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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While these imports and exports laid the groundwork for television’s transnational economy, they are increasingly being superseded by new programmes, jointly funded by companies based in different nations, expressly designed to appeal to audiences across national boundaries, and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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Monday, Mar 14, 2011
TV is better than film. The best scripts, the best acting, and the best directing are deserting the multi-plexes for the freedom of the small screen. But all TV series should die by the end of their second season.

TV is better than film.  It’s almost become a truism that the best scripts, the best acting, and the best directing are deserting the multi-plexes for the freedom of the small screen.  Martin Scorcese is just the latest émigré to arrive at the shores of HBO, where he can tell the story of Boardwalk Empire on the sprawling canvas he wants. Glenn Close, forced out of her role in films as the one you hire when Meryl Streep isn’t available, has found a showcase for her talents on Damages.  A writer like Joss Whedon, dismayed at the film treatment of his vampire-slaying teen heroine, was able to resurrect the concept as one of the great TV series of all time. 


If TV is so much better than film, then what I’m about to suggest is going to sound a little strange: I want to see a lot more TV series cancelled after two seasons.


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Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011
Glee and The Bachelor need to show a little trust in the relationships they're filming, and lighten up on all the talk.

At first glance, Glee, the little show about a bunch of musical high school students that could, has very little in common with the money making machine that is The Bachelor. One is a scripted dramedy; the other, a heavy-on-the–schmaltz search for “love”, or something like it.


While I’d watched Glee since its premiere, it’s the 15th season of The Bachelor, and this is the first time I’ve ever remotely been interested in that particular quest for companionment. Watching real people live out fake relationships is, surprisingly, far less interesting to me than watching fake people pursue real relationships. But as both Season 2 of Glee and Season 15 of The Bachelor have waned on, I’ve realized that they share a striking similarity in the way each chooses to expose relationships. Both programs willingly fight against the old adage taught to good fiction writers: show, don’t tell.


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Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011
The desire to hold on to fame has driven some housewives in The Real Housewives of Atlanta to behave shamelessly.

Every reality TV show has an element of performance, but I always hope for an uncensored slice of life. The less than comfortable moments give the genre credibility and authenticity. We all know that it’s often messy behind the scenes of marriages and friendships. For me, part of the appeal of reality TV is that I get to witness the mess. But what happens when the mess becomes more about holding onto celebrity status than exploring the ups and downs of real life?


The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which recently finished its third season, is one reality series that has mastered the art of revealing how messy life can be behind the scenes. In this case, it’s a look at the lives of privileged women who, despite the smiley picture in the show’s opener, are rarely actual ‘Georgia peaches’. On the series, they attend social events, spend money and sometimes work. They also eat each other up and spit each other out. The women are alternatively best friends and mortal enemies, occasionally in the same episode.


Tagged as: bravo, housewives
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Wednesday, Mar 2, 2011
If Parenthood is teaching us anything, it is that addiction turns all of us into addicts, even those of us who thought we didn't have a problem.

Parenthood, a decent show from NBC that has been generating medium-high heat this season, doesn’t hesitate to confront the mundane. Most problems, especially those involving family, are not exciting, sweeping affairs, but involve small fights that escalate because people just see things differently; Parenthood specializes in said fights.


The show, which PopMatters’ Daynah Burnett originally reviewed to low marks, has become markably better this season. The characters have developed into a relatively healthy family grappling with its fair share of normal and less than normal issues; Aspergers, unemployment and adultery are just some of them. But by far the most interesting hurdle in this second season for the Braverman family is addiction; most specifically, alcoholism.


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