Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Monday, Jun 20, 2011
C-c-c-atch the wave as a Max Headroom impersonator makes Chicago TV his personal playground.

The notion of television ‘broadcast intrusions’ is one of the great dark, edgy, paranoia-inducing concepts of our time… and we are not just limiting this to people who write their concerns in chalk on sidewalks. Even television viewers who don’t wear tinfoil are uniquely vulnerable to the creepiness of the idea: after all, until now the box has been your willing partner in a soothing, predictable, well-regulated existence, probably involving nothing more mind-altering than Coors Light, until suddenly—


BLAM!


A hacked interruption ala Eyes Only of Dark Angel ... only kinkier.


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Friday, Apr 22, 2011
A memorial for a groovy time traveller's assistant.

It was a real shock to hear of the news of the death of Elisabeth Sladen (19 April 2011). She was a real hero of mine in the ‘70s. Of all the figures that I was regularly in touch with via popular television programmes, her character of Sarah Jane Smith, in the original BBC Doctor Who series, was one of the most inspirational. I wanted to be her when I grew up.


I really liked the way they styled her. She wore groovy fluffy coats and cloche hats, flared jeans and fitted jackets with magnificent lapels. She was assistant to Jon Pertwee’s doctor and my favourite, Tom Baker; from 1973-1976. In recent years Russell T Davies reintroduced the character in his revival of the series in 2005 and went on to create The Sarah Jane Adventures for children’s television in the UK.


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Friday, Jan 28, 2011
Children's media is designed to educate and stimulate like never before... so why does it so often seem to come up short on imagination?

Children’s TV. It’s something I’ve been confronting lately—well, actually, as I rummage around in my a-intensive past. Do you realise, fellow Gen-Xers, that the newest DVD sets of the show carry a disclaimer to the effect that “These early episodes of Sesame Street are intended for grown-ups, and may not meet the needs of today’s preschoolers”?


Sad, and a little strange—not least because it’s accurate. On the one hand, the belief seems to be that children are more sophisticated than ever before; on the other, that they’re fragile flowers whose every input needs monitoring for fear it’ll corrupt the mechanism.


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Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010
If Americans needed a manufactured (but, according to colleagues, family and friends, more than half-genuine) mother figure to enshrine in sit-com heaven, they got it in Barbara Billingsley.

I don’t know about calling her “America’s mom”, as I’m sure many obituaries will claim, but she was inarguably the “sitcom mom”.


It’s funny. My peers and I (born around 1970) were, obviously, not alive in the ‘50s, but that earlier era loomed large for us. Let me explain: the people who raised us did live in that time, and they were invariably informed by the mores and cultural imperatives of that era. As such, many of our parents were either inculcating or reacting against the buttoned-down (repressed?), black-and-white (i.e., ‘white’) reality as shows like Leave It to Beaver portrayed. Hence, the hippie sensibility that at least had a fighting chance for a few years before the door slammed shut in the back-to-the-future adventure of the Reagan years.


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Thursday, Jul 22, 2010
Deadliest Catch handles the death of Captain Phil Harris in a moving, dignified manner. While reality television is typically founded on exploitation, the Discovery series proves there is hope for the genre to be something better.

When I was a kid, I remember my mother and father talking about the then-new concept of reality television. Shows like MTV’s The Real World had spearheaded the movement with competition reality shows such as Survivor soon followed suit. Following the writers’ strike of 2000, reality television soon permeated the airways in an effort to bolster networks’ television schedules affected by a lack of show scribes, reality television received a surge in popularity that stuck well beyond the strike.


One of the most frequent points that cropped up in my parents’ conversation regarding reality television was one or the other griping: “It’s only a matter of time before they show somebody die on television.”


As it turns out, my folks were right. It happened. Death was televised and broadcast to the masses—this time in entertainment form, rather than via newscast.


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