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

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Monday, Aug 23, 2010
Just as LOST established a new baseline for television creativity and found new ways equally to mesmerize and frustrate viewers, so did the LOST auction set a new standard for television-based consumerism.

As the hours of the LOST scrolled by, so did the list of auction items and the constant stream of ever-higher bids. If nothing else, this final official LOST event makes a statement about fans as consumers of popular culture, even in a sluggish economy.


Like many long-time LOST fans, I followed the official memorabilia auction online on August 21, the first day of the two-day, multi-hour sale. The view from the auction floor must have been much more invigorating and illuminating. After all, the auction site encouraged ticket buyers, whether they registered as bidders or simply wanted to browse, to come early to peruse the merchandise. Visitors could have their photo taken with wreckage from Oceanic 815, and Kate or Hurley impersonators could participate in costume contests. The on-site activities offered much more than an auction, although that itself was entertainment. The auction “show” featured fast and furious bidding, a bid war or two, and the adrenaline-fueled anticipation of exactly how high those bids would go.


Much of that excitement was necessarily lost in the shift from in person to online, but the view from the screen became riveting in its own way and provided a very different interpretation of the auction’s cultural significance. Images of upcoming items slowly queued up the left side of the screen, with the memorabilia currently up for bid taking center stage one final time. A rapidly changing list of bids scrolled along the right side of the screen. When the bids—marked Floor or Internet to indicate the source of competing offers—slowed for a few seconds, yellow warning signs reminded prospective buyers to hurry. Another prompt indicated that the current lot was about to be closed.


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Friday, Aug 20, 2010
The LOST auction, August 21-22, may be the ultimate TV auction, and participating fans get a chance to make TV history as well as take a piece of it home.

On August 21-22, LOST fans around the world have one final chance to take ownership of their favorite TV series. During an official auction held in California (but set up for online viewing in real time), six years’ of costumes, props, and even pieces of sets will hit the block. Die-hard LOST fans who carefully analyzed Ben Linus’ mind games should do well in the bidding war over the most highly coveted items, but those with limited funds might find their hopes to take home something held or worn by their favorite actor as thwarted as Skate shippers’ dream for the finale.


Movie or TV auctions aren’t new, and LOST’s highly publicized garage sale is just the latest auction playing off popular interest in celebrity, Internet-fueled binge buying, and the need for status gained through personal connection with icons of popular entertainment. In February, an auction of Doctor Who and Torchwood memorabilia raised more money than expected and generated plenty of fan interest on the Internet. More than ever, fans who love a TV series or movie, follow an actor’s career, and e-network with other viewers internationally feel compelled to “own” a piece of their favorite entertainment (or entertainer’s career).


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Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010
If you want to know what’s new on primetime TV this fall, stop right here.

This is the time of year when all the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the CW) put out those cheap, cheesy “preview” specials. They often put them on at odd times, and mostly focus on what seems to be the worst of what they have to offer. Consider this as an improved version of that.


The following are previews of the new shows that will be airing on Tuesday nights, along with a little background information and some speculation on how long they might last.


At 8 pm, ABC is offering the drama, No Ordinary Family, in which a typical family discovers that they have superpowers. Imagine a live-action version of The Incredibles, or a more serious TV version of Disney’s Sky High.



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Friday, Aug 13, 2010
Paraphrasing Chekov, that gun in the first act has to go off by the third. Your patience while watching the stories in Mad Men unfold will pay off.

I came to Mad Men late, in the middle of the show’s second season. Unwilling to simply dive in and pick up in the middle of things and worry about catching up later, I exercised restraint and watched the first two seasons of the show on DVD.  Watching the first two seasons this way allowed the story to unfold as a whole, without the interruptions of commercials or weeklong gaps between episodes. 


It was clear to me that each season of Mad Men is conceived of as a long story, told in 13 parts, and held together over an extended arc. On DVD, I was enthralled by the way this story came together; the pacing I saw in uninterrupted viewing gave it and the characters an honesty that I thought spoke to exceptional storytelling ability. More than anything, though, I did not understand why some people found Mad Men boring.


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Monday, Aug 9, 2010
MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant walk a fine line with their audience; both programs are honest and interested in telling a sympathetic story about what life is like as a teen mom while also telling viewers, “your life doesn’t have to end up like this.” The lesson is invaluable, but for the kids to really be all right, should MTV do more?

While it’s possible to level many criticisms at MTV’s current programming – the lack of music on “music television”, the disappearance of my childhood VJs, to name a few – the network’s development of serious documentary-style reality programming is adding some unexpected depth to its schedule. Tapping into the fraught battleground of teenagers, sex, and teen pregnancy, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom attempt to turn an honest eye towards the day-to-day struggles of American teens – particularly teenage girls – as they become living consequences of the unresolved debate over teenagers’ access to information about sex, contraception, and romantic relationships. 


The popularity of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom (season two debuted July 20 and continues to follow Maci, Amber, Farrah, and Catelynn from season one of 16 and Pregnant) speaks directly to MTV’s desire to participate in thoughtful storytelling and to a real social need to discuss what, exactly, teen pregnancy looks like, what social forces prompt it, and how it can be prevented.


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