viewers might find threatening.  

But there’s another possibility, and that’s that Prime Suspect didn’t work because the Bello’s character didn’t care what we thought of her.  Detective Jane Timoney gives off what I now think of a very New York quality: as if to say, I am who I am and if you don’t like it, too bad. This is sometimes offered belligerently by New Yorkers, but more often it comes across as the sober understanding that not everyone is going to like you, and while you wish that were otherwise, hey.  (“Hey” is the New Yorkers all-purpose word, and here it means, roughly, there are things in the world I can change, and things in the world I can’t, and this is just one of the things I can’t change.  It’s a kind of resignation.)  This is unexceptional claim when made by a male New Yorker.  In a sexist culture, it is something else when made by a woman.

To be sure, this is a little like the likeable problem but it’s a more radical proposition.  Not being entirely likable means that I harbor a quality or two you don’t like.  Not caring what you think means that I don’t care if none of my qualities appeal to you.  This self position is, for the purposes of this show, radically feminist to the extent that it says “social expectations and the sexist model are a matter of indifference to me.  I’ve moved on.”

This is even more radical than the image of femaleness we are going to get in the forthcoming movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This woman presents herself in a post-sexist language (tattoos and studs and haircuts) but she is engaging sexism by resisting it. The Bello/Timoney performance cuts itself away from the old regime.  It leaves the debate. And this is a more radical gesture, a more damning, refusal that any tattoo or stud. And this is to say that Bello/Timoney took up just about the most radical feminist one can take. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Americans were taken aback.  All of us are post-sexist to some degree.  Only a some of us are post-sexist to this degree.

We have a series of experiments at work in our culture, as our best actresses take on roles and use them as laboratories of a kind.  ”Can I be like this?” the actress asks. “Can/should/will women be like this?” everyone wonders.  And Prime Suspect gives us an answer.  Eventually our culture will catch up to Bello/Timoney.  At the moment she is ahead of the curve.   

Being Human, US and UK versions

I am a big fan of Being Human, the US version, that recently appeared on SyFy.  

It’s a wonderful “what if.”

What if there was a vampire, werewolf, and a ghost living in a house together?  I have to say that my initial response was puzzlement.  As in, “um, er, I don’t know. What would happen if they lived together?”

Some part of the show comes from how well the producers work out the “what if” in a manner that satisfies my sense of the plausible and takes me places I never would have guessed.  Being Human works a productive balance between “oh, that makes sense to me” and “wow, how interesting!”  

The new media consumer is especially fond of things that satisfy a sense of the plausible and the possible.  (We get to keep a foot in the familiar and one in the new.)  Managing both is key…and difficult.  (I was able to predict the death of The Good Guys early because it was clear it could not find this balance.) 

When Pam got me Apple TV for my recent birthday, I was thrilled to see that it contained BBC America and that this contained Being Human, the UK version.

What a delicious opportunity to consume what Henry Jenkins calls “transmedia,” one story told in more than a single form.  (I know someone is going to object that both shows are TV and this is not transmedia. Saying that British and American TV are the same medium is like saying British and American football are the same game.)  This transmedia opportunity is sweetened by the fact that the media in question are transatlantic. With their special relationship, the UK and US continue to be, for certain purposes, variations on a theme. How interesting then to see what these two cultures would do with the same cultural artifact. 

The first thing to notice is a bit stunning.  In the old regime, the American version of a transatlantic exercise would feature actors who were more beautiful and less talented. This is NOT what is happened in the case of Being Human.  The UK actors are better looking and the US actors might actually be the better actors.  (They may be tied on the acting question.) 

This tells us that American TV is getting better or at least ballsier.  Not to lead with beauty, or (to think of this as the trade-off it probably it was) to go with talent even when it costs you beauty, that’s a big shift for an American culture producer.  

The second point is harder to assess.  Being Human uses diversity to propel itself out of genre.  By this time, we have a pretty good idea of what and who vampires are.  Indeed, the genre is starting to congeal and now takes quite deliberate innovations (True Blood) to sustain life (all puns intended).  Ghosts too.  As a culture we have gone from having no idea what a ghost is to having a pretty clear script.  (Blame Whoopi) Goldberg.  Werewolves, not so much. 

So Being Human has a built-in “refresh” feature.  Just as we are beginning to think “been there, done that” about any one of the subgenres, we are obliged to follow the story line as it crosses these subgenres.  Or, less abstractly, just as we are thinking “vampires, yawn” we are obliged to watch a vampire interact with a werewolf and then a ghost.  New life returns to the vampire.  (ditto).  And definition comes to the werewolf.   

In effect, Being Human is an interesting and successful TV series because it is not the product of the grammar that comes from genre.  It is interesting and successful because it contains a grammar that helps it escape genre.  It is not generated but generative.  Being Human contains the secret that characterizes all the culture we care about these days.  It is both familiar and unpredictable, both from genre and beyond genre.  

Chuck Lorre gets a dial tone

Chuck Lorre is featured in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

He is responsible for three current shows on TV: Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly.

In a world where making one TV show is heroically difficult, Lorre is making three.

THR gives us a glimpse of the personal costs of this undertaking, but for some reason it leaves unexamined the Vanity cards which which Lorre ends his shows.  To the right is his first Vanity Card, created when the world was still using videotape.

These Vanity cards are personal messages from Lorre, placed on a frame or two of film.  They are visible if and only if we freeze the frame and take a look.

I happen to love Lorre’s television, but I can’t help feeling that these vanity cards are at least as interesting as his other contributions to contemporary culture.

Have we ever seen someone smart enough to see the opportunity, daring enough to use it, and candid enough to use it, um, really candidly?

Lorre is effectively speaking to us from deep inside a life, an enterprise and industry moving at speed.  Lorre is our Pepys, reporting in real time.  He is speaking with astounding candor. In 100 years, this is going to make a fantastic resource.  Even in the present day, it is a window on a world.

Not infrequently it has a certain "postcard from the edge" quality.  Just how much of this, you wonder, can one man take.  I have long believed that a culture that specializes in creating and encouraging swift selves (selves, that is to say, that must move a pace to get the job done) ought to have worked out a way to reel them in at the appropriate moment.  These careers are really like runaway cars.  It is impossible to disembark with grace or skill.  The best you can hope for is that you will roll on impact and survive for future stunts.  (But that’s just me being a worry wart.  Chuck Lorre is a genius and one of the advantages of being this smart is that you can use it to "find your way down.")

In the meantime, I recommend you have a look at these astonishing postcards from deep inside the industry (and our culture).  

References

Hibberd, James.  2010.  Why This Man Has 40,000,000 viewers.  Hollywood Reporter. December 01.

Lorre, Chuck.  n.d.  Vanity Card archive.  http://www.chucklorre.com/index.php?p=1

McCracken, Grant.  2007.  The Charlie and Barney Show: Birth of a New American Male. This Blog.  January 3. http://cultureby.com/2007/01/the_charlie_and.html.

McCracken, Grant.  2008.  Transformations: Identity construction in a contemporary culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.  http://www.amazon.com/Transformations-Identity-Construction-Contemporary-Culture/dp/0253219574/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290563037&sr=8-1

Calling all journalists (ok, some journalists)

If you were 22, recently graduated from the college of your choice, and fizzing with literary talent, where would you be headed?  Novels? Broadway? Off Broadway? Television?

Exactly. You would be headed for TV. This is where the action is.  (Let me read the following programs into evidence:

House, Modern Family, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Glee, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, Fringe, The Closer, Weeds, The Office, The Big C, The Simpsons, Psych. Just for starters

TV is where people as vastly talented as Aaron Sorkin and David Milch now ply their trades. This is the Globe of the moment.  This is our London in the 16th century.  This is our Paris of the first half of the 20th century.  LA is it.  

A couple of days ago, when I was noting the sheer volume of good programs on TV, I failed to see there is no culture without structure.  It just didn’t occur to me that for Hollywood and Burbank to be turning out good TV, there has to be an influx of talent of every kind (writing, directing, acting, casting, etc.).  

Hence my image, here, of Hurricane Fred.  This is meant to represent talent being pulled from all directions into Los Angeles.  (Yes, I know, Hurricane Fred had nothing to do with LA.  Work with me.)

You say hurricane.  I say virtuous cycle.  The better TV gets, the more talented people come, and the better TV gets and the more talented people come…and so on.  

Which means at this very moment there has to be a 22 year old getting off the bus in LA preparing to make his or her fortune in this the great center of popular culture, make that American culture.  

Which means that there is one whopping story to be written here for Rolling Stone or someone, the story of great talent pouring into a city now prepared, sometimes, to make it welcome.  This means there are bars where aspiring writers meet to aspire.  There have to be places in town where talent eddies.  There has to be a whole lot of networking going on.  

If I were not preoccupied with other things, (the proposal for the new book is as of this evening officially done. Publishers, start your engines), I would fly to LA and start an anthropological investigation of LA and its literary subcultures.   So, I can’t.  How about you?

Can your DVR take it?

I have a friend who keeps two DVRs running day and night.  She loves TV that much.  I used to think this was one DVR too many.  Now I see her point.

House, Modern Family, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Glee, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, Fringe, The Closer, Weeds, The Office, The Simpsons, Psych. Just for starters.

Then there’s the anthropological riches of Reality TV The Real Housewives, Project Runway, Wipeout, Ice Road Truckers, Jersey Shore, Deadliest Catch, Survivor, Big Brother, Amazing Race and American Idol  

And now the new Fall season and lots of interesting newcomers: Terriers, Rubicon, The Big C, Boardwalk Empire.

So much for Newton Minow’s "wasteland."  So much for academic orthodoxy.  So much for the intellectuals who bet heavily on the idea that television was bankrupt and moribund.  (No metaphor was left unmixed.)  For a wasteland, TV is surprisingly fecund.

Would love to hear from readers how this Fall season compares to last.  I can’t honestly remember.

References

Minow, Newton.  1961.  Television and the Public Interest. An address delivered 9 May 1961, National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, DC. click here.