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Monday, Mar 11, 2013
The "magic" behind those "numbers" that determine what stays and what goes on TV.

A few years ago I had the chance to be a Nielsen “family” (though I live alone) and catalog, for all posterity, a detailed record of my TV viewing habits. Eventually—I assumed— this raw data would be processed and reported to the masses, with my viewing choices powerfully impacting the national viewing audience. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it.


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Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011
With the WWE's biggest event of the year on the horizon, fans and sponsors might want to take a closer look at its blatant homophobia and reconsider the wisdom of handing over their money to a bigoted and retrograde institution.

Head of the WWE Vince McMahon doesn’t like to be thought of as a hick. He really doesn’t like it.


Unfortunately for him – and for those fans who desperately want to see wrestling present something worth watching – his every attempt to show that he’s not a classless rube, simply re-enforces just what a classless rube he is.


The WWE is heading into its biggest money-season, with their flagship event Wrestlemania on the horizon (Sunday 3 April). What better way to lead into it than with a string of homophobic slurs, drawing on a long history of homophobia in the WWE’s top headline stars – strong good-guy supermen who are the heroes to countless children?


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Friday, Mar 25, 2011
As with so many trends, the increasing prevalence of transnational television is either a building block in a utopian post-national society enabled by the democratising power of new media, or the inevitable by-product of the audience fragmentation and personal atomisation occasioned by new media.

With the finalé of the Showtime/BBC series Episodes having been broadcast at the end of February (20th in America, 21st in the UK), a few words about transnational television seem appropriate.  Media sales across national boundaries have long been a part of broadcasting culture.  ITV’s imports of American series drew both criticism and ratings during the ‘60s, and the syndication of American shows remains an important part of Channel 4’s platform.  Likewise, British shows like Dr Who have found regular homes on The Sci-Fi Channel in the US, and telenovelas, produced in Central and South America, have increasingly gained popularity with the Hispanic diaspora around the world.


While these imports and exports laid the groundwork for television’s transnational economy, they are increasingly being superseded by new programmes, jointly funded by companies based in different nations, expressly designed to appeal to audiences across national boundaries, and simultaneously broadcast in several countries at once.  These range from glocalized franchise shows like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and Big Brother, which replicate the same format with different casts, crews and contestants in different nations around the world, to prestigious, big budget drama spectaculars like Rome.  Of course, as with so many trends in contemporary media, the increasing prevalence of transnational television is either a building block in a utopian post-national society enabled by the democratising power of new media, or the inevitable by-product of the audience fragmentation and personal atomisation occasioned by (again) new media, depending on your own degree of technological optimism or pessimism.


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Thursday, Feb 17, 2011

Superman’s new identity has been revealed, and history be damned, it’s England’s 1st Duke of Suffolk. Well actually, it’s his alter-ego, actor Henry Cavill, who some have called “the unluckiest man in Hollywood.” Cavill has had several close calls to winning franchise roles in recent years, nearly nabbing the part of vampire Edward in the Twilight series (played by Robert Pattinson), James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Batman (Christian Bale).


The choice of Cavill for Superman is a bold one; he’s the first non-American actor to play Superman (note that all the other franchise roles he missed on have gone to non-Americans as well). But he’s also next in the long line of superstar actors who have made the big jump from TV to the movies. The news over Cavill’s assumption of this iconic role does not just concern who will be the new Superman; it stirs up the age old rivalry between the television and movie industries, one that film always seems to win.


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Friday, Oct 8, 2010
I don’t know what The Event is – and I suspect I never will -- but not for lack of trying.

I’m a huge fan of serialized shows, particularly the supernatural otherworldly type. Give me a bizarre mystery, confused characters and a hint of a conspiracy and I’ll tune in. Unlike most intelligent TV viewers, once I start watching, I almost never stop until the bitter end. 


Unfortunately, the ending for serialized shows is usually bitter these days. Almost none of them stay on the air long enough to reach a satisfying conclusion. 


I’m not talking about the rare shows that end with some degree of purposeful ambiguity, such as Lost. I loved the final episodes on the island (and the purgatory of sideways-ville) because they answered enough of my questions, but more importantly they completed the creators’ vision of the show.


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