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

 
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Tuesday, Jul 5, 2011
What does the savvy, obsessive or lonely TV fanatic do with this free time? If you're inclined to watch TV on DVD this summer, I recommend these five.

For many, summer represents a respite from the year’s overly filled TV dance cards. High-quality June, July, and August programming like Louie and Breaking Bad is still the exception, not the rule. What does the savvy, obsessive or lonely TV fanatic do with this free time? Watch more TV, of course.


Since the medium’s first introduction on DVD, playing series catch up has become a fact of summer life. Arguably, no show represented this better than Lost. Nonsensical even to the dedicated, Lost was basically unwatchable to the uninitiated; cries of “Smoke-what?” – “Constant-who?” – “Island-where?” plagued those trying to bring new viewers into the fold. Plowing through seasons’ worth of its episodes became a summer staple, as suggested by the series’ huge DVD sales.


Lost might unfortunately (or thankfully, depending on who you ask) be over, but its legacy lives forever, especially as TV has grown increasingly serial.


If you’re inclined to watch TV on DVD this summer, I recommend these five:


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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While these imports and exports laid the groundwork for television’s transnational economy, they are increasingly being superseded by new programmes, jointly funded by companies based in different nations, expressly designed to appeal to audiences across national boundaries, and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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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010
If you like zombies, you're going to be excited about this show: the pilot is a solid hook for a television series. If you're mostly indifferent to the undead, the pilot is worth a watch and the content may keep you coming back for a few weeks before you throw in the towel.

In the United States, it’s only fitting that the premiere of The Walking Dead, a television series based off the comic book by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, will occur on Halloween. If the name doesn’t say it already, it’s about zombies.


I’m just going to get to the point, the pilot was a pretty bad ass setup for a TV series. However, it was a little slow and if the series doesn’t blend the perfect combination of pace, character development and post-apocalyptic fright and gore, it’s not going to draw the mainstream audience and it will lose the target audience. Although, AMC has already placed an order for the first season, which will be composed of six episodes, and there are rumors that, before the show has even premiered, discussions for a 16-episode second season are underway. AMC is putting a lot of faith in this and, quite frankly, they have a good reason.


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Monday, Oct 11, 2010
The famous detective now texts and surfs the net while Watson writes a blog. This is not your mother's Sherlock Holmes.

Forget the clothes and the present day London sets, the sign that BBC One’s new series Sherlock, is not your mother’s Holmes is the mobile. More precisely, it’s the texts that the famous detective sends in the opening scenes of the first episode.


Faced with a series of suicides that appear related, the police are holding a press conference. While Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) discusses theories on the case, the journalists’ phones begin to buzz and the word “wrong” appears several times across the screen as a sort of floating subtitle. Sherlock doesn’t like what he’s hearing and he’s embarrassing the cops, sms style.


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Tuesday, Sep 7, 2010
Bravo's The Rachel Zoe Project and Flipping Out bring viewers behind the scenes of the high-profile service industry by accomplishing the amazing feat of making celebrities less important than the work that goes into making their lives fabulous.

Whether or not it’s the network’s stated agenda, most faithful viewers are aware that Bravo produces reality programming obsessed with aspirational lifestyles. Regardless of geographic region, all of The Real Housewives live lives beyond most viewers’ means and imaginations, the cheftestants of Top Chef make food that aims to be featured in the finest restaurants, and even Work of Art engages in a conversation – one about art – that most people don’t have the time in their days to even try. 


But it’s the shows centered on the lives and work of people who are far cooler than viewers – tastemakers in what are primarily service industries – that really capture Bravo’s upwardly mobile flavor.  And, interestingly, it’s the shows about watching successful, stressed people work like The Rachel Zoe Project and Flipping Out, which are essentially personality vehicles about driven personalities at work, that are some of the most puzzlingly captivating programs in Bravo’s lineup.


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