My feelings about reality TV are hard to explain. As a person who wants to make a living writing for television I think it’s a horrible trend that needs to end soon. Preferably in the next year. Yet, as a young woman of Generation Y, I am absolutely addicted to reality TV. I love it the way I love candy corn, even when I feel myself becoming sick as I gorge myself, I can’t stop eating it. I would say that reality TV is my guilty pleasure except that I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. My guilt mostly comes from the fact that I don’t feel guilty, if that makes any sense.
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The house is everywhere. Whether it ‘s one of the stock movies about haunted houses or in literature such as Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street, it’s clear that the house has another function that transcends its materiality. The house (or rather, mansion) figures prominently on British television, rather like a never ending royal wedding. As urban theorist Anthony King observed;
“Socially, buildings support relationships, provide shelter, express social divisions, permit hierarchies, house institutions, enable the expression of status and authority, embody property relations; spatially, they establish place, define distance, enclose space, differentiate area;culturally, they store sentiment, symbolize meaning, express identity; politically, they symbolize power, represent authority, become an arena for conflict, or a political resource.” (King, Global Cities. Routledge 1990)
The house is thus never a given, an uncultured or objective setting where the lives of the characters happen to take place. It’s rather a force in itself, at once reflecting and shaping value systems that are inherent to society and that are incarnated in individuals themselves. ITV’s Downton Abbey is a perfect case in point, as even the title of the series indicates the importance that the house will come to assume; Downton Abbey is the estate of the Crawley family, inhabited by them and their small army of servants.
On the eve of the budget deadline, a newly reinvigorated Republican congress holds a Democratic president hostage, demanding stringent cuts to the federal budget. His legislative capital spent on a series of contentious and difficult measures, the president seems to have no choice but to concede. Yet when the moment comes, looking coolly into the eyes of the Speaker of the House, the President gets up from the table and walks out. The Federal Government of the United States of America is shut down.
It was a real shock to hear of the news of the death of Elisabeth Sladen (19 April 2011). She was a real hero of mine in the ‘70s. Of all the figures that I was regularly in touch with via popular television programmes, her character of Sarah Jane Smith, in the original BBC Doctor Who series, was one of the most inspirational. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
I really liked the way they styled her. She wore groovy fluffy coats and cloche hats, flared jeans and fitted jackets with magnificent lapels. She was assistant to Jon Pertwee’s doctor and my favourite, Tom Baker; from 1973-1976. In recent years Russell T Davies reintroduced the character in his revival of the series in 2005 and went on to create The Sarah Jane Adventures for children’s television in the UK.
According to television, Chicago is having its moment. Of the new shows to come, and those from the past few years, many more than usual have been based in the Windy City: these include Shameless, The Good Wife, The Chicago Code, and the new NBC pilot Playboy.
But not all of these shows, so bold about their sense of place, are made alike. Surprisingly, The Good Wife, which is so particular about its accurate depiction of corrupt Chicago, shoots all its scenes in New York. What was less noticeable in the first season has become an almost flagrant disregard for strong exterior shots, and has made it difficult for someone who has lived a significant portion of their life in both cities to really buy it. In fact, during one episode from this season, “Six Feet Under”, we see two main characters driving around a neighborhood that is so clearly Park Slope I expected to see multiple baby strollers next to multiple coffee shops, all lining the sidewalk. Which begs the question: is accurate location a necessity for a good television show, or merely a perk?