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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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Monday, Aug 2, 2010

Ever since NYPD Blue went off the air in 2005, ABC has been trying to replicate its success. Ranging from the 13-episode flop Blind Justice to the recently canceled The Unusuals, the network has been trying one cop show after another in its search for a hit. Now NBC may have unexpectedly found it.


Canadian police drama Rookie Blue had only aired four episodes before ABC announced that its picking it up for a second season. While 6.4 million viewers is usually nothing to cheer about, it’s special for a show with relatively little promotion, nowadays. ABC’s heavily hyped original dramas The Gates and Scoundrels have been languishing in its Sunday night summer spots, while Rookie Blue is the highest rated non-reality, non-repeat show on network TV that isn’t a news program or a sporting event. Again, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is.


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Thursday, Jun 10, 2010
Currently on summer “hellatus”, the CW show leaves fans wanting more.

Before Supernatural ended its fifth season a couple of weeks ago, most of its viewers knew that the series had been renewed for another season. The internet buzzed about writer Sera Gamble’s admission that the apocalypse plot would be resolved in the season finale, which was rumored to include the death of a beloved character. Some of its more media savvy fans knew that stars Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Jared Padalecki (Sam) had signed six-year contracts, so rumors spun that either Misha Collins (Castiel) or Jim Beaver (Bobby) would be leaving the show.


On the season finale, Sam allowed himself to be possessed by Satan so he could lead him into a trap that would render him powerless. During the struggle, his half-brother Adam (Jake Abel), who was possessed by the angel Michael, fell into the same trap and they all vanished. Castiel went back to Heaven, and the prophet Chuck stated that Dean gave up the hunting way of life and wouldn’t see Bobby for a long time afterward. As we seen Dean sit down to dinner with his ex-girlfriend and her son, Sam (or something that looked just like him) was standing outside of their home. Then Chuck mysteriously vaporized away.


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Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

This is the first Olympics that I have viewed in a post-Tivo world. The DVR is such an omni-present part of my TV viewing experience that I am now finding myself struggling to view the Olympics without mediation by my Tivo. Like so much about the Olympics, though, I am torn about how Tivo affects it.


The biggest problem is also the greatest strength—the ability to fast-forward. Once you start picking and choosing your way through a five-hour portion of Olympic coverage, it becomes very clear just how little you care about most of what is going on. In most cases, it simply is not compelling to watch a bunch of people who you do not know engage in the same task over and over again. You sit and watch the clock as various people ski down a hill (or, even more identical, race down a bobsled or luge course), wondering what you are supposed to be looking for. The carefully-packaged back-stories are only provided for people who will medal or crash… oh, or Americans—is our narcissism any clearer than in how we cover the Olympics? But without these segments, the actual competition is meaningless.


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